Father Roman Modin: ‘We receive people with an acute heartache out of turn’

The eparchy’s first free centre for psychological help opened in Kazan

Father Roman Modin: ‘We receive people with an acute heartache out of turn’
Photo: Maxim Platonov

The Kazan Eparchy’s first centre for psychological support opened in the New Jerusalem Metochion. Medics report on an upsurge of visits to psychologists during the pandemic — the coronavirus infection seriously harms the psyche, people cannot get out of long-term depression on their own, which became one of the heaviest complications of the disease. However, not all patients can pay specialists for a session. Here the church came to the rescue. As governor of the metochion Father Roman Modin thinks, the church assumes what the state cannot do. In this case, it provides a free session with a psychologist to those who cannot pay for it. Moreover, not only Orthodox Christians but also representatives of all religions and people who have no faith can be consulted and receive real help. Father Roman told Realnoe Vremya in an interview how the centre operates today, what volunteers and priests help those in need with and where one with an unbearable heartache should go.

Trust costs much

Father Roman, how did the idea of opening a centre for psychological help in the church come about?

In fact, it isn’t our first social undertaking. The range of social projects grows because the New Jerusalem Metochion is not simply a church. It is a community that lives a full life providing those who need support with assistance and aid.

Now the office of the Kazan Sisterhood of Mercy is based in the metochion. The number of sisters grows, new energy to serve to mercy and love appear.

And the work of one social project gives rise to other projects too. And precisely one of the sisters offered her help with setting up a psychological centre. It is Ksenia Batyushkova, a clinical psychotherapist with big experience. In the past, she had worked with survivors of Bulgaria ship, helped relatives of people who died in the crush of the Boeing at the Kazan airport.

Did the first centre appear precisely in your church because in the Eparchy you are responsible for work with health establishments?

No, it is not a medical but social project. Yes, we have a clinical psychologist, but such education is needed more when treating mental disorders, while our audience, first of all, is people who have the so-called lasting COVID-19 and cognitive disorders after the disease.

Another important aspect of the new project is to give people a chance of receiving this support free. We know that a psychotherapist’s services are expensive today, and a psychotherapist in a situation of some internal or external conflict is not affordable even for a middle-class person. While such a specialist’s help requires long interaction at times, we cannot leave the patient halfway. Everything is gratis in the church.

The range of social projects grows because the New Jerusalem Metochion is not simply a church. It is a community that lives a full life providing those who need support with assistance and aid

Bus from prison and “for Christ’s sake” lunch

What was the first social project in the metachion?

We accept things for the needy and hand them over to the needy after treatment in a deliberately equipped room to store things. There is a schedule, storage staff works. People simply come and choose. It is the needy, students, the elderly and homeless.

Do you also hand over food, right?

No, we don’t hand over food. During the pandemic, we delivered them to people’s homes, on churchgoers’ request. In general, we feed all people who come regardless of their religion and nationality.

By the way, now our Kazan Eparchy is preparing a map of all points where hot meals can be received in Kazan and other cities of the eparchy free. Our canteen has been working for more than 4,5 years. After Radonitsa, on 11 May, the possibility of receiving hot meals here daily from 11.00 to 13.00 will be announced on municipal social media in Kazan. Hopefully, with time we will be able to hand over the staples so that the needy can take them.

But as a social canteen don’t you request statements about a financial status? What should a hungry person do to eat in the canteen? Come and ask: “For Christ’s sake”?

To ask “for Christ’s sake, one has to be a Christian. No, one should simply ask for food, we will deny nobody.

The official number alone terrifies us — 20 million people are beyond the poverty line! But we know that the real scale of poverty seems to be much larger

On Jeep to free lawyer

Then you opened a free centre for legal support. Who comes here? What questions are asked?

The questions are different. From applying for a pension, heritage to the preparation of documents for civil and even criminal lawsuits. Then they agree to meet in the courthouse, but it is a private issue. Our churchgoers who assumed this type of service receive people too. What is all this done for? The official number alone terrifies us — 20 million people are beyond the poverty line! But we know that the real scale of poverty seems to be much larger.

People have no money to pay for a consultation! A person is so “humiliated and insulted” today that he cannot afford even these basics. So a free legal support service appeared here two years ago. It is in very high demand.

By the way, as soon as the centre opened, people in expensive cars started to come here for help... Another centre opened in another Kazan church six months ago, by the by.

Where to go with persistent pain

How can one see a psychologist?

Now she sees people every week, on Saturday and Sundays, it is necessary to call the metachion and make an appointment. However, there are so many people on the waiting list so that the list is full until June inclusive. But one should understand that people turn to us at times in extremely tough psychological situations. We as dentists who receive patients with acute pain out of turn don’t deny urgent help. We also engage priests in the work with them because in some situations a delay in support can lead to irreversible consequences, a person should be rescued literally. Yes, we work as a rescue service.

A person with faith in God has not only hope but also confidence in the future meeting with the beloved who passed away. While the loss among people without faith can be so acute that they don’t imagine how to keep living

What problems do you people turn to you with?

The problems are different. People sometimes have had nowhere and nobody to speak out for years. We have had such a person. He came, simply started to tell the psychologist about his trouble, then simply burst out crying, couldn’t stop crying for long. It turned out he had had nobody to talk with for 20 years. He had had no close people to listen to him. So he kept everything inside. By the way, such people constantly come to us, it is not an isolated case.

Today, after the pandemic, a lot of people who lost their relatives, who cannot handle the loss come too. Nothing can dull such pain, no tears. Psychotherapy even has such a term — “persistent pain”, nothing stops it. Here it is harder to work with atheists, of course. A person with faith in God has not only hope but also confidence in meeting with the beloved who passed away in the future. While the loss among people without faith can be so acute that they don’t imagine how to keep living.

Psychotherapy develops very dynamically now. And despite various areas in this science, there must be perhaps value-based areas. It must be clearly related to Christian values that help a person not only in personal and career development but also will help him discover himself, understand himself in a long journey to the landscapes and recesses of his conscience. Psychotherapy in the church is like the raising of Lazarus — to help a person to resuscitate from death and despair. Because in Christian typology, every person is a part of not only society but also a citizen of the heavenly kingdom. People often come to us with family troubles, cooling in relations, a loss of bond between generations...

Who will hear the priest out

Tell me, does a talk with a psychologist replace confession? They are somewhat similar...

There is something similar, these practices are very close. But the difference is that confession is a sacral practice.

Interestingly, talks with a psychotherapist often prepare one for confession, become a prelude to it. Talking with a psychotherapist, a person finds answers to his personal, existential and professional questions. But to heal and understand yourself, it is necessary to make the next step — to go to confession. It is much easier to prepare to make this step during the appointment, in a more habitual, non-cult atmosphere for an unbeliever.

Where do priests themselves seek help?

There is a whole community of Orthodox psychotherapists — we go to them. Of course, priests also need support, but it is a completely different category of people, they have their own world with instructions. They can be quite private for even close people. I remember I went to the Optina Monastery 25 years ago, when I was very young, after taking holy orders. A grey-haired monk, one of the zealots, who is still alive, told me, a young priest: “People coming to you should see the light of Christ behind you. You shouldn’t make them come to you as the final point, you may not overshadow Christ behind you.” These words emerge in me year after year. And there shouldn’t be such replacement in Christianity, while, unfortunately, the opposite happens in psychotherapy.

There is a whole community of Orthodox psychotherapists — we go to them. Of course, priests also need support, but it is a completely different category of people, they have their own world with instructions. They can be quite private for even close people

“People over 60 turned out unnecessary”

Do you think that the pandemic with its restrictions disunited or brought people together?

It rather disunited them. Apparently, that spiritual energy of unity and connection that had accumulated before the revolution ran out today in our society in Russia. It lasted out approximately until the 50s during the mass construction of factories, the country was rebuilt after wars. And the total spiritual degradation began in the 70s of the past century.

Values changed with the change of power in the 90s. And the most terrible outcome of this change today is that people over 60 turned out to be unnecessary, they didn’t manage to adapt in a capitalist society, meet even the basic needs. And this generation passes away. Look, we no longer see grannies on the bench, while old men have died in general. Men are dying out en masse. I have even read a terrifying article on this topic: “Where our old men disappeared”...

By Anna Tarletskaya. Photo: Maxim Platonov
Tatarstan