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Fr. Barna's Cross Story

The mighty guns of the U.S.S. Colorado (BB-45) blasted through the war-mist that clung over the South Pacific island of bloody Tinian, where Marines fought desperately to maintain their beachhead against the Japanese defenders.

Below decks, in one of the battlewagon’s magazine compartments, Petty Officer Michael Barna—Reading High Graduate ‘37, Reading, Pennsylvania,—directed the crew feeding powder to big guns.

The air reeked pungently with the acrid smell of gunsmoke and it was sweating hot in the close quarters.  The crew reached the end of the powder supply.  The petty officer signaled the men topside, where the air was clean and fresh and where they could watch the rest of the action.

Barna scrambled up the ladder behind them.  Halfway up he remembered something that he had left behind in the compartment. . . A crucifix given to him by his father, a Russian Orthodox priest in Reading, Pennsylvania.

Only several nights before, the sailor had had a dream about his father.  He had a dream his father came to visit him.  His father was dressed in black — mourning black.  In the strange dream, the priest ignored his son to shake hands with one of his son’s closest friends in the magazine crew.  The dream left Barna with an eerie feeling.

Barna scrambled down the ladder to get his crucifix.  As he picked it up, a series of blasts rent the ship.  A Japanese bombardment hit the valiant Colorado in 22 places.  The men above decks were killed. Among the dead lay the magazine crew—and Barna’s friend.

The mystic wartime experience 65 years ago shaped the life of the sailor-son of the Russian Orthodox

“It brought me close to the Lord and made me think,” he said.  Discharged after 3 1/2 years in the United States Navy, he decided to follow in the footsteps of his father, the Rev. Elias Barna.

Following the Ordination of Fr. Barna on July 2, 1950, this gold cross and chain was then placed around his neck.  He was given the privilege to continue to wear this cross along with his two other Jeweled crosses by Patriarch Pimen because of its special significance.

The cross was originally a gift to his father from the church in Benld, Illinois which was Fr. Michael’s Birthplace.  Inscribed on the back of the cross are the words “For good memory Fr. Elias Barna from congregation of Holy Assumption Church and Choir, Benld, Illinois, May 30, 1924.”

Fr. Michael gave the cross to his two sons when they went into the Armed Forces.  Michael Jr. when he went into the U.S. Army and Timothy when he went into the U.S. Air Force.  The cross was given for their protection  and safe return.  When they both returned the cross was given back to their father who now wears the Cross at every Divine Liturgy with his two other jeweled crosses....