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THE (SURPRISING?) CONNECTION BETWEEN CONFESSION AND VOCATION DISCERNMENT
"I kept it secret and my frame was wasted
I groaned all day long
But now I have acknowledged my sins
My guilt I did not hide"
Judging from the comments we hear from priests who visit to the Monastery, it appears that the Sacrament of Reconciliation is--to put it mildly--an underutilized sacrament in our UGC Church. This is problematic on many fronts, the most serious of which is that most people needlessly live under the burdensome weight of often serious--and even mortal--sin. Yet for those Catholics--of all ages--who are still trying to figure who & what they are, and what they are being asked to do, the lack of time in the confessional is preventing them from utilizing one of the greatest tools of discernment. St. John Paul the Great, who in his earlier years desired to make himself a "captive to the confessional," had the following to say about this critical issue:
"Moreover, the sanctification received through the regular practice of confession and a lengthy, conversational review of one's life in all its dimensions would lead to vocational clarity. The penitent would come to know what he or she ought to do, as well as who he or she was. A career was not the purpose of life. Life was vocational, and one of the confessor's privileges was to help the penitent discern the vocation to which God had called him or her. As he once told (an unidentified parishioner) whether one lived in a convent, in marriage or as a single person in the world, "You have to live for a concrete purpose.""
("Witness to Hope," by George Weigel)
If you consider the matter, why wouldn't this be the case? Is it so strange that Our Lord would desire to speak to each of us through our Confessor? Might He not want to reward us for the the faith, time, effort and humility necessary for making regular confessions? Does He NOT want each of us to discern our true calling...or our later-in-life second, third of fourth callings? Many good things will happen in the lives of who makes regular trips to the confessional and as unexpected as it may sound, the "vocational clarity" that St. John Paul the Great mentioned above would likely be one of the most life-changing.
If you haven't visited our site before, please scroll down to the related information on our Midlife and Deliverance ministries.
DOES MY SUFFERING COME FROM A PHYSIOLOGICAL OR A SPIRITUAL SOURCE?
THE CASE OF DESPONDENCY AND DEPRESSION
Having spent nearly 18 years in the pharmaceutical / biotech industry, six years of which were with mental health innovator, Eli Lilly, I have great respect for the role of evidence-based medicine for the treatment of our various maladies. This experience has been valuable to deliverance ministry because for the most part, those who are sent to me have been through counseling and have usually taken various meds to control mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, bi-polar, ADD, OCD, insomnia, etc. Because of this, when discussing the ubiquitous spirits of depression and anxiety, this question often comes up:
“How do I know whether my current symptoms of depression / anxiety / mania are from an unclean spirit?”
Before acquiring a recent book called, “Time and Despondency,” (by Nicole M. Roccas) I sought the answer to such questions by revisiting the person’s experience with psychological counseling and discussing the meds the person took, often for several years, but which in the end never gave them their desired results. But despite covering relevant medical history, the question above is still a perplexing one, which deserves a better answer. Fortunately, I believe I stumbled upon a more informed answer with my fortuitous purchase of this timely book. In the essential task of defining despondency, the author says:
“Leaving aside the discussion of sin for a moment, let us address depression and despondency in greater detail. To be sure these conditions share much in common, so much so that they can be difficult to distinguish or clearly diagnose. Like two circles from a Venn diagram, they overlap on many of their symptoms—irritability, fatigue, restlessness, boredom and hopelessness are just some examples. Nonetheless, despondency and depression are separate circles; the two concepts have entirely different historical roots and are associated with divergent paradigms concerning the human person."
“Our knowledge of depression is rooted in the body-centered perceptions of Western medicine, which sees this affliction through the lens of physical processes like biochemical imbalances or weakened mood regulators in the brain. Concepts of despondency, on the other hand, originated in the soul-centered worldview of early Christian monasticism. That is not to say despondency has no physical manifestations, but simply that it begins in the soul and works outward to poison and paralyze the entire human person.”
““Whenever the soul becomes ill,” wrote Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos, “instead of being nourished by God, (it) sucks the body dry.” As far back as the 4th century, Evagrius (Ponticus c. 346-399) mentioned a host of physical manifestations of despondency that included bodily weakness and excessive sleep. Considering the outward destruction despondency can cause, Evagrius described it as the worst of the legismoi (eight evil thoughts or terrible temptations from which all sinful behavior springs) —when left unchecked, he noted it can lead to suicide.”
“To sum things up, the Church has historically seen despondency as one of many indications that a person is unwell...a symptom of brokenness that can fragment and distort all levels of our experience.”
To learn more about the process of Deliverance, please scroll down to our postings on "Midlife" and "Deliverance."
NEW ICON WORKSHOPS!
Please check out our Icon page for a new workshop with Fr. Damian
and an advanced class with Raymond Vincent in Olympia, WA.
Of all the metaphors for this critical period in one’s life, the storm-tossed ship on a violent sea may be the most appropriate for many who are (roughly) somewhere between 40 and 65 years of age. Midlife can be a time of great tumult, uncertainty, fear and confusion. It can be the time when we awaken to a question that seems cliched but feels very real if disillusionment has set in:“Is this it? Is this my life?” But despite—or maybe because of—the pain, midlife can also be a time of great opportunity. It can be THE time for figuring out who—beyond the roles we’ve played throughout our lives—we really are. Midlife can raise necessary questions about the true value of big homes, money, prestige, fame and stuff. It can be a time of self-knowledge, healing, great purpose, peace, faith and the entry point into living one’s authentic life.
Not shown in the picture above is the person who thinks he or she is in charge of the ship. Shivering, gaunt, lashed by the wind, the rain and the waves, he or she still clings to the ship’s wheel with the skeleton hand of one who would sooner drive ‘their’ vessel to the bottom of the sea than relinquish control of its direction. Anxious, depressed, struggling with insomnia, GI disorders, migraines, mysterious illnesses (that resist accurate diagnoses and successful treatments) and distressed relationships, this person either cannot or will not perceive that none of us ever really controls the ship. And so they—and those around them—will suffer as Our Lord waits patiently for their realization that He is the One who is in charge of the vessel.
Mt. Tabor can help people struggling with these questions, afflictions and fears. We can help you find where things went off track, where callings were missed or disregarded, and more importantly, what to do for the road—the voyage—ahead.
For more details, please call or write Br. Gideon at (707) 485-4162 email@example.com
MT. TABOR DELIVERANCE MINISTRY
Prayer is the monk's most effective tool but some situations require additional tools. Hopelessness and despair can erode our well being until all we see is darkness. Unforgiveness--for ourselves and others--can stifle healing and spiritual growth. Resentment towards God begins in subtle ways but can metastasize until our very faith is threatened. Rejection, abandonment and un-love afflict us with their wounds--often during our early years--before re-emerging to play havoc with our lives in adulthood. Unfortunately, many of us try to medicate our suffering in ultimately destructive (not to mention ineffective) ways or eventually grow resigned to the "fact" that, "It's just something I'm going to have to endure."
But we can renounce these afflictions, reclaim the authority in our own lives and find lasting healing & peace. How? The Gospel gives us the power for this work, Our Lord has given us the people and the Monastery on our Holy Mountain has given us the place.
For additional details and a confidential consultation, please call, email or text Br. Gideon at (707) 485-4162; firstname.lastname@example.org
NEW ICON WORKSHOP SCHEDULE FOR 2018!
Back by popular demand are Fr. Damian's Icon Retreats for the New Year. Below is all the pertinent information. See you soon!
Feb 12th - 16th: St. Gertrude's, Cottonwood, ID; Call Krista Green @ 208 962-2004
Apr 18th - 22nd: The Oratory, Rock Hill, SC; Call Judy @ 803 327-2097
May 7th - 11th: Holy Transfiguration Monastery w/ Raymond Vincent Call 707 485-8959 **
Jun 25th - 30th: St. Josephat's, Edmonton, AB; Call Fr. Peter Babej @ 780 993-8037
Jul 16th - 21st: St. Francis, Stoneville, NC; Call 336 573-3751
Jul 30 - Aug 3rd: Holy Theophany, Olympia, WA; Call Mother Seraphina @ 360 491- 8233
Aug 26th - 31st: St. Placid Priory Spiritual Center, Lacy, WA; Call Sr. Lucy @ 360 438-2595
Sep 10th - 15th: St. Basil, Sterling Heights, MI; Call Fr. Rosmarinovich @ 568 268-1082
Sep 26th - Oct 1st: Immaculate Heart, Spokane, WA; Call Sr. Mary Eucharista @ 509 385-7271
Oct 23rd - 28th: Greenbough House of Prayer, Adrian, GA; Call Steve or Fay @ 478 668-4758
Nov 26th - 30th: St. Angela Merici, Orange County, CA; Call Ceci Wtchey @ 714 745-6117
**The cost for this retreat is $550 for the week for 'boarders' and $350 for daily commuters
In striving to live the Eastern Monastic life as we do (which itself is a tall order) we often see only our failures, both as individuals and as a monastery. A month or so before the fire, though, a young man reminded us that we hold no monopoly on the perception of this place, which remains the sole right of any individual who chances upon these grounds. We often speak of "old souls," and though that designation might not fit our recent visitor to a T, we certainly saw, heard and felt a generous amount of wisdom in this 28-year old, which we share not to pat ourselves on the back, but to challenge ourselves to live up to his perception of our home...and by extension, us. We share it with you because we know that many in our troubled society are searching for the place he describes, and that many of the disillusioned among us may think that such a place can only be a Shangri-La or an El Dorado. It that's the case, then it's apparent that an old adage about such things may be true, as well: "Beneath every legend, there is always a kernel of truth..."
"Brothers of Mt. Tabor,
I've often dreamed of being able to travel back in time, to join in the intense, singular worship of the early Christians. I had no idea that this was possible until I arrived here Tuesday night. Your morning service is one the the most beautiful things I have seen in my life. We are so lucky to have you men here, keeping this way of life alive. I wanted to thank all of you for being so kind and welcoming, for including me in your prayers, for helping me to follow along in the services. Thank you to those who shared your own stories with me; hearing of your journeys touched me deeply and helped me to develop in faith. The only thing I regret is that I couldn't have stayed longer. Peace be with all of you. ~ Paul "
NBC NEWS VIDEO OF MT. TABOR & ABHAYAGIRI MONASTERIES DURING/AFTER THE FIRE
NBC News made a nice little clip of the impact of the recent wildfire on Mount Tabor and neighboring Abhayagiri Buddhist Monastery
but I have been unsuccessful in getting the segment attached to this site. Please take a look at:
We have returned home safely. Isolated fires still burn on our mountain but with several decades' worth of downed trees, branches and other dead fall cleansed from the forest floor by the flames, the scattered blazes have nowhere to go...so they burn in the night like lonely beacons. Cal Fire used our Monastery as their base for a couple of days as the flames slowly descended towards the Retreat House, and seeing the handwriting on the mountain, they finally cut a huge firebreak from the high ridge all the way down to Tomki Road, thus sparing our vulnerable structures, including the Sacred Temple. We have received a huge (and humbling) outpouring of sympathy from hundreds of the Faithful, yet in all honesty, we regard our sufferings as slight...mere inconveniences compared with the majority of Tomki residents who were seriously injured, lost their homes and in a couple of cases, lost their lives. Sadness manifests itself in many forms but one of the more poignant of these is the sight of a person literally sifting through the ashes in the hopes of finding those lost things that might have withstood fire and temperatures so intense that burning cars wept rivulets of liquid chrome.
After seeing, hearing, smelling and feeling such things, the above picture of St. Jude Thaddeus, set against a backdrop of destruction, pretty much says it all. Some might wonder where his Master was as the flames raced up our vulnerable canyon, leaping from tree to house to barn to car and then repeating, and that's a fair question to ask. The answer is impossibly long and diverse but after talking to so many who ended up on the sharp end of the flames, it is apparent that Our Lord was guiding the hands of those who fled in their cars through a gauntlet of nearly impenetrable smoke and flames. He was calming the pounding hearts and racing minds of some who were sliding down the slippery slope of panic. He was answering the prayers of those who awoke to the nightmare, aghast, with those four life-saving words on their lips and in their hearts: "Lord, help me...please," and from the beginning to the end, He was slipping His mightiest of shoulders under the yokes of all those affected, helping him, her and them to bear what must be borne with grace and peace.
Though it looks bad and smells worse right now, the forest was in desperate need of this cleansing and who knows what new growth might emerge from the ground next spring, unlocked and activated by the rare but indispensable heat of these flames? The cleansing of our hearts and souls is a more difficult-to-predict matter, so only time will tell if this catastrophe will not only unlock that knowledge of what matters most, but will affect a lasting re-prioritization of the spiritual, mental, emotional and physical aspects of our lives. After awakening to the flames on that tempestuous night, our first priority as a small community of monks was to pray an ancient office used in times of disaster, and though our focus has shifted to intentions for recovery, healing and thanksgiving, our prayers will continue...albeit with the heightened awareness of people who felt the heat, but were largely spared from the flames.
We are grateful for the heroic efforts of Cal Fire, the various local Fire Departments, the Sheriff's Department, all official emergency personnel, the hard-working PG&E crews and all those other assorted heroes who took it upon themselves to give their neighbors a hand, in large ways and small. Along with those who suffered as a result of this unprecedented fire, all involved will remain fixed in our prayers for the foreseeable future.
May God Bless You All.
The Monks of Mt. Tabor
It began ominously, as such things have the tendency to do, with a knock on the door at around 1:50AM. "Redwood Valley is on fire and the flames are coming this way", said Br. Seraphim in a calm voice. "The Abbot wants to see you so we can talk about what we're going to do." As I left my room, I gasped as I got my first look at the southern sky, which was impossibly red. I'd thought Br. S must have been exaggerating with his comment that the town was on fire, but the glowing sky dispelled those doubts. This was serious. After gathering the brethren for a brief talk, we did what monks should do, which is pray. With the power out, we chanted an office for help in times of disaster in the candlelight, which made me think of the scene at the end of the original, "War of the Worlds," where the seemingly unstoppable Martian invasion finally collapses at the doors of a full cathedral. If the flames made it to the doors of our small temple, I told myself, that would be as far as they would go, too.
Once it seemed that the initial danger had passed a couple hours later, a few of us ventured out of the monastery to scout out possible avenues of escape but less than two miles down Tomki Rd, we realized that the majority of our neighbors had fled long ago. House after house had been reduced to smoldering piles of ash, cinder blocks, flaming gas lines, twisted metal and burned out cars. Charred power lines and fallen trees crisscrossed the road, which felt more like a gauntlet hemmed in by flaming trees, stumps and the occasional smoking, abandoned car. We were relieved to make it to West Road, which offered us a safe avenue to the 101, but after crossing through a sheriff's checkpoint, we were shocked to find that we could no longer return to the monastery. We were now evacuees with no change of clothes, toiletries, computers, food or water.
There's more to tell about this day--and all those since--but for the purpose of this post, we wanted to let everyone know that we are all okay and, the last we heard, the Monastery is still untouched by flames of the (apparently still-growing) Redwood Valley/Potter Valley complex. With all the downed power lines and active gas lines, we don't know when we will be allowed to return to the Monastery, but we do know that there are many, many people less fortunate than ourselves. We pray for them, we pray for ourselves, and we pray in thanksgiving for all those who have been praying for us. We thank all of you for your concern and will provide updates on our--and the monastery's--well being once we know more.
May God have mercy on the souls our brothers and sisters who have been killed in this tragedy, may He comfort their families, friends & all those who love them, may He assist the evacuees with their current and future needs, may He bless all the rescue and safety personnel with wisdom, courage, strength and compassion, and may all those affected by this ongoing ordeal find healing, peace and greater faith. Amen.
BIBLICAL LECTURE SERIES WITH FR. DAVID ANDERSON CONTINUES
Come join us as we continue to move deeper into the Book of Genesis with biblical scholar, Fr. David Anderson. The next installment of this fascinating series will be on Tuesday, August 1st from 2:30 - 4:00PM. The talk will be held in the Refectory at Holy Transfiguration Monastery, 17001 Tomki Rd., Redwood Valley, CA.
3 MUST-HAVE BOOKS FOR UNDERSTANDING EASTERN THEOLOGY
We receive quite a few requests from people who would like to learn more about Eastern Christian theology, and recently, Dr. Anthony Dragani recommend three books he feels will provide a solid foundation for these studies. They are as follows:
“The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church,” by Vladimir Lossky
“The Eucharist: Sacrament of the Kingdom,” by Alexander Schmemann
“The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine: V.2 The Spirit of Eastern Christendom,” by Jaroslav Pelikan
We hope these books will provide you with a deeper perspective on our Eastern Catholic faith.
*Dr. Dragani is Professor of Religious Studies at Mount Aloysius College in Cresson, Pa.
He holds a bachelor's in philosophy/religious studies from the University of Pittsburgh,
a master's in theology from Franciscan University, and a doctorate in systematic theology from Duquesne University. He is also studying to be a deacon in the Parma Eparchy’s HAI Diaconate Training Program.
MT. TABOR LAUNCHES EDUCATIONAL FUND CAMPAIGN ON GOFUNDME.COM
Due to our educational needs and the high cost of tuition, the Monastery just launched a campaign on gofundme.com to help raise these necessary funds, which are essential for the formation of consecrated monks, deacons and priests. Please help us in this critical effort!
To donate, please go to: https://www.gofundme.com/monks-of-mt-tabor-educational-fund
Thank you and May God Bless You!
Many long-time friends of Mt. Tabor have inquired about Holy Transfiguration's resident hermit, Br. Seraphim, so we asked our Elder Brother to share a few reflections on his journey-thus-far into the eremetical life. Please take a look at the file below and if you have any questions for the hermit (who occasionally leaves his cave to check his emails) please send them to email@example.com.
For Br. Ephraim, it began with a dream.
"It happened 4 1/2 years ago," said the former Southern Baptist from Augusta, Georgia. "It was a...church of light. The Mother of God was there." The dream was so powerful that he went to a Catholic church the very next day called, St. Mary Help of Christians. "I was nervous to go inside but I knew I had to. There were some older men there but no one seemed interested in talking to me. After a while, I decided to leave but literally, as I put my hand on the door knob, someone said, 'Can I help you?'"
The man appeared to be in his early 20's. His name was Anthony John. The two began talking in the vestibule and ended up speaking for four hours.
Anthony John would go on to become the Dominican, Br. Anthony John but during their conversation, he mentioned an Eastern Byzantine Catholic monastery he had visited in Northern California called Holy Transfiguration. Polycarp (who took that name at his Catholic baptism) visited the Monastery twice before realizing that he was being called to this place and no other. Shortly after arriving on his third trip, he professed as a Novice.
Tonsured and clothed in his new habit, Br. Ephraim and his brothers bow for the Final Blessing
Please go to our Icon page for Father's new, coast-to-coast schedule. Thanks for your patience.
Visitors often ask us for book suggestions, which are sometimes difficult to provide as monastic tastes (and needs)
differ a bit from those 'out in the world,' but if someone says, "What are you reading now?" that's an easier question
to answer. So for what it's worth, here's a 'reading day in the life' for all of us at the monastery.
Fr. Theodore - Jesus: A Dialogue with the Savior
Fr. Daniel - "Spirituality of Imperfection," Kurtz
Br. Seraphim - "The Spiritual Life and How to Be Attuned to It," St. Theophan the Recluse
Br. Timothy - "The Ladder of Divine Ascent," St. John Climacus (a Lenten classic)
Br. Gideon - Precious Vessels: The Lives of Contemporary Greek Elders
Br. Ephrem - "Counsels from the Holy Mountain," Elder Ephraim of America
Petro - "Finding God's Way," St. Frances de Sales
Duc - "Br. Seraphim Rose, His Life & Work," Hieromonk Damascene
Matthew - The Gurus, The Young Man & Elder Paisios
David - Spiritual Combat
Br. Maximos - "Spiritual Counsels: Select Passages from "My Life in Christ" - St. John of Kronstadt
This video was produced for the students of Central Catholic High School in Lethbridge, Alberta, but we wanted to
make it available for everyone because there is a lot of great information on it for icon enthusiasts. Central Catholic
commissioned two icons from Fr. Damian in honor of the school's 30-year anniversary last July, St. Joseph the Worker
and St. Joseph the Spouse. Please go to our Icon Page and take a look!
Forget what you think you know about composting. Don't worry if you think you're not interested in composting.
Take a few moments to watch a video from The Master on how to grow soil. If you are active in gardening or if
you eat food (which should pretty much include all of you) this video will be 8 very well-spent minutes of your life..
Seminarian Phillip Gilbert and his mentor, Fr. David Anderson
Seminarian visits to the Monastery aren’t rare but from a Mt. Tabor perspective, Phillip Gilbert is a rare seminarian. Baptized at the Monastery as an infant, he and his family attended services here for several years until St. Peter’s Mission was established in Ukiah, and it was there that he met the priest who would be—and still is—very influential in his life. “I had a desire to serve at the altar since I was 5 or 6, but once when I was 8, I was happily cleaning out the vigil glasses and Fr. David came up to me and said, “Phillip, are you going to be a priest?” That question became a bug in my ear and when I went off to (Christendom) College, I started giving it some serious consideration.”
Phillip (who’s completed 1 1/2 years at St. Josaphat’s Ukrainian Seminary in Washington, DC) stopped by the Monastery during his Christmas break for one of Fr. David’s lectures on the Book of Genesis, and we had a chance to sit down for a brief Q&A session.
What kind of struggles do you encounter as a seminarian? "Well, being in school mean writing papers and taking tests, so there’s always that balance between doing all your readings and getting some sleep, but there are also seminary obligations. The day starts at 7:30 with Divine Liturgy, Vespers is in the evening, and weekends are taken up because we serve at the parish…so it’s a different pace of life that took some adjusting."
As monks, we know it can be difficult living in a community of men. How is it there? "There are 6 seminarians, the Record and the Spiritual Director, a student priest, Auxiliary Bishop (and Ambassador) John Bura, who has his own wing, and the cook who comes in during the day. So with our small community of 11 people, we see a lot of each other but it’s normal stuff…frustrations and the occasional loss of patience."
Just out of curiosity, what’s the age of the oldest seminarian? “He’s a 58-year old from
Fr. Andriy Cherovsky’s parish (St. Michael’s) in Tucson who decided he wanted to be a priest. He’ll be a good one, too.”
Interviewer's Note: The fact that the seminary accepts "more mature" men should be a wake-up call for other men who have always felt the call to the priesthood that--provided they fit the criteria--it's not too late to respond to the Lord's summons to service.
What would you like to do after being ordained? "I have a great interest in Church unity between Eastern Catholic churches, Orthodox churches and Roman Catholic churches. If it was up to me, I would love to be pursue fields that would allow me to foster unity, whether it’s ecclesiology, liturgy or any of those things."
How has your relationship with Fr. David grown or changed since becoming a seminarian? "Growing up, he was THE priest and confessor, and being somewhat isolated (in Ukiah, CA) he became my image of what a priest is. Now that I’ve lived on the East coast for several years, I’ve seen many different priests and types of priests, and I admire him even more. Different parishes have different struggles and obstacles, and the pastors deal with them in different ways. But just the problem of being Eastern Catholic and trying to navigate the waters of our tradition…trying to figure out how and when you do it, people have different answers. The way Fr. David has done it is wonderful. It’s not the only way but it’s a good way."
She was brought to us after her owners learned that during her clandestine forays out of the yard, she had secretly organized several dogs in her neighborhood into a efficient pack of cat-harassing, mayhem-causing ne'er do wells. According to the owner, the 2-year old Jack Russel terrier's pack was getting bigger and bolder each week and in such cases, if you take the leader out, the dogs that follow him or her usually disperse, and that seems to have been the case here.
In the first Jurassic Park movie, there's a scene where the island's gamekeeper, Muldoon, is grousing about the presence of the velociraptors, which he feels are too dangerous. In dramatic language that's equal parts fear and admiration, the crusty old South African describes how the seemingly diminutive dinosaurs are always watching, always probing for any weaknesses in their enclosure, as well as in those who are guarding them. It's the same with 'Houdini.' Although she's only 11" tall and weighs about 15 pounds, we've taken to yelling, "Fire in the hole!" when transferring her from her leash to the dog run or when opening the refectory door when she's in the building during mealtimes.
After reading all of this, one might wonder if she has any saving graces, and the answer to that question would be, "Yes."
Despite all her past skullduggery, she's incredibly sweet with people.
And what might Jurassic's Muldoon have said to this in his world-wise South African accent?
"Don't believe that rubbish for a minute, mate. She's just playing yeh."
The Monastery was very honored to host Archimandrite Damaskinos and some of his flock from St. George's Syriac Orthodox Church on December 3rd for one of their liturgies. Antioch was one of the four original Patriarchates of the early Church and the country has a very rich Christian heritage, both Catholic and Orthodox. Our Monastery (and the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in general) hold the Syriac Church Fathers in great esteem, particularly St. Ephrem, whose much-loved works still resonate throughout the Church centuries after his death.
Some of those in attendance at the recent liturgy bore the emotional, mental and physical scars of the ongoing persecutions of Christians in that country, so please keep Syria, it's President, people--and all the beleaguered Christians throughout the Middle East--in your prayers. Thanks again to Archimandrite Damaskinos and his brave countrymen for honoring us with their presence, their beautiful liturgy, their stories and their faith.
WITH STORIES & PRAYER REQUESTS
(Our Lady of Seven Sorrows in Shanxi, China)
China has been on Theresa’s radar screen since she was young. “It all began with reading the book, “Chinese Cinderella,” she says. “It shocked and scandalized me to learn about how women are treated there, and since that time, I’ve always been concerned about the plight of Chinese women and orphans.” A big contributor to the suffering of which she speaks has been the 1-child policy, which has led to the abandonment of an untold number of girls. “That thought has always inspired me to pray for and have a heart for China.”
Despite her prayers, though, the Midwesterner says she never had much of a faith until she attended (the now defunct) Southern Catholic College in Dawsonville, Georgia. “There were a lot of young people there who were very passionate about their faith…attending Mass and praying the Rosary daily. Plus, after high school theology classes that were more like study hall, my college theology classes were like, “Wow!” She went on to major in Theology but as an English teacher, she takes a different approach in her conversations with her Chinese students. “We did a class on money and I had them create a charity in order to get them thinking. I would say to them, “What about other people?” and then discuss social issues like domestic violence and human trafficking. Too often, they would answer by saying, “The government should do this or that…and should make up new laws,” but I would say no! What would YOU do about these things?”
Theresa’s friend, Mary (not her real name) also prayed for the suffering in China from a young age. “I had four areas of concern,” she says, “abandoned babies, women who were forced to have abortions, those who didn’t know Jesus and the persecuted Church.” Mary, who also hails from the Midwest, has been working in China on and off for 16 years. “Doors opened for me to work with people in each of those four groups but when I first went there, my intent was to work with orphans. I said, “Lord, please get me into an orphanage!” and—literally—10 minutes later, the phone rang and someone asked me if I wanted to go to China.” She picked up Mandarin “on the fly,” as no one in the orphanage spoke English. “Hearing Chinese all day started to make me feel like I was going insane, so every night when the staff watched TV, I would go into the room with the babies just so I could speak and hear English.”
Now back in the States, she runs a small NFP that assists people with getting into China.
“I take people over for orphanages, help others (like Theresa) connect, bring priests in and just help them navigate the system. It’s a whole other world to get connected and to know what you’re doing over there.” She’s currently gearing up to establish a center for teaching English and providing catechetical training, so please keep her and those she hopes to serve in your prayers.
Before the two friends left the Monastery, Mary related a quick story that gave perspective to some of her efforts. “During this one great time, we had a group of young converts who worked with us at the orphanage, so we were able to “disciple” them and help them grow in their faith through this service work. They’re now these remarkable Catholics who—although they’re no longer at that spot—have gone to other places where they serve with a strong foundation. They were just a tiny group of people but now these Chinese are somewhere else bringing the Gospel to life. It’s really little but it’s good because it’s person-to-person. They’re not making huge waves but the effect is beautiful.”
PRAYING THE ROSARY IN THE EASTERN CATHOLIC CHURCH
Sometime during the first few days of last Winter’s early Great Fast, I took a shortcut through the Monastery library and as happens from time to time with various publications the Lord wants me to find, my eyes seemed drawn to an innocuous-looking paper sitting on the Book Return table. The paper-in-question had the title, “The Rule of the Mother of God: Praying the Rosary in the Eastern Catholic Churches,” by Mike Plishka. Curious, since I didn’t know the Eastern Churches had or utilized anything referred to as a “Rosary,” I forgot about the task that necessitated my shortcut and instead sat down to read the document. Once finished, I knew the information contained in Mike’s well-written piece was very significant but nearly 10 months later, I’m even more thankful to Our Holy Mother for the fortuitous bit of Her Providence that placed this critical document in my path. As a matter of fact, I can say—with great faith—that my daily meditations on this prayer since that day have not only changed my life, but have benefited people all over the world in ways I’ll never know…until the next life.
When the urge to resurrect our long-dormant newsletter, “Gladsome Light,” began to stir within, I felt the information from this article was a must for all our readers, each of whom could also reach out into the World to change the trajectory of lives through this powerful devotion, but why wait? Besides, the article is best read in its entirety, which is a bit long for a newsletter. So please take a look at the attached document (via the link below) and see why St. Seraphim of Sarov, “not only saw value in this ‘image filled prayer,’ but prayed it and promoted it among his disciples.”
Many, many thanks to Mike Plishka for all his work on this wonderful and impactful article!
"It's all about planting seeds," says Farrell, reflecting upon the lack of immediate gratification in the teaching profession. "The Greeks understood this with their outlook on what defines a healthy community--a place where old men plant trees who shade they may never enjoy. It might not be today but at some point, all of our efforts with these students will make a difference...and Mt. Tabor will be a part of that."
on The Book of Genesis. Details are as follows:
Date: *Tuesday, November 15th
Time: 2:30PM to 4:15PM
Location: Refectory, Holy Transfiguration Monastery
17001 Tomki Road, Redwood Valley, CA.
*Classes will be held on Tuesday's for the next 7 weeks with the exception of Dec. 6th & Dec. 29th.
The public is welcome. We hope to see you here for what is sure to be a fascinating talk from a dynamic speaker!
We don't celebrate Halloween at the Monastery but we both celebrate and appreciate Br. Timothy's various forms of artwork.
In order to take advantage of the available light during Fall and Winter, we will use the following schedule for Vespers, Dinner and Compline:
Dinner: Immediately following Vespers (usually at 5:30PM)
As is often the case in religious life, Fr. Mark “just kind of fell” into this work and feels the Lord has guided him ever since. He first moved to North Carolina on business and though he didn’t have a job initially, he had lots of family, so when he found out about the opportunities for growing the Church in the Piedmont (which has been a beneficiary of the large, internal migration out of the once bustling industrial towns in the Northeast) he simply began opening new missions. At first, this meant organizing the liturgical services, gathering the people and celebrating Christmas and Pascha, but in the early stages, all these budding institutions really have is people. There are few if any vestments, chalices or even candles, so all necessities are borrowed, but to Fr. Mark, these fleeting material challenges are just details. The important thing is fulfilling one’s responsibility to serve all the Ukrainian Catholics in the Diaspora, and the work is paying off. St. Volodymyr & Olha (Garner, NC) own property and are ready to build their first church, St. Thomas the Apostle owns property, and in his words, “over the last 10 years, it’s just domino-ed.”
Another sign of the growth and the need are the parishioners who make long drives from cities like Hickory (NC) and Columbia (SC) to Charlotte for weddings and baptisms. Fr. Mark has seen this before and knows that seeds are being planted in these outlying communities, which will one day bear fruit. He knows that all one needs to do is, A) find several families who are motivated for this type of work, B) find a place to worship and, C) bring the people together. “And it just goes from there,” he says.
If all this isn’t enough to keep a priest and father of 7 busy, Fr. Mark is also the Director of the Parma Eparchy’s Diaconate program, which currently has 14 men (8 from Parma, 3 from Chicago and 1 from the Ruthenian Eparchy of Phoenix) in formation for the four-year program. As part of the Eparchy’s clergy retreat in early October, he met with Bishop Bohdon Danylo to discuss this successful program, get all its files up to date and recommend those candidates who are qualified for minor orders. Due to the demands on his time, though, Fr. Mark is transitioning to the role of Associate Director so he’ll have more free time for what else? Mission Development! The transition will be seamless, though, as the current Associate Director, Fr. Deacon Kevin Bezner, PhD. from St. Basil’s, Charlotte (who is himself a graduate of the program) will step into the Director spot.
So please keep Fr. Mark, his family, parishioners, missions (and those who do a fair amount of driving to service them) in your prayers. And speaking of prayers, below is a one that Fr. Mark shared with the monks…which we in turn would like to share with all of you:
"Lord, I offer this day in all righteousness as a living sacrifice of praise, that all day and all the things I do will give you glory. Amen.”
A report of His Beatitude Sviatoslav during the banquet on the occasion of carrying Institute Metropolitan AndreySheptytsky from Ottawa to Toronto University
The Mothers of Holy Theophany Monastery (Romanian) and their chaplain, Right Reverend Archpriest Lawrence Gosselin (Melkite) hosted the 3rd Annual Eastern Catholic Monastic Sobor at the Mothers' beautifully manicured facility on the outskirts of Olympia, Washington. Participants included the Holy Theophany Mothers, Fr. Lawrence, the fledgling community of Duchovny Dom (Ruthenian) from Warren, Oregon, Hegumen Fr. Theodosii Krychuk from the the Exaltation of the Most Holy, Precious, and Life Giving Cross Monastery in northern Alberta on the Canadian prairie, and the Monks of Holy Transfiguration Monastery, Redwood Valley, California. Unfortunately, Fr. Jonathan and the Brothers of Sacred Heart Monastery (Maronite), also in Washington state, were unable to attend this year due to scheduling conflicts.
After a casual gathering the evening of August 16th at Fr. Lawrence's Holy Martyrs Skete just down the road from Holy Theophany, we all prayed Orthros of the Greek tradition on Wednesday morning in Holy Theophany's Katholikon and shared a fasting breakfast prepared by Mother Irene, who continued to provide beautiful and nourishing meals throughout the duration of the sobor in the Mothers' trapeza with animated conversations after supper in the adjoining library.
There were morning and afternoon sessions with the 6th Hour and lunch in between on both Wednesday and Thursday with discussions about several articles that had been recommended by the various communities, articles dealing with diverse monastic concerns and experiences, from the profoundly spiritual to the seemingly mundane everyday details of community life.
Sister Teresa Jackson, O.S.B., from St. Gertrude Monastery (Latin) in Cottonwood, Idaho was serendipitously on retreat at Holy Theophany and was kind enough to share her insights into the challenges of growing old in monastic life - her large (huge by Byzantine standards) community of sisters includes many very elderly consecrated virgins, all still living in the community, and also described a number of possible resources available to most Americans (and Canadians, too, with slight differences). Plans for next year's gathering were also bandied about. There are rumors of a new Chaldean monastery being established somewhere in southern California, perhaps they will be represented at the sobor next year. We also discussed the possibility of inviting representatives of certain other monastic communities from outside our far-flung geographical area.
The opportunity to enjoy the fellowship of our brothers and sisters in monastic life, to experience the different liturgical practices and customs of another community from another tradition, to pray together with brothers and sisters normally scattered here and there in small, isolated monastic families across the western edge of the continent, was certainly more than worth the 12-hour drive from Mt. Tabor, energized as we were from the Great feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos.
According to the schedule as it is at this moment, next year's sobor will (or may) return to Holy Transfiguration Monastery in Redwood Valley, California, which will involve absolutely no travel time for us here at Mt. Tabor, a welcome change.
Article by Another Monk of the Eastern Church
Photos by Fr Theodosii
ABBOT DAMIAN & THE MONKS VISIT NEXT DOOR NEIGHBORS
AT ABHAYAGIRI BUDDHIST MONASTERY
What's so funny? Watch the YouTube clip of Fr. Damian's speech from this past June's 20 Year Anniversary at neighboring Abhayagiri Buddhist Monastery and find out. Many thanks to our Buddhist brothers for inviting us to their big day, as well as the ordination on the following day.