Tuesday, August 1, 2017

a guest post: reflecting on babies, fasting & spiritual health

"When a new baby is around, it's very rare for the softness of their skin NOT to be remarked upon. Why? Because, quite simply, it's remarkably soft & smooth. Worthy of remarking upon. When caring for the skin of my sweet boy today, the contrast between his skin & mine was easy to see. 
I'm more weathered, & my first thought was to lament my aging skin. It's been around for 37 years, & my freckles, scars, stretch marks, & fine lines are here to tell many tales. However, I was able to turn my lamentation into thanksgiving & appreciation. My eyes' fine lines reveal a lifetime of emotions experienced, the good & bad. The lines around my mouth & the grooves where my dimples hide speak of countless smiles. The stretch marks on my belly are scars from many victories & one terribly painful yet life giving loss. The callouses on my hands & feet are from hard work & adventuring, game playing & dancing, writing & being stepped on by the precious ones always at my feet. 
My second thoughts were of how hard we strive to take care of our skin as we age. We notice wrinkles, discoloration, dry skin, & yellowing teeth, so we buy creams for our eyes, use oils, put hope in lotions that promise intense moisturizing results, & hunt for the ultimate whitening toothpaste. 
If only we noticed the signs that our souls are taking a beating or being neglected just as easily! We look closely at our hands, feet, hair, face, teeth, & bodies so often, but do we really take the time to look closely at the condition of our souls?
 I strive for nightly reflection, but I will certainly admit to occasional weeklong neglect when it comes to deep contemplation. 
Would I ever not brush my teeth for a week? 
Certainly not! 
How dry, wrinkled, & stained have our souls become? May we notice the signs & care for our souls, for they are lasting! For they are so much more precious than these bodies we will leave behind! Let us nourish them in the Lenten Spring! One thing is for sure, I'm hoping to make it a point to brush my teeth & apply rosehip oil to my face as reminders to care for my soul from this day forward. So let it be posted. So let it be done!" ---Susan Deane

This reflection is perfect for the beginning of the Dormition Fast! Thank you, Susan! 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

fun at church: when your 3-year-old asks "Does Father feed us because church is so long?"


daughter #1 'helping' her dad in the chancery office when she was 1 
  • Just this Sunday, my six month old pulled at a ribbon decorating a tall candle on the tetrapod - it immediately spills hot wax all over... my dress, the floor, and thank God not her little bare legs or my own! I was next for communion so I received after a quick wax check, closing my mouth on the spoon because I'd completely lost my composure. My three year old then prayed after liturgy that her family not get burned.
  • My husband boldly took over singing a hymn as the cantor received communion, but he didn't know the rest of the verse so he fudged it with until someone else jumped in. 
  • Three year old regularly grabs large handfuls of blessed bread. When we visit other parishes that puts smaller trays or larger chunks out, this can cause her to take a third of it.
  • My kid has done the handful thing too! Or digs through the basket to find a satisfactory piece. *face palm* She's better about it now, depending on how hungry she is...

  • This tike, Harry, has a knack for knowing priests. I remember when I was with some folks, and Vespers had been more or less canceled. The kiddo kept looking through the door, saying "Father Michael.." When Father George came back from sabbatical, he would mutter "Father George... Father George.. Father George Gray.."
  • My son at about 15 months had picked up a 'salty' word from, I  ashamed to say , my mother. Right in the middle of the consecration he decides to use his new word very loudly many times. So, I 'go over' another word with him loudly enough to be heard for a few pews....  "FORK, yes, fork, it goes with spoon. Can you say spoon "
  • In Dublin, at Fr. Serge Kelleher's Ukrainian Greek Catholic mission at St. Kevin's Oratory, in the basement of St. Mary's Pro Cathedral. He had a young parish, consisting mainly of Slavic families from all over, many with infants and toddlers. As the Oratory was not built for Byzantine worship, they had a collapsible Iconostasis, on the same level as the nave. During the Divine Liturgy (conducted in a mix of Slavonic, modern Ukrainian, and Irish Gaelic, one little boy, about 18 months old, was fascinated by Fr. Serge, and kept crawling over to the Royal Doors. Three times he crawled over, and three times one of his parents retrieved him. On the fourth try, however, his parents were distracted by his baby sister, and he managed to crawl all the way across the floor, under the doors, and right up to Fr. Serge, standing at the the Holy Table. He tugs on Fr. Serge's Phelonion. Fr. Serge looks down, and, in mid chant, bends over, reverses the baby, gives him a pat on his bottom, and sends him back out, under the doors, to his parents. Fr. Serge never missed a beat, and the Liturgy was not disrupted.
  •  I wait for the days when my children will ask if giving money to the church is tipping God
  • We help prompt our daughter to pray to Jesus after receiving communion. Once she said, it's time to eat donuts, Jesus!
Thanks, readers, for sharing some funnies! Write more in the comments below!

Dormition of Saint Anne, mother of Mary the Theotokos

O godly, ever-blessed Anna, thou didst bear the pure Mother of God who conceived Him Who is our life. Thou hast now passed to heaven/ and art rejoicing in glory, asking forgiveness for those who faithfully honour thee. 
We celebrate the memory of the ancestors of Christ/ and faithfully ask their help; that all may be delivered from every affliction who cry: Be with us, O God, for it pleased Thee to glorify them. 

Thursday, July 20, 2017

a feast day for the holy prophet Elijah

An angel in the flesh and the cornerstone of the prophets, the second forerunner of the coming of Christ, Glorious Elijah sent grace from on high to Elisha, to dispel diseases and to cleanse lepers. Therefore, he pours forth healings on those who honor him.
Prophet Elijah of great renown, seer of the mighty mighty works of God, by your command you held back the rain! Pray for us to the only Lover of mankind!

Elijah- man of contradictions- a saint before the time of Jesus, an 'angel in the flesh' 
Pray for us! 

Monday, July 10, 2017

Do it for God! a link to Brother Isaac's blog

Once sentence was all it took to remind me that anything I am doing for myself and not for God is something I am doing wrong.  It is something that needs to be fixed.  The fix will bring peace and joy.

The simple answer solved an immediate problem but has relevance for every single one of my actions.  It doesn’t matter what I am doing.  It can be singing, cleaning, speaking, teaching, welcoming guests, etc.

The answer to so many of my problems is simple.

do Bi-ritual Priests strengthen or weaken priesthood?

"If I can unite in myself the thought and the devotion of Eastern and Western Christendom, the Greek and the Latin Fathers, the Russians with the Spanish mystics, I can prepare in myself the reunion of divided Christians. From that secret and unspoken unity in myself can eventually come a visible and manifest unity of all Christians." --- Thomas Merton 
"Many will remember Pope St. John Paul II’s words from “Ut Unum Sint, “the Church must breathe with her two lungs”–its Eastern one and its Western one. In writing this, our late Holy Father was referring to the need to unify the East and West as one Church to combat the dangers of secularism and grow in cultural, intellectual, spiritual, and geopolitical strength. To be clear, the pope was not specifically exhorting individual Catholics to become bi-ritual. His encyclical calling for a balanced resuscitation and cooperation between the main traditions of the Church arose from a predominance of the Latin tradition while the Eastern tradition became more obscure. But, in the effort to achieve this balance, it can fall to priests and teachers to open the minds and hearts of individual Catholics to the liturgies they are not familiar with. With this knowledge, the Church herself might begin to breathe more fully and grow in health and strength. It is to this end that a bi-ritual experience in the context of education can help further this holy objective by making the world of liturgy full and fulfilling to those for whom it has grown stale or, what is worse, stultifying." --- by GREGORY DIPIPPO .... continue at New Liturgical Movement

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Is Pope Francis open to married men becoming Roman-rite Catholic priests?

There have been rumblings throughout the blogosphere about the latest musings of the Holy Father. Should married men be permitted- as a norm- to be ordained Roman-rite priests?  Dear reader, you should (rightly) say, "Hey, priest's wife! You are Romanian Byzantine Catholic! It is none of your business what the Roman-rite does! keep out of it!" 
don't worry- this is an 'old country' Eastern Catholic seminarian marrying- men wear their best clothing to their marriage, and his clerics would be his best clothing 
Very well. I will keep out of it- after I share some thoughts...these old chestnuts....

Read: Throwing Priests' Wives Under the Bus (about a former Anglican priest turned Catholic priest who stated that he would be a more dedicated priest if he were celibate) 
my words: 
Everyone should accept and develop their lives depending upon their vocation and not advocate against their state in life. It is ungrateful to be otherwise. His public thoughts of being a more devoted priest if he weren't with family responsibilities is unfair. While he can advocate for celibacy in general, theological terms, the specifics of his situation should be positive only. I know these are strong words, but he is ungrateful in that he is a minuscule exception to the celibacy requirement in the Roman-rite. I understand that some married priests want to stay 'under the radar,' so don't mention your marriage at all. We all have misgivings and frustrations with our state in life. 

Have you ever met a mother who is vocal about her preference for the opposite sex that her baby turned out to be? The baby is all dressed in blue, and the mom sighs that she's disappointed that she doesn't get to buy all the cute pink ruffly clothes. I must confess that I find that attitude really disturbing. It's one thing to say 'a girl would be fun' before the sex of the baby is known, but when that sweet baby is in your arms, he needs your total acceptance and love. 

What if your husband was having second thoughts about being married to you? What if he fantasized about being married to the girl he dated before you met him? What if he published a Facebook status update like: "I would be a more devoted husband if I didn't have to deal with Sarah's lupus. I could have devoted more to my career if Maria had married me." Devastating, no? 

Read: Sad Days (about Roman rite commenters who want Eastern-types to shut it) 
my words:
WHY OH WHY do people think that by accepting the East's 2,000 year tradition of married men priests and their dignity and worthiness leads to....married men being ordained de facto in the West, altar girls, extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist, women 'priests,' clown masses, blessings with bubbles and sage, embracing divorce and remarriage, birth control, abortion, meat buffets on Fridays, abandoning Holy Days of Obligation, global warming, etc and etc...We just want our sui juris church to be respected. We love the Holy Father and the Catholic Church. Let me be a broken record for a bit; the Church is bigger than my microscopic rite and the Roman rite- no matter the majority the Roman rite has.

Read: Sex & the Married Priesthood: Ceasing Marital Relations within Marriage a "Praiseworthy Thing"? (a former Episcopalian priest announces that he will no longer have relations with his wife after being ordained a Catholic priest)
my words: 
I say that it is impossible for a loving married couple (a couple not in an extremely rare Josephite marriage from the beginning) to be perfectly continent because marital relations is much more than intercourse. It is an emotional intimacy with another person that a celibate person does not experience. Marital relations is to receive a cup of coffee lovingly from your wife, as you can see from the video of Deacon John. If he entered a monastery, a housekeeper or a fellow monk giving him coffee would be a completely different thing. Marital relations is to be frustrated together over the latest mistake a child has made. Marital relations is to buy the stinky cheese that he likes so much. Marital relations is to clip coupons and soak beans cheerfully. To reduce marital relations to simply sexual intercourse (the lack of intercourse being the perfect continence required supposedly by canon 277) is to reduce us to animals who rut without thinking.

and here is the last blog post I could find about the subject...The Challenge of Celibacy: Let's NOT talk about Sex  (it's about the single life and selfishness) 
my words:
We all know amazing celibate priests who are always thinking of the other person. He might golf on Monday morning as a hobby, but his cell phone is open to calls and he doesn't allow a gate keeper secretary to be a barrier to contact with his parishioners. Celibacy and continence are challenges, but Roman-rite priests know what they are getting into and, I suspect, focus on protecting themselves from sin in these serious matters. Selfishness is a much smaller sin, but it tends to creep in and make itself at home. A selfish person who is also a giver- like I was- work, work, working for God but then ignoring that call that they know is a hospital call. A selfish person insists on his hamburger super-rare (just pass it over a lit candle) even when the waitress says the health board won't let her sell it rare. A selfish person needs, even while complaining of burn-out, to choose all the music selections and flower arrangements so that things will be perfect (for him/her).

agree? disagree? any other thoughts? leave a comment! 

Monday, May 22, 2017

Michael's conversion: his spiritual journey as a new husband (guest post)

Christ is Risen!
“There’s this church next to my work—says it is for Ukrainians. Check it out; your grandmother was Ukrainian. It looks like the Orthodox church she used to take me to.” Those words were spoken to me by my father in 2013. A man far from any professed belief, it was because of that sentence that I, and now my wife, have truly found our home—what is now our pilgrimage on earth to heaven. 
I was certainly a much more devout 21 year old than most others I grew up with in Philadelphia, but my first visit by myself to the Ukrainian Cathedral wasn’t very fruitful. The Liturgy seemed so foreign that I was saddened of my inability to see it for what I now know it truly is. Still, I was determined to get to know this “other Rite” (I know—it's not a Rite) with my then-girlfriend. I tried much too hard to learn and read on my own without proper direction. 
In the meantime, my girlfriend was returning to the (Latin) Church and God was certainly doing His own work within her. I, on the other hand, was gradually drifting away from my spiritual well-being, but still held on because I knew I had to. Little would I know that God had a pretty big idea for us. 
I was still in law enforcement at the time and still serving in the National Guard. During the next few years, we would split our time between the Church where I served Mass and the Ukrainian Church nearby. A few years had passed, and Lucy (now my fiancee at this point in time) was clearly reaching a point where she began living her life for the pleasure of God, began engaging in spiritual reading, and was really becoming the ideal Catholic woman! I was so proud and happy, but I noticed that I had hit a wall in my own faith, a sort of writer’s block for the soul. 
Due to a variety of circumstances, we had to transition to the Ruthenian Church. This is when the story gets good. I cannot pinpoint how, or why, but suddenly, deep within me, while hiding in the back during my first visit, I just knew—this is it. This is where we need to be. Now, it all seemed complete—we were finally learning more, understanding, meeting so many people, reading, praying, being involved—it was all wonderful. Then, my law enforcement career came to a sudden halt right before our wedding. It was like having your whole life planned out and it all being taken from you—imagine the irony. 
Suddenly, I was separated from the only line of work I had ever served in. I lost what would be considered great benefits and a rather luxurious salary Thank God for that, because I found that wall that was holding me back. In my lowest of lows, my fiancee was there for me (of course), but she was there in a different way—it was to point me to God and to His Church. It was during this time that I finally learned that I am a sinner, that I am unworthy of so many things, that I require Our Lord’s mercy every waking moment, and that He wants me to be united with Him. He taught me that I must rely on Him, that I must give my total self to Him, and that I must pray to Him. I learned how to really, really pray, not just recite empty words, but learn how to push through the struggle of prayer, and how to understand the Liturgy, Vespers, Matins—all of it—as an instrument to succeed in prayer of the heart. I suppose like so many others, it was only in my “darkest hour” that my heart became open.   
My time became immersed in Jesus alone. Because of my fiancĂ©e, I finally learned how to know God, and I came to find this in Orthodox spirituality—the faith of my grandmother, Anne, who was a wonderful Orthodox woman. 
I often say I wish I discovered the Eastern Churches earlier in life, but I see why it had to wait. I think God needed to remind me not to follow the ways of the world, and to show me what He really wants of me. To say that I am undeserving of a wife of 24 who supports her 26 year-old husband in discerning the priesthood is an absolute understatement. After visits to the seminary, to Pilgrimages, to financial planning—all with her—I can certainly say we are on a tough journey filled with uncertainty and blind corners. However, with the guidance of our pastor, vocations director, and so many wonderful people we have met on the way, we happily make our way on this search for God’s plan for us, knowing that we have now what we didn’t fully have before—faith, reverence, and fear of God—together. 
Please pray for us, and be assured of our prayers for all of you. God love you!"
- shared by Michael Fiocca
Thank you, Michael! We will be praying for you and your family through this journey 

Monday, April 17, 2017

CHRIST IS RISEN! INDEED HE IS RISEN!

Pictured: The Resurrection / Anastasis (11th century mosaic), Hosios Loukas monastery, Church of the Katholikon (narthex), Distomo, Greece.
Christ is risen from the dead,
Trampling down death by death,
And upon those in the tombs
Bestowing life!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

how to live the Great Fast in preparation for Christ's Pascha

It is almost time for the Great Fast (Lent) before Pascha (Easter)! I love this graphic that I've seen all over social media. I believe it was written by Fr Daniel Rogich..... so many awesome ideas to implement, and it is nice to have our readings for the season in one place. 

Eastern Hospitality: feasting & fasting with Father Deacon Moses & Mother Gabriella

Have you visited the great new website: Eastern Hospitality? Abouna Moses and Mother Gabriella give instruction on making delicacies, some that are fast-friendly. In the middle of each episode, there is a theological teaching. They have clearly worked hard on this project. Please like and share and learn more about Eastern Christian hospitality
They had a great episode on the Christian discipline of fasting- click here for this episode that might convince you that our fasting seasons are God's gift to us
Great work, Abouna and Mother! 
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