St. Simeon Skete, Taylorsville Kentucky USA

With St. Simeon, the God receiver, as our patron, the skete seeks to practice the ideals found in our Rule, The Thousand Day Nazareth. In simplicity and poverty, the skete embraces the struggle of inner life through the practice of the Prayer Rope.

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Donations should be addressed to: Nazareth House Apostolate, 185 Captains Cove Drive, Taylorsville, Kentucky 40071.

Important Notice: All writings, posts, graphics & photographs in this blog are the copyrighted property of (unless otherwise indicated) Nazareth House Media, a division of Nazareth House Apostolate and cannot be copied, printed or used without written permission from NHA Media, Taylorsville, KY.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The Holy Name Pilgrimage

The Name

“Jesus your Life…is living in me”
January 3, 2018
Feast of the Name Pilgrimage 

Today on this Feast of the Holy Name we took a pilgrimage to various Shrines to pray a Clause from the Remnant Rosary 6th Decade of The Holy Name.  

We said the Opening Prayers and First Clause at St. Rose Priory in Springfield.  At the Window of the Annunciation which embodies Jesus living inside of Mary  - the Incarnation and the naming of Jesus...  "And you shall His Name Jesus" we said the First Clause:

Jesus your Life, Your Name is living in me 
(Lk. 1:31, 38;  Mt. 1:21)

The Second Clause we said at the Holy Spirit Statue, 
also at St. Rose Priory:

Jesus your Life, Your Name by the Holy Spirit
is living in me
(1Cor. 12:3; Acts 2:3; Lk. 3:22; S.of S. 2:12)

We said the Third Clause from high up, overlooking the land from the grounds of the Priory:

Jesus your Life, Your Name above every Name 
is living in me. (Phil. 2:9-11)

For the Fourth Clause we traveled to the Valley Hill Shrine and prayed inside the Chapel that waits to be completed.  Just like we wait to be completed in His Holy Name. 
In Isaiah it says "we we will wait for you, 
your Name is the desire of our soul" 

 Jesus your Life, Your Name, the desire of my soul 
is living in me. (Isa. 26:8) 

We stood "outside the camp" to pray the Fifth Clause. This little Shrine is not a part of any church, or denomination its outside the camp, a place to offer through 
Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God

Jesus your Life, Your Name, my offering 
is living in me. (Heb. 13:12-15)

For the Sixth Clause we said it as we walked up the long stairs to the Shrine of the Sorrowful Mother: 

Jesus your Life, Your Name by which I rise up and walk 
is living in me.  (Acts 3:6; 4:10)

We reached the top of the Hill to the Shrine, many come from all over to pray here, unified in their prayers and petitions. They leave little bits of themselves at the foot of the shrine. Here we prayed the Seventh Clause:

Jesus your Life, Your Name uniting 
is living in me (Mt. 18:20; Eph. 1:10;  Ps. 86:11)

Descending the long stairs we reached the bridge 
that took us from one side of the stream to the other.  
We prayed the Eighth Clause:

Jesus your Life, Your Name taking me to the other shore 
is living in me.  (Mk. 4:35)

We returned to St. Simeon Skete for the Ninth Clause:

Jesus your Life, Your Name saving 
is living in me (Acts 4:12; Rom. 10:13)

Finally we completed the Tenth Clause 
in the Chapel at the Skete. 

Jesus your Life is living in me that I may be a vessel to bear forth Your Name. Acts (9:15, Lk. 8:22).

Monday, December 11, 2017

We have a prayer path at St. Simeon Skete.  

We also had one when we were in Louisville and it was very much a part of our prayer life. 

There were a lot of struggles and battles waged at that former path in Louisville, yet it was the biggest source of comfort to a lot of us.   Walking onto that Sacred Space felt secure, like climbing up onto the lap of Jesus and taking a big sigh of relief.  You could breathe easy there.  It has been the one thing we have missed since we moved to the skete. 

Later we were excited to find out that John Bradburne the Franciscan, martyred during the war in Zimbabwe,  also had a prayer walk he called the Prayer Track up on top of Chigona Mount.  

Saying the rosary while walking engages all the senses, the movement, the sights and sounds around you, verbalizing the clauses out loud, breathing the air - it all helps to deepen your prayer, and in the case of the Rosary it deepens the Life of Jesus within you. 

But whereas in Louisville the sounds of the city were a palatable hum, here in the rural area they are different - and much to our surprise - much more distracting.  Each sound is sharp amplification, like a cracking whip amongst the stillness. We are walking the prayer path amongst the loud trucks that zing past the skete, we are walking amidst the sporadic gunfire of the hunters and/or the constant string of gunfire from the neighbors' several personal firing ranges.  Sometimes it sounds like a war zone.  And then during the week, while their owners are at work - its the dogs.  One set of dogs begins to bark which entices another set and the barking rolls on and on.  At times, this place is the loudest place we've ever been.  

But - the prayer continues as we dig deeper into it, and continue to walk the path.   The statue of Mary is situated in such a way here at the Skete Prayer Path so that her gaze is not on us, it tenderly looks steadily and intently at the path - the only way you can be in her gaze is if you kneel.  In this way,  she is reminding us to continue in the path of her Son's life (The Rosary) all the while she is with us, in union with us in that prayer. "Stay on the path that the LORD your God has commanded you to follow. Then you will live long and prosperous lives in the land you are about to enter and occupy." -NLT Deut. 5:33

I don't know what kind of "gunfire", "yapping dogs", or "road noises" are out there trying to distract you from your focus on God today. But I do know that they are out there and they want to distract you.  I also know that Jesus is bigger than any of our struggles, any of our pain and that his Mother is with us, gently nodding for us to stay on the path.  "But as for you, be strong and don't get discouraged, for your work will be rewarded." -2nd Chronicles 15:7    And while you are out there deflecting distractions, know that we are here doing the same all the while keeping each other in prayer.  You us and we you.  God bless you. 

And besides.... "the dogs bark, but the caravan moves on".  

Saturday, December 2, 2017

And so this is Advent

Today begins the preparatory Season of Advent.

Advent wreath at table in Holy Trinity Kellia, St. Simeon Skete

The Gospel for 1st Sunday of Advent
St. Matthew xxi. 1.
WHEN they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and were come to Bethphage, unto the mount of Olives, then sent Jesus two disciples, saying unto them, Go into the village over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her: loose them, and bring them unto me. And if any man say ought unto you, ye shall say, The Lord hath need of them; and straightway he will send them. All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass. And the disciples went, and did as Jesus commanded them, and brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their clothes, and they set him thereon. And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way. And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name 'of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest. And when he was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, Who is this? And the multitude said, This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee. And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the money-changers, and the seats of them that sold doves, and said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves. 
Jesus tells His disciples to go into the city  AND He tells them to find a tethered colt that no one had ridden.   

Think about that image:  "a tethered colt which no one has ridden..."
Young mule of Denny & JoanE Markwell,  members of St. Simeon Skete

Of course the people are waiting for a dominative, powerful, substantive image - a King, A Ruler who is going to change everything from the outside (the surface).  

But Jesus says "I'm not going to come in on a horse, in triumph but Zechariah 9:9 prophesied... I'm coming in on a donkey to redefine what power is, worth is, strength is, trust is...

This colt/donkey, THIS powerless image is a tethered colt, its been tied up in all of history.  No one's ever wanted to use it, no one's ridden this kind before but Jesus is going to ride it into the city to show the world a different way, a new way, the way of trust, the way of vulnerability, the way of powerlessness.  

When your generosity has been tied up, loosen it and when greed rises up and asks "what are you doing?", say, "The Lord has need of it"  When your humility is tied up, loosen it and when pride questions you, say "The Lord has need of it."  When your forgiveness is tied up, untie it and when mercilessness asks you "why?,  say "The Lord has need of it." 

As Jesus rides into the city in this "different way" the people wonder "Who is this?"  "What is this new way?"  Jesus upsets the system and says: "its prayer". 

Jeremy Lopez, in prayer before his Confirmation.  Nazareth House Apostolate, Athens, Georgia
Of all the battles that God has with human consciousness, the battle to get rid of those things (furniture) that keep us from making our souls a house of prayer must be God's most difficult battle.   Culture wants to rearrange the "furniture" by dominative power - the ability to influence others through coercion, hiring and firing, punishing, threatening, lawsuits, money, position.  This will rearrange the "furniture" and most will respond to it.  But at best, this is all we can do: re-arrange the "furniture".   But Jesus doesn't re-arrange the furniture, He pitches it - throws it out - opting for a House of Prayer!  Anything in your life that is keeping you from prayer needs to be pitched! 

As the Holiday Season approaches many will be re-arranging their living rooms to prepare for Holiday guests or give a new look but only PRAYER can change the living room into a LIVING room.  
Personal milagro of Seraphim, housed where he hangs his prayer beads

Advent Collect

ALMIGHTY God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal, through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, now and ever. Amen. 

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Take it from a cow...

Yesterday we had to go into the city to get some supplies. While shopping, I happened to notice many people were oblivious that anyone else was in the store. They were talking in their own little worlds on their cell phones.  Several of them, on speaker phone exposing us all to both sides of the conversation.  One lady was lamenting to her friend on the phone that her granddaughter gets upset if she is in the room when her granddaughter is trying to watch a movie.  She said her granddaughter cries that she has no privacy, even though it's her grandmother's house.  So Grandma moans that she has to stay in her bedroom so her granddaughter can watch a movie in the living room.  I wasn't ease dropping, I was simply in the same aisle as this lady on her speaker phone.

 It wasn't a specific designated holiday shopping day, but people were still in a rush, tense, impatient and generally frustrated.  The employees, I must say, to the contrary of their patrons, were very pleasant, friendly and helpful.  

As we left the store and headed out of the city and back to the country, I couldn't help but notice some very peaceful cows.  Just sitting there.

We are experiencing some unusually nice days this November: warm air, bright sun.  Many of us haven't noticed because we are inside stores using our cell phones, but these cows were taking it in and enjoying it.  Then I noticed something more, so I had Seraphim stop the car so I could get a closer look.  

About a hundred starlings had just completed their synchronized dance routine in the sky and had invaded a nearby clump of trees. 

Though their Dance in Flight is a wonder to see, their completion of the routine meant the contented cows received a dousing of bird droppings in the face. 

Nevertheless, the cows remained contented in rumination.  You can really learn how to meditate from a cow.  Much better than from these groups that want to teach you to empty your thoughts of everything, even Jesus.  "Don't think of anything, totally strip your mind of all thought".  Sorry... I want to think on Jesus! I never want to empty myself of Him.  

Anyway, if you watch a cow, they eat grass, taking it in.  When they are full and content, they sit, regurgitate the cud back up from their first stomach along with other ruminants to the mouth for a second chewing. They chew slowly so they can receive the full benefit and nutrition from what they have taken in.   This is how we should be with our Lectio Divina.  Studying the Word of God, Praying and when we find a place (Holy Corner) to become content,  we can recall (bring back up) what we've received, ponder it and gain full benefit and nutrition from it.  

And if we ruminate contentedly on God's Word and Love... on whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy— if we meditate on these things (Phil.4:8) when the world's droppings fall down on us, our peace remains in tact. 

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” -Phil. 4:6-7

Father Gabriel once shared with me:  "At the Offertory of the Roman Mass it is said: 'Blessed are you Lord of all creation, we not only lift up the bread and wine for transformation, but we lift up the whole realm of nature that it may share in the freedom and the glory of the children of God.'

In that sense we are all a priestly people. When I walk through the fields or pray the Rosary in our garden, I look around me at the splendour of nature and make an offering of it all to the Father in heaven.”  

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Holy Cross

Pilgrimage is a vitally important and adhered to practice at St. Simeon Skete.  

In his book "The Road to Emmaus, Pilgrimage as a Way of Life", Jim Forest says "Roads are the circulatory system of the human race and the original information highway. From times long before the written word, roads have linked house to house, town to town, and city to city."

The geographical pilgrimage is the symbolic acting out
of an inner journey.  The inner journey is the interpolation
of the meanings and signs of the outer journey.  One can 
have one without the other. It is better to have both.
                     -Thomas Merton, Mystics and Zen Masters

On this Feast Day of the Most Holy Cross, we took to the road to make pilgrimage to a little area known as Germantown in Louisville, Kentucky.  There we find another one of those "thin places"("thin places", a Celtic Christian term for "those rare locales where the distance between heaven and Earth collapses") that you happen upon that is somewhat forlorn and forgotten except for a few who realize the significance of the place. 

We've been here before and as a child my grandfather and I would take walks to the Grotto.  At that time, it was part of the enclosure of St. Joseph's Infirmary.  Its now hidden off the side of a main highway and encircled by apartment complexes.  At first glance, its hardly noticeable.

As you close in on it, its a bit difficult to figure out what it is...

However as you walk towards it, the enclosure reveals its purpose. 

As we walked inside, immediately you feel drawn to prayer.  

On this Feast of the Holy Cross, we felt called, especially in this place, to say the Stations of the Cross.  We said the opening prayers at the Grotto

At the skete, we begin the stations with the Garden of Gethsemani, so we turned around to face the garden.  (You can see the apartment dwellings all around the area).  

One by one we followed the Way of the Cross, even singing (out loud) the Stabat Mater between each station. 

The hand painted Stations are vividly incredible.  

The rain began to fall as we journeyed through each Station of the Cross. But it was only a mist and it served to enhance the mystical atmosphere. 

Its my belief that there are many places like these, scattered about hidden smack in the middle of life, subdivisions and Pallet Yards.   We must search them out, stop what we are doing and take the time to go closer. 

"...Moses's turning aside from his original path. He felt that the marvel of the Burning Bush warranted making a stop; he was moved with desire to contemplate it and ponder deeply on it.  He accepted without question this sudden, extraordinary, divine event.  And it was because he did not hesitate to change his direction towards the Burning Bush that God was able to call to him. 'And when the Lord saw that..(Moses) turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I.'

All this applies just as much to us today as it did to Moses. If during the course of our lives we hurry along without stopping, without even a glance towards the Burning Bush (which nevertheless continues its blazing along the whole of our way, though most of the time our eyes are close to it), we shall miss the opportunity God desires.  If, on the contrary, we do not hesitate to leave aside for a time the flocks of Jethro - our daily cares - the Lord will call to us from the midst of the bush.  He will call to each on of us by a name that is our own. 

Moses answered 'Here am I' without knowing what God would require of him.  Such declaration of being at His disposal is what the Lord awaits from us also.

May we place ourselves before Him, before the Burning Bush, and say: 'Here I am at this moment. Here I am in this very place.  Here am I for Thee, without any reservations whatever.'  " -L. Gillet