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, February 26, 2014

The 99 Intercessions of the Prayer Rope ©

"Is any among you afflicted?
let him pray," - James 5:13

The personalized, incarnational, salvific Name of the IAM is Jesus.  He absorbs all the pain by becoming that pain - IAM.  My Elder has wonderfully stated: "We approach the fullness of our union in Christ on earth when we begin to realize that in Christ we too are those who are like us in our pain right now.  And in Christ we can cry out as them before the Father, right  now, as we are! Not for them - that's caring.  Not with them - that's compassion.  But as them.  That's Love."  For whatever the hideous deeds done in His Name or in spite of His Name over the centuries, enough men and women in Christ's wake still drank deeply of His Spirit, of His Presence (IAM) Personalized (Jesus), thus opening to humanity an immense reservoir of mercy.  In the following we ask for this mercy ninety-nine times, as the Father presents Jesus (33 times); as the Spirit presents Jesus (33 times); and as Jesus presents Himself IAM (33 times); thus saying "IAM Jesus" ninety-nine times for all of humanity, for all time. 

When you begin, take the Prayer Rope in your left hand, with your forefinger and thumb on the tassel, which can be seen as a symbol of Pentecost, the outpouring of the the Spirit (St. Simeon Skete's Prayer Rope has a red tassel), and then asking the Holy Spirit to pray within you. Next, holding the Trinity Bead ask that  "Christ, being lifted up on the Cross, might draw you to and through Himself into the communion of the Trinity."  After that, make the sign of the cross with right hand saying "In the Name of the FAther and the Son and the Holy Spirit, One God" as your left hand/fingers take a hold of the first bead, launch into the 99 Intercession of the Jesus Prayer.  Note: it is suggested to say the intro prayers of the Jesus Prayer Office and close with their closing prayers.  You can also add this Intercession to the place within the Jesus Prayer Office where the Intercessions are made. 

THE 99 INTERCESSIONS of St. Simeon Skete Prayer Rope ©1999 NHA

(proceed as so: "Lord Jesus Christ Son of God have mercy on your church, Lord Jesus Christ Son of God have mercy on those who insist on being "right", Lord Jesus Christ Son of God have mercy on civil authorities...) 

Lord Jesus Christ Son of God have mercy on: 
  1. ...your church
  2. ...those who insist on being "right" 
  3. ...civil authorities 
  4. ...those who dislike us (me) 
  5. ...those who love us (me)
  6. ...our parents 
  7. ...the broken 
  8. ...the elderly 
  9. ...religious  
  10. ...the defenseless
  11. ...the powerless
  12. ...youth
  13. ...schools
  14. ...those with addictions 
  15. ...marriages
  16. ...families
  17. ...those who are with child
  18. ...widows and orphans
  19. ...the condemned 
  20. ...those who are kind 
  21. ...laity
  22. ...Bishops and clergy
  23. ...those who do not know You
  24. ...those who journey
  25. ...the imprisoned 
  26. ...those in despair
  27. ...the poor 
  28. ...those stripped of dignity
  29. ...those who ridicule Christianity
  30. ...those who aren't given a second chance 
  31. ...the hidden
  32. ...the hungry
  33. ...those in spiritual darkness
  34. ...the sick
  35. ...the disabled
  36. ...the ill-favored
  37. ...the lonely
  38. ...those having to make a decision 
  39. ...the ignored
  40. ...the despised
  41. ...the confused
  42. ...the ridiculed 
  43. ...the outsider
  44. ...the weary
  45. ...those new to this country
  46. ...the confident
  47. ...those who need control 
  48. ...the wronged 
  49. ...those who are far from the church
  50. ...the beauty hidden in each person
  51. ...the wounded 
  52. ...the suspected
  53. ...those assaulted 
  54. ...the belittled 
  55. ...those mocked 
  56. ...the accused 
  57. ...the rejected 
  58. ...the forgotten 
  59. ...those in sadness 
  60. ...those perishing 
  61. ...those who are afraid
  62. ...the untouched 
  63. ....the abandoned 
  64. ...those in misery
  65. ...those who trust in themselves 
  66. ...those left behind 
  67. ...the powerful
  68. ...the comfortable
  69. ...the afflicted 
  70. ...our indifference 
  71. ...those trapped in their intellects
  72. ...those who feel no need for mercy
  73. leaders
  74. ...victims of human trafficking 
  75. ...those hurt by 'religion'
  76. ...the stranger we saw yesterday
  77. ...the uncaring 
  78. ...those who trust in their riches
  79. ...those in mental darkness 
  80. ...those who extend hospitality 
  81. ...those facing death
  82. ...those who use God 
  83. ...those who do not practice their faith
  84. ...the proud/secure
  85. ...those who feel trapped 
  86. ...those who have lost hope
  87. ...those living in time of war
  88. ...those who've had to flee 
  89. ...those who embrace the system 
  90. ...those who make and maintain denominations 
  91. ...the abused 
  92. ...those who want to end their life 
  93. heart
  94. labors 
  95. to be the person You've always longed for 
  96. to love 
  97. to forgive 
  98. to trust
  99. ...Lord Jesus Christ Son of God have mercy on me a sinner! 
There is something beautiful and right about - "God so loved the world" and in these intercessions we are invited to love what God does.  Those who have no one else to pray for them, know that they are being prayed for at the skete.

These are the beads that Seraphim used in Africa to pray the 99 Intercessions. 

As you can see in the next picture, Seraphim is standing by his dearest friend, Pa Amadu Barrie, Waliullah, the Sufi Saint of West Africa whose epic program was to pray daily for Peace, Love and Unity throughout the entire world.  

These two men both prayed together during the war in Sierra Leone -Seraphim praying the 99 Names of Jesus, Pa Amadu praying the 99 Names of Allah.  In next week's blog post Seraphim will share the 100 Names of Jesus.  

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Pavement Passages

When Seraphim was in "active" ministry, he would lead us in Street Retreats.  I recently came across the tract we produced for use in these retreats.

The following are photos of his personal booklet which contain his handwritten notes. 

I also came across a poem that Seraphim wrote while on the streets of Louisville:

"Street Beads" by Seraphim

These beads, pregnant with existence
impregnating existence,
existing in an expectant loneliness
that is strength. 
Loneliness birthing from freedom
Freedom birthing from loneliness.
Those seeking this "Freedom Child"
are always marginalized,
marginalized because, it is an
"illegitimate" Freedom to be lonely,
Yet, and yet, I am lonely,
alone with these beads, these streets,
birthing, birthing an ongoing
bead by bead, womb by womb, 
street by street. 
I am in good company.

Seraphim's street beads and Copy of the Gospels that he is never without. 

Monday, February 17, 2014

Jonah Fast begins today

Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn 1606 – 1669 (Jonah Praying before the Walls of Ninevah)

"Lord today we celebrate the Sign of Your Prophet, Jonah. May it be that we've not so much found this Sign but that we have been found of it. May we, as with Jonah, be delivered up on the shore of a shoreless sea. May we not plunder this Mystery with our certitudes thus declaring only You to be Certain."   -monk of the lake (Matthew 28:7)

Jan Brueghel the Elder 1568 – 1625 (Jonah spit out on shore) 

Today at St. Simeon Skete, the Monday following Septuagesima Sunday, we begin the tradition of what is known as the "Jonah Fast".   This Fast commemorates the three days that Prophet Jonah spent in the belly of the beast - the whale.  

It also commemorates the repentance of the people of Nineveh and is sometimes called the "Ninevah Fast".  

For more details on this Fast, please click on this link to read a previous post of this blog. 

During these next few days, you might want to read The Book of Jonah in Scriptures.

Basic Outline

  •  Jonah flees his mission (ch. 1-2)
  • Jonah's commission and flight (1:1-3)
  • The Endangered sailors' cry to their gods (1:4-6)
  • Jonah's disobedience exposed (1:7-10) 
  • Jonah's Punishment and Deliverance (1:11 -2:1; 2:10)
  • His prayer of thanksgiving (2:2-9)

  • Jonah reluctantly fulfills his mission (Ch 3-4)
  • Jonah's renewed commission and obedience (3:1-4)
  • The Endangered Ninevites' Repentant Appeal to the Lord (3:5-9)
  • The Ninevites' Repentance acknowledged (3:10-4:4)
  • Jonah's Deliverance and Rebuke (4:5-11) 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The City Desert Rosary Retreat (Mk.6:31).

In retreat we "come apart" (Mk. 6:31) for the purpose of returning "another way" (Mt. 2:12). This journey is made from the hands that hold the beads to the head that holds the Mysteries, to the heart that holds the Life and to the world that needs "another way" (Jn. 14:6).

The traditional Rosary Retreat can be made by one or more people. There is a focus on learning to pray the Rosary more faithfully and how to find everyday events hidden in the Mysteries of the Rosary.  These retreats can focus on a single Mystery to all twenty.  Other subjects could be the history of the Rosary, the live of those who have embodied this practice, the discovery and evolving of the Rosary in one's life, creative ways to pray the Rosary, its propagation and imitation, etc.  So, as the old saying goes, "come apart" before you come apart.

The alternative Rosary Retreat: As I pen these lines I've just returned from a visit to the New Camaldolese Hermits of Big Sur, California, USA.  The Hermitage is located on an eight hundred acre sanctuary in the rugged Santa Lucia Mountains of Big Sur.

New Camaldoli Hermitage area, Big Sur, CA  (photo by V A Hicks) 

Located 1,300 feet above sea level the Hermitage provides a spectacular view of the ever changing Pacific Ocean.  There is an abundance  of bird life as if the bushes were dripping with them.

Big Sur, California Coastline   (photo by V A Hicks) 

The drive down Highway 1 is a retreat in itself as it hugs the rocky coastline with many scenic pull offs.

Big Sur, California Coastline   (photo by V A Hicks) 

The Camaldolese of Big Sur is idyllic with many places to walk in contemplating the Mysteries of the Rosary.

New Camaldoli Hermitage area, Big Sur, CA  (photo by V A Hicks) 

America and countries abroad abound with such places and I highly recommend them.

New Camaldoli Hermitage area, Big Sur, CA  (photo by V A Hicks) 

But having said that, I have a different kind of Rosary Retreat in mind. It is based on the idea of being a resident force of prayer in the marketplace.  What I'm suggesting instead of booking a room at a retreat center, book a room in some needy city.  Since many are willing to travel great distances to remote places of beauty to make a retreat, why not be just as willing to travel to distant cities to make a retreat?

The City Rosary Retreat begins by praying for God's leading.  Be open; the city God may lead you to might be your own or one across the world.  In planning for this retreat give prayerful attention to Colossians 4:2,3.

"Continue in prayer, and watch 
in the same with thanksgiving; 
praying also for us, that God would 
open unto us a door of utterance." 

The word "watch" carries with it the idea of intelligence, praying with knowledge.  Therefore once you've found the city for this retreat, begin to educate yourself about its make up, such things as its basic demographics of industry, growth, crime rate, religion, poverty, its physical make up, challenges, etc.  You may want to assign a theme for the city and the retreat.  The rest is simple, book the room near to the heart of the city and make your travel arrangements.  

To set the tenor of this kind of retreat study, meditate and pray "The Four Tenets" of the Nazareth House Apostolate which are:

  • In a savorless world may I be salt (Mt. 5:13)
  • In a darkened world may I be light (Mt. 5:14-16)
  • In a flattened world may I be leaven (Mt. 13:13)
  • In a barren world may I be branch (Jn. 15:5) 
Make notes and jot down your own ideas.  Create a kind of research manual and journal to record your findings and challenges.  

Conducting the Retreat - At this point you've arrived at your chosen city and are in your room.  Once you've settled in, create a space of prayer facing east (Mt. 24:27).

Holy Corner set up facing East in Hotel Room  (photo by V A Hicks) 

Ask God for His protection and leading in this retreat. Pray the Primer (from The (NHA) Jesus Life Rosary) "God be in my head and in my understanding, God be in my ears and in my hearing; God be in my eyes and in my looking; God be in my mouth and in my speaking; God be in my heart and in my thinking; God be in my end and in my departing" and remain in silence for a while.  Before you rise dedicate the retreat to the glory of God (I Cor. 10:31).  Now its time to go out onto the streets (Lk. 14:23).  Walk for awhile, sit, see the people in each bead you pray and each bead prayed in the people, "Jesus your Life is living in me, Jesus your Life is living in me (Col. 1:27)..." Take on the pain, the greed, the loneliness, the arrogancy, the fear, the apathy as well as the kindness, love and care that you find and offer it to God for He is the only one who knows what to do with it, if you forget this then look at the Cross.  As you walk among the tall buildings your beads will grow heavier and heavier with what they are taking in and with what they're giving out, "where sin abounded, grace did much more abound." (Rom. 5:20).  Find a bench and sit for awhile and remind yourself that God sees all of this and He knows - God sees, God hears, God knows, and God comes, (Exodus 3:7,8).

Street Retreat (photo by V A Hicks) 

After a few hours of this street work go back to your room and kneel in your prayer place and talk to God about what you're feeling.  As you do this speak out loud, let it be a conversation and not a monologue.  In this conversation God may direct you to a portion of Scripture, to write in your journal or be silent.  After this it may be time to take a rest and perhaps eat something.  What you are trying to know is what is knowing you - what you are trying to see is seeing you - what you are trying to hear is hearing you.  To know, see, and hear this is to discover the "what" to be the He who knows, sees and hears.

Soon its time to go out again, but to a different location.  If the courthouse and jail is within walking distance go there and pray for the release of Jesus in the courtrooms and those incarcerated.  Pray for the families of those who have been jailed, for the police, lawyers and judges.  Remember Colossian 4:3 "praying that God would open unto us a door of utterance".   May your beads be the utterance on behalf of those who no longer have a voice. 

"Remember them that are in bonds,
as bound with them; and them which
suffer adversity, as being yourselves
also in the body" - Heb. 13:3 

You may next walk through the shopping district.  What are the various stores saying with what they're selling?  In this area you may want to use the finger Rosary i.e. counting on your fingers. 

Sometimes you may spend most of your time in your room or on the street, let the Spirit lead.  These retreats can last from one to five days. 

The practicals of the City Rosary Retreat are pretty straight forward.  Dress appropriately so you'll blend in, don't set yourself apart.  I carry a haversack with whatever materials I think I'll need.  Presently my bag holds a copy of the Gospels, a prayer-mat, a compass for Easting, a couple of extra rosaries to give away if the opportunity arises, my Prayer Rope, a couple of relics, bus schedules, small notebook and a bottle of water.  If you plan on going into the very poor sections of the city I caution you not to do so unless you have, as they say, "street smarts".  I remember one time I was praying down by a river and a man pulled a knife on me. I laughed and said "that's the best you have, I've got something better than that here - look", as I lifted my Prayer Rope (Rosary).  As I explained, his knife began to lower. I was able to teach him the rosary.  I left him with one of the Rosaries from my bag and a pamphlet of Rosary Basics. I tell you this to remind you that just as there is as much sin among the poor as there is among the rich - there is also as much redemption as well.  

As far as eating may I suggest finding a middle of the road restaurant so that you can "break bread" with those you've come to pray in the midst of.  If you yourself are poor than eat at one of the local "soup kitchens".  

The Rule for these kinds of retreats, as in much of our undertaking, is to be creative and use common sense (James 1:5).    - Seraphim

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

"When the Environment becomes Toxic"

By way of introduction, the following Scriptures: 

  • "pray that God would open a door" - Col. 4:3
  • "Knock and it shall be opened unto you" - Mt. 7:7
  • "I am the door" - Jn. 10:7,9.
  • "For a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries" - 1Cor. 16:9

When one perceives that the environment has become menacing, capable of smothering or perverting what good one has, it is better to go elsewhere.  In its first sense to take flight is to change locale, environment, lifestyle.  There is no pleasure to be found in dead-end situations. Sometimes a person, or group is not healthy to be around and this can and has included Church people and groups. Jobs, career choices, hobbies, pastimes and certainly the media must be scrutinized for toxicity. 

When gossip or superiority chatter arises I quietly get up from the table and go elsewhere. Amazingly, they most often don't realize I've left.  Sometimes when Christianity ceases to be Christian our only recourse  is what its alway been, to love and to pray.  

The ancient monks left the world because they saw no other way out but death.  Yet, a strange desire made them think that they were not born simply to die, but that another space, "whether in the body or out of the body" (2 Cor. 12:3) awaited them.  The physical desert is located at the frontiers of space and time.  There is "nothing" to see, "nothing" to find.  It's a good place for light. 

If the desert fathers have often mentioned flight from the world as the point of departure for salvation, they have insisted still more on this flight as fleeing towards Someone! The philosopher Plotinus spoke of the flight "of the alone to the Alone".  - They had a desire to know as they were known (1Cor. 13:12).  Their solitude is not a rejection of society but a contribution to it.  Its not a matter of us leaving the world as it is that the world left us.  
Above all the desert father fled towards Someone.  This is the spiritual meaning of flight.  It is the affirmation of transcendence, that there is something  in this world that is not of this world, that the world does not contain within itself. 

Now there is another side to what I've said, i.e. there are times when we are to go into the midst of the world, into its violence, despair and panicked greed.  

"I must needs go through Samaria" (Jn. 4:4)

This has been a principle for a number of people, they've seen, and rightly so, the need to infiltrate areas of greatest need as a resident force of prayer.  As they bust through borders, their belongings are simple and few:  Bible, Beads and a compass. 

 You can find these people in the middle of war zones, when and where countries have closed down. They are also to be seen in factories, offices, city centers, on buses and trains.  They quietly go about their business and life praying the Way, Name and Life of Jesus.  They embrace what we call the "Poorer Means" 

Pray the path you walk and walk the path you pray,