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.

See our website at www.nazarethhouseap.org

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.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

A Quiet Resigned Entrustment To the Rosary

May is the the Month of Mary and the Month of the Rosary at St. Simeon Skete.  On May 9, 10th and 11th, we will celebrate our 18th Annual Rosary Convocation.   In previous years we held the the Convocation in October but changed to May last year.  See this link for details: 2013 NHA Rosary Convocation   

In considering the Rosary, some years ago, Seraphim wrote about its importance to him and to others. It seemed fitting to share it at this time: 

Photo rights purchased 2013 by NHA via R.Falcetti

A Quiet Resigned Entrustment to the Rosary  ©2013 NHA 
 Written by Seraphim 

PART 1

As a young boy my mother would allow me to sit in the downtown cathedral as she did her shopping.  It was a marvelous and mysterious place, a place of wonderment. As I sat quietly in the pews before various side altars I was not alone. Here and there scattered in their strategic locations were the Babushkas.  I can still remember their large fingers, worn with years of scrubbing, peeling, washing, mending and, ...and praying.  Hands holding beads that somehow held them.


In remembering the Babushkas of my youth with their Rosaries, I’ve not since seen such resignation on a collective level.  These old ones had lived in unsolvable situations, resigned to God’s will in a mutual gentleness, a kind of communal mentality of quiet martyrdom.  Their genuine anguish, their suffering, their sameness, day in and day out, without any hope for something better, muted any apocalyptic hope amongst themselves.   They sat in silent seclusion, their eyes, as with their beads, turned inward to places of memory where everything and nothing had happened.  Looking back upon a life that must have had more than its share of pain and inner torment they knew the days remaining to them were not enough to turn anything around.

These things were unsaid, but if you would have been able to probe, to ask; if you would have been able to gain their confidence, they might have, in a very small, hesitant and untrusting way told you about them.  They would have spoke with resignation and sorrow- not so much about themselves as individuals, but about others. The emotion was one of sorrow, not of anger and very rarely was it an impulse leading to some “strategy” as to what they could possible do about the suffering of others let alone their own.  They would never have permitted their Rosaries to be enlisted to create or promote campaigns and causes.  Theirs was the quiet entrustment of all to their beads as it had been throughout their lives, the one thing that had always been there, absorbing the pain, the hopelessness for anything better.

These Babushkas believed that great suffering, everyday, mundane suffering is the place where the Kingdom of God settles upon the earth, that the cross on their beads was and is the axis around which the Kingdom turns. It is the Cross of Jesus on which He was announced King (John 19:19).  It will be people, like the Babushkas, who are willing to embrace the Cross personally and communally (Mk. 8:34-35; Mt. 18:20; Jn. 19:25-27) around and in whom the Kingdom will one day unfold. They are the ones who, in quiet resigned suffering, hold their beads, the place where the Kingdom of God will and is being built upon earth.


I remember these old ones sitting before a statue of Mary, a silent statue honoring those who cannot speak, who have no one to hear them, thus making their beads, a place of conversation, a place where they could be heard.  These Babushkas reflected Mary in their beads as the still, quiet place in the middle of the Church from which prayers were spoken and from which prayers were heard. I see her (Mary), as I did so many years ago as the secret, silent center of the old ones who needed no one to know what they were entrusting to their beads and what their beads were entrusting to them.  They were making space for woundedness.

I miss these hidden dear ante-deluvian saints of my youth.  I cannot help but hope there are some left here and there doing what they always did with their beads, making possible the ongoing existence of the world because they were being “held by that which they were holding” - (Phil. 3:12, trans. Seraphim).

Look for Part 2 of this post next week. 

My Beads
By Abram Joseph Ryan (1838–1886)
SWEET, bless├Ęd beads! I would not part
    With one of you for richest gem
    That gleams in kingly diadem;
Ye know the history of my heart.
For I have told you every grief        
    In all the days of twenty years,
    And I have moistened you with tears,
And in your decades found relief.
Ah! time has fled, and friends have failed,
    And joys have died; but in my needs        
    Ye were my friends, my blessed beads!
And ye consoled me when I wailed.
For many and many a time in grief,
    My weary fingers wandered round
    Your circled chain, and always found        
In some Hail Mary sweet relief.
How many a story you might tell
    Of inner life, to all unknown;
    I trusted you and you alone,
But ah, ye keep my secrets well!        
Ye are the only chain I wear—
    A sign that I am but the slave,
    In life, in death, beyond the grave,
Of Jesus and His Mother fair.


Thursday, April 24, 2014

Throw back Thursday Post: Spilled Coffee

We've had a several requests to repost older blogs or to explain again things we've previously written.  So beginning today NHA Blog will repost previous posts on Thursdays.

Our Blog will try to follow the following schedule for posting, give or take a few days.  But don't hold us down too tight to the schedule - we have a lot of responsibilities in which to attend.

Sunday Post: Spirituality, Tuesday Post: The Outreach in Sierra Leone update, Thursday: Review of a previous post.


Coffee Spilled...

I recently came across an article of Seraphim's, written many years ago about the time he spent in India.  He was invited to a Christian Ashram in the Himalayas for dialog on the enculturalization of prayer.  


 Written by Fr. Seraphim 

❖Coffee spilled into my lap as I heard, "Oh, I'm sorry, please forgive me."  Grabbing a napkin, I assured the person who had bumped into me that it was okay.  As I refilled my cup, I was reminded of a day on a dusty street in New Delhi, India, and how I learned one of the great spiritual lessons of my life.  

Some years ago, I travelled to the Jeevan Dhara Ashram located in the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains.  I went to pray and spend time with the head of the ashram.  My cell looked out on the majestic peaks which were breathtakingly beautiful.  The air was fresh and scented with mountain flowers; it was a truly idyllic setting.  Each morning I would rise at 3 AM to pray the Divine Office, remaining in prayer as the sun ignited the majestic peaks with heavenly golden light. 

Jeevan Dhara Ashram in Himalayas (India)    ©2012 NHA, All Rights Reserved 

Then, with Jesus beads in my hands, I would take a prayer walk which would eventually lead me to the chapel of the Ashram.  My time in the mountain paradise seemed to blend into one continuous, ongoing prayer.  One day I was talking to a pilgrim who had just arrived from Germany.  As we discussed the beauty and calm of the ashram I said "It sure is easy to be holy in a place like this," and he said, "Yeh, it sure is," as we gazed on the valley below. 

Statue of sitting Christ in the Ashram Gardens, India                ©2012 NHA, All Rights Reserved 
A week later I made my way to New Delhi, where I spent my days walking the streets, silently praying the Jesus Prayer.  I was still swimming in the holiness of the ashram when a motorized rickshaw ran up on the walk, heading straight for me! As the driver was bearing down on me I thought, surely he wouldn't hit me on purpose! How wrong I was - I bounced off the front of the rickshaw.  I landed on the ground and yelled, "You idiot!" as he drove off waving his arms and blowing his horn.  Dusting myself off I said, "Oh well, forget it," and walked on, keeping careful eye open for ricks. 
Streets of Delhi, India (1980's)    ©2012 NHA, All Rights Reserved 
Suddenly the noise of the city faded as my thoughts turned inward to the space where God speaks to us beyond words and images.  A week before I had been in a Himalayan bliss, so "close" to God, so spiritual and saying, "It's easy to be holy in a place like this."  Now, the first time I"m with someone since then I get angry and call him an idiot! I suddenly realized it's easy to think you can be holy in a place like an ashram.   The test of holiness, however, is not being in an ashram, on a mountain, or in one's set times of prayer.  The real test is carried out in the marketplace where life bumps us literally and figuratively.  


Looking at this old photo, it proves that there was a time when Seraphim actually was young!  (Tall man, back roll, left)     ©2101 NHA
Back in the present, as I took another sip of coffee, I thought, the reason coffee was spilled on me was not because I was accidentally bumped but because there was coffee in the cup to begin with.  What's inside a person is what comes out when they are bumped.  We are to be filled with Christ so that when we  are bumped, out come forgiveness, understanding, encouragement, compassion, love and whatever the present moment demands. (Col. 1:27). ❖

During this Lenten Season, as we fast, prepare our hearts, deepening our prayer lives, and attempt to take our spiritual disciplines more seriously,  - its easy to think we are holy.  But its what we do when life knocks us around and we get jolted.    

We will get bumped.   What is inside?  What will come out?  anger? revenge? mean-spirited, hurtful words? jealousy?  If that is what is inside you, then that is what will come out.  

However, if forgiveness, love, words that offer redemption, ...if those are the things that are inside you - then that is what will be unleashed on whatever jars us out of our comfort zones.  May this Easter Season be one in which the overflow within us is emptied of everything that isn't rooted in love. 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Prayer Path

Today Seraphim had went out to walk the grounds while saying his rosary and I was out on the deck at Anna House sweeping off the hundreds of ladybugs.   I glanced over toward the Chicken Coop to see what the chicks were doing.   With the Spring sunshine heating up the grass,  I expected to see the chickens darting about chasing bugs, scratching and pecking.  But instead, I came across a sight that took me back.


It took me back several years to another place and time - a difficult time  except for this one fond memory.


At our former place, in the middle of the city, we built a grotto.  This provided the perfect setting to say the Rosary.  Night after Night, Day after Day we said the rosary at the grotto.


As America went into Iraq during the war, Seraphim began Walking around the Grotto praying the rosary. The deeper and more difficult the war became, the more Seraphim walked in prayer, walking the path he prayed and praying the path he walked.


Soon a visible path began to surface, a path made completely out of prayer.   The prayer path hadn't been planned, it just happened.



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.

"If you want to understand the Rosary, its praying the Life of Jesus.  If you want to understand Mary, its saying "yes" to that Life.  Therefore the Rosary is praying the Life of Jesus in union with Mary who said yes to that Life." - Seraphim.

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.




At certain times, others began to come to walk the Prayer Path and the Grotto Area became a Sacred Space in an Urban Place.


There were a lot of struggles, battles won and lost at that former place but the Grotto Enclosure was the biggest source of comfort to a lot of us.   Walking into 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 I have missed since we moved to the skete.


From time to time, we've talked of building a grotto.  But that takes, time, labor, money and energy.  A project sitting on the "back burner" waiting to bubble forth.


But today, as I swept the deck ...


I peered through the trees I saw that old comforting sight -  Seraphim was walking a large circle...


beads clicking one after another.  In his hands (as is always the case when he says the Rosary - thanks to Fr. Gabriel Harty) his rosary and his Bible.  The Bible and the Beads.


We, at St. Simeon Skete, have taken to heart the words of Fr. Gabriel, "If you want to get back to the source of the Rosary, to its origin we would need to open the Scriptures.  That is why I like to bring together the Bible and the Beads, the two together." Fr. Gabriel Harty, O.P.


Upon Seraphim's return to Anna House, without any other words I asked "Are we starting the prayer path?"  "Maybe", he said, "maybe we will."  

And so this time around the prayer path will come first and as we can, we hope to add the Grotto, but for now it is enough to watch as the prayer reveals the path.  "Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore." - Psalm 16:11.  






Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Mary, Messenger of Peace

The following Litany was written by Seraphim just prior to his first trip to Africa. 

 “Mary, Messenger of Peace”


Her right hand raised in a gesture of peace.  


Left hand held out in a gesture of offering but there’s nothing in her hand. 


Her hand is empty because we already have all we need to love and be God’s people. How many more churches do we need; how many more denominations do we need? Most of “religion” is the result of: not finding God; not finding Him to be enough; and not wanting Him to be enough. Much of religion is not about God, its about control and to a large degree political parties are not about good government, they’re after control.  

Not finding God to be enough, not realizing we have what we need to live out the Shema (Mark 12:29-31) breeds greed and violence. Some years ago a reporter interviewing Seraphim asked “What happens if you’re captured by the rebels and shot?” Without a blink of hesitation he responded: “I have absolutely everything I need in order to be shot and killed and conversely I absolutely have everything I need to continue on living in this body.”

The Litany of Mary, Messenger of Peace ©2003 NHA




"Lord Jesus, we thank you for giving us Mary, Messenger of Peace, to be our Mother.  Great warmth fills our hearts as we take refuge in the tenderness of your Mother's gaze; Grant that we might receive her message of peace by realizing what we have and who we are is enough, as we pray and live Your Way, Name and Life in union with Mary, Messenger of Peace." Amen 
©2003 NHA Litany Mary, Messenger of Peace