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

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.

Friday, December 25, 2015

I have a Name

"Where God also hath highly exalted Him, 
and given Him a Name which above every Name." -Phil. 2:9

During one of Seraphim's first visits to Sierra Leone during the war, he visited Grafton Camp - a displacement camp for those who lost their homes and limbs from the atrocities of war.   The RUF rebels were hacking off arms and legs with machetes in a cruel and inhumane effort to gain control of diamonds and power.  Notice in this photo that even the baby's hand has been hacked off. 

As Seraphim visited with the people in Grafton camp, he delivered food (rice) and clothing with James.  As he got ready to leave the camp they all wanted to know his name.  He told them his name and turned to board the transport only to hear the words that continue to haunt him to this day:

"I have a name." 

He turned and saw that food and clothing, etc; even love were not enough.  There was something called dignity - the recognition that this is a person and not just flesh to be covered and fed!  

A lifetime of repeating the Name of Jesus had suddenly gone super-nova, exploding with the blinding light of understanding.  It was God Himself crying out:  "I have a Name!" 

Rudy and Os lying on a prayer rug studying the Name of Jesus

"I have a name." 

God has a Name

The Mass of Christ-Mass is this Name.  "A Name which is above every Name" 

God has a Name

Matthew 1:18-25 
18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.
19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily.
20 But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.
21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.
22 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying,
23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.
24 Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife:
25 And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Question Answered

The Gospel for the Third Sunday in Advent
St. Matthew xi. 2.
NOW when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, and said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another? Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: the blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me. And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind? But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings' houses. But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. 

Early 19th Century Icon enthroned at St. Simeon Skete, Taylorsville, Kentucky 

As we prepare for Christmas, today’s Gospel seems out of place - seeing that John is in prison and Jesus is an adult.  John is waiting to be executed.  He is in pain, suffering.  He is  the man who recognized his savior from the womb. Later as John Baptized Jesus, the Heavens open up,  he heard God exclaim his pleasure in His Son and he witnessed the Holy Spirit descending, leading into the desert.  And yet, he now sends his disciples to ask “Are you the one?”  Our troubles touch us, sometimes pain is so great it leads us to questions for which only Jesus is the answer.    A great answer doesn’t necessarily get you out of the question, the journey, or the pain but sends you back into it all to find Jesus to be that answer.  We must stay in the pain long enough to answer the questions that the pain is asking.  Make sure the answer is NOT a way of getting out of the pain (running away, denying, buying new shoes or taking a happy pill) but a real answer.  I can always tell more about a person by the questions they ask rather than the answers they give.  John was asking good questions that demanded only one answer: Jesus.    

Much of our religion these days leads us to living a prophylactic existence; preventing us from ever becoming pregnant with life and infected with what it brings - sorrows and difficulties.  They are a part of life.   Our purity must not be the result of NOT being touched by our troubles.  “In the world you will have troubles”.  That’s the truth.  Yet we hear so much from the world that uses belief in God as a shield from difficulty.  They hold that being with God means no loneliness, no hassles, no suffering.   I remember a lady years ago storming off after a sermon in which we were lead to examine ourselves.  The woman shouted as she left, “I don’t come to church to be instructed or made to critique my life.  I come to church to feel good, be happy and be comforted.”  Before you can be comforted you first have to be confronted.  John suffered, Jesus suffered, they had troubles and so do we.  I remember seeing the hand-written sign in a hermitage “Pain is the Kiss of Christ”.    God is in our pain with us, therefore, you might say our sorrows are a sign of the presence of God.   We are not alone.  

John sits confined in prison, alone, waiting to be executed.  His question really has three parts. 
  1. Are you the one?  (see also NHA Blog "Are you the one?")
  2. Is it real? 
  3. Is it enough? 

And Jesus answers  “Yes, Yes, Yes”  He is the one, He is real and He is enough. 

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Preparing to prepare...

Like the fallen Autumn Leaves, one month blows by after another.  One Season after the next. 

The Year 2015 is drawing to an end.  


Thanksgiving Day 2015 has come and gone and here we are on the second Sunday of Advent.   For many, Thanksgiving Day ignites the beginning of the Holiday Shopping Season.  Frenzied and determined crowds have hit the stores on Black Friday at the crack of dawn (or earlier) in order to find that perfect gift at the perfect price.   Stampedes and suffocation headline the news as the day unfolds. 

At St. Simeon Skete, we prepare for Christmas by making the preparations for Advent.  

We’ve dug out the Advent Candles, found our carefully stored away bells to pin up our sleeve 

 and cut up some yellow yarn.  

On Advent Sunday an empty creche & yarn (straw) is placed on table

Advent Sunday was last week, November 29.  It began a penitential time to prepare our souls - making room in the “Inn” of our hearts for Christ, the One who is the Perfect Gift that paid the Perfect price for us.   

At St. Simeon Skete, we follow The Nativity Fast, a period of abstinence and penance in preparation for the Nativity of Christ (December 25).  The fast is similar to the Western Advent, except that it runs for 40 days instead of four weeks and is observed from November 15th until December 24, inclusively. 

We live in a fast paced world in which our wants and goals are best defined by the words:  "bigger and better".  Small things are overlooked as we strive for super size, super stars, super heroes.  Little things don't seem to have much potential but, in fact, it is those "small things", "small beginnings"  and "impossible situations" that God uses to do His best work.  (Zechariah 4:10). 

At Nazareth House Apostolate we are daily reminded of God doing big with little.  

When we look back over the years of NHA in Sierra Leone we find one man with a prayer as its beginning.  

A decade and a half  later, we have a school with 300 students, a compound, a farm and are reaching more and more in the villages.  

Our accomplishments in Sierra Leone stand up along side many NGO's that have far more resources than us.  Never underestimate the potential in small things, especially when they depend entirely on God.  

Secretly,  a strand of straw (yarn) is placed in the creche representing a good deed

God could have chosen better people to do the great things of the Old  and New Testament; but he didn't.  He chose souls like Abraham - afraid to believe in the promise, Jacob, the cheat who struggles with everyone, Moses- an impatient murderer, unable to wait for God.  David, an adulterer, abusing position, perk, and power.  There was Hezekiah, the reforming king who could not quite go far enough, Peter who denied Christ - all these guys messed up - they were real, like us - bungled and botched, impossible situations... but God saw fit to use them.... and then there was a very young, unassuming, unnoticed Jewish girl from a small village that didn't do anything wrong ....    God did what He did in them and He can do it in us. 

by Christmas Morning, our good deeds will have lined the creche for the Christ Child 

So when you find yourself tempted to buy that expensive gift you really can't afford, or you find yourself adding more decorations because your neighbor's yard looks better than yours, or you just knocked someone out of the way so you'd be the one of the first ten in line to get that "hot item" ... think about the capacity in small,

 think about what we are really celebrating ... think about Love. 

Saturday, November 28, 2015

First We Must Love

It was a Thursday a few weeks ago,  and I rushed over to attend the weekly Stations of the Cross thinking it was Friday.  It wasn't Friday.  I don't need to rush time, weeks go by so fast on their own.  We celebrate Eucharist on Sunday,  wake up on Monday and next thing we know it's Saturday and we are preparing for the Sunday Eucharist again.  Where does the time go?

Our days are full here at St. Simeon Skete beginning with vigils at 4:30 AM, followed by Lauds and the daily Eucharist at 7 AM.

St. Simeon Skete.   Feb. 2015
 The Eleven Prayer Offices hold our day as the day's activities enter into that ongoing prayer.

There is so much going on right now - in Sierra Leone, at the skete and I hear, pray tell, that Christmas is just around the corner, with a brand New Year nipping right at our heels.   Christmas is a high holy day for us here at the Skete, of course, yet every day is holy in the Lord.  We are constantly reminded that every moment is special because God is in it - as Seraphim says "that's why He is the IAM, not the I WAS or the I WILL BE ... but the now, the present moment and if we try to escape what the moment holds we are escaping God in that moment."

Seraphim just fixed me some afternoon tea... I am sitting at my desk, ready to start back at the administrative work.  Seraphim is up in his prayer loft above me, there is a cd playing of Coptic chanting.  As I open the spreadsheet on the computer I begin...

"Be still and know that I AM God"

"Be still and know that I AM..."

"Be still and know..."

"Be still..."


Psalm 46:10

Sunrising in Morning Fog cast over the Knock Shrine

Its important that we realize that what we do, whatever it is, can be a prayer.   Sweeping the floor can be a very holy thing.  With Kadijah, in Sierra Leone, every sweep of the broom is a rhythmic moment of prayer, like the fingering of beads, one prayer after the other.  When we had a cherry tree, I used to say the the Jesus Prayer with every cherry I pitted.  For many of us, our computer keyboard can be a time of prayer if our heart and focus is in it.    

The pilots affiliated with the Skete use their time in the air to broadcast prayer as they fly over the cities.  Praying the Name, which contains all things and therefore gathering all who are in the cities beneath them into The Name.   With James in Sierra Leone, every snap of the camera is a prayer.

People say, "its impossible! you can't 'pray without ceasing', especially not at your work"   But it is possible and its not as hard as you may think.  Its a matter of discipline and desire.  “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” ― Mother Teresa

At the grocery store, when you place your bags of groceries in your car - be sure to put the cart up, don't leave it out in the parking lot.  As you place it in the corral pray for the person who will use it next.  Likewise, when you arrive and take your grocery cart - pray for the person who had the cart before you.   Notice the piece of paper in the parking lot and pick it up - doing little things well for the love of Him - St. Therese.   There are so many opportunities to keep the prayer ongoing.

 "Nor is it needful that we should have great things to do. . . We can do little things for God; I turn the cake that is frying on the pan for love of him, and that done, if there is nothing else to call me, I prostrate myself in worship before him, who has given me grace to work; afterwards I rise happier than a king. It is enough for me to pick up but a straw from the ground for the love of God." -Brother Lawrence

The ISIS and Boko Haram terrorism is horrific -evil personified.  It is gutwrenchingly heartbreaking.  It revives in my heart the pain and anguish of the people of Sierra Leone, especially the children.  Hundreds of children lost their limbs to machete wielding madmen (RUF),  their eyes plucked out with knives, many forced to join the rebels were drugged and made to kill themselves.  These children survived and are still in the recovery process.   Hundreds of others were murdered.

Whenever I talked with these children from the war, they were quick to tell the stories of the war but they didn't focus on the horror instead they spoke of the hero that did this or the heroine the did that.  They talked of the doctor that stopped the bleeding or the person who hid them away.  They found the good in the midst of turmoil - and they focused on it.   And they were able to make life happen, they were able to go on, and they were able to smile (“Peace begins with a smile..” ― Mother Teresa).

Fred Rogers says it best:

"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." To this day, especially in times of "disaster," I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world." 

It is important that we do the same.  The news media will concentrate on the evil, promote it,  and keep it festering.  They will highlight the phrases and thoughts that bring rise to heated arguments initiating blame on laws or no laws, security or no security and distract you from the fact that there is evil within the human heart.   Look for the helpers, even within the media - in the background - you will see the helpers, the good that still remains.  Search it out.

And before we go bashing one over another about fault, blame and evil itself, we must first look within our own hearts.  "Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye".  Matthew 7:5 KJV (Cambridge) 

“Instead of hating the people you think are war-makers, hate the appetites and disorder in your own soul, which are the causes of war. If you love peace, then hate injustice, hate tyranny, hate greed - but hate these things in yourself, not in another.” ― Thomas Merton


“Merely to resist evil with evil by hating those who hate us and seeking to destroy them, is actually no resistance at all. It is active and purposeful collaboration in evil that brings the Christian into direct and intimate contact with the same source of evil and hatred which inspires the acts of his enemy. It leads in practice to a denial of Christ and to the service of hatred rather than love.” 
― Thomas MertonPassion for Peace; Reflections on War and Nonviolence

Seraphim on Retreat in Thomas Merton's Hermitage, Jan. 2001

In all things, first we must love:

“Without love, deeds, even the most brilliant, count as nothing.” 


As we have been with our families for Thanksgiving, What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.” ― Mother Teresa

Litany of Non-Violence
God, aware of my own brokenness,
I ask the gift of courage to identify how and where I am
in need of conversion in order to live
in solidarity with all people.

Deliver me from the violence of superiority and disdain.
Grant me the desire, and the humility,
to listen with special care to those whose experiences
and attitudes are different from my own.

Deliver me from the violence of greed and privilege.
Grant me the desire, and the will, to live simply
so others may have their just share of Earth’s resources.

Deliver me from the silence that gives
consent to abuse, war and evil.
Grant me the desire, and the courage, to risk
speaking and acting for the common good.

Deliver me from the violence of irreverence,
exploitation and control.
Grant me the desire, and the strength, to act
responsibly within the cycle of creation.

God of love, mercy and justice,
acknowledging my complicity in those attitudes,
action and words which perpetuate violence,
I beg the grace of a non-violent heart. Amen.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Thy Name, Thy Kingdom, Thy Will

Our Father, who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy Name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, As we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil.  For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

As most of you know, a few weeks ago, Seraphim and I were in Ireland visiting with Fr. Gabriel Harty, the Rosary Priest.  As always, Fr. Gabriel gave us special care and love  - a true Spiritual Father to us both.  

Seraphim has carried Fr. Gabriel’s books on the Rosary around the world.  In war zones he clung to the words from “The Healing Light of the Rosary”.  Fr. Gabriel has written many books including  - “The Riches of the Rosary; “A Celibate Way of Loving: Letters to the Beloved;" and one of his latest books - “Heaven Sent”.   They are all available via Amazon except “The Healing Light of the Rosary” and his newest book, "The Rosary, the History of My Heart".   The Lord’s Prayer has a prominent place in all of his books. 

Fr. Gabriel cannot speak without edifying you in some spiritual way or another. Every sentence declares his love for God.  

After a beautiful time praying the Rosary with Fr. Gabriel and our dear friend, Sheila (a true Rosarian) at St. Mary’s Convent in Knock, Ireland, the subject of the Lord’s Prayer came up.   

Fr. Gabriel explained that there is one word in the Lord’s Prayer that is the focus.  With his back towards me, he raised his hands to the sky and said, "... that word is  “Thy”."  Looking back at me he said,  "Its not about about us(me) or our wants - God takes care of our needs- the focus is on God.”  Then he dropped his left hand from the sky, his back still towards me, and with his right hand stretched out,  he slowly pronounced,  "Thy Name,  Thy Kingdom, Thy Will”. 

In a quick summary, I will attempt to share with you some of Fr. Gabriel's teachings on the Lord's Prayer.

We ask, “Why do we say ten Hail Mary's or ten Jesus Life Prayers and only one “Our Father” to each decade of the Rosary?” 

The answer is that The “Our Father” is the foundation prayer and we lay only one Foundation (“For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ” - 1 Cor. 3:11).  The prayer contains everything we need to ask for and in the proper order of asking.  It shows us how to seek first the Kingdom of God (Mt. 6:33), and only then, the things we need for everyday earthly living.  It puts a priority on the praise of God and the accomplishment of His Sovereign Will. It lets the cares of the body and the concerns of bread and butter fall naturally into their own place. 

  1. “Thy Name” 
  2. “Thy Kingdom”
  3. “Thy Will” 

This should be the set of a soul seeking the Divine Assistance

-and then- 

  1. “Give us”
  2. “Forgive us” 
  3. “Lead us”
  4. “Deliver us"

As we learn first to Invoke His Name, trust that His Kingdom is enough and say “yes” to His Will, The Lord’s Prayer has a progression to it, we begin: 

  1. “Your Name”, -Father, we are His children
  2. “Your Kingdom”, -We come into His Kingdom and that is enough to do
  3. “Thy Will”,  -and then with full confidence we can slip quietly into the way of opening our hands to say “give us,” “forgive us”, “lead us” and deliver us” and we can do this because it is His will. 

Monday, November 23, 2015

Are You The One?

I’ve taken many photographs of cows over the years.  

There is something about cows that fascinate me.  

It is not so much their bodies or the interesting way they lumber about … 

it's their face that draws me - they stare deep into your eyes - it's almost mystical.   

While in Ireland earlier this month, I had Seraphim stop the car so that I could take a picture of this cow.  

As I approached her, she turned toward me and stared.  

Fr. Gabriel Harty, the Rosary Priest (and our dearest friend), looked at the photo and said,

 “the Cows in the field are part of that creation waiting in expectation.  It is a bit fanciful, but I heard a preacher once use it to express the profound truth that Paul expounds in the Letter to the Romans, chapter 8. Here is the text:

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.  For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope  that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

Scripture scholars say that the sin of Adam and Eve, brought a curse on all the earth---even the beasts of the field,---  thorns and thistles to be brought forth.  The blood of Christ flowed out to wash not only human nature but to restore all creation.  

The children of God, the text says, have to reveal the new creation to all waiting in expectation.  The preacher I listened to said that is why the cows come up and look into our faces and wonder if we might not be the one to set them free from the bondage of decay.  They look at you wondering, “Are you the one?” 

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.”   I was deeply touched by Fr. Gabriel's teaching. 

Later in the week, I was taking a photo of the Holy Mountain, Croagh Patrick, from the road.  

As I began to take the photo, this donkey began to come closer and closer.  

Finally he was right in front of me.  

He pensively stared at me so I said to him “What? Do you think I am the one?”  
The donkey began to bray at me!