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.

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. 

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Throw Back Thursday: Advent Reflection

In the light of this being the Advent Season and in the wake of the ending of ebola in Sierra Leone I was brought to think of this following post on our NHA Blog.  The Terrorism, Ebola, Greed  and evil rising in the world today all bring to mind the suffering.  And as it often does, this young man's plight, pierces my heart.   He is only one of many many people suffering today.  

And so, on this Throw Back Thursday, I repeat this blog post from 2007:

Advent Reflection

This morning I woke up thinking about Mohamed.  Its been a good while since I last saw him in Freetown.  I remember the first time I saw him and others like him. Their wounds fresh.  I was stunned by the capability of one human being to inflict such horrific pain on another.  I couldn't image how his life would be and how he would survive... but I had no idea the magnitude of suffering he would endure until I was made aware of it through James' eyes and words from the heart.

Especially in the early days after the war,  we would see people in Sierra Leone with amputated arms and legs everywhere.  The streets were bare because so many had fled, the amputees were left behind to suffer their radically altered life in Amputation Camps.  They were with others suffering the same situation but yet they were alone.  Now days, Freetown streets are packed and busy.  The amputation victims are still there but less noticeable in the crowds.

I've been with, attended to and befriended many amputees in Sierra Leone .  But until the day I received the following email from James (June 2007) telling me of Mohamed's plight, I hadn't realized the extreme trauma and the continued turmoil they are forced to live.  And the reason I hadn't realized the depth of it all was because the people themselves handled their misfortunes with such dignity.  No one shared with me the fact that they often soiled their clothes because they didn't have the hands to unsnap/pull down their jeans and relieve themselves.  Instead they were busy welcoming me to Sierra Leone and thanking NHA for any assistance we could give them. They were making sure I was comfortable in a foreign country.   Their life was now very limited but they were alive and they adapted  the best they could to make life happen in the midst of great turmoil.   Of course they told me their stories and lamented their inability to live a normal life - but they also told me they could either give up and allow self pity to run their life ....or.... they could carry on with dignity. For the most part, the majority of the amputees set out to overcome their disadvantages and live their life.  I think Thomas Merton described the attitude of the Sierra Leone War victims in this quote: "You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going.  What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope."

And so this Penitential Season of Advent as I work to make room for Christ to abide within me, I will make every attempt to try and embrace the present moment, whatever it may hold with courage, faith and hope.    ...and I will think of Mohamed and the many like him as I do so. ...




(The following is a reprint of a post of 2007.  Since this post in 2007, NHA has built the school and it is fully operational with 300 students.    We've purchased and built a compound in Kabala, we've added a toilet area for the school and provided for and saved many lives.  Still the need goes on...     Mohamed's story reminds how much more we must do for those in Sierra Leone, please read on.)

June 14, 2007
Dear Friends,
Today I received this report from James in Freetown, Sierra Leone. I cried all through it. James and his family at St. Laurence House are doing the work of Nazareth, day in and day out. Who, what and how they help depends entirely on the tools we provide for them, spiritually, financially, physically. This is why it is so vitally important that we give them all the support we can. We have yet to complete the goal to begin building the school building, the rainy season has already begun. There isn't a way for these people to help themselves, some can't even dress themselves...please read on... And to James, I love you...you are a hero to me...



Report from James Mansaray to Vicki Hicks: re Nazareth House, Freetown:


It has been said through the media, press, internet, cnn tv, the world as a whole etc. that the ten years brutal rebel war in my beloved Country Sierra Leone waged by the Revolutionary United Front sponsored by the then President Charles Taylor of Liberia was basically aimed at seeking control of diamond mines of this poor nation.

Though it is ten years away now, we still feel, see and experience the pain of it. It has been said by many, Churches, the UN, and other religious bodies that we should forgive and forget. Yet, put your self in these poor man's shoes. Yes, as Christians, we should forgive but i see it very difficult to forget this odd past more especially as i see more victims of this said war still suffering.

From my own point of view, and as a victim of this fierce ten years of brutal murder, humiliation and carnage, I still see the trouble continue. Reasons for this I will explain below.
If you take a walk down the streets of Freetown where I presently resided, you must catch a glimpse of either a one footed man or a young graduate with both hands being chopped off for no just cause. Sometimes it is hard to believe but this is true. A whole lot has been shown by the United Nations Peace keeping force helping us out but I must confess that little has been done for those living in the cracks, by this I mean those poor boys and girls roaming around the city with one eye, one ear, one leg, one limb or both limbs missing.

Now take a close look at this young Man called Mohamed Kargbo who is among those still struggling the results of this war and whose physical figures was wickedly transformed by few wicked men out of greed and selfishness. I had seen men in pain and frustration but what I saw in this young man this Thursday morning set me into tears.
Mohamed on the steps of St Laurence House 
It happened in front of our little St. Laurence prayer house when my wife Kadijah noticed this young man with no limbs struggling with something. As a Woman she knew it was something that only a man can deal with so she called my attention to help this guy. At first I thought he was in need of food or something but as I get closer to him I realized that he needs something more than food. Poor Mohamed I guess had a bad meal or sick with Diarrhea was in desperate need of using the bath room but was too late or shy to say so, tell me how can you take off your pants off with no hands in the middle of a crowded old City like Freetown when you know the after math of what will follow. Poor mohamed had no option instead he decided to use the nearest gutter to help himself where he got stock and could not move. The gutter was so deep that he alone can't get out. With my help and a good Samaritan who was passing by we both gave him a bath inside this gutter before we later took him to the back tap at St. Laurence house where we bath him proper with soap. I had to get new clothes for him to put on and some Loperamide Anti- Diarrhea pill that we recently received from our sponsors at Grace Church thru Nazareth House Apostolate to help ease his stomach problem.
James washing out Mohamed's clothes 
After the odd part of this mornings event, I mean the cleaning up, I saw great need in this man and it was clear to me that I should not let him go empty. In my agenda this morning, I was to take rice for distribution to some of the poor and needy people here in Freetown so I thought it wise to also help Mohamed out but he sadly told me that he has no dwelling place, he sleeps where ever the night finds him. But Mohamed desperately needs help for he is just a human being like us. My wife and I agreed that if he so desired, he could come for food everyday at St. Laurence house to keep himself going. To save his present trouble, we provide him enough for a week and also gave him a handful of medication for his diarrhea.
Kadijah with Mohamed in his new clean clothes and diarrhea preventative medication 
Following the story that lead to the amputation of both of his hands, Mohamed said he was caught by the rebels in Makeni Town. He was in his farm together with his mother, father and four years old sister. The rebels place his whole family in their farm hut and set it on fire and then forced him to join them in the fight. Two days later he tried to escape together with a police officer when they were caught. Both of their hands were chopped before they sent them away to report to the other villages that they are on their way. The poor police officer could not bare the pain and shame and forced the rebels to kill him. Having walked the bushes for a whole week with no food, Mohamed found him self in Lunsar.
Mohamed giving us a view of the hands he lost at the hands  of the RUF Rebels. 

“The whole idea of compassion is based on a keen awareness of the interdependence of all these living beings, which are all part of one another, and all involved in one another.” -Merton


Please remember those who silently struggle day to day in abject poverty struggling  simply to provide a daily meal for their family, for those handicapped, for those in pain.    Pray for them and pray for NHA as we strive to serve them in Sierra Leone.  

Donations can be sent to NHA; 185 Captains Cove Drive, Taylorsville, KY 40071 or be processed through our Paypal donation link on our website:

Sunday, November 29, 2015

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 ...as 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. 

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..."

"Be..." 

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

and

“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. 
This week I learned that in Britain the Lord’s Prayer has been banned from cinemas.  I’m aware that here in America it is banned from many public and governmental places.  

“The Church of England has produced a sixty second commercial. The only words are the words of the Lord’s Prayer, said by children, the bereaved, people at work and so on. It’s a beautiful film. The ad is to promote a new website, Just Pray.uk. The plan was (and is) to show the film before Christmas at screenings of the new Seasonal Blockbuster film to help everyone think about prayer and to pray. What could be more simple?

The distributors have declared the Lord’s Prayer unsuitable for screening. They believe it carries the risk of upsetting or offending audiences.” 


In addition to Fr. Harty's words concerning the Lord's Prayer, I also recommend the following article at this link, http://www.anglicanink.com/article/seven-reasons-ban-lords-prayer It details why commercialism, etc. do not wish to have the Lord’s Prayer pronounced or acknowledged.  I found it to be a very good article and one I highly recommend, especially homeschool and Sunday School teachers. 





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!