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.

Friday, September 18, 2020

Devotion, Prayer, Scotch Tape and Ale8

September is the Month of Mary of Sorrows.  The Feast Day for the Sorrows of Mary is 15th of September.  Nazareth House Apostolate is convinced that Pilgrimage is important and necessary, especially in these troublesome times. 

There is a special place hidden away in Kentucky, where everyday people make pilgrimage.  It is a location where the property owner had a vision of Mary on the top of the hill.  A shrine was built in which the  statue of Mary of Sorrows was placed.  

Stairs reaching up the hill to the shrine were made, the neighbors pitched in. 

When the property owner passed away the neighbors and others purchased the property from Medicare which had taken the property to cover the cost of the lady's medical bills.  This Shrine is not owned by the church, but by laity.   This Shrine is not a church but is most definitely the unity of the Body of Christ within the brethren.

People come here and symbolically lay their hurts, their fears, their struggles, their hopes, their addictions and their thanksgivings at the feet of Mary, the "Yes" to God.  Knowing that Mary will do what she always does, point them to her Son, Jesus.  

At first glance, the artificial flowers, the items piled up at the shrine look almost "kitschy", gaudy... but as with anything, if you take the time to look deeper you see clearer.  Each item is a concrete memorial of the prayers of the people.   

A tape dispenser may be a prayer for binding things together, the Ale8 a last reminder of a deceased loved one, a pack of cigarettes in prayer for quitting.  I've seen full bottles of bourbon, left behind in prayers of sobriety.   This is humanity piled up and laid at our Holy Mother's feet, offered to her Son. 

When you arrive at the Shrine you are greeted by statues of Angels and the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Just a bit East of the Sacred Heart is a Statue of Mary that leads to the bridge and the stairway to the Shrine. 

As you cross the bridge, you look over to see a building being constructed. 

This is a chapel being built by a man who lives in Cleveland, makes the bricks in his basement and hauls them to Kentucky in his old but well maintained car

 periodically adding a row of blocks to the chapel each visit.  The man's name is David Stillwell and he is an amazing Godly man. 

He'd like to finish the chapel some day, but it doesn't matter to him if he doesn't because his efforts are his gift to God. 

The people that come here are all amazing, and it is one of our favorite pilgrimage places to take the pilgrims that come to Nazareth House Apostolate. 

It is a holy place, complete with a stream to prepare for prayer with Ablutions.


“In the Name of...”, make a simple intention, then: 

  1. Wash the hands to the wrists saying: “May these hands be instruments of peace.”
  2. Then cup a handful of water to the lips with the right hand, rinsing the mouth three times saying: “May this mouth speak only the pleasing words, the healing words, the truthful words.”
  3. Then lightly sniff water into the nose three times, which has a remarkable brightening effect on the senses.  Begin this stage by saying: “May I long for the sweet fragrance of His presence”, then sniff the water into the nose. 
  4. Next wash the whole face and eyes saying: “May this face shine with the light of His countenance.  May these eyes behold the hand of the Creator everywhere they look.” 
  5. Clean the ears by inserting the tips of the index fingers, wetted with water, into the ears twisting them around and in the folds of the ears then next pass the thumb behind the ears from the bottom, upwards and then over the nape of the neck saying: “May these ears be attentive to the resonance of His Word; may this neck bend in humility to the One. 
  6. Wash feet (right foot first) up to the ankles, making sure that no parts of the feet are left dry.  “May these feet walk on holy ground.” 

True Ablutions: 

The purpose of washing each of these parts of the body is that it gives you time, bit by bit, part by part, to move your awareness away from the world and toward God.  It is to remind you of the need for inward impurity to be removed, a washing the self of the self (Ps. 51:2,7; Jn. 4:10-14; Jn. 3:3; Gal. 2:20). 

Time to say within your heart: 

I am now going to establish a connection with God

I am going to turn toward God.

I am going to hand over my cares and my love to God. 

As you make your way up the stairs you pass a Nativity Shrine, a Bathtub Mary

and small grottos.  This is not a perfectly groomed, sterile, disinfected, well marketed tourist spot.  This is a place that wreaks of humanity: its flaws, its strengths, positives, negatives -all coming together offering it all to God for His Will to be done.

As you approach the top of the hill you first glimpse a Golden Cross before you see the Shrine.

The shrine is in a cleared area surrounded by woodland and wildflowers.

On our visit for the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows this week, there was a man cutting the grass and trimming with a weed-eater.  He said that he and his wife have taken over the care of the lawn as a penance and devotion to God. 

Pilgrimage is both a journey and a sacred destination.  Its a conscious effort to journey afar either in search of meaning or as an act of praise, prayer and worship.

There are many places in the USA exactly like this, tucked away waiting for people to fill with prayer. In these days of confusion, I urge you to take the time to look for them.  We must remove ourselves from the bombardment of media, social media and all that seeks to distract us from our real center of focus - Our Lord and Our God.   Find your place of pilgrimage and visit often. 

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2

"And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while..." - Mark 6:31


Saturday, June 27, 2020

Where is Peace Found?

Matthew 4:1-11 

Keep your eyes on the Heart that refused to turn stones into bread, jump from great heights, and rule with great power. 

Who allows His Heart to be touched by the poor, the maimed, the halt and blind.  A Heart that becomes poor with the poor, rejected with the rejected and abandoned with the abandoned. 

"Where is peace found? - it is there in those places of the heart we feel broken, insecure, in agony, most afraid..   
Why there?  

Because in our weakness our familiar ways of: controlling and manipulating are being stripped away, where we no longer fix, force or find! --  Right there where we are most vulnerable, The Peace That is Not of This World is mysteriously hidden - "Peace that surpasses all understanding will guard your HEARTS and mind through Christ Jesus." - Phil. 4-8. 

You see, I am convinced that everything which happens to us is the instrument by which He Himself draws us into His wounded Heart through our own human condition.  It is He who first suffers the pain we suffer -this is love!  Only in the awesome environment of such Truth can we hear Christ speak to us Heart to heart. 

My Elder, Fr. McNulty, shares a  conversation between himself and Christ - Jesus speaking to him:

"You and I are one. You must not look anywhere else for the meaning of your pain or darkness, no matter what the sin or the consequences of it.  Come into my Heart through yours and I will show you everything.  All I need is a heart pierced by its own human condition just like Mine has been pierced, a heart that has no place else to go but to My Heart. I will do the rest."

Only God can say and do things like that.  This is not psychology, or mere spirituality, but Grace formed by revelation, not meant to be learned theoretically, but personally experienced and assimilated." -Seraphim+ NHA

Jesus Is Tested in the Wilderness

4 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple.6 “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:
“‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”
7 Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”
10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”
11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.

Friday, June 26, 2020

The Rich Man and Lazarus

"The rich man didn't notice Lazarus.  He didn't see Lazarus.

There's a certain way the Gospel is heard when a person's stomach is empty and when a person's stomach is satisfied.

(Mt. 11:5- 5 The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.)  The Gospel is first preached to those who are NOT full.

When you are empty, abandoned, uncared for, and feel like there is no way out - not just for the next five minutes but for your life...  What happens to the human spirit when that is the situation?

How do you relate to life? How do you continue to believe? How do you continue to have hope?  How do you continue to care?  Can faith still be quick and glib?

There are two kinds of Lazarus:
1. The Lazarus that identifies with the individual
2. The Lazarus that confronts

People ask the question, "if God is good and caring how come all this bad is happening?"

But the answers can't be too quick, they'll pass away as fast as they came!  Why? Because they've never been thirsted for, or any space made inside for,  or agonized for.  So often when the answer comes, its an excuse to stop asking, thirsting, or longing.  If your answers are still working, then you're not growing.

What Jesus, The Cross reveals is that God is not separate from humanity, history, suffering, pain, loss or loneliness.  God is He who is participating with us, in us and as us!  That's the only hope many have in this world.

We must face life and death.  Everything is dying, shedding its strength, breaking down, wearing out.  That's hard for us to accept and all our life we've been looking for the opposite; something that is not dying, shedding strength, breaking down or wearing out.

For years we've been telling God to get out of our schools, our government, Christmas, marriages, etc.  How can we expect anything from God when we demand He leave us alone?

It is better to love God and die unknown than to love the world and be a big shot!

When I leave my books, answers, security and certitudes behind and I open the door (Rev. 3:20 - Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me) it means putting my life on the line.  When I go through the door, will I see the Lazarus who is Jesus? the Lazarus who is ignored? the Lazarus who is discounted, hunted, shot?

Or ..when I go through the door will I continue to see my own definitions of truth, reality, certitudes and discounting that in reality keeps me from seeing any definitions, truth, reality or certitudes."   
Seraphim's+, journal

The Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16 19-31)

19 “There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man's table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham's side.[a] The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 24 And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ 27 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father's house— 28 for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ 29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Looking Beyond..

God, The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit

John 15:19
If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: 
but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.

These are troublesome times, to say the very least.  People are confused, anxious, scared and angry.  It is harder and harder to find the much needed middle way, the via media.  Much is being thrown at society to distract our focus.

At Nazareth House Apostolate, we deal with such things through prayer and Pilgrimage.  Pilgrimage is a journey dedicated to ongoing prayer.  Walking the path we pray and praying the path we walk, experiencing source and destination that in coming home we can know it again for the first time. 
See previous blog post on Pilgrimage: Click Here for Pilgrimage Blog

And so, we at NHA have been spending this time of uncertainty in pilgrimage.  Our certainty is in the journey of our relationship in God.

St. Joseph was the protector and provider for the Holy Family as they lived their life in Nazareth.

Our Pilgrimage, naturally led us to the Shrine of St. Joseph, St. Meinrad, Indiana.  As the world laments in much sorrow, it is there we prayed the  first three Sorrowful Mysteries of the 7 Sorrows of Mary because St. Joseph was with Mary for these mysteries. 

As we prayed these mysteries, I couldn't help but notice the faces of the 70 year old hand carved wood statue.  Both St. Joseph and the young Christ Child are looking beyond - standing upright and firm, looking to the Beyond --not at the things of this world.  

Colossians 3:2
Set your affection on things above, 
not on things on the earth.

As we journeyed from one Sorrowful Mystery to the next, I discerned St Joseph's continual focus away from the world and towards The Beyond.  I noticed the bird droppings running down his shoulder, 

on his head, and the insects clinging to his forehead and likened them to the dregs of sorrows we have had pelted down on us in this world.  

and yet, the statue of St. Joseph steadfastly looks out from the world to the Beyond, The Kingdom, our real home.  And so should we.  

Philippians 3:20
For our conversation is in heaven; 
from whence also we look for the Saviour, 
the Lord Jesus Christ

The Christ Child also has bird droppings but an added sting of a hornet making a nest under his right arm.

And yet the Christ Child looks on, forward, out from the world, to The Father.  

John 17:16
They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.

If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. - James 1:26

More than ever, we must keep our focus on God and not allow the world to distract us. And it's not easy, because everything is increasingly designed to divert us. I wonder if the artist that carved this statue meant for it to be a symbol away from distraction, and a visual of how our focus should be - beyond this world and on the Next --especially when we've had so much to the contrary dumped on us.   

...I think maybe he did. 

And be not conformed to this world: 
but be ye transformed by the renewing 
of your mind, that ye may prove what [is] that good, 
and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me. These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.- John 16:32