Thursday, March 24, 2011

remnant of remnant of remnant

"Fear Not Little Flock" was taken when I decided to start writing this blog- so I decided to use "remnant of remnant" as my web address. Why? I was feeling really small  and unimportant at the time- like our little Byzantine church was a minuscule part of the Catholic Church which is a part of Christianity which is a part of the world as a whole. I didn't realize that some people use the word 'remnant' as a way to express superiority and exclusivity and the only way to get to heaven, but it doesn't change what we are- a tiny little remnant of Christianity. 

In any case, I am still feeling very small. Every weekend- after the Saturday vigil at the super-small mission and Sunday's Divine Liturgy at the small mission, I go through the stages of grief and then pull it together and thank God for getting me through.

Denial- So, only 20 people are here for Mass and the icon blessing and dinner. More people have got to come. Everyone loves Father and appreciates his homilies and pastoral nature. So many people have said that they are interested in learning a bit of the Eastern rites. So many Byzantine Catholics live within thirty minutes. More people have got to come.  

Anger- How can so many people be rejecting the church of their fathers? Aren't these the same people who prayed for an end to communism and for the Greek Catholic Church to be legal? Didn't they first go to Liturgy secretly, in an underground priest's apartment, whispering the responses so that they wouldn't be informed on? Then they prayed with fellow Byzantine Catholics in the park because our churches had been confiscated and not returned even after communism fell. And now that they are in the US in freedom with a Divine Liturgy ten minutes away, they can't be bothered. 
I am tired of my husband being the go-to supply priest for confessions and Masses when he is treated like a second-class citizen. I am tired of him needing to become a volunteer police chaplain on top of all his other responsibilities so that he can be fulfilled in his ministry.  I am tired of all the extras he does (home anniversary Masses, house blessings, counseling phone calls) because if a Roman-rite priest appears, my husband is dismissed with a 'thank-you-very-much.'

Bargaining- Maybe if the music were better, more people would come. Maybe if we were holier, more people would come. Maybe if I smiled wider, more people would come.  

Depression- All our work is for nothing. Why did my husband give up his country and his family for a church of twenty people? My friends cannot be my friends if they don't know this part of my life and can't be bothered to visit once in seven years. Where is the future of the Byzantine rite when Catholic school principals will travel far to have their children learn about Orthodoxy, passing by a few Byzantine Catholic churches on the way. Where is the future of the Byzantine rite when the Italian bishops seek to disallow Byzantine Catholic priests who are married to practice their priesthood in Italy; the same occurring in the USA 100 years ago and leading to the Orthodox Church in America.

Acceptance- We will always be small. I love the people who are part of our ministry. My husband has many small successes every day. My children are good. God has the  victory. Life goes on.

17 comments:

  1. I think this is my favorite FNLF post ever! Thank you for your honesty and candor! Really creative, too.

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  2. Perhaps God is protecting you from the outside world in your 'smallness.' I enjoy your blog. The Divine Liturgy is so rich that there are no words to describe it. What a loss for those who pass it by.
    God bless
    +JMJ+
    amr

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  3. Thanks Louise
    Ancillamaria- it is true- one good thing about being underground and illegal during communism- we didn't have the craziness after Vatican II (I love the documents- but not the misinterpretations)

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  4. While I have a different viewpoint from you (as "just" a parishioner, not the wife of the priest) and haven't been "going East" as long as you have, I know what you are saying. It IS hard. It does get frustrating.

    It bothers me that we can make it to liturgy, driving 30 miles each way with gas around $3.70/gal. It's sad that the next youngest female is a 4 year old little girl (oddly enough, the parents don't seem that friendly/outgoing, which is sad). Everyone is busy, everyone has a house to clean and people to care for and things to do, yet we still go every week, faithfully. (BTW, I am a little jealous that you have a dinner afterwards--we don't have much fellowship.)

    You know what we worry about? If anyone will even come to see our babies be baptized should we be blessed with any, because the Byzantine churches are "so far away" from where we live. My parents have yet to attend a liturgy, and sad to say, I know when they will finally go to one--when DH's grandmother passes. As I wrote the other day, I don't want to force people into checking "us" out, I just want to not be seen as weird.

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  5. I'm Latin, but it's really been bothering me lately how people always say Roman Catholic Church when they really just mean the Catholic Church. I want to be like, "HELLO! You're forgetting all of the other rites out there!"

    Thank you (and your husband!) for your ministry. I hope this doesn't sound weird or creepy, but I appreciate what you do even if I don't know you. Yeah, that definitely sounded creepy... lol

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  6. FNLF -
    Preoteasa, I understand your pain. When I was able to go to a Byzantine Catholic Church I did and it was very nice. Then I moved and no BCC or even an Orthodox Church.
    Part of the problem with Eastern Rite Churches is that not all that many people from 'the old country' seem to be bothered. Sometimes it's cultural, sometimes they are afraid. I know a little something about your mission; it's been around a long time with hardly any growth. Romanian immigrants are almost always Orthodox, so that's where they go. I'll bet the few Romanian Catholics that arrive just go to the closest Catholic parish, why hassle it and maybe be disappointed with a small mission?
    I now live reasonably close to an 'old' Ruthenian Byzantine parish. The last time I tried to attend, I felt very unwelcome and the priest was rude, so I left even before the liturgy started. The parish was a post WWII mission which flourished from the migration west from Ohio and Pennsylvania because of all the factories. Now the factories are gone, the children and grandchildren have moved the congregation is getting old. Contrary to sow Eastern Orthodox propaganda, the same thing is happening to many of their parishes. Yes, they at least get converts but the cradles leave and the churches barely break even and missions fail for lack of growth. Eastern Rite Catholic Churches barely have converts even for marriages, right?
    It's all a real downer and very sad. It will be interesting to see how the new coming Anglican Ordinariate emerges. Perhaps they will flower and show the way for the Byzantine Rite Churches. Time will be the tell.
    Many Blessings to you and Father. May the Holy Spirit increase your numbers!

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  7. Matthew- I'm sorry you felt unwelcome when you visited that church- here you would have the opposite problem and get smothered ;)

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  8. I've been lurking a while, but this post jumped out at me. I'm Latin rite, but, my best friend growing up was the daughter of a Ukrainian Catholic priest. Her mother is my mother's best friend, and we had a glimpse into the life of a priest's family. It was always heartbreaking to see how neglected by parishioners Father, the family and even the faith were. There were a lot of old country people, who had struggled under communism and now in America couldn't be bothered with the Catholic part of "Ukrainian Catholic". My friend and her family suffered a lot because of this. They were even accused of "latinizing" on a few occasions. Lots of prayers for you and your family and ministry!

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  9. as a pastor's wife who has been in rural areas, i feel your pain. many of the churches my husband pastored before coming here were started 100+ years ago and conducted services in norwegian up until 60 years ago.

    there tends to be serious flight from these churches because there is serious flight from these rural areas. i've been in congregations where 7 showing up for worship was a pretty good day and where it's three churches sharing a pastor.

    all i can say is... hang in there. where two or three (or 20) are gathered, God is there.

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  10. Even though there stand before you thousands of archangels, tens of thousands of angels, cherubim and seraphim standing aloft on their wings- singing, shouting, crying aloud and saying the triumphal hymn.
    {a rough paraphrase}

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  11. Right there with you. As least the Lord will never consider us lukewarm! :)

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  12. We used to live 25 minutes from a Byzantine church and we went every Sunday. But, it was difficult for us to make it on other Holy days and we lamented it.

    Now we live almost two hours away from a Byzantine church. It takes a good part of the day to get there and we only go every so often. We were so very grateful when the priest came for here for our daughter's rite of initiation and house blessing. Those who do attend and receive rites, I assure you are grateful.

    What I see here is the frustration of a wife. Wives bear their husbands burdens and for the whole family. As the wife of a priest you bear all this and the burdens of the parish. This burden is great. But I am sure you would not have it any other way.

    ...on a side note, Roman parishes are too big anyway and no one knows each other well enough to have fellowship. Parish churches were never meant to be so large.

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  13. Hang in there! I can definitely relate. We moved to a rural area far away from our families for my husband to take a great job as a full-time liturgical music director job, but now, on our third pastor in four years, he's getting no support and is just asked to be a "jukebox" - show up, play the music, and don't even think about having an opinion about the direction of music in the parish.

    Remaining faithful to Catholic teaching, be it about music, NFP, or just carrying out your vocation, is very difficult in modern America, and those of us who attempt to do it are usually underappreciated at best and vilified at worst. Just remember that you're not alone - I don't know what I would do if there was no online support system of faithful Catholics for encouragement.

    Remember that your husband's ministry is valuable even if it is not appreciated. You and he are both doing good work.

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  14. I thought of you on Friday night, which was a holy day in our rite. (Not sure if it was for all rites.)

    Pull into church parking lot and thought I had the wrong night. DH's car was there--we both came from work. Priest's car was there. Cantor's car was there. That was it. I almost burst into tears. Now I know EXACTLY how you felt. I even whispered that to DH as I slid into the pew.

    Five more people showed up before the start of liturgy. But seriously, NINE on a holy day? Perhaps they were so excited they could eat meat that they went out for steak . DH & I must be so weird, being as "young" as we are and making it to church on a Friday night holy day, and I worked late so that I wouldn't do any unnecessary driving.

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  15. I think my comment got eaten! Just tried to post something but I might have been too eager with my clicks.

    Anyway, I know how you felt...because on Friday night, there were only 9 people at a holy day service. When I got to church, there was just DH, the priest and the cantor. I almost burst into tears at that point.

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  16. Rabbit- you rock for celebrating with Liturgy on a feast day (...those who didn't go had better not eaten meat- you on the other hand....rib eye!)

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  17. OK I panicked--guess the comment went through.

    But I am lame. When it came time to figure out what to eat (I grabbed something from a prepped meals place near work to eat at home after Liturgy), I kept looking at the meatless/veggie options. I ended up with chicken & artichoke lasagna, haha. DH laughed at me, saying "you could have had ANYTHING and you got CHICKEN?" :)

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