Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Christian marriage isn't all ladyfinger cookies & honey.... (a re-post)

Today is just a day in late January; I thought I would re-post this 'oldie but goodie' for my Wednesday marriage series (has anyone noticed how organized I am this year-hahaha)...

It is just a Monday in October, nowhere near our wedding anniversary. Simcha Fisher reposted a reflection on her wedding and marriage over here, and I just had to respond with our own story. 
my parents' Roman-rite parish- our wedding was Byzantine-rite, however- courtesy of our bishop, a future bishop-then-priest and a third priest and us cantoring...
We were as poor as church mice. No- really. When the travelling priest asked my future husband to buy toilet paper for the church mission where he was bunking, he bought the paper and lived on eggs and peanut butter for a few days. We bought gas with change, but not even quarters.  He was in the states for almost 9 months with just a 'religious volunteer' visa (his Master's degree program didn't have enough credit hours per semester to qualify for a student visa with a right to work), so by the time we were married, we were really poor. The bride's maids' dresses above were just $25 at JC Penny! The photographer was a friend from church. The calla lilies- not really my favorite flowers, but now they have to be- were in season and free in various neighbor's yards (my son just read the text above, shocked that we were poor when we got married- "but mom- look at your dress- it is such a rich, beautiful fabric!" Poverty is very, very relative, son- and grandma and grandpa bought the dress!).
Because of visa and money probems, none of my husband's family from Romania was there. There would be a Romanian couple to sing "Dance, Isaiah," but we would be missing so many of the traditions important to a Romanian family. I was determined to find the ladyfinger cookies to dip in my father-in-law's honey, a symbol of life being sweet in a holy marriage.
I did not get my hair done. My fingernails were unbuffed and bare. My make up was basically mascara and lipstick (ladies- you know that is nothing for a wedding!). I was nervous, knowing that I would have to cantor the wedding with my becoming-husband because our planned-for cantor decided to convert to Orthodoxy the week before. But I had one mission- to find those ladyfingers.
And after a few stores, in the hours before our wedding, found them I did. After a long, all-sung wedding ceremony and potifical Divine Liturgy on Pentecost Sunday, we shared the ladyfingers with honey and the common cup. And life is sweet, even when we are running around, distracted by the mundane. Marriage is about giving your all to the spouse, and we attempt to do that even in our sinfullness. I could have-should have bought the ladyfingers earlier, but I didn't because my future-husband got it into his head the day before that this was a tradtiion that he wanted to uphold. He didn't know that Ameria is a ladyfinger-cookie-limited-place. But we make it work, then and now, even through the limitations. 

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

how a combat medic uses the Jesus prayer to stay close to God in traumatic circumstances

"I thought I would share some thoughts on the Jesus prayer as for many of us in the East it is the bedrock of our devotional lives. This is only how I use the devotion currently after nearly 20 years of trial and error. Not that there's a wrong way to say a prayer.

In the mornings as I'm waking up, I begin the regular beginnings from "Heavenly King" till the "Our Father" with the blessing of layman "through the prayers of our holy fathers, oh Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on us."
I'm a medic currently in a combat zone, so depending on the chaos level of the day, I grab a prayer rope and say the long form of the prayer "Lord Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, have mercy on me the sinner." For about ten breaths. Each breath is about six seconds in coupled with the prayer and six seconds out coupled with the prayer. So that's about twenty times saying the prayer in a "focused" manner. I was a volunteer in a PTSD clinic years ago and this is an adaptation of that. 

At this point someone is usually "encouraging" me to get breakfast before the cook throws it out. As I go through the day I'll continue to say the prayer. As I dress I put on my prayer rope. (I have one I keep on me everywhere that I don't get wet that was given to me by a local on the first day I responded to an incident where four women were kidnapped and two killed and two men killed by a group of terrorists in a supply raid. So I often walk around with one rope on each wrist.) Throughout the day I will see the prayer ropes and be reminded to pray.
At some point in the day, I'll either go for a walk or find a corner where I'll use the rope and "breath match prayers" for a full loop. My ropes are 200 knots so this takes some time, about 20 minutes. I'll then do a loop not worried about breathing. This is followed by "most holy Theotokos, strengthen my weakness" for a loop. At night I'll tie a few dozen knots as I say the prayer as well. Then some short prayers before bed.

The purpose of the breathing is to help with the regulation of the emotional sections of the brain. Further, this creates a psychological anchor similar to what a hypnotist would use. As something unpleasant comes up, a deep breath "starts the prayer" and serves to calm the mind and control the stress hormones including adrenaline. 

It's important to set this anchor free of "negative" emotions. Don't allow the brain to wander into things that anger or frustrate or depress. Nor is it a good idea to allow "positive thoughts" to interfere with the prayer. I'm looking for God not casting a spell. 

I hope this helps those of you coming from the West to understand why we in the East have so few other "short" devotions. This is really the bedrock of our personal devotions. Everything else takes time. Paraklesis, hours, psalms, gospel and epistle reading... The only other "short" devotion I have is Bible memory work, chip by chip memorizing the epistles and Gospels." 

Thank you,  "Iubitor al lui Dumnezeu, " for sharing this snapshot from your prayer life! 
I recommend the book below written by an anonymous believer who used the Jesus prayer to remain close to God 

Monday, January 29, 2018

more Joe: polyglot, physicist, cantor

Joe is "a nerd who somehow tries at this Catholic thing" 
Favorite saint and why?

I don’t know if I can limit the heavenly choir of saints to just one, so I won’t, I’ll talk about my 3 favorite Saints.

St Therese: She lost her mother at a young age, and is someone I truly relate to having experienced that myself. I’m quite stubborn myself and she had her moments of stubbornness as well, many people like the flowery St Therese, I don’t. I love the stubborn imperfect soul who through God’s grace was able to do great things. I’m no where close in holiness, but I’m trying.

St Tatyana of Rome She was martyred for the Faith during the time of the persecutions, She also is the patroness of my favorite mathematics teacher during High School (As well as co-patroness of my blog). The One of my favorite parts of her story is when the angels beat up her torturers….always making me think of the Easter Troparion…God arising and scattering His enemies.

St Cyril brother of St Methodius….St Cyril went into a land he was not familiar with and translated the Gospel into the local language of the people The Cyrillic alphabet is named after him. I happen to love the Russian language which is based much from what was developed in the Old Slavonic. I can only hope to be half a missionary of such a stature.

What is your ministry in the church?

At my parish where I attend, I’m probably known for my singing, I have taught Roman confirmation class before at roman parishes, as well as having been lead cantor at a parish before moving parishes to where I am presently. I’m heavily introverted and really don’t like the whole attention thing, I do me, whatever comes off, so be it.

Education and job?

At present I have two occupations. My first job is a teacher of physics and mathematics in the public school system via an online classroom. I also tutor students individually after my day job is up so most of my days are pretty long. I studied physics and mathematics via CSUF and MSAC. Though my running joke is I learned more physics via my high school math teacher than I ever did during my 6 years of college. (But sadly, the joke has a grain of truth to it….I’m very thankful to my HS math teacher Mrs. M, for taking the time to explain to me many of my curious thoughts)…I am in the process of making a permanent move to Las Vegas and look forward to taking up my position there.

Favorite movie, book, music?

My favorite movie, oddly not about cats, but definitely the Star Wars series (We don’t count the prequels )….But sometimes my favorite movies are hard to watch because I over analyze the physics in them.

My favorite book is definitely Principia by Isaac Newton, I got myself a copy after I graduated college, and absolutely enjoy the intuition that he showed throughout the text. Yes, I’m a total nerd, I also enjoy Spirit of the Liturgy and the Philokalia :)

My musical taste is rather strange, you can find everything from Evanescence to Beethoven. Lately I’ve been on a Dutch/Mexican rock kick. But I’m also known to “blast” the music from the MCI site from times as well. My classroom is also known to have Lady Antebellum playing from time to time. (A tech wizard I am not, but I know a few things)


Free time, whenever I get such a thing is often spent with my niece and nephews, spending time with my fianc√©, playing basketball, baseball, and soccer. I’m a huge Liverpool FC fan, I also love driving places and getting lost for no apparent reason :p.I have both a blog and a youtube channel (both of which I should update more often)….…where you’ll find all sorts of things. I’m also a lover of all things feline, and canine. I love spending time in empty churches….

What is 'cool'/interesting about you?

I suppose a few things can be said, When I once gave a rant in 7 languages….Spanish, Russian, French, Latin, Greek, Church Slavonic, and English. I love languages I suppose that’s one of my hobbies as well….But you probably want to know more interesting things….So, here they go:

I’m heavily introverted, but you’ll nearly never find me at home, I’m always at various things when I have the opportunity….

I’m probably one of the few people that I know that can get hit by a car at 70 mph and say that I’m living.

I’m a huge Russophile, and something you can blame the Russians for authentically is my love of math and physics :p

I’ve always made the sign of the Cross correctly since I’ve learned (from right to left :p)…I suppose I always was Eastern even though canonically I was raised Roman)

If you had $20 and an hour of free time what would you do?

Since right now I’m hungry, I’d go buy myself a burrito, and probably give another person 5, as well as of course spend my time in an empty church. It’s one of my favorite things to do. (I shouldn’t fill out a survey on an empty stomach)

Thanks, Joe, for sharing! Click on "I'm a Catholic series" for more profiles 

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Building Christian Marriage: words from Tertullian

"How beautiful, then, the marriage of two Christians, two who are one in hope, one in desire, one in the way of life they follow, one in the religion they practice.
They are as brother and sister, both servants of the same Master. Nothing divides them, either in flesh or in Spirit. They are in very truth, two in one flesh; and where there is but one flesh there is also but one spirit.

They pray together, they worship together, they fast together; instructing one another, encouraging one another, strengthening one another.

Side by side they face difficulties and persecution, share their consolations. They have no secrets from one another, they never shun each other’s company; they never bring sorrow to each other’s hearts… Psalms and hymns they sing to one another.

Hearing and seeing this, Christ rejoices. To such as these He gives His peace. Where there are two together, there also He is present, and where He is, there evil is not."

from a letter by Tertullian, an Early Church Father, to his wife, ca. 202 AD, showing the great esteem for the sacrament of holy matrimony in the days of the early church

Monday, January 22, 2018

meet Joe: polyglot, physicist, cantor

Joe is "just another sinner along the way here."
How long have you been a practicing Catholic?

Well, I was baptized into the faith a day after I was born. So I guess that’d make me quite literally a Catholic from just after birth. I have been going to church since I was little, and while some days were easier than others.

Care to share your conversion/reversion story? (More like how a born Westerner found his inner Eastern which he always had)

I suppose the story begins something like this, I was baptized a Roman Christian the day after I was born. And I grew up going to Mass every Sunday, sometimes me willing, sometimes me, not so much….One of my favorite memories was midnight Mass…but more on this later.

Fast forwarding to my teenage years where I experienced the hardest thing that any person will have to go through, the loss of a parent. (My mom) it probably didn’t help that things were already in a funk, when I lost both my grandmother and my aunt in recent years before that. During that time, I felt that the world around me was falling apart, and things changed to where I don’t want to say I didn’t believe, but I had very heavy doubts.

After mum died there was some time that I didn’t go to church or have anything to do with church at all. It was during college when a 7th day Adventist challenged me, that I started researching the Faith. I really fell in love with the Eastern Fathers, St John Chrysostom , St Basil, St Simeon the new Theologian, I did nothing about this of course being I just wanted to get back on my feet and being able to answer the questions that the girl brought up. Around the beginning of Pope Benedict’s Pontificate I started heading back to Mass….However that spark for the East didn’t reappear for a while until a few years into college.

I finally had the change to go experience and visit different places. Now having a car, I searched for various churches to go to, I wondered what in the world was this Byzantine Catholic Church that I read about. I went on a Sunday for a Liturgy in 2007 and the rest was history. I wondered where in the world was this, the reverence the movement, the other-worldliness of the Liturgy that I never experienced as a child, and even as an adult with the Traditional Latin Mass. I’m a physicist and mathematician by training, so my approaches to things are quite linear and very much cerebral. At the Divine Liturgy, there was motion, and I could let go of the normal routine of things to see things in a very different light….

A few years later, I found myself in Roman Seminary, and I make no secret about the fact that I wished to serve both the West and the East at the time. But also during this time, there was an opportunity to experience the Divine Liturgy according to the Armenians, but there was some similarity to the Latin praxis and still wasn’t there. I’ll spare you the details of how my time in Roman Seminary was, I’ll just say it was “interesting”. Finally, I moved to Idaho, and found what I’ve been searching for. The Divine Liturgy, with all of the motion, and it was from that point I took this Eastern praxis as my own, and something I started incorporating into my thoughts and praxis. It was the interaction with a few of the parishioners at the parish that really helped bring out my Eastern thought. I’ve always been all right with diversity in opinion and thought, and never thought that we’re trying to train robots, or everything must be a carbon copy. Seeing this lived out in Eastern Christianity made me want more of this, and so I made this happen.

Also during this time I experienced the Faith at a Russian Orthodox Church during Lent. I had the chance to attend the Good Friday Liturgy and saw a very old man about 95 making full prostrations during the Liturgy. (Which for me is difficult at times), but that day I tried much more….I had been a rusophile for a long time, since high school, and to experience the Faith from the Russian perspetrivu brought a completion to what I try to live.

I guess you can say this is the summarised form of what could be written as a much more detailed version. I’m thankful for the opportunity to share this part of my story with you.

How does your faith inform your day-to-day life?

Everyday starts and ends the same, with the Jesus prayer in Russian (my preferred language to pray in these days)….Though I’m known to still occasionally throw out some words in a few other languages from time to time.

The Faith influences everything that I do, I don’t claim to be any good at this though I’m still trying to get this right, 32 years and I’m still not quite getting it :p….I try to keep things simple, Love God, love neighbour, don’t be a jerk…I try to live all these things out, but of course this is still a work in progress.

There’s a lot of play when it comes to the issues of the day; I’m glad that the Faith doesn’t make us approach things from the same way. We can look at different issues from different perspectives. I’m constantly making the sign of the cross, and invoking Our Lord’s mercy, because do we all need it collectively and individually or what? .

As far as me going further and getting ordained…only if God smacks me upside the head with a 2 x 4. My fiance√© probably wouldn’t want such a life :p.

What is your greatest challenge in practicing your faith?

I think the greatest challenge in living the Eastern Faith is being surrounded by those that don’t. Its kind of hard to do all of the practices and praxis that comes with Eastern Christianity when one is surrounded by those that don’t. I always like to say that I do what I can within the means that I have.

Also quite a big challenge from time to time is of course all of the past that I’ve been through, it’s sometimes tempting to give up, but thou shall persevere until the end right :p…So we keep going.

Favorite Bible verse?

“Let God arise, and let his enemies be scattered, and let those who hate Him, flee from before His Face” (Ps 68, 2)

This is the opening verse from the 3rd antiphon at Easter, my favorite Liturgical celebration of the year, it really summaries my thoughts on pretty much almost everything and summarizes what we believe.

Favorite Spiritual writing (besides Bible) quotation?

“To have faith in Christ means more than simply despising the delights of this life. It means we should bear all our daily trials that may bring us sorrow, distress, or unhappiness, and bear them patiently for as long as God wishes and until He comes to visit us. For it is said, ‘I waited on the Lord and He came to me.'” --- St Simenon the new Theologian, (of course this is all easier said than done ;)

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Old-fashioned, traditional marriage advice from a 4th century celibate

Pick Virtue Rather than Riches When Selecting a Good Husband
First, look for a husband who will really be a husband and a protector; remember that you are placing a head on a body. When your daughter is to be married, don’t look for how much money a man has. Don’t worry about his nationality or his family’s social position […] When you are satisfied that the man is virtuous and decide what day they will be married, beseech Christ to be present at the wedding. He is not ashamed to come for marriage is an image of His presence in the Church. Even better than this: pray that your children will each find such a virtuous spouse; entrust this concern of yours into His hands. If you honor Him in this way, He will return honor for honor.
Advice on How to Pick a Wife
Since we know all this, let us seek just one thing in a wife, virtue of soul and nobility of character, so that we may enjoy tranquility, so that we may luxuriate in harmony and lasting love. The man who takes a rich wife takes a boss rather than a wife. If even without wealth women are with pride and prone to the love of fame, if they have wealth in addition, how will their husbands be able to stand them? The man, however, who takes a wife of equal position or poorer than himself takes a helper and ally and brings every blessing into his house. Her own poverty forces her to care for her husband with great concern, to yield to him and obey him in everything. It removes every occasion of strife, battle, presumption, and pride. It binds the couple in peace, harmony, love, and concord. Let us not, therefore, seek to have money, but to have peace, in order to enjoy happiness. Marriage does not exist to fill our houses with war and battles, to give us strife and contention, to pit us against each other and make our life unlivable. It exists in order that we may enjoy another’s help, that we may have a harbor, a refuge, and a consolation in troubles which hang over us, and that we may converse happily with our wife. How many wealthy men who have taken rich wives and increased their substance have yet destroyed their happiness and harmony, as they contend in daily battles at table? How many poor men who have taken poorer wives now enjoy peace and look upon each day’s  sun with joy? 
(Chrysostom, St. John. On Marriage and Family Life. Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1986)
Does this advice still hold true or do we moderns know better? 

Monday, January 15, 2018

be pro-life- smile at a mom & her screaming toddler

Pro-lifers are readying themselves for the annual March for Life  Different groups are doing different things, but prayer and demonstrations seem to be the popular manifestations for this time.  
If we say that we are pro-life- let's mean it and show this with our actions! Prayer is a beautiful thing, but maybe that mom needs your help with opening that door- she has 2 kids in her arms.  Please don't joke that that family needs a television; it's insulting and anti-life. Bring a meal to welcome the newest addition and have your teenager mow their lawn- with permission, of course. Hand-me-down clothes are very welcome, but check the clothing for rips and stains. If Goodwill wouldn't sell it, the local big family down the street probably wouldn't wear it to Mass. And perhaps above all, have mercy with little children that are squirmy at church. I guarantee you- the parents are doing their best to wrangle those kids.  They woke up, got the kids ready and out the door when the majority of Americans were still abed. They are in church, trying to instill in their children all the values of Christianity. Give that harried mom a smile as she takes a screaming  three-year old out of Mass. Invite them to your table at coffee and doughnuts. Make that super-sized family (in most parts of the US, any family with over 2 or 3 kids- not applicable to Franciscan U and TAC areas) welcome.

How in the world can inviting a big family to your coffee and doughnut table be pro-life, you ask? We need to build a culture of life where children are welcome. We need to make it easier for a family to have that next kid (perhaps through lower taxation?). Did you know that 60% of abortions are performed on women who are already mothers? (source- the blog "And Sometimes Tea") Prayer is essential, but action is too. If all pro-lifers were active in doing pro-life prayer and work (making meals, knitting booties, working at a soup kitchen, calling a new mom, mowing lawns, painting fences, fixing vans, babysitting for nothing or nominal fees, whatever is appropriate to the stage in life and ability or talent), we would make it less scary for these moms to welcome life even in difficult moments.

meet Anthony: computer geek, theology professor, Greek Catholic

How did you become interested in Eastern Catholicism?  Were you raised Eastern Catholic?
I was raised in the Roman Catholic faith.  I attended a Catholic school, and served as an altar boy.  While I was in elementary school, though, I had a transformative experience. My parents took me to a wedding at a Greek Catholic parish, and I was struck by the beauty and sense of sacredness.  Like the envoys sent to Constantinople by St. Vladimir, I didn’t know whether I was in heaven or on earth.  This moment changed the entire trajectory of my life.
As it happened, my next-door neighbor – a boy my age – was Greek Catholic.  I would sometimes attend Divine Liturgy with his family.  The liturgy had such a profound effect on me that I would literally dream about it at night.
When I graduated from college, I joined a Greek Catholic parish and officially transferred to the Byzantine Rite.
How did your family react to your change of rite?
They were very supportive.  They knew that I wasn’t rejecting the Catholic faith that they instilled in me, but was embracing it in a different form.
I absolutely love Roman Catholicism.  I have so much appreciation for everything that the Latin tradition offers.  I never rejected it.  Rather, I was called to serve God by building up and promoting the “Eastern Lung” of the Catholic Church.  I believe that a strong, vibrant Eastern Christian presence within the Catholic Church will lead to a stronger, healthier Roman Catholicism.
How did you become a theologian?
In college I studied Philosophy and Religion.  I realized that I love teaching people about the Catholic faith, and wanted to pursue a career as a theology professor.   I went on to graduate studies in Theology at Franciscan University.  
Upon finishing my master’s degree, I was accepted into the doctorate program in theology at Duquesne University.  While in this program, I had the opportunity to focus my studies on my true passion: Eastern Christianity.  My dissertation director was Father Michael Slusser, a patristics scholar with a profound understanding of the Greek Fathers and the Eastern Christian theological tradition.  I learned so much from working with him on my dissertation, which was a study entitled Adrian Fortescue and the Eastern Christian Churches.  It was later published as a book by Gorgias Press.
I also had the pleasure of taking classes at SS. Cyril and Methodius Byzantine Catholic Seminary.  One of the professors, Father David Petras, had a tremendous impact on me.  Father David served on my dissertation committee, and taught me a great deal about liturgy and ecumenism.  I also became friends with a Ukrainian Catholic priest who served in Ireland, Archimandrite Serge Kelleher of blessed memory.  Father Serge was very wise, and taught me what it really means to be an Eastern Christian in communion with Rome – with the challenges that it entails.
After completing my doctorate, I was blessed with my dream job.  I teach theology at a small Catholic college in central Pennsylvania, Mount Aloysius.  I go to work and teach people about God, and I love every minute of it.  
Do you have any hobbies?  What do you do when you’re not teaching theology?
I spend a lot of time with my family, raising two wonderful children.  My wife, Vanessa is a life-long Greek Catholic, and she has a deep love for the faith.  Vanessa’s grandmother was a cantor who spent her life serving the church, and Vanessa seeks to follow her example.
For fun, I enjoy working with computers.  I have several websites that I design and manage.  One of the websites, From East to West, is dedicated to teaching Western Christians about Eastern Catholicism.  
My other primary website, Mythic Scribes, is a community of fantasy writers.  I love reading and writing fantasy fiction, and Mythic Scribes is a wonderful place to explore that interest.

Many thanks to Dr. Anthony Dragani for sharing! 
do you want to share your spiritual journey? Email me at! 

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Celebrating & Strengthening Christian Marriage- start your life together in holiness

Let your prayers be common. Let each go to Church; and let the husband ask his wife at home, and she again ask her husband, the account of the things which were said and read there. If any poverty should overtake you, cite the case of those holy men, Paul and Peter, who were more honored than any kings or rich men; and yet how they spent their lives, in hunger and in thirst. Teach her that there is nothing in life that is to be feared, save only offending against God. If any marry thus, with these views, he will be but little inferior to monks; the married but little below the unmarried.
If you have a mind to give dinners, and to make entertainments, let there be nothing immodest, nothing disorderly. If you should find any poor saint able to bless your house, able only just by setting his foot in it to bring in the whole blessing of God, invite him. And shall I say moreover another thing? Let no one of you make it his endeavor to marry a rich woman, but much rather a poor one. When she comes in, she will not bring so great a source of pleasure from her riches, as she will annoyance from her taunts, from her demanding more than she brought, from her insolence, her extravagance, her vexatious language. For she will say perhaps, I have not yet spent anything of yours, I am still wearing my own apparel, bought with what my parents settled upon me. What do you say, O woman? Still wearing your own! And what can be more miserable than this language? Why, you have no longer a body of your own, and have you money of your own? 

After marriage you are no longer two, but have become one flesh, and are then your possessions two, and not one? Oh! This love of money! You both have become one man, one living creature; and do you still say my own? Cursed and abominable word that it is, it was brought in by the devil. Things far nearer and dearer to us than these has God made all common to us, and are these then not common? We cannot say, my own light, my own sun, my own water: all our greater blessings are common, and are riches not common? Perish the riches ten thousand times over! Or rather not the riches, but those tempers of mind which know not how to make use of riches, but esteem them above all things.

Teach her these lessons also with the rest, but with much graciousness. For since the recommendation of virtue has in itself much that is stern, and especially to a young and tender damsel, whenever discourses on true wisdom are to be made, contrive that your manner be full of grace and kindness. And above all banish this notion from her soul, of mine and yours. If she say the word mine, say unto her, What things do you call yours? For in truth I know not; I for my part have nothing of my own. How then do you speak of 'mine,' when all things are yours? Freely grant her the word. Do you not perceive that such is our practice with children? When, while we are holding anything, a child snatches it, and wishes again to get hold of some other thing, we allow it, and say, Yes, and this is yours, and that is yours. The same also let us do with a wife; for her temper is more or less like a child's; and if she says mine, say, why, everything is yours, and I am yours. Nor is the expression one of flattery, but of exceeding wisdom. Thus will you be able to abate her wrath, and put an end to her disappointment. For it is flattery when a man does an unworthy act with an evil object: whereas this is the highest philosophy. 

'The husband has not power over his own body, but the wife.' 1 Corinthians 7:4 If I have no power over my body, but you have, much more have you over my possessions. By saying these things you will have quieted her, you will have quenched the fire, you will have shamed the devil, you will have made her more your slave than one bought with money, with this language you will have bound her fast. Thus then, by your own language, teach her never to speak of mine and yours. And again, never call her simply by her name, but with terms of endearment, with honor, with much love. Honor her, and she will not need honor from others; she will not want the glory that comes from others, if she enjoys that which comes from you. Prefer her before all, on every account, both for her beauty and her discernment, and praise her. You will thus persuade her to give heed to none that are without, but to scorn all the world except yourself. Teach her the fear of God, and all good things will flow from this as from a fountain, and the house will be full of ten thousand blessings. 

If we seek the things that are incorruptible, these corruptible things will follow. For, says He, seek first His kingdom, and all these things shall be added unto you. Matthew 6:33 What sort of persons, think you, must the children of such parents be? What the servants of such masters? What all others who come near them? Will not they too eventually be loaded with blessings out of number? For generally the servants also have their characters formed after their master's, and are fashioned after their humors, love the same objects, which they have been taught to love, speak the same language, and engage with them in the same pursuits. If thus we regulate ourselves, and attentively study the Scriptures, in most things we shall derive instruction from them. And thus shall be able to please God, and to pass through the whole of the present life virtuously, and to attain those blessings which are promised to those that love Him, of which God grant that we may all be counted worthy, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with Whom, together with the Holy Ghost, be unto the Father, glory, power, and honor, now, and ever, through all ages. Amen.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Meet James: family man, history lover, believer

How long have you been a practicing Catholic? All my life, I am a cradle Catholic.  My mom consecrated me to the Virgin Mary when I was an infant.  I am therefore as a special child of Our Lady and I am grateful to my mom for doing that for me.
Care to share your conversion/reversion story?  Well, the only conversion of sort I ever had was from Roman Catholicism to Byzantine Catholicism.  In 1983, as a ninth grader, I read William Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar and I wanted to learn about the Roman Empire.  I was surprised to discover there was an Eastern Empire that survived the collapse of the Western Empire.  In studying that Eastern Empire I discovered eastern Christianity and John Chrysostom, who became my confirmation saint. Of course, not all of it was spiritual.  I was quite fascinated by Basil the II the Bulgar Slayer and Justinian the Great.  
I told my mom I wanted to switch to the Byzantine Catholic Church, but she told me I could not until I was an adult.  That was back in 1984.  Thirty-two years later, my wife and I, along with our three children transferred to the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. 

However, since I am deeply rooted in Patristics and the history of the Roman Empire, it is not as big a jump as one might think.  Furthermore, the old Latin mass has more in common with the Byzantine Rite than one would think.  In fact, history shows that there is nothing more silly than a Roman Catholic traditionalist or an Orthodox person saying there liturgy has not changed since Gregory the Great or John Chrysostom.  Even the vestments of the priest in the divine liturgy where once more like the gothic chasubles found in the Roman Rite.   The Roman vestments, especially those of the 1950s and 1960s exclusive of lace albs, are actually more like what was used in the East through the tenth century. In the divine liturgy, we use the gates and curtains – in Churches in the West, the use of an image screen/rood crossing and curtains lasted up until the Council of Trent, after which they were removed in response to the reformation. 
How does your faith inform your day-to-day life? By following the liturgical calendar, I am able to adopt my prayer life to the daily menaion.  In practice the effort is to Love one another as I have loved you.  So, I am working on avoiding negativity, judgmentalism and self-righteousness.  People need prayers and a good positive word.  So, I pray for everybody.  The key is to pray and forgive your enemies and not be jealous or envious of their success.  That way you untie the spiritual knots you would otherwise tie yourself up in with thoughts of revenge, retaliation, etc.  Nothing works better than prayer.  Pray, pray, pray!  I would add in that I love Akathists.  The latest I have discovered is Dr. Alex Romans’s Akathist to Our Lady of Guadalupe.  It is beautiful.

What is your greatest challenge in practicing your faith? Not being a self-righteous pompous ass.  Committing sin.

Favorite Bible verse? “Love one another as I have loved you” John 13:34-35. 

Favorite Spiritual writing (besides Bible) quotation? “Little Children, love one another.”  St. John as quoted at 6:10 in Book Three of St. Jerome’s Commentary on Galatians.  Outside of that I love the Akathists found in the Byzantine Prayer Book put out by the Melkite hierarchy.

Favorite saint and why? I have many saints as friends whom I look forward to conversing with in Heaven – Thomas Aquinas, Augustine, John Chrysostom, Demetrius of Rostov, Edmund Campion, Theresa of Liseux, Teresa of Avila, Maximus the Confessor, Patrick, Germanus of Constantinople, Martin of Tours, Gregory Palamas etc.  My favorite personage is Origen – no one ever wrote as beautifully on scripture as he did. And then there are the great love mystics and female thinkers I love– Hadewijch, Mechtilde of Magdeburg, Hidegard of Bingen, Gertrude the Great, Julian of Norwich, etc.
What is your ministry in the church? Acting Subdeacon and reader.  In the domestic church my ministry is to be a good husband and father.

Education and job? BA and MA in History and a JD.  Attorney by profession, historian by training

Favorite movie, book, music? Favorite Movie – The Princess Bride. Favorite Book – Smith of Wootton Major by J.R.R. Tolkien.  Music – favorite band is the Beatles with Rubber Soul and Revolver as my favorite albums.

Hobbies? Gardening, book collecting, coaching soccer.  I have cultivated quite successfully a pawpaw thicket in a colder zone than the tree is used to.  The fruit is tasty.  I have become very good at growing pumpkins, butternut squash, tomatoes, and peppers.

What is 'cool'/interesting about you? Honestly, as I am approaching the age of 50 with three kids I do not care about being cool anymore.  My daughter says I am intelligent and that I ask questions that need to be asked in a diplomatic but incisive manner, but more brusquely when needed.

If you had $20 and an hour of free time what would you do? Go to Church with a prayer book or a book of spiritual reading, light some candles and enjoy being in the presence of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Thank you, James, for sharing your story!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Celebrating & Strengthening Christian Marriage --- a Wednesday series for 2018

"Love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction." - Antoine de Saint-Exupery 
"Let there be such oneness between us that when one cries, the other tastes salt." (attributed to multiple authors)
“[On what young husbands should say to their wives:] I have taken you in my arms, and I love you, and I prefer you to my life itself. For the present life is nothing, and my most ardent dream is to spend it with you in such a way that we may be assured of not being separated in the life reserved for us... I place your love above all things, and nothing would be more bitter or painful to me than to be of a different mind than you.” -  St John Chrysostom
"Love that leads to marriage is a gift from God and a great act of faith toward other human beings."St. Pope John Paul II