Monday, February 26, 2018

more Magdalena: thoughts on being a Byzantine Catholic priest's daughter

How has being a Catholic Priest's kid affected/influenced your relationship with God?
Because I have never not been a priest kid it is a little difficult to say, but I think that it has brought me closer to God. I am in constant contact with faith-based things, so God is never far from my thoughts. 
A friend is the son of a minister-  they were watched regularly by the congregation, and their father was criticized for their behavior. I wonder if you also feel the same expectation? 
I would say yes. My actions reflect on my father, and my dad is well known enough in our community that there is always a chance that the person I am speaking with knows him, either through the hospital or the church. Not that I would ever misbehave… ahem…. We are very involved in my father’s ministry, so there is a pressure there to live up to him. Usually it s the old-country parishioners who would report any misbehavior and criticize, but as there are fewer and fewer of these fine people left, it hasn’t happened as much lately. 
What is the strangest thing you've learned about as a priest's kid?
Because I am a priest kid I have met very many strange people and have been in many strange situations (like the time a lady let my father know that her son was of a similar age to me and she would be happy to arrange a marriage between us. I was four at the time.) The strangest thing I have learned would have to be 
Do you feel any pressure being the child of a priest; and what have you, and the rest of your siblings done to ease whatever pressure may be felt, at times; and have you had to defend your father's vocation? 
There is pressure there, but I have felt it all my life, so it feels very normal. I can clearly see the value in what my father does so I am never ashamed of who I am. I do explain why it is ok for married men to become priests in the Byzantine tradition to help people out, but I try not to hang out with the kind of people who would attack me on this. If people are hostile about it I refer them to my dad for further explanations and then I leave. The people who are vehemently against the catholic church are difficult to handle sometimes (I usually meet with these people at my community college), and I feel like the ex-Catholics are worst of all. Usually they take the perspective that I am a naïve little girl who will wake up to the real world of science and truth, but then I enjoy flooring them in the next exam. Kindly, of course…. I don’t start religion-based arguements, but if someone else wants to discuss religion I don’t say no. I usually quote Maccabees or Tobit 😉. 
Do you have a funny story about being a priest's kid?
Sooooo many…. Many times I laugh at the blank look given by people to whom I tell I am a priest’s kid. They kind of double take and say “but you said you were Catholic…” In Romania it is always very nice because it is usual for the priests to be married. However, the priest families are VIPs, and because we are from America we are seen as very important and rich (they don’t seem to factor in the cultural difference). Whenever we went to our grandparents church in Romania people would help me with my coat, offer their seats, serve me food (I didn’t have to do the clean-up!), it was very fancy. 
Being a priest kid also puts me in weird situations. Sometimes when my dad is invited to dinner, we are invited too, but they kind of forget that there are six of us. This has resulted in a Thanksgiving spent inside the kitchen of our host, where the turkey leftovers, no mashed potatoes or stuffing, and one piece of pumpkin pie for me and my 3 siblings were our feast. People just don’t expect us. 
Would you prefer if your future husbands entered the priesthood after you are married? Why or why not?
If he did, it would mean that I would never be in a position where I would have to forsake my Byzantine traditions, something very important to me. I think hat I am pretty well-equipped to deal with being married to a priest because of my mother and other role models, so it wouldn’t be a shockingly different lifestyle. However, it is a huge commitment. Once a priest, always a priest, and never home on Sundays. There are so many difficulties, but also a huge joy in the vocation of priest family. I definitely want my husband involved in the liturgy, maybe as a deacon or even an acolyte. In other words, I am definitely open to it. 
Do Roman Catholic children with whom you are acquainted struggle with the fact that your dad is a priest?
Yes, but luckily my Catholic bubble is pretty well-educated. Most people definitely don’t hold it against me, but it does make events at my house very interesting. I was hosting a high school literature seminar not too long ago, and it was amazing to see my friends try to relate to my dad as a priest and as a normal man, and try not to call him Mr. It can get pretty funny. 
Do you have a favorite saint (Latin or Eastern)?
All the saints are inspirations to me in different ways, so it is difficult to tie it down. I think it depends on my situation. St Jude is for tests, St Anthony for everything that I lose, St. Mary Magdalene for her powerful conversion and holiness, Mother Mary for pretty much everything, and St. Irene for her virtue are just a few.  
What is your favorite feast day?
Easter is just incredible. The excitement is building up all through Lent, and it is such a beautiful Feast. I love the music, the service, the joy, and the symbolism of light. The food is also amazing, and I love how it doesn't end, just keeps on going for forty days, as well as every Sunday. It is the day when I am the most happy that I am Byzantine. 

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

dyslexic days: the real world bumps into our homeschool demi-paradise

This was a few days ago- Daughter 8 1/2, smiling in triumph because she successfully completed her work on a short vowel 'U' book. 
In glorious Finland, she might be just one year behind the majority. In the United States, she is two years behind the 'standards.' She has an IEP (finally- it took 2 years) which entitles her to 3 hours of tutoring per week, and we are meeting another tutor for an additional 2 hours per week. She dabbles in (love it!) every day as her only screen time. We read aloud (finishing up the original Pinocchio) and listen to audio books in the van (finishing up Anne of Green Gables).  And we work on sing spell read write  together (just like her siblings- just a year or two later). She was premature, she is left-handed and she has dyslexia going on. 

Today, her smile was wiped from her face when she was repeatedly accused of "lying"  and being a "liar" when she told someone that she couldn't read something that most 3rd graders can read. Now, she is taking a nap to gird herself for literature and choir with our homeschool group. And I am blogging, wondering how to get her spark back.
her home for the first 5 weeks...sometimes I still see her as this little, so forgive me for my mama bear-ness- actually- don't forgive me 

Monday, February 19, 2018

meet Magdalena: scholar, crafter, Byzantine Catholic priest's daughter

How does your faith inform your day-to-day life?
Being Catholic is the most important thing about me, and being a priest kid only emphasizes this. I am always ready to have a theological discussion, and I am usually singing a byzantine chant under my breath. I try not to flaunt my faith, but it seems to leak out pretty quickly… If I am smiling and daydreaming, it is probably about Divine Liturgy in the Hagia Sophia! Ahem…. So yes, my faith is important…. You were saying? 
What is your greatest challenge in practicing your faith?
There are so many challenges… I try to keep God before me at all times, but there is a definite need for a growth in virtue. Judgmental thoughts are an issue for me, but I am really trying to work on my mercy for others. 
Favorite Bible verse?
It depends on my mood, but I love the simple petition, “Remember me when Thou shalt come into Thy Kingdom,” from the good thief during the crucifixion. It reminds me of what I am constantly asking God and my need for His mercy. It is so simple and trusting, it brings tears to my eyes. 
Favorite spiritual writing besides the Bible?
I love me some Lewis! His essays on the evil of subjectivity and the essay “Men without Chests” are so amazing. I love Perelandra, it is my favorite interpretation of the Creation Story. I also really like Chesterton. 
Favorite saint and why?
I am close to St Mary Magdalene obviously, but I also turn to Saint Jude quite often (the SAT in particular, if you must know. Thanks again buddy 😊) St Anthony has helped me out so many times that it would be the height of indecency for me not to mention him. And, of course, my lovely Mother Mary is one of the most important influences on my life. 
What is your ministry in the church?
Everything….. Pretty much as long as it is not on the altar I had something to do with it. Of course I help arrange the altar. And make the bread. Most importantly though I am a cantor, the welcoming committee, and a catechist. 
Favorite movie, book, music, and why?
The Lord of the Rings will always hold a special place in my heart, both books and movies, because of the magic, wisdom, knowledge, and virtue inside. I also love Austen and Jane Eyre. I really like fantasy books, books with magic and mystery in them. For me, books are a good way to escape real life for a little, and I love the immersive qualities of a book about a magic land. Classics are generally really great as well, I feel better connected to the characters than I do in a lot of modern fiction. 
I started to crochet when I was 11, and it still captivates me today, though I am happy to say that my more recent projects have been a tad more professional than my first hat (I wonder why my mother never wears it?). More recent hobbies are peg doll painting, which is really fun. I recently finished a knight and his lady for my friend, and they look rather dashing, if I do say so myself. Other than that, I love dancing and singing and I never lose an opportunity to do either, despite the embarrassment it might cause my companions. 
If you had $20 and an hour, what would you do?
I must confess, I do like window shopping, but that would not necessarily use up my $20. If you put me in a used bookstore, however, I would be one happy person. Up in Oregon there is a store called the Book Bin, the perfect place to spend time and money. 
Thanks for sharing, Magdalena!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

memento mori - remember we are dust and to dust we shall return

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the altar fasts when we fast: The Liturgy of the Pre-Sanctified Gifts

What is the Liturgy of the Pre-Sanctified Gifts in the Eastern Churches? Why do the Eastern Churches refrain from a Divine Liturgy (Mass) during the weekdays of Great Lent? 
"The Eastern Churches will not have a full Eucharistic service on major fasting days. There is no consecration on these days. Some will say - the altar fasts with us. During the Great Fast this applies to all weekdays. In order to have a communion service during the week, extra bread is consecrated during the Sunday Divine Liturgy. These pre-sanctified gifts are set aside for use during the week. The Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts is therefore a fasting event. The tone of the chant changes to one which is more somber; the pacing slows down a bit; the readings are mostly Old Testament. In the Divine Liturgy, we are raised up to heaven and stand in the presence of the Divine. In the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, we prostrate ourselves with Adam at the gates of Paradise, so close that we can taste what we are not worthy to receive." Father Brian Norrell 

Pray with St Ephrem this Great Fast

O LORD, Master of my life, grant that I may not be infected with the spirit of slothfulness and inquisitiveness, with the spirit of ambition and vain talking.
Grant instead to me, your servant, the spirit of purity and of humility, the spirit of patience and neighborly love.
O Lord and King, grant me the grace of being aware of my sins and of not thinking evil of those of my brethren. For you are blessed, now and ever, and forever. Amen.
Lord Jesus Christ, King of Kings, You have power over life and death. You know what is secret and hidden, and neither our thoughts nor our feelings are concealed from You. Cure me of duplicity; I have done evil before You. Now my life declines from day to day and my sins increase.
O Lord, God of souls and bodies, You know the extreme frailty of my soul and my flesh. Grant me strength in my weakness, O Lord, and sustain me in my misery. Give me a grateful soul that I may never cease to recall Your benefits, O Lord most bountiful.
Be not mindful of my many sins, but forgive me all my misdeeds. O Lord, disdain not my prayer -the prayer of a wretched sinner; sustain me with Your grace until the end, that it may protect me as in the past. It is Your grace which has taught me wisdom; blessed are they who follow her ways, for they shall receive the crown of glory. In spite of my unworthiness, I praise You and I glorify You, O Lord, for Your mercy to me is without limit. You have been my help and my protection. May the name of Your majesty be praised forever. To you, our God, be glory. Amen.

give alms to our Byzantine Catholic monks this Great Lent & Pascha

Christ is a light for Angels, Angels are a light for monks, and monks are a light for all lay people.” St John Climicus in his The Ladder of Divine Ascent 

Holy Resurrection Monastery (
300 S. 2nd Ave.   PO Box 276
St. Nazianz, WI 54232

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Are Byzantine Catholics Bible Christians?

we sing, pray, and read Holy Scripture in the Divine Liturgy

Opening Doxology [“Blessed is the Kingdom...] Mark: 11:10; Luke: 22:29-30, Matthew: 28:19; Revelation: 7:12.

The Great Litany – Philippians: 4:6-7; Psalm 51:1 Luke: 18:13; John: 14:27; 1 Timothy: 2:1-2; 
1 Hebrews: 13:7; Psalm 109:26; Luke: 1:42.

The First Antiphon – [“Bless the Lord, O my soul”]. Selected verses from Psalm 103.

The Second Antiphon – [“Praise the Lord, O my soul”]. Psalm 103.

The Hymn to Christ Incarnate – [“Only- begotten Son...,”]. John: 1:1, 3:16, 17:5, 19:18; Luke: 1:35; Hebrews: 2:14; Matthew: 8:25.

The Third Antiphon – [The Beatitudes] Matthew: 5:3-12.

The Little Entrance – [“Come let us worship..,] Psalm 95:1-6; Revelation: 7:11-12.

The Trisagion – [“Holy God, Holy Mighty...,”] Isaiah: 6:1-5; Revelation: 8:8.

Prokeimenon – Psalms 12:7,1; 28:9,1; 29:11,1; 33:22,1; 47:6,1; 76:11,1; 104:24,1; 118:14,18.

The Epistle – readings change daily, from the Epistles or Acts of the Apostles.

The Allelulia – Psalms 113:1; 135:1; 146:1; Revelation: 19: 1-6.

The Gospel – readings change daily. The Sermon – 1 Timothy: 4:13.

The Cherubic Hymn – [“Let us who mystically..”] Colossians: 3:12; Pslam 24; Revelations: 19:1-6.

The Great Entrance – Psalm 43:4; Matthew: 5: 23-24; Hebrews: 5:1.

The Peace – [“Peace be unto all...”]. John: 20: 9,21,26. 1 John 4:7; 1 Peter: 3:8; Philippians:2-2.

The Eucharistic Canon – [“Let us stand aright”] Leviticus: 3:1; Hebrews: 13:14-15; Hosea: 6:6; Psalm 49:19; Matthew: 9:13; Corinthians: 13:14; 2 Timothy: 4:22; Lamentations: 3:41.

The Eucharistic Prayer – [“Holy, Holy, Holy...” through the Consecration]. Isaiah: 6:3; Mark: 11:10; Matthew: 21:9; Corinthians: 11:23-24; Matthew: 26:26-28; John: 6:51; Luke: 22:20; Mark: 14: 23-24; Corinthians: 29: 14, 16; Romans: 21:1.

Hymn to the Theotokos – [“It is truly right...”]. Luke: 1:28, 42, 48.

The Concluding Eucharistic Prayers – 2 Maccabees: 12:44-45; 1 Timothy: 2:2; 2 Timothy: 2:15; Romans: 15:6; Titus: 2:13; Revelations:22:21

The Litany before the Lord’s Prayer - Ephesians: 5:2; Philippians: 4:18; 1 Peter: 3:15; Corinthians: 5:10; Ephesians: 4:13; Philippians: 2:1.

The Lord’s Prayer – Matthew: 6:9-13; Corinthians 29:11.

The Elevation of the Holy Gifts – [“Holy things are for the Holy.”] Leviticus: 11:44; Philippians: 2:10-11.

The Communion Hymn – [“Praise the Lord...”] Psalm 148:1.

The Eucharist – 1 Corinthians: 11:27-29; Matthew: 16:16; 1 Timothy: 1:15; Mark: 14:45; Luke: 23:42- 43; Isaiah: 6:7; 1 Timothy: 1:14; James: 4:8; Psalm 118: 26-27; Psalm: 34:8; 1 Peter: 1:19; John: 6: 32-35, 48-58; Psalm 116:13; Psalm 28:0.

Hymns after Holy Communion – [“We have received the true Light..”]. John: 1:9; Rev.: 3-14; Psalm 71:8; Chronicles: 16:9; Ephesians: 3:9.

Litany after Communion – Judges 18:6; Colossians: 3:17; Mark: 11:9.

Prayer behind the Ambo – [“O Lord, who blesses those who...”]. Genesis 12:3; Psalm 28:9, Psalm 26.8; Psalm 138:81, 1 Timothy: 2:2; James: 1:17.

“Blessed be the name of the Lord, from this time forth and for evermore!” Psalm 113:2.

“The blessing of the Lord…”. Psalm 129:8; 2 Corinthians 13:14.

The Dismisal – 1 Timothy: 1:1.

—Compiled by V. Rev. John J. Matusiak St. Joseph Russian Orthodox Church, OCA, Wheaton, IL

Monday, February 5, 2018

meet Rachelle: meme maker, cat lover, scholar, Melkite Catholic

How long have you been a practicing Catholic?
I am a cradle Catholic, baptized in the Melkite Catholic Church. I was raised in Lebanon, a country with a large Catholic population. While I practiced some aspects of the faith throughout my life, I consider myself to have truly reverted to the Catholic Church around 5 years ago. Due to poor catechesis, I didn’t know much of my faith before that!
Care to share your conversion/reversion story?
Talk about the work of the Holy Spirit! A few years ago, I met a family on facebook who attended the Traditional Latin Mass in the United States. They encouraged me to attend one near me in Montreal. I first found the Society of Saint Pius X, and fell in love immediately with the reverence and beauty I experienced (though now that I know better, my attitude towards the Society is that of the Church). A year later I found a Fraternity of Saint Peter parish to which I transferred. Through the influence of the wonderful people there, as well as the holiness and charity of the priests, my whole life started to change. I fell in love with Beauty, with Love Himself. When one truly encounters Divine Love, all else becomes a detail, a means to acquire the fullness of that Love, but also to be transformed and lost into it… or Him! Again, through facebook, I started encountering the Byzantine Churches and their traditions. With all the persecutions going on in the Middle East, I decided that I should perhaps re-explore my original Church, the Melkite Church, rather than turn my back on what others have shed their blood for. This newfound interest turned to love when I spent 6 months in Lebanon after my BA, during which I attended the church within the Melkite Patriarchal Complex. God indeed works in mysterious ways, and He doesn’t always take shortcuts. I had to leave Lebanon and the Melkite Church, go through the Latin SSPX in Canada, then the FSSP, to finally return to the Melkite Church in Lebanon. Here I have found the fullness of the faith rooted in tradition and the Church Fathers.  

How does your faith inform your day-to-day life?
I’d like to quote one of my favorite poems for that, written by one of the nuns of Christ the Bridegroom Ruthenian Catholic monastery:
“I need not even think of where Your love is.
When I cry, it is in Gethsemane.
When I laugh, it is in Cana.
There is no part of my life outside of our love.”

What is your greatest challenge in practicing your faith?
The constant temptation to compromise and be unfaithful to the One we call Lover of Mankind. The West is very hostile to Catholicism, the Middle East full with brutal persecution, and every part of the life in the faith is constantly questioned. In fact, even back in Lebanon, Cultural Catholicism questions and mocks Living Catholicism, and these two are very different things. I think, however, the sacrifice that so many of our brothers and sisters have done and still do is a witness and an encouragement to persevere. In that sense, they literally die for the faith so that we may learn to live in and for it. We all fantasize about dying on that Libyan beach with the Copts, in some illusion of glory with “Even Unto Death” by Audrey Assad playing in the background. However, let us first learn to be faithful in the little sacrifices. In all those little chances of martyrdom, I have apostatized and denied Christ a thousand times. 

Favorite Bible verse?
“Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you: Do not awaken Love until He so desires.” -Song of Songs 8:4. 

I think this verse speaks deeply to the dark night of faith in which we all pass. When we are faltering under the burden of some physical, mental or spiritual pain, we often immediately ask for relief, for some consolation, for some proof that God is with us. Like the Apostles, we choose to awaken the Master when He seems to sleep during the storm. This verse however talks of a soul that chooses to let Him sleep and to take the path of complete, naked and soul-wrenching trust in His mercy. Let Him awaken when He wishes to. Let Him choose when to fill the soul with Uncreated Light, when to allow the action of Grace to finally be perceptible! It is my favorite verse precisely because the virtue of faithfulness is one of, if not THE greatest, of my spiritual struggles.

Favorite spiritual writing besides the Bible?
This is a very difficult choice to make. However, the following quote is particularly beautiful, especially in Arabic. It basically speaks of the encounter with Christ that happens once the darkness is lifted and His face is revealed to us. It is a soul that is not able to bear the glory of God, and like Elijah covers itself before the “gentle whisper” in which God’s presence is revealed: 

“Hold back, my dear Jesus, the waves of Thy grace, for I am melting like wax.” –Elder Joseph the Hesychast

Favorite saint and why?
Right now Saint Maryam of Jesus Crucified (Melkite Carmelite mystic and stigmatist). I’m a fanatical fan of all things Carmelite and all things Melkite, so she’s the union of both. I just finished reading her biography, but she has been very visibly working in my life for the past year. On her feast day she obtained a great grace for me. It is a textbook case of a saint choosing you. She also chose my goddaughter who is named after her. 

However, I think St. Therese of Lisieux will always have a special place in my heart. What a living school of the knowledge of God she is! No wonder the Church glorified her with the title of Doctor. 

What is your ministry in the church?
I work with the youth at the Melkite Cathedral. 

Favorite movie, book, music, and why?
And the Mountains Echoed, by Khaled Hosseini
A Thousand Splendid Suns, also Khaled Hosseini 

>> His writing style is very similar to Tolkien’s, whose work I also admire. Hosseini speaks of very difficult topics and life experiences like abusive marriages, the Taliban’s rule, the jealousy of a sister, the absence of a father, etc… However, he writes so beautifully in style and content that his work always gently wounds the heart. Even the sorrows he speaks of are breathtakingly approached. The depth of human misery he embraces in his works seems often misunderstood by Western authors. He understands pain, he expresses pain very well, and in the end shows you the beauty and dignity of human life even through such sufferings. 

Story of a Soul, by St. Therese of Lisieux

>>Does this really need an explanation? I can’t tell which is the truer case: that St. Therese’s simplicity hides the heights of spiritual knowledge she reached, or that her unrivaled holiness hides the raw realism of her worldview? Without leaving her Carmel, and most probably due to that Carmelite vocation, she encountered the magnificence of the Living Fire and Uncreated Light in the perceived “insignificance” of a “boring and wasted” life. 

Everything based on anything by Tolkien: His work is magic. 

Passion of the Christ, especially the “Mary Goes to Jesus” scene: Again, the topic of realistic yet unfathomable holiness is beautifully portrayed. Mary’s humanity is so perfectly depicted in Her running to pick a young Jesus. I have witnessed these very same hands pick me up time and time again. What breaks my heart the most though is the gaze that happens between Christ and Mary. They both, more than anyone else to have walked the Earth, truly saw the beauty of the person at whom they were gazing. Christ knew the extent of Our Lady’s immaculate soul, and Mary was so perfectly united with Her God and Son. At the end of the scene Christ tells Her, like a child proudly showing his work to his mother, “Behold, Mother! I make all things new.” He then rises and embraces the Cross with such love on His face. It is almost unclear in this scene who was carrying whom. Did Mary lift up Christ, or did He lift Her?  

All the 20 film versions of “Story of a Soul”: because it is the movie of one of the most groundbreaking spiritual writings.

Music: a bit of everything, as long as isn’t sinful. 
What languages are you fluent in? What language do you pray in outside of Church?
English, French and Arabic. I mostly use English for memorized or read prayers such as from the Byzantine Horologion (Book of the Hours). However, when I’m praying with my own words, I usually use Arabic. I try to include what little Greek I know as much as I can, because it is such a beautiful language of the Melkite Church.
Writing, reading, playing the piano, going to the movies, driving alone on beautiful roads with some good music. 

If you had $20 and an hour, what would you do?
Go horseback riding at night far away from civilization. I’d love to have a chance to go away in solitude, and I’ve always loved sitting alone and looking up to the stars. As for the horses, they’re just magnificent creatures.