Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Learning from a real pilgrim

The special guest and speaker for this year’s annual pilgrimage at the Shrine of Our Lady of Mariapoch (across the street from our monastery) this past weekend was Pilgrim George, a gentle man with the rare vocation of pilgrim.  Pilgrim George, originally from western Pennsylvania, received his calling as a life-long pilgrim at the end of a pilgrimage to Jerusalem as a young man.  In the past 43 years, he has walked 41,000 miles through 43 countries.  His presence, words and example helped the participants of this pilgrimage weekend to come to understand the freedom of trusting in God to provide for all that is necessary.

The pre-pilgrimage activities which our monastery led, allowed pilgrims to come early to celebrate the Feast of the Dormition and to help with setup for the weekend.  This small but energetic group enjoyed celebrating the vigil service for the Feast of the Dormition on Thursday evening, August 14, which included vespers, matins and the burial procession for the Mother of God.  Friday’s schedule included Divine Liturgy, volunteer work and free time, vespers, singing around the campfire with Pilgrim George, and compline. 

On Saturday, after matins and some additional setup work, the pilgrims were shuttled over to St. Edward Catholic Church in Parkman, Ohio, where others joined us to learn the meaning of pilgrimage and to experience this metaphor for the journey to heaven as they walked the 3.5-mile route to the shrine.  “This is a time for silence and prayer,” said Pilgrim George, and this reflective spirit truly permeated the hearts of the approximately fifty pilgrims as we spent our time walking in moments of silence or in singing hymns or the Jesus Prayer.  “We will follow the cross, and no one is to go ahead of the cross, just like we cannot go ahead of Jesus in our life,” Pilgrim George said.  Pilgrims took turns carrying the cross, and all arrived safely at the shrine, grateful to see the welcoming sight of their goal: this holy ground.  After the walk, a young woman commented to us on the long-standing tradition of pilgrimage in Europe and how she felt that she entered into that experience as she walked to the shrine. 

The annual pilgrimage weekend officially began with the blessing of pilgrims on Saturday evening, followed by vespers.  The evening continued with the Akathist to the Mother of God, a talk by Pilgrim George around the campfire, campfire snacks and compline.

Sunday brought the largest number of pilgrims to the shrine.  The day included matins, a talk by Pilgrim George, an anointing service and Marian hymns, and the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy, at which two men of the eparchy, Gene Senderak and Philip Dinsmore, were ordained to the minor orders.  Of course, pilgrims also enjoyed delicious meals served at the cafeteria and a chance to spend time with friends and meet others from the Eparchy of Parma and beyond.  The weather was beautiful!  

Sunday was also a day dedicated to prayer for the suffering Christians in the Middle East.  Our theme, "Rejoice, O you who have born the Guide of the Lost," was especially appropriate, and Bishop John reflected on this in his homily.  Particularly for those of us who spent the whole weekend at the shrine, it was an experience of learning to surrender to God, to spend time in silence with Him, to follow Him who guides us and provides for us, and to pray for those who have had to leave everything for the sake of following Christ.

The Christians in the Middle East who have had to leave everything are clearly utterly dependent on God.  But aren't we also?  It is simply more difficult for us to see this truth.  "A pilgrim signifies one who is free from over-attachments to people, places and things," said Pilgrim George.  "If we remember that our goal is heaven, then we're not so devastated when we 'lose' the things that give us security here on earth.  We thank all who made this experience of pilgrimage possible and all the pilgrims who enriched our experience of prayer and God's love!  Enjoy more photos here!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Ten days until the vigil of the Dormition!

We would like to invite you to a beautiful vigil service in celebration of the Dormition (Assumption) of the Mother of God.  This is a type of service called the "all-night vigil" because it includes the services of vespers (evening prayer) as well as matins (morning prayer) for the following day.  In some monasteries and parishes, the "all-night vigil" is celebrated every Saturday evening and/or on the evenings of major feasts.  The "all-night vigil" for the Feast of the Dormition is extra special because, in many ways, it parallels the Holy Week services commemorating the death and resurrection of Christ.  It even includes a burial procession during which the priest carries the shroud of the Mother of God over his head, just like he carries the shroud of Christ on Great and Holy Friday and Saturday.  During this procession, the faithful follow with lighted candles and chant passages from the Song of Songs!  (We at Christ the Bridegroom Monastery, of course, love this aspect of the vigil!)  The shroud is then placed in the tomb which is surrounded by flowers, and all come up on their knees to venerate the Mother of God.  The vigil service will be held Thursday, August 14, at 7:00 p.m. at the Shrine of Our Lady of Mariapoch, 17486 Mumford Rd. Burton, Ohio (across the street from our monastery).  How long will this service be, you may ask?  Our answer is "timeless," but if you do need to know in earthly terms, it will probably last between 2.5 and 3 hours. :)

Flowers are blessed on the Feast of the Dormition in remembrance of the story that has come down to us today regarding the occurrence of the falling asleep of the Mother of God and her being taken up bodily into heaven.  Tradition tells us that the apostles were all gathered together at the death of Mary...all except Thomas.  When Thomas arrived, he wanted to venerate her body, so the tomb was opened.  However, her body had been taken up into heaven, and the tomb was instead filled with flowers!  Flowers will be blessed at the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy on Friday, August 15.  All are welcome to join us for Liturgy at 10:00 a.m., also at the shrine.  You are also welcome to bring flowers for the blessing!

The vigil and the Liturgy on the feast are part of the pre-pilgrimage activities for the annual pilgrimage at the Shrine of Our Lady of Mariapoch.  Visit this page for the full schedule, and if you are able, please consider joining us for at least part of the pilgrimage! 

This is the feast, "...not only of Mary, but of all human nature.  For, in Mary, human nature reached its goal.  One week after the start of the liturgical year, we celebrate the birth of the most Holy Virgin.  Two weeks before the end of the liturgical year, we celebrate the death and glorification of Mary.  Thus, associated with and subordinate to the cycle of Jesus's life, the cycle of Mary's life manifests the destiny and development of a human nature which is entirely faithful to God" (The Year of Grace of the Lord).

Monday, July 28, 2014

Come walk with us and Pilgrim George!

This year we are taking a greater leadership role with the annual pilgrimage at the Shrine of Our Lady of Mariapoch (across the street from our monastery).  Please watch this 2-minute video to get a taste of what the pilgrimage is all about!

All are invited to the Eparchy of Parma’s annual pilgrimage at the Shrine of Our Lady of Mariapoch in Burton, Ohio, August 16-17, for a weekend of prayer and fellowship in honor of the Mother of God.  This year, pilgrims will have the opportunity to make a 3.5-mile pilgrimage to the Shrine, beginning at St. Edward Church in Parkman, on Saturday at 1:00 p.m.  Life-long pilgrim, Pilgrim George, will lead us in this walk and will share his experiences on Saturday evening at 8:30 p.m., as well as a reflection on Sunday afternoon at 1:30 p.m. about this year’s theme: “Rejoice, O you who have borne the Guide of the lost.”  The weekend will culminate with a Hierarchical Divine Liturgy celebrated by Bishop John on Sunday at 3:30 p.m.  

Pre-pilgrimage activities are also planned for August 14-16 (including the celebration of the beautiful vigil service with burial procession for the Dormition of the Mother of God).  Teens wishing to participate in the chaperoned campout program must submit a release form and payment by August 8.  For the full schedule and other information, please visit the Eparchy of Parma website.  With questions, please call the nuns of Christ the Bridegroom Monastery at 440-834-0290.  Updates are also available on the new Facebook page for the Shrine of Our Lady of Mariapoch.  For more information about the shrine, visit

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

We're unTangled!

For the most part, we've recovered from our annual Girls' Camp which took place last weekend, June 26-29!  (Our theme was "unTangled: Understanding Our Identity in Christ Through Mary.") But all of the work and exhaustion is worth it: to witness these girls encounter God through each other and through prayer is an incredible gift!  We will share more about the weekend when we have time, but until then, please experience some of the joy of the camp through these photos!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Girls' Camp begins today! Please pray for us!

Girls' Camp preparations have been in full swing all week!  Yesterday some of our young adult facilitators came early for a retreat day to prepare spiritually to lead the girls.  Sr. Gabriella gave a talk on leadership, reminding us that "God doesn't call the qualified, He qualifies the called," and Sr. Cecilia spoke about the balance of contemplation and action modeled by the Mother of God.

Please keep us, our facilitators and especially our 20 teen-girl participants in your prayers!  Pray especially for the intercession of the Mother of God, as our theme this year is "UnTangled: Understanding Our Identity in Christ Through Mary."  Thank you!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

To our dear fathers...our saints!

Happy Father's Day!  Dear fathers, young and old, biological and spiritual, we love you!  May you always know how loved you are, and may you always recognize the great privilege of representing God the Father's love for us!

Thank you for all the sacrifices you make...for every moment that you lay down your lives for us.  How appropriate it is that today, the Sunday after Pentecost, is commemorated as the Sunday of All Saints.  The prayers for the feast especially commemorate the suffering of the martyrs.  The Holy Spirit who came at Pentecost gave, and continues to give, strength to Christians to imitate Christ by accepting suffering and even death for the sake of His name.  You, fathers, live out this vocation of martyrdom in imitation of Christ in a special way.  Thank you for being our saints!
"Taking up their cross in joy and following You to imitate Your passion, O Lord, with courage, the martyrs have rejected the threats of tyrants; without trembling, they faced the sword and fire, hunger, torments, and death" (Canon of Matins for the Sunday of All Saints, Ode 1).
Tomorrow we begin a fasting period known as the Apostles' Fast, which will continue until the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul on June 29.  We invite you to fast with us in some way during this time, asking for the power to proclaim the good news of God's love and salvation, and for the courage to respond to our own particular call to martyrdom.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Thank you, work day volunteers!

A huge thank you to the great crew of volunteers (including lots of kids!) who joined us for our spring work day and cookout on Saturday, May 31.  It was a hot day, but everyone worked so hard!  We accomplished so many projects on the monastery grounds!  We also enjoyed lunch and dinner together and prayed Great Vespers at the Shrine of Our Lady of Mariapoch in the evening.

See more cute photos from the day!

Another thank you goes out to the students and staff of the Lyceum School who joined us the following Tuesday to volunteer their time.  We began the day with a beautiful Divine Liturgy, cantored by the students, at the shrine.  The students and staff then helped with yard work at the shrine and monastery.