A special invitation from Bishop John: Monasticism – the "very soul of the … church"
It is clear to me that the Eparchy of Parma needs the witness, example and service that only well-established and vibrant monasticism can give. This eparchy is the only one in our Byzantine-Ruthenian Catholic Church without a men’s monastery/community. Our women’s monasteries/communities, because of their charism or because of the advanced age of the nuns, are restricted to a ministry of prayer. Although we are blessed with the (greatly appreciated) apostolic activity of monastics from outside the eparchy, their participation in the life of this eparchy is understandably limited.
Pope John Paul II’s apostolic letter "Orientale Lumen" ("The Light of the East") devotes considerable attention to monasticism as a necessary "reference point for all the baptized" (9). He states that monasticism is the "very soul of the … church" (9) [All such numbers are references to "Orientale Lumen"].
We cannot deny the blessings of monastic experience, past and present, here and elsewhere in our church, but we must be open to re-visioning. This may take the form of extending a present experience or taking a totally new approach. I envision either a men’s or women’s monastery, or both, that will be based on the spirit of "Orientale Lumen." We must take advantage of the "extraordinary flexibility" of Eastern monasticism to "personalize (it to) the times, rhythms and ways of seeking God … to fulfill the expectations of (this particular) church in (this) period of its history" (13).
I am sharing this communication with you because of either your experience in monasticism or your possible interest in participating in such a venture. Please feel free to share this with anyone else who may share our interest. I would appreciate your comments or questions that may help in further consideration. We would also appreciate your prayer.
January 17, 2008
Feast of St. Antony the Great
Monasticism in the Eparchy of Parma
While still leaving much to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and the input of those who will pioneer this endeavor and of those knowledgeable of the law, I propose the following: (Please note that I am not suggesting that existing monasteries/ communities do not reflect these points.)
The monastery will be Byzantine and Catholic in its common spirituality, taking leadership "to rediscover [our] full identity … according to [our] own special disciplines. …" (21).
The monastery will follow the Byzantine tradition as it is known by those churches who trace their roots to the Eparchy of Mukacevo, and further to Constantinople.
The monastery will provide an environment where the monastics may live the Christian life, "intensely and exclusively" (9).
The monastics will not be substitutes for the holiness of the rest of us but will "witness to the fact that we Christians are at different stages of the spiritual journey," inviting all to a deeper spirituality (9).
"Concretely lived charity (will be) the basis" for interpersonal relationship (9).
Living "suspended between … the Word of God and the Eucharist," the monastics will realize their call is both "individual and, at the same time, an ecclesial and community event" (10).
A structure of authority will be developed to allow for "obedience as the listening which changes life" (10).
Communal prayer will be adequate to "assimilate the Word through chanting" (10). The Mukacevo plainchant (prostopinije) will be the norm.
The monastics will share their goods in a way to "proclaim the awareness of one’s own radical poverty" (10).
Efforts will be taken to develop into "a living sign of the expectation of (divinization)" (10).
A respect for the matter of creation will be demonstrated by the sanctification of time and of that which is entrusted to the monastery (11).
The monastics will engage in on-going formation for "spiritual discernment in continuous purification," especially strengthened by prayer and fasting (11).
They shall engage in study to "contemplate Christ in the hidden recesses of creation and in the history of humankind … seeking the meaning of life" (12) and to provide the church at large with inspiration to respond to the needs of the moment (14).
The model of the "spiritual father" will be followed in the on-going formation of the monastics. The monastics will be encouraged to develop this model in their own lives for others, as well (13).
The monastics will build a communal dimension by (a) opportunities for developing spiritual friendships ("koinonia"); (b) a communal service/ministry ("diakonia"); (c) preaching, teaching, writing to proclaim the Christian message ("kerygma"); and (d) communal worship ("eucharistia") (Cf. 10 and 14).
Although living in community will be the norm for the monastics, an option will be available for those who must, at least for a time, live separately. A structure will be established to maintain participation in the community.
Efforts will be taken to integrate learning and participation into a single reality, as Jesus Christ is the Truth and the Life – but also the Way (15).
The monastics will have adequate time for silence, to courageously meet one’s self, without the deafening of noise. This will provide time for a "prayerful assimilation of scripture and the liturgy more than by systematic meditation" (16).
The monastery will be a center for evangelization and ecumenism, reaching out to both Eastern and Western churches, and to all (2, 3).
The monastery will be a place of pilgrimage and retreat. Hospitality will be an important characteristic of the community.
The monastics will be expected to share the fruits of their spiritual discipline with the church at large, both with the hierarchy and with individual seekers.
Initially at least, the bishop will maintain supervision of the monastery and will participate, on a limited basis, in the life of a men’s monastery.
Priest-monks must be incardinated into the Eparchy of Parma or given leave from their own eparchy or religious order.
Initially, all monastics will maintain ownership of their personal property but use thereof and purchases will be subject to monastic authority.
Initially, all property of the monastery will be owned by the Eparchy and the Eparchy will assist the monastery financially. With time, the monastery will be self-sufficient.
A uniform attire will be expected for church and formal community activities.
New members of the monastery will be admitted according to the same process as those who seek admission to the Eparchy of Parma formation program toward ordination, although acceptance criteria will correspond to the monastic vocation.
Stages of formation will be immediately established.
Any or all of the above may change, subject to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
All correspondence concerning this endeavor should be addressed to me personally:
Eparchy of Parma
1900 Carlton Road
Parma, OH 44134
Email sent to the Eparchy’s Office of Communications, firstname.lastname@example.org, will be forwarded to me.