Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Year of the Priest

Pope Benedict XVI has declared June 19, 2009 to June 19, 2010 as the "Year of the Priest." Monastics are called in a special way to pray for priests, who are working directly with their flocks. During this "Year of the Priest" we will pray for specific priests, deacons, deacon students and seminarians of our eparchy each day of the week. We would like to share with you the prayer that we will pray communally each day. We invite you to print it out and pray along with us!

O Lord Jesus Christ, our great High Priest, Who is able to sympathize with our weaknesses, and are completely without sin, hear our humble prayers on behalf of Your priests, deacons, and those studying for the priesthood and deaconate [N].

Strengthen and enliven those whom You have called to be leaders and servants to Your people here on earth. Give them a deep faith, courageous hope and a burning love for You which will ever intensify in the course of their priestly lives. Through Your Grace may they steadily grow in holiness and wisdom and become partakers of Your divine nature. May they never take for granted the gift of participation in Your Holy Mysteries, and always be in awe before Your true presence at Your holy table.

We ask that they always be vigilant and willing to defend the Gospel to the ends of the earth. May they embody Your sacrificial and all-consuming love, and instill in each person they encounter an unquenchable desire to seek and attain Your unfathomable love and promise of eternal life.

Grant them good health of soul, mind and body and that they zealously use their God-given gifts for the glory and honor of Your Kingdom. Sustain them in their fatigues and labors; give them patience and good counsel in their pastoral cares. Console them in their pains; fortify them in their combats, and keep them safe from the traps of the Evil One.

Comfort and overwhelm them with Your hope in times of loneliness, trouble and sorrow. Encourage them to see these experiences as opportunities to share in Your passion and be witnesses of joy, truth and integrity. Transform complacency into ardent conviction and excitement; discouragement, frustration and cynicism into courageous hope and positive thoughts, words and actions; desires for power and attitudes of entitlement into vulnerability to Your life-giving will and majestic power; anger and self-pity into passionate justice and the selfless sacrifice of Your love; ignorance and prejudice into wisdom and understanding. Cast out and heal the paralysis of fear and transform it into actions of perfect love.

Fill them with the gift of Your Holy Spirit, that they may be worthy to serve blamelessly at Your holy altar, to proclaim the gospel of Your kingdom, to sanctify the word of Your truth, to offer gifts and spiritual sacrifices, and to renew Your people by the washing of rebirth. In Your goodness grant that they may receive their reward of good stewardship at the time of Your second coming. We beseech You through the prayers of the most holy Theotokos and all the saints, for blessed and glorified is Your most honored and magnificent name, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and ever and forever. Amen.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

"When it's more than curiosity": Our first retreat!

The future monastery itself was still in “renovation mode.” Doors and windows were missing their casings, molding absent at the base of the floors, doors removed from their hinges, a few rooms still in need of a few coats of paint, single light bulbs hanging from the ceilings, and kitchen cabinets removed from their normal stance waiting to be painted. All this and more could have created a distracting environment, especially for a retreat, yet the seemingly unfinished surroundings created a sense of newness and inspired excitement for the potential of monasticism in the Eparchy of Parma.

Thirteen men and women from North Carolina, Washington, DC, Texas, Indiana, Missouri, Pennsylvania and Ohio gathered at the future Christ the Bridegroom Monastery in Burton, Ohio, across from the Shrine of Our Lady of Mariapoch. Everyone seemed to instantaneously bond.

The retreat overflowed with intense prayer and laughter, questions and answers, silence and singing, holy embraces and sharing personal stories and hopes, new and rekindled friendships, a lively camaraderie of good food and taking turns washing the dishes, and above all, a desire to grow closer to God and to know and fulfill His loving will. All of this helped make the vision of Eastern monasticism in the Eparchy of Parma closer to a reality.

During morning prayer, the window in the sanctuary allowed the bright sunlight to pierce through clouds of incense in defined rays of light. Even more exhilarating was the union of spirits and voices during prayer and Divine Liturgy that transformed a yet-to-be completed chapel into a heaven on earth experience.

Fr. Elias O’Brien, O Carm., talked candidly about monasticism and welcomed questions and dialogue from the retreatants. Bishop John Kudrick visited on Saturday, celebrated Vespers, listened to the stories of those gathered, and shared his vision for monasticism in the eparchy as each participant eagerly listened.

The retreat was a blessed event and went smoothly, until one of the men took a shower after the retreat. He unknowingly closed the recently painted door with a missing doorknob. As the participants stood talking in the foyer, knocking was heard on the wall. One of the men recognized that the knocking was an S.O.S. in Morse Code. After much laughter and a little ingenuity, he was rescued from captivity.

The sense and blessing of newness, excitement of a potential monastery and the awesome wonder of God’s will yet to be revealed stirs and grows in the heart of the Eparchy of Parma.