Friday, December 26, 2014

Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

Merry Christmas from the nuns of Christ the Bridegroom Monastery!

"Bethlehem has opened up Eden for us.  Come and let us see the delights that we have found there in secret.  Come and let us gather the fruits of Paradise that are within the cave.  There, the unwatered Root has manifested itself, and it has sprouted forgiveness.  There, the undug Well, of which David yearned to drink, is found.  There, the Virgin, who gave birth to the infant, immediately quenched the thirst of Adam and David.  Therefore, let us hasten to the place where the young infant, the Eternal God, is born."
(Ikos from Matins of the Nativity of Our Lord)

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Darkness of the Cave

 A reflection on the Incarnation, to be read slowly:

"The manger becomes the place in which the incomprehensible God lies down" (Irmos of the Feast of the Nativity).
A manger: a feeding trough for animals.  God, the creator and sustainer of the universe, becomes a man and is born in a dark and dirty cave filled with animals and is placed in a manger.

How much deeper could God lower Himself?  How much more humbly could He come into the world?  How much more fully could He conceal His divinity?  He couldn't have.

However...the very event which obscured divinity is also the one which united divinity to us.
"Yes, in order that Love be fully satisfied, it is necessary that It lower Itself, and that It lower Itself to nothingness and transform this nothingness into fire" (St. Therese of Lisieux).
The Incarnation!: what beauty and power!  Human nature can now be transformed into the divine!

But the Incarnation--the mystery of salvation--wasn't completed in the cave.  The cave wasn't even dark enough... The utter darkness of the cross and the tomb was necessary.  This is why, in Byzantine iconography, Jesus' swaddling clothes look like burial wrappings, and His manger looks like a tomb.
"So also the chief priests mocked Him to one another with the scribes, saying, 'He saved others; He cannot save Himself.  Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe'" (Mk 15:31-32).
What deeper darkness could there ever be on earth?  The Son of God, the Savior of the World, is brutally tortured and killed on a cross.  And yet, Christ's death and resurrection is the greatest, most powerful and glorious event ever to occur on earth!

And for us, this paradox is also true in our little lives: It is often the case that the darkest, most difficult events in our lives are the moments in which God is working in us with the greatest power.  Darkness does not mean that He is far away.  It means He is very close.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Christmas Letter

Enjoy this year's Christmas letter!  Our letter shares the developments in our monastery this year and gives a list of our needs.  If you would like to support our life of prayer and hospitality by giving a tax-deductible donation to the monastery, please make your check payable to "Diocese of Parma Monastery Fund" and send to:

Christ the Bridegroom Monastery
17485 Mumford Rd.
Burton, OH 44021

Thank you for your generosity and your prayers!  We promise to pray for you!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Young Adult Movie Night, Jan. 3

A scene from Ostrov
Young adults, age 18-35, are invited to a movie night at the monastery on Sat. Jan. 3.  The evening includes Great Vespers at 4:45 and dinner at 6:00, followed by the movie Ostrov (“The Island”), discussion and social time.  An overnight stay is optional (men will stay in the guest house and women in the monastery), along with Matins and Divine Liturgy on Sunday morning.  Please RSVP by Tues. Dec. 30 to or 440-834-0290.

Click here for the Facebook Event.

We haven't had a chance to host a young adult event in a while, and this is one of our favorite films! You may not want to read about the movie ahead of time though, because it'll spoil the plot! And those who have seen it before know that it's one you can watch over and over and always be struck in a new way. We also just look forward to hanging out and praying with you!

Monday, December 15, 2014

A Prayer for the Nativity Fast

Let's not forget that this is a time of prayer and fasting in preparation for the birth of Our Lord!  There are still nine days left!  Here is a prayer you may want to incorporate into your daily prayer during this time:

O God and Father, the Almighty One, you created the human race in your image and likeness, and when we fell through disobedience, you promised to send a Savior. When the fullness of time had come, your favor rested on your only-begotten Son, and He was born of the Virgin Mary. Thus, what Isaiah the prophet foretold was fulfilled: "Behold, the Virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Emmanuel, which means 'God with us.'" His birth filled all creation with light; He gave us the baptism of repentance, and restored our ancient dignity. Now, most compassionate Lord, You bring us to these honored days of the Christmas Fast that we may do battle with the desires of the flesh and draw strength from the hope of resurrection. Receive us, then, as penitents and forgive our wrongdoing, those done knowingly and unknowingly, through malice and through weakness. And may our prayers, our fasting, and our works of mercy rise up before You as incense, as sweet spiritual fragrance, that in company with the Magi and the shepherds we too, with pure hearts, may be found worthy to bow down before the Nativity of Jesus Christ, Your beloved Son. To Him, together with You and Your all-holy Spirit, belong glory, honor, and worship, now and ever and forever.  Amen.

From the Emmanuel Moleben

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Photos from Moki's Entrance, and two events for this Saturday

Sr. Cecilia, Mother Theodora, Moki, Bishop John, Sr. Gabriella and Jacqui
It's official!  There are now five of us!  God has blessed us abundantly by bringing a beautiful young woman, Moki Lonchyna, into our community on Monday as we celebrated the Feast of the Maternity of Anna (Immaculate Conception).  An article will come soon, but in the meantime, enjoy these photos from her entrance.

If you are in the Cleveland area, here are two events we are involved in this Saturday, December 13:

1) Sr. Gabriella and Moki will be selling our gift items at the St. Nick Craft Show in Parma, Ohio

Saturday, December 13
9 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Here is one way to support us and purchase some great Christmas gifts!  Sr. Gabriella and Moki will be at our table at this large craft fair at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, 1900 Carlton Rd., Parma, Ohio (corner of Snow and Broadview).  Our jam, jelly, chotki (prayer ropes), notecards and icon prints will be available.

2) Mother Theodora will be giving a day of reflection at St. Emilian's Byzantine Catholic Church in Brunswick, Ohio

Saturday, December 13
1 p.m. - 4 p.m.
In the midst of all the preparation for Christmas: baking cookies, sending Christmas cards, shopping, wrapping, decorating, traveling, or whatever may be on your Christmas list, when you’re checking your list twice, will you notice that your name is missing? What if your name was on the list for your personal spiritual preparation for Christmas? In the midst of all the Christmas busyness, what if you had an opportunity to relax and reflect on the mystery of the Incarnation, God taking on our human flesh, and the profound impact He has on your life and the entire world? What if you took the time to slow down to hear and know that “God is with us” and experience His presence dwelling within you? What if you could refocus on all the things on your Christmas list and incorporate God’s loving presence in all that you do?

1:00 Opening prayer / Talk
1:45 Reflection
2:15 Break
2:45 Talk
3:30 Reflection
4:00 Closing prayer / Vigil Divine Liturgy / Departure

Monday, December 8, 2014

Thanks St. Nicholas! (And today is Moki's Entrance Day!)

St. Nicholas was VERY generous this year!  On his feast day, December 6, he brought us $26,000 toward our renovation project!  We are already at 41% of our goal!  If you are able, please consider helping us to reach our goal so that we can fit more nuns in our monastery, fix safety issues, and complete other necessary projects.  To learn more about our project, visit our Renovation Project page.

On another very exciting note, today is Moki Lonchyna's entrance day!  Her original entrance date, November 20, was postponed due to pnemonia, but today is--God-willing and the bishop arrives--the real thing!  As we celebrate this feast of the Mother of God--the Maternity of Anna (otherwise known as the Immaculate Conception)--join us in entrusting Moki to Mary's motherly care as she continues her journey of discernment by entering into our life of prayer and hospitality.  As Mary is conceived in the womb of her mother and salvation draws close, the mystery of God's beautiful plan for Moki's life begins to unfold in a new way.  She is grateful for your prayers!

"The sayings of the prophets are now being fulfilled: the holy mountain is planted in the womb; the divine ladder is set up; the throne of the great king is ready; the God-inspired city is being adorned.  The unburnable bush is beginning to bud forth, and the treasure house of grace is overflowing.  It is spreading over the rivers of unfruitfulness of the God-wise Anne whom we glorify in faith" (Stichera at Vespers).

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Announcing our Renovation Project!

Dear friends,

We are excited to announce that we are launching a fund-raising project for much needed renovations of the monastery. We are in need of more cells (bedrooms) and bathrooms to fulfill the needs of our growing community and our discerners. In addition to increasing the number of cells and bathrooms, the renovations entail raising and supporting the sagging floors, upgrading electrical service up to code, fixing multiple leaks in the roof, installing a larger water pump and fixing the plumbing, along with a myriad of other undertakings.

Overall Goals:

     -Increase current number of bedrooms for nuns from five to eight
     -Create more office space
     -Increase the space and usability of kitchen
     -Replace old appliances
     -Prevent further damage to basement, pond and property
     -Eliminate danger of house fire     
     -Increase capacity of water pump to meet the needs of the community

Please view our Renovation Project booklet to see photos and learn more about our goals and needs for this project.

The good news!
The good news is that the architectural work is completed and paid for by a generous donor. God has blessed us with a benefactor who selflessly gave us $50,000 as a foundational jumpstart toward the renovations, and another gracious benefactor is offering matching funds up to $100,000! Wow. God is with us! In time, if it’s God’s will, our vision and hope is to build a “real” monastery and chapel when we grow out of the present monastery and repurpose the present building into a retreat center. In the meantime, needing more cells and bathrooms is a good thing!

If you would like to give toward the matching funds campaign, knowing that whatever amount you give will be doubled:
     -Please make your check payable to “Diocese of Parma Monastery Fund” 
     -Write “Building Fund” in the memo
     -Send to:
          Christ the Bridegroom Monastery
          17485 Mumford Rd.
          Burton, OH 44021

We will update our thermometer (on our "Renovation Project" tab) with your donation!

Whether or not you are able to financially help at this time, we would greatly appreciate your prayers!

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and rely not on your own understanding. Acknowledge Him in all your ways and He will direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).  We recognize all these needs as a blessing from our Bridegroom. These dreams and challenges will no doubt come to fruition if we trust in the Lord with all our hearts and seek His guidance and blessing with each step on the path towards His loving will for us and His Church.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Year of Consecrated Life begins today!

With our friend Sr. Anna Rose, TOR
Pope Francis has proclaimed a Year of Consecrated Life which begins today, November 30, which happens to be the Feast of St. Andrew, the First-Called.  It will continue until the World Day of Consecrated Life, February 2, 2016.

Well, it's pretty exciting to have a year dedicated to us!  The Church will be praying for us, seeking ways to support our life of prayer, teaching about this particular vocation and encouraging discernment.  But it also presents us with a challenge and responsibility.  Please pray for us as we accept the challenge of seeking to become all that God is calling us to be, as His brides and as witnesses for the Church and the world.

To kick off this Year of Consecrated Life, we'll share some beautiful excerpts from a document published in preparation for this year by the Vatican's Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.  The document, based on the teachings of Pope Francis, is called, "Rejoice!"

1. ...To accept this teaching means to renew our existence in accordance with the Gospel, not in a radical way understood as a model of perfection and often of separation, but by adhering wholeheartedly to the saving encounter that transforms our life. “It is a question of leaving everything to follow the Lord. No, I do not want to say ‘radical’. Evangelical radicalness is not only for religious: it is demanded of all. But religious follow the Lord in a special way, in a prophetic way. It is this witness that I expect of you. Religious should be men and women able to wake the world up.” 
In their finite humanity, on the margins, in their everyday struggles, consecrated men and women live out their fidelity, giving a reason for the joy that lives in them. So they become splendid witnesses, effective proclaimers, companions and neighbors...

Joy, the beauty of consecration 
3. “This is the beauty of consecration: it is joy, joy...”. The joy of bringing God’s consolation to all. These are the words spoken by Pope Francis during his meeting with seminarians and novices. “There is no holiness in sadness”, the Holy Father continued. Do not grieve like others who have no hope, wrote St. Paul (1Thess 4:13). 
Joy is not a useless ornament. It is a necessity, the foundation of human life. In their daily struggles, every man and woman tries to attain joy and abide in it with the totality of their being. 
In the world there is often a lack of joy. We are not called to accomplish epic feats or to proclaim high-sounding words, but to give witness to the joy that arises from the certainty of knowing we are loved, from the confidence that we are saved....
Your calling 
4. “In calling you God says to you: ‘You are important to me, I love you, I am counting on you’. Jesus says this to each one of us! Joy is born from that! The joy of the moment in which Jesus looked at me. Understanding and hearing this is the secret of our joy...." 

Friday, November 21, 2014

"...that we might be holy and immaculate in His presence"

Happy Feast of the Entrance of the Mother of God into the Temple!

But first, a few notes:

  • Today is Mother Theodora's third anniversary of her tonsure as a stavrophore nun (life profession) in our monastery!
  • Today is the 50th anniversary of Orientalium Ecclesiarum, the Decree on the Catholic Eastern Churches, an important document from Vatican II.  This document has been fundamental in the ongoing renewal of authentic traditions in the Eastern Catholic Churches.  The document states, "All members of the eastern churches...are to aim always at a more perfect knowledge and practice of their rites, and if they have fallen away due to circumstances of times or persons, they are to strive to return to their ancestral traditions."
  • Please to continue to pray for Moki, who was originally scheduled to enter yesterday evening at vespers.  She is recovering from pnemonia and God-willing will enter in a couple of weeks!
  • We are about a week into the Nativity Fast.  This fast is traditionally an abstinence from meat and dairy products for these 40 days in preparation for the birth of Our Lord.  Consider joining with us in fasting in some way in order to let go of your attachments so that you may be better able to receive the great gift of God's love in the Incarnation!
Mother Theodora's Profession

Ok, back to the feast day:

The Feast of the Entrance of the Mother of God into the Temple gives us a lot to reflect upon!  Today, let's compare our own process of sanctification to the preparation of Mary to become the Temple of God...

It should be a great relief to us that Mary, the one without sin, wasn't expected to prepare herself by herself.  She was taken to the Temple to be prepared.  In fact, she couldn't have prepared herself.  This was something that only God could do.

Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity writes,
"'God,' [St. Paul] says, 'chose us in Him before creation that we might be holy and immaculate in His presence, in love' (Ephesians 1:4)....I must remain 'in the presence of God' through everything...and it is contact with the divine Being that will make me 'holy and immaculate' in His eyes" (Last Retreat, Third Day).
Tradition says that at Mary's entrance, Zechariah took her into the Holy of Holies.  At that time, there was no greater place of "contact with the divine Being" on earth!  It was Mary's living in the Temple, in close proximity to the presence of God, that prepared her to contain Him within her.

For us, this place of contact with God happens in such things as the Holy Mysteries (Sacraments), the Divine Liturgy, in prayer and in encountering Him in others.  This contact with God slowly transforms us, especially as we surrender to God's action within us.

St. John Damascene's thanksgiving prayer after Holy Communion says,
"May [Your most pure body and blood] burn away my sins, enlighten my soul, and brighten my understanding.  May they sanctify me, making a dwelling-place in me so that I too may be in You forever...." 
This is beautiful news, but news that is hard for us to accept!  We want to think that we can achieve holiness through our own work!  May the Mother of God intercede for us and help us to surrender to the great love and power of her Son, who alone can prepare us for all that He asks of us on earth and for all that He has destined us for in the eternal glory of heaven!

Monday, November 17, 2014

"We don't need to worry about anything..."

“Arise, my beloved, my beautiful one, and come!” (Song of Songs 2:10) was the theme of our annual discernment retreat, October 30-November 2.  Two young women responded to God’s call to spend this weekend with Him, listening for His voice of love.

Fr. Michael Lee celebrated the Divine Liturgy on Friday, October 31, for the feast of Blessed Theodore Romzha, Mother Theodora’s patron.  Fr. Michael’s talk after lunch set the young women at ease in the midst of their discernment struggles and set the tone for the rest of the weekend.  He explained that the purpose of life is union with God, and in discernment, “God isn’t focused on the answer; He’s focused on you.  If you’re face to face with God, you can relax and let Him do the work.”  He said that we are each called to be the bride of God; the question is simply “where?”  He also explained that God’s voice says, “‘Be with Me,’ ‘be not afraid’ or ‘I love you,’ and anything that is not fundamentally one of those things is not God’s voice.”

We also gave talks throughout the weekend.  Sr. Cecilia spoke about the development of monastic life in the Church and about the ways that monastics are “reference points for all the baptized” (St. John Paul II, Orientale Lumen).  Sr. Gabriella shared her vocation story.  Mother Theodora spoke about the vocation of monastic life as a call to enter into the heart of Christ.

The retreat was a peaceful harmony of talks, prayer and community time, which allowed us just as much as the retreatants to pause from the usual daily work and to listen to God’s voice and to rest in Him.  We were all inspired by the film “Bakhita,” the story of a slave from Africa who allowed the abusive experiences of her life to make her a saint instead of a bitter person.  On Saturday evening, we all experienced healing through the Mystery of Holy Repentance.

Selina Melancon, who traveled from Las Vegas, described her experience at the monastery: “The Sisters’ gift to the Lord of hospitality to the weary and burdened makes the monastery the true home of each soul that enters.  To pray and live among the Sisters is to dwell in the safety of the Bridegroom’s Divine Heart: as a guest there, I immediately felt a member of the family.”

Elizabeth Hofmeister, from Greenwood, Ind., succinctly explained the truth that was uncovered in her heart: “I learned the most important ‘secret’ ever!...That true discernment isn't forcing God to tell us what His will is, but drawing so close to Him that we will just know through our relationship with Him.  We don’t need to worry about anything, but simply look at Our Lord and fall more in love with Him as we let Him work on us and perfect us.

Please pray for these young women and for all who are discerning a call to the monastic life.  Click here to view more photos from the retreat.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Pray for Moki, who will join our community on November 20!

Moki, at center of photo, during our Girls' Camp
*Update: Moki is recovering from pnemonia and God-willing will enter on December 8!

Happy National Vocation Awareness Week!  It's a perfect week to announce the wonderful news that our community will grow from four to five when we welcome Motria ("Moki") Lonchyna as a dokimos (postulant) on the evening of November 20, during Vespers for the Feast of the Entrance of the Mother of God into the Temple!

Moki is an incredibly joyful young woman.  She is Ukrainian Catholic and currently lives in Philadelphia.  She fulfilled her observership at the monastery this summer, spending six weeks living our life and helping with our Girls' Camp.  We are thrilled to welcome her into our family!

Please pray for Moki as she prepares for her entrance day and begins to live this new life of joyful dying-to-self in the monastery!

Monday, November 3, 2014

November Feast Days

This month we celebrate the Feast of St. Michael the Archangel and all the Angels and the Feast of the Entrance of the Mother of God into the Temple.  Here is our "open-to-the-public" liturgical schedule for most of this month.  Remember to check the calendar on our "Upcoming Events" page for an up-do-date schedule and more information!

Friday, November 7
4:45 p.m.         The Jesus Prayer in silence
5:00 p.m. Great Vespers (Feast of St. Michael & all the Angels)

Saturday, November 8
9:00 a.m. Divine Liturgy (Feast of St. Michael & all the Angels)

Wednesday, November 12
9:00 a.m. Divine Liturgy

Saturday, November 15
4:45 p.m.         The Jesus Prayer in silence
5:00 p.m. Great Vespers

Sunday, November 16
10:00 a.m. Divine Liturgy

Friday, November 21
9:00 a.m.    Divine Liturgy (Feast of the Entrance of the Mother of God into the Temple)
                        Third Anniversary of Mother Theodora's Life Profession

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Happy Feast of St. John Paul II!

Today is the first celebration of the feast day of St. John Paul II since his canonization in April.  We also recently celebrated, on Oct. 11, the first feast day of St. John XXIII, who was canonized together with him.  Here are our reflections from the canonization, which we recently published in our fall newsletter:

Reflections on the Canonization 
of St. John Paul II & St. John XXIII

Thanks to a very generous anonymous benefactor, we were all sent to Rome in April to witness the canonization of St. John Paul II and St. John XXIII.  St. John Paul II has played a large role in the founding of our monastery: he inspired its foundation by writing “Orientale Lumen” (“Light of the East”), he has played a role in each of our vocations, and we realized his obvious guidance from heaven while writing our typikon (rule of life).  Those who have visited the monastery also know about our “JPII room”—a small sitting room used most often for our personal meetings with Mother, which is stocked with all our St. John Paul II books, photos and a couple second-class relics.  Once we learned that we would be attending this canonization, we made an effort to get to know St. John XXIII as well.  Some of us read sections of “Journal of a Soul,” the compilation of his personal journals.  We were also pleased to learn about his importance to the Eastern Catholic Churches and his work towards unity with the Orthodox Church.  Making a pilgrimage to this canonization was a distant-dream-come-true and an experience that will always remain in our hearts.  Enjoy these brief personal reflections from each of us.

Mother Theodora—”Be not afraid”
“Have no fear of moving into the unknown. Simply step out fearlessly knowing that I am with you, therefore no harm can befall you; all is very, very well.  Do this in complete faith and confidence” (St. John Paul II).  I was 19 when I heard the opening words of Pope John Paul II’s papacy, “Be not afraid.” His love and courage continues to incite me to trust and to move into the unknown.  It was a privilege to be with my sisters in St. Peter’s Square for his canonization and that of John XXIII.  Arriving at the Square took some courage.  We pushed our way into the deep and dense ocean of people that moved us uncontrollably toward our destination.  There were moments when the surge of the crowd literally made it hard to breathe.  We arrived in the Square unscathed and grateful.  My most memorable experience was praying before the tomb of St. John Paul II.  The guards kept moving the endless line of faithful who desired to be near his tomb.  The sisters and I managed to find a little cove outside the ropes in which to stand and pray for his intercession.  We believe the guards tolerated our prayerful presence until a growing number of people joined us.  As I prayed, a flood of fears and reluctancies overwhelmed me and with tears I implored his help.  I then felt his fatherly embrace and heard his encouraging words: “Don’t be afraid.”  With the loving guidance and intercession of St. John Paul II, we continue to step out into the unknown, knowing that through God’s grace all will be very, very well.

Sr. Cecilia—“In the heart of the Church”
I knew I didn’t want to stand with the crowds out on the street all night in order to get into St. Peter’s Square when it opened.  To be honest, the main reason was that I knew I couldn’t last that many hours without using the restroom!  So I was resigned to being far away from the Square.  However, as soon as we arrived, our tour group leaders told us that they had managed to arrange an amazing opportunity for us: a room large enough for our group to sit in was reserved in a building right on the Via della Conciliazione, just outside St. Peter’s Square.  We would spend the night in prayer, some food would be available for purchase and…we could use the restrooms until the morning!  As soon as the prayer vigil began, I was completely overwhelmed with gratitude and awe at God’s providence.  There I was, right there with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, safe inside this building, as hundreds of thousands of people made their way toward this very spot.  The eyes of the world were on this place, yet no one knew I was there in that building in the midst of it.  My monastic vocation—to be praying in the heart of the Church—was renewed.  I became resolved that I wanted my vocation to be for the world, and I realized how intimately close to Jesus this vocation is!

Sr. Gabriella—“God’s abundant mercy”
Having been to St. John Paul II’s beatification, I had a good idea of what we would experience at the canonization.  Last time, I spent the night outside in the streets with all the people waiting to enter the Square – this time, we were blessed with a room to spend the night in away from the crowds – with bathrooms, food and Jesus!  By the time I made it into the Square though, I was beyond exhausted.  I crumpled under my poncho waiting for Mass to begin, barely lifting my head when Pope Francis came in.  The mood was different this time – much more subdued and peaceful.  The almost two full days of being awake was taking its toll on me and I barely made it through Mass.  Since I already received communion at midnight, I felt it wasn’t right for me to receive again because I had not fully participated in Mass.  In God’s providence, a priest walked up 20 feet away from me and had only a few people in line – and somehow I found myself in line to receive Jesus!  The guilt I felt melted away as I tasted the most wonderful Eucharist I have ever received, thinking, “Is this what manna tasted like?!”  I had a profound sense of God’s mercy, so fitting on Divine Mercy Sunday, and Jesus spoke to my heart, reminding me that nothing I do merits my partaking in the Eucharist – it is truly a gift, freely given by God to me!

Jacqui—“Being Christ for each other”
The most memorable moment for me was standing in line to get into St. Peter’s Square the morning of the canonization.  Things got tense as the hours passed.  People became tired, hungry, thirsty, claustrophobic, etc.  After a while I became separated from my group.  I began to get nervous because no one around me spoke English.  My back was hurting because my backpack was too heavy, there was no such thing as personal space, and it was difficult to communicate.  Then I realized that this is a pilgrimage and it isn’t supposed to be easy.  I lifted my backpack and began singing the Jesus Prayer to calm down.   Then a kind Italian man behind me said, “May I help you with your bag?”  I immediately thought of what was in my bag that could be stolen.  As I was trying to think, he placed his hand under my bag and lifted it up so the weight wasn’t on my shoulders and back.  He then said, “We stay together.”  Each time the line moved up he would grab my backpack straps and say jokingly, “Left foot, right foot, left foot.”  I realized that these popes who would soon become saints had somehow helped every single person who was in line that day.  We are all called to be that person for the world: a witness to God’s love and action.  I am grateful for the friend who helped me to realize that even in those tense moments we can still be Christ and bring Joy to those around us.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Our Divine Liturgies are now open to the public!

We have some news that we are very excited to share with you!

After some discernment about the needs of our growing community and God's will for our immediate future, we became open to the possibility of moving our liturgical services out of our tiny, unfinished chapel that we set up in the monastery, to the larger, established chapel directly across the street.

After speaking with Bishop John, he has given us the care of this chapel which was formerly under the care of the "Fellowship of the Shrine of Our Lady of Mariapoch," a small group of lay people in the area.  The extra space of this chapel now allows us to open our liturgical services to this group of lay people and to anyone who would like to pray with us!  Bishop John has also appointed Fr. Andrey Kovalenko, the current administrator of the Shrine of Our Lady of Mariapoch, as our chaplain.

At our recent fall work day, volunteers helped us to clean the chapel and make some rearrangements to adapt the space for monastic use. There are still many aspects of the chapel that we would like to renovate and liturgical items that we would like to purchase, but we know that God will provide in His time if it is His will.

On this coming Sunday, October 19, we will open our Divine Liturgy to the public for the first time!  Divine Liturgies will be celebrated here on most Sundays, at 10:00 a.m.  We will also publish the days and times of Great Vespers and other services as we feel able to open them.  If you would like to pray with us at a time not listed, please feel free to call (440-834-0290) to check our schedule.

We will keep a calendar updated on our "Upcoming Events" tab.

We are excited to begin to pray with you, and we hope to see you soon!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A great Fall Work Day!

Thank you to all of our Fall Work Day volunteers!  We were blessed with a beautiful, warm, sunny day and beautiful, enthusiastic volunteers!  We accomplished many projects, indoors and out.  As always, we also enjoyed a delicious potluck lunch.  Quite a few volunteers also stayed for Great Vespers, dinner and a campfire.  Thank you for blessing us with your joy and willing hands!

Click here to view more photos!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The first person to be beatified on U.S. soil was raised in the Byzantine Catholic Church!

"And even in the world I felt very intensely that if people only sought God in all earnestness they would find Him. And if all would only make use of the ordinary duties and trials of their state in the way God intended, they would all become saints," wrote Sr. Miriam Teresa to her spiritual director (Letter to Father Benedict, O.S.B., August 19, 1926).  
Carpathian Connection Article
This spiritual director perceived something very special in Sr. Miriam Teresa, a Sister of Charity of St. Elizabeth.  He perceived a life of heroic virtue and cooperation with the grace of God, which the Church will proclaim publicly this Saturday, October 4, when she is beatified (proclaimed "Blessed") at the Cathedral-Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark, N.J.--the first person ever to be beatified on U.S. soil.  The Church beatifies and canonizes (the final step in the process of declaring sainthood) certain members of the Body of Christ in order to hold them up as examples of virtue for the faithful--with the hope that all the faithful will seek to learn from their example and to emulate their virtues as they are able in their state of life.  As you can see from the above quote of Sr. Miriam Teresa, this young woman, who died at the age of 26 in 1927, felt very strongly that all people can become saints.

Her spiritual director played an important part in assuring that the wisdom she gained from her life with Christ would be available to others.  He asked her to write a set of spiritual conferences which he would then give to her and the other novices, without revealing their source.  After her death, he posted a note on the bulletin board which stated, "The conferences that I have been giving to the sisters were written by Sr. Miriam Teresa."  These conferences were later published in book form with the title, "Greater Perfection." This book, and her biography, are available through the Sisters of Charity.  Her teachings on prayer are especially helpful.
"As long as we try we need never fear or worry, for we are advancing.  Only when we give up trying have we cause for real anxiety about our progress...for we feel secure.  But it is a false security, in which a proud self and a prouder devil have steeped us" (Greater Perfection, Conference 13).
In addition to her beautiful teachings and the historic nature of her beatification, there is yet another exciting aspect of her life...Sr. Miriam Teresa was raised in the Byzantine-Ruthenian Catholic Church!  She was baptized at St. John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Church in Bayonne, N.J.  She attended the College of St. Elizabeth in Convent Station, N.J., and entered the Roman Catholic community she was familiar with from her college days, the Sisters of Charity of St. Elizabeth.  Bishop Kurt Burnette, the Byzantine Catholic bishop of the Eparchy of Passaic, will celebrate a Liturgy of Thanksgiving on Sunday, October 5, at 3:00 p.m., at her home parish in Bayonne.

We are happy to introduce you to our new friend!  For more information about Sr. Miriam Teresa, here are some resources:
National Catholic Register Article
Sisters of Charity Page

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Eric Genuis at the Shrine!

We are excited to share with you that concert pianist Eric Genuis will be at the Shrine of Our Lady of Mariapoch (across the street from our monastery) on Friday, October 3rd at 7:30pm for a free concert!  For those who will not be attending the Eparchy of Parma's assembly, please consider attending this evening of music and fun with Eric.

Here is a little information about Eric:

The career of composer, virtuoso pianist and acclaimed performer, Eric Genuis, began in Krakow, Poland in 1997. A government dignitary heard Genuis’ music and he was invited to headline the entertainment for an AIDS benefit concert. This premier performance was attended by 15,000 people. Since then, Genuis continues to perform worldwide, upwards of 100 concerts each year.

Eric has received praise from music industry greats such as Joel Sill (Music Supervisor for films Munich and Forest Gump) who said "I remain a fan and look forward to him
being more broadly discovered and to watching as his audience expands and appreciates his fine talents" and John Debney (Film Composer for The Passion of the Christ and Spy Kids), who proclaimed "From a musicians perspective, Eric Genuis' music is brilliant- superbly crafted, unique in style and expertly performed." Eric has collaborated with famed British Maestro, Allen Wilson and the Slovak National Symphony to produce four CD's of his original work.

Genuis' musical education includes achieving First Class A.R.C.T. Honors in Piano Performance from the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. He has completed course work in film scoring from the Berklee College of Music. Eric Genuis is a musical tour de force and his concerts are a proven thrill to music lovers of both classical and contemporary music.

For more information about Eric, visit his website.

For more information about the concert, contact John at 440-251-8594.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Reminder - RSVP for the Fall Workday!

Join us for a day of outdoor and indoor work projects, prayer, food and fun at the monastery on Saturday, September 27.  Volunteers of all ages and abilities are welcome!  The day begins at 10 a.m., includes lunch, and closes with vespers at 5 p.m. followed by a cookout.  Come at whatever time you are available, and bring a side dish to share if you can.  Please RSVP* by Tuesday, September 23, to 440-834-0290 or, so that the appropriate amount of food can be prepared.  

Facebook Event

*Please RSVP with:
1. The number of adults (include teens) and the number of kids (12 and under) 
2. Will you be here for lunch and/or dinner?
3. The dish you plan to bring 

Thank you!

Guys, lest you think this work day is just about raking leaves, here is a list of some of things we need you for!

-Gutter repair (let us know ahead of time if you are able to do this)
-Cutting down dead trees (does anyone have a chainsaw they can bring?)
-Heavy lifting in the chapel
-Fix stone pathway
-Painting the eaves

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Enjoy our summer/fall newsletter!

Enjoy our reflections from our pilgrimage to St. John Paul II's canonization, as well as what we have been up to and what is going on this fall at the monastery!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Fall Discernment Retreat opportunity for young women!

We are excited to announce our annual discernment retreat for young women:

"Arise, my beloved, my beautiful one, and come!” (Song of Songs 2:10).  Single Catholic women, ages 18-35, who would like to take a weekend to pray about a possible vocation to the monastic or religious life, are invited to inquire about attending our upcoming discernment retreat, Thurs., Oct. 30 – Sun., Nov. 2, 2014.  Come and experience our life of prayer, listen to talks on prayer and discernment, make use of the opportunity to get to know the nuns, and receive healing through the Mystery of Holy Repentance (Confession).  In addition to talks from the sisters, there will also be an exciting talk on discernment from Fr. Michael Lee - and we will be celebrating Mother Theodora's Feast Day!  If you are interested in this retreat, or a future retreat or discernment opportunity fill out our online Vocation Inquiry Form.  Space is limited for the retreat, so be sure to fill out the form by October 17.  Mother Theodora will call you to talk about availability.  If you have already filled out the form, simply call Mother Theodora.  With questions, call 440-834-0290 or email

Click here to view the brochure!

Click here to view pictures from last year's retreat!

Friday, September 5, 2014

The Girls' Camp article we promised!

Well, it's been a busy summer, so we're finally getting around to posting our article about our Girls' Camp in June.  This article was published in a recent issue of our eparchy's newspaper, Horizons.  We have seen some of the participants since the camp, and they are still glowing!

The knots of sin, separating the Girls’ Camp participants from God and from each other, were “unTangled” at the sixth annual Eparchy of Parma Girls’ Camp, June 26-29.  Coming from parishes in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, twenty teen girls camped out on the grounds of Christ the Bridegroom Monastery in Burton, Ohio.

Pulling spiritual lessons out of the recent Disney movie Tangled, the teen girls at this camp, hosted by the nuns of Christ the Bridegroom Monastery, learned about their “identity in Christ through Mary.”  Sr. Cecilia explained how St. Irenaeus described Mary as the new Eve, and how the knots of sin tied by Eve—when she listened to the lies of the devil instead of the truth of God’s love—were untied by Mary’s trust in God’s love and obedience to His word.  Sr. Cecilia gave each participant a prayer card with an icon of “Mary, Untangler of Knots,” the favorite Marian devotion of Pope Francis.

The girls also learned about their dignity in God’s eyes through a personal witness by young adult facilitator Sarah Fetsko of Holy Transfiguration Parish in Mentor, Ohio, and a talk by Patrick Schultz, a seminarian of the Diocese of Cleveland.

The camp, sponsored by the Office of Vocations, also beautifully portrayed the vocations of marriage and monastic life in talks by Ben and Alliree Zushin and dokimos (postulant) Jacqui of Christ the Bridegroom Monastery.  The exciting journey of discernment was shared in these talks and the discussions that followed.

The talks were interspersed with prayer and plenty of fun activities, including multiple impromptu games of soccer.  The girls bonded with each other through recreation, and they discovered that the nuns could be quite competitive too!  In small groups, the girls re-wrote the lyrics to a Disney song according to a spiritual truth they learned during the camp, and they performed these “music videos” on Saturday afternoon.

Saturday evening provided an extended opportunity for prayer and an invitation to place the tangled mess of sin before God through the mystery of holy repentance (confession).  After confession, said Scarlett Archuletta, “We all realized we love each other, and are the keeper of each other’s souls.”  Elizabeth Hartung was struck during the camp by “the feeling of unity with all the girls, like we were all together with the same goal.”

“I honestly think that this weekend I allowed my heart to open and allow God to come in,” said Macrina Bagay.  She also enjoyed “meeting all these amazing girls who share the same passion as me.”  Hartung said, “My experiences here finally gave me the courage to say ‘yes’.”

The camp closed with a joint Hierarchical Divine Liturgy with the boys’ camp participants and their families at the Shrine of Our Lady of Mariapoch, across the street from the monastery.  The campers and their families then enjoyed a lunch and awards program before saying “goodbye for now” to their new friends.

Thanks is due to St. Ann’s Ministry and St. George Men’s Group at St. Nicholas Church in Barberton for purchasing additional tents for the growing Boys’ and Girls’ Camps, and to the Ladies’ Auxiliary and the Men’s Club at St. Joseph Church in Brecksville for providing for a new scholarship fund.

Click here to view the full photo album!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

You're invited to our fall work day & cookout, September 27th!

Join us for a day of outdoor and indoor work projects, prayer, food and fun at the monastery on Saturday, September 27.  Volunteers of all ages and abilities are welcome!  The day begins at 10 a.m., includes lunch, and closes with vespers at 5 p.m. followed by a cookout.  Come at whatever time you are available, and bring a side dish to share if you can.  Please RSVP* by Tuesday, September 23, to 440-834-0290 or, so that the appropriate amount of food can be prepared.  Facebook Event

*Please RSVP with:
1. The number of adults (include teens) and the number of kids (12 and under) 
2. Will you be here for lunch and/or dinner?
3. The dish you plan to bring
Thank you!

Guys, lest you think this work day is just about raking leaves, here is a list of some of things we need you for!

-Gutter repair (let us know ahead of time if you are able to do this)
-Cutting down dead trees (does anyone have a chainsaw they can bring?)
-Heavy lifting in the chapel
-Fix stone pathway
-Painting the eaves

Monday, September 1, 2014

Pilgrim George: "Rejoice, O you who have borne the Guide of the Lost"

Happy New [Liturgical] Year!  Here's some inspiration to start your new year!

This is the talk Pilgrim George gave at the annual Eparchy of Parma pilgrimage at the Shrine of Our Lady of Mariapoch on August 17.  In this talk, Pilgrim George takes the examples of Bartimaeus (blind), Zacchaeus (up a tree), and Lazarus (dead in the tomb), to show us that we are all spiritually lost and in need of God.

"Jesus came to earth to show us how to worship, love & serve the we come together on pilgrimage to purify our hearts, to allow ourselves to make that total surrender of our lives to the Lord."

"Everything we do is meant to change OUR hearts--to be like the heart of that we are no longer blind."

Facebook page for the Shrine of Our Lady of Mariapoch

Friday, August 29, 2014

"Do not send me any more messengers..."

It is fitting that today, as we are only two days away from the end of the Byzantine liturgical year, we celebrate the feast of the Beheading of John the Baptist.  It is the end of the liturgical year...John's work is done...he now gives up his life and allows Jesus to take the leading role.  John has spent his life preparing himself and others for the revelation of the Messiah.  He has pointed Jesus out to the people of Israel.  They will no longer need any more prophets; they have now been given the Messiah, the Son of God, Himself!

In his Spiritual Canticle, St. John of the Cross writes of this longing to receive the fullness of God Himself:

Ah, who has the power to heal me? 
now wholly surrender yourself! 
Do not send me 
any more messengers, 
they cannot tell me what I must hear.

Jesus calls John the Baptist "the greatest born of woman," but even this greatest man to be born pales in comparison to the Son of God.  John is the "friend of the bridegroom"--the "best man," as we would say at a wedding today.  John says,
"He who has the bride is the bridegroom; the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice; therefore this joy of mine is now full.  He must increase, but I must decrease" (Jn 3:29-30).
Just as the "best man" isn't the one the guests come to see and honor, John cannot tell us what Jesus has come to tell us, but as he decreases he can point to Jesus.  As we come to the end of the liturgical year, what do we need to let go of--whether external or internal--in order to receive the Divine Life that God is offering us, so that everything about ourselves draws others to God?

In the monastery, at the start of the liturgical year we receive from Mother our "obediences"--our tasks, or chores--for the year.  Some of these obediences we enjoy and some are a struggle for us!  By trying to carry out these obediences faithfully and joyfully, we empty ourselves and allow God to fill us.

Let's all make an effort to let go of something at the end of this liturgical year, and at the start of the new year, September 1st, let's ask God to fill us with His love in a deeper, more complete way.

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