Saturday, July 30, 2016

Encountering God's Mercy at the Monastery

(Originally published in our spring newsletter)

By Eric Garris, Seminarian for the Diocese of Cleveland

Recently, Pope Francis released a new book entitled “The Name of God is Mercy” (which I highly recommend!) as part of his desire for the Church to celebrate this Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy.   In this interview the pope is asked the simple question, “What is mercy for you?”  Although the question itself was quite simple, the response given by the Holy Father was incredibly profound when he stated, “Mercy is the divine attitude which embraces, it is God giving himself to us, accepting us, and bowing to forgive […] mercy is God’s identity card.”  I sat with this line and let God speak to my heart as I prayerfully reflected on the words of Pope Francis.  I thought of how many times we as a Church cry out from the depths of our hearts asking for God to be merciful towards us; we repeatedly cry out as a Church community within the liturgy “Lord have mercy,” we chant Psalms in which we entreat God for mercy, and we pray in the silence of our hearts, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.”  These prayers for mercy vocalize our hearts’ desire to have God embrace us—embrace us in the midst of our brokenness, our sinfulness and our pains.

And while we certainly experience God’s mercy within the liturgy, personal prayer and the Sacraments/Holy Mysteries, I also believe that one of most profound ways that we experience the mercy of God is in others, in particular those who have experienced mercy in a profound way in their own lives.  As I read the line about God’s mercy being the divine attitude which embraces, I also thought of the people, the places and the groups/communities that have embraced me, have been merciful to me, and have taught me how to love and how to be merciful.  The women of Christ the Bridegroom Monastery have been incredibly merciful toward me; they have embraced me, they have taught me how to love, they have taught me how to be merciful, but most especially, they have allowed for me to encounter the mercy of God.

I have experienced mercy and have been embraced by the women of the community, and for this I give thanks to God.  Whether it be simply heading over to celebrate and pray Vespers with them, sitting around over coffee and sharing stories and laughs, enjoying a meal with them, or whatever it may be, I have indeed been embraced by these women.  But their embrace and their showing of mercy is not simply in what they have done for me, but in the very nature of who they are.  Just as mercy is “God’s identity card,” mercy is the identity of the women of Christ the Bridegroom Monastery.  The fruit of their spousal relationship with Christ and Christ’s Church is the love and mercy that they exude, and this love and mercy is infectious!  So too I have been able to experience the mercy of God through the monastery—in the poustinia, in the communal prayer and liturgy, and in the others whom I have been blessed to encounter through my association and friendship with the nuns.  

It is my prayer that the women of Christ the Bridegroom Monastery may continue to be icons of mercy, sharing with the world the love which is born between them and their Bridegroom, Christ Himself.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Mariapoch Pilgrimage & Teen Campout, Aug. 13-14

Join us Aug. 13-14, 2016, for the annual Eparchy of Parma pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Mariapoch in Burton, Ohio, to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the dedication of the shrine.  All are invited for a weekend of prayer and fellowship in honor of, and in supplication to, the Mother of God.  In celebration of the Year of Mercy, this year’s theme is, “Open Unto us the Doors of Mercy, O Blessed Theotokos.”  Come during the day or camp out overnight.  The weekend will culminate with a Hierarchical Divine Liturgy celebrated by Bishop John on Sunday at 3:30 p.m.  This year’s speaker is Fr. Boniface Hicks, OSB, from St. Vincent Archabbey in Latrobe, Pa.  For the full schedule and other information, click on the poster to the right, or visit  With questions, please contact Deacon Bill Fredrick at or 216-469-1425.

Teens: Teens wishing to participate in the chaperoned campout program must submit a release form and payment by July 29.  Click here to register.  With questions about the teen program, please contact the nuns of Christ the Bridegroom Monastery at or 440-834-0290.

Monday, July 18, 2016

July 3rd radio appearance

Fr. David Bline and Fr. Louis Thomas, of St. Francis de Sales parish in Akron, Ohio, invited Mother Cecilia and Mother Gabriella to join them on The Mercy Show on WAKR (a secular Akron station) for the July 3rd episode of the priests' weekly half-hour program. The topics on which they reflected included religious liberty, spiritual motherhood/fatherhood, and monastic life. Visit this link to listen!

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Girls' Camp Graces & Photos

Our 7th annual Girls' Camp was again a beautiful, grace-filled experience for the teen-girl participants and for us. We celebrated the Year of Mercy with our theme from Psalm 118: "His Mercy Endures Forever." A record number of girls (25) joined us June 23-26, to camp out on our property, pray many of the daily liturgical services with us, listen to talks on mercy and the vocations of marriage, single life and monastic life, participate in other activities, and experience God's mercy in a profound way through the Mystery of Holy Repentance (Confession).

The camp is an event sponsored by the Eparchy of Parma Office of Vocations and run by our monastery with the help of some young adult facilitators and two hard-working volunteer cooks!

Almost all of the girls named Confession as their favorite part of the weekend. One participant commented, "I also really enjoyed the talks because it was so amazing to hear how Christ worked in the lives of others."

The camp culminated with a Hierarchical Divine Liturgy celebrated by Bishop John Kudrick at the Shrine of Our Lady of Mariapoch (across the street from the monastery), at which the Boys' Camp participants and the families of the campers from both camps joined together. The Liturgy was followed by a lunch and awards program.

View more photos here

Here are a few other graces the girls shared with us and are willing to share with you:

"It has definitely brought me closer to God and Mary and all of the saints" (Cassidy Glasier).

"It really opened me up to Christ's mercy like I have never been opened before" (Veronica Perts).

"I grew so much in Jesus Christ this weekend: seeing His presence in everyone and even allowing my heart to be opened to Him and listening to what He has to say" (Macrina Bagay).

"I now love God more than before" (Hannah Olt).

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Thank you!

We would like to give a big thank-you to the priests and seminarians who coordinated a work day for us recently and worked incredibly hard to cut down some huge, dead trees on our property and cut them into firewood. They also began the construction of a platform behind the shed for our trailer.  We also had a blast helping and feeding the guys! Here are some additional photos from the day.

Another big, belated thank-you is due to Mother Gabriella's parents Rick Houck & Cathy McArdle for the gift of our shed, which has been so helpful with storing outdoor equipment!