Thursday, December 24, 2020

Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

"When the Creator saw the one whom He had created with his own hands perishing, He lowered the heavens and came down; He took upon himself human nature from the most holy and pure Virgin, truly becoming flesh; for this reason, we glorify Him" (Matins for the Feast of the Nativity, Canon, Ode 1).

Have a blessed feast of the Nativity of Our Lord!

With love,

The nuns of Christ the Bridegroom Monastery

Friday, December 18, 2020

The Way to the Father's House

The Apostle & Evangelist Matthew
A reflection and poem by Sr. Petra for the Sunday before Christmas:

This Sunday of the Ancestors of the Lord is given us to remind us that God deigns--nay, delights--to work through His creatures: so much so, that He chose to become a Man, complete with a lineage of flawed human forebearers. We should pay particular attention to the genealogy St. Matthew presents to us: it includes people with far-from-pristine pasts, stories riddled with suffering and sin. Tamar, wronged by her father-in-law Judah, connived to ensnare him in incest. Rahab (the mother of Boaz) was a harlot before she hid the Israelite spies who came to her city. Ruth was a Moabitess, a foreigner from an idolatrous people, yet she was the grandmother of Jesse and the great-grandmother of King David. Solomon, of course, was a fruit of the relationship between David and Bathsheba, which began in adultery and murder. In fact, some of these ancestors were so wicked that their names were blotted out of the Hebrew genealogies. Thus, Joram was not actually the father of Uzziah as Matthew writes in verse 8, but his great, great grandfather. Because Joram had married one of the idolatrous daughters of Jezebel, his family was under a curse! But the reality is that God chose to come from just such as these--and He still chooses to enter the world through our feeble humanity. Undaunted and undeterred by our sins and failures, He mercifully gathers them into His loving hands and works our good, and the salvation of the world. My spiritual father told me recently, "God loves, loves, LOVES to work through secondary causes. He would rather work through you than alone." This is the wonder of the Incarnation. This is the startling truth of our Faith: Despites our falls and failings, The Trinity works through us to open the way to the Father's House.

Tamar: Felix Culpa (Genesis 38)

[Felix Culpa means "Happy (or blessed) Fault"]

Wedded to one wicked

who was slain by the Lord,

given to his brother

who denied what was yours,

you returned a widow

to your father’s house.

You waited for the third

son of Judah to come

fulfill your desire

by giving you a son.

But the years stole your hope

in your father’s house.

Since you were forsaken

by your father-in-law,

you laid aside mourning,

his lustful seed to draw.

Draped in a harlot’s veil,

you left your father’s house.

By the road at Enaim

you sat and you waited.

He paid to come to you,

his urge to be sated.

By deceit you became

your father-in-law’s house.

After three months had passed,

it was told:  Judah learned

that you were with child.

He judged, “Let her be burned.”

Pregnant, you were led out

of your father’s house.

You sent him the tokens

he’d given you as pledge

of pay for using you

as you lay on the edge

of the road to Timnah,

beyond your father’s house.

Then Judah acknowledged

his sinful deeds with shame.

The life that you carried

would indeed share his name.

At last, you bore two sons

in their father’s house.

Tamar, woman bereft,

you stretched forth grasping hands

to seize your rightful fruit

and establish your land.

Yet through you came the way

to the Father’s House.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Livestreamed Services for the Nativity

In preparation for, and in celebration of, the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord, we will live stream the following services from our chapel. If your parish offers any of these services, we encourage you to pray with your parish community in person, if possible. To pray with us, visit our Facebook page and click on the currently-streaming video. You can also view the videos afterward. Links for the text for some of the services are provided in the schedule below. God bless you during these final days of preparation for the coming of Our Lord!

All Times Eastern Standard Time

Sunday, December 20

6:30 a.m.  The Jesus Prayer in silence

6:45-8:30 a.m.         Matins 

Monday, December 21

9:00-9:30 p.m.        Compline

Tuesday, December 22 

6:30 a.m.  The Jesus Prayer in silence

6:45-8:00 a.m.         Matins 

Wednesday, December 23

4:45 p.m.  The Jesus Prayer in silence

5:00-5:45 p.m.         Vespers

Thursday, December 24

6:30 a.m.  The Jesus Prayer in silence

6:45-8:00 a.m.         Matins 

9:30-10:30 a.m. 1st & 3rd Royal Hours 

Noon-1:00 p.m. 6th & 9th Royal Hours 

8:30-9:30 p.m. Great Compline (Here is the link for the propers)

Friday, December 25

7:00-8:30 a.m. Matins (Here is the link for the propers)

Thursday, December 10, 2020

From the Monastery Library: "Why Christmas Trees Aren't Perfect"

A children's book recommendation by Mother Cecilia:

Why Christmas Trees Aren't Perfect

I discovered this delightful children’s book, by Richard H. Schneider, at my parents’ house last year when I was visiting. The first time I read it, I cried. Then, I brought it back to the monastery to read to my sisters, and I cried again! The story takes place in “a small kingdom far beyond the Carpathian Mountains” where a young tree named Small Pine is striving to continue growing perfectly so that it might be chosen some day to be the Christmas tree in the great hall of the queen. But what happens that winter to Small Pine will forever change the way that evergreen trees grow. And, it might change your heart too!  

Thursday, November 19, 2020

"To hold the fire in your hand": St. Barlaam of Antioch

St. Barlaam of Antioch (d. 304): Feast day – November 19

By Sister Petra

My first year in the monastery, when I heard the story of St. Barlaam of Antioch read in our chapel before Vespers, I was captivated—tears came to my eyes, and a sense of exultation lifted my heart.  I re-read his story after the service, and began asking for his prayers from that day. Every year since then, I’m more deeply moved by this martyr and father in the Faith. And I’m realizing that, like me, most people have never heard of him.

His story begins in a fashion typical of the early martyrs; he stands out only for his age: Barlaam an old man, in his 90s. During the persecution of the Emperor Diocletian in 304, he was dragged before the governor and urged to cast incense before the pagan gods of the empire. Of course, he refused, so his captors devised a way to mock the elder: They placed burning coals and grains of incense in his hand, certain he would drop the embers, thereby allowing them to deride him by saying that he did, after all, cast incense before the gods. Instead, Barlaam responded with the stillness of faith: holding the burning coals in his hand, he stood unyielding as his hand burned away. Some accounts say he then rendered his spirit to the Lord, others that the governor, enraged, killed him. Either way, this martyr’s love was tried by fire and proved worthy.

St. Barlaam has a special significance for me in my vocation. He is an emblem of the faith and trust required to remain in the purifying fire of monastic life. He offers me an image of celibate love: to hold the fire in your hand in faithfulness, and to refuse to drop the fire under the pressure of our society. But, most of all, a line from a homily of St. John Chrysostom pierces my heart with the meaning of this saint’s sacrifice: He “was both the altar and the priest and the sacrifice.”  We—all of us, not only monastics—are called to offer as priests the sacrifice of our very selves on the altar of our bodies.  

Telling my spiritual father about this saint one day last year, I burst out, “It’s impossible—impossible! Nobody could do that! Nobody! Yet—he did!!!” By the power of the Holy Spirit burning in him, St. Barlaam scorned the enemy’s fire and entrusted himself, body and soul, to the Lover of Mankind. May each of us allow the same Spirit to consume us, that we, too, may be radiant torches testifying to the luminous reality of Divine Love.  

Note on this icon: This past summer, my friend Mother Pelahia worked with me on this icon of St. Barlaam of Antioch.  

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Thank you for your amazing generosity!

We are thrilled to announce that a total of $96,018 was donated for our Virtual Bridegroom's Banquet! We are incredibly grateful, and amazed that such an amount was raised even though we were not able to hold an in-person event! 

Other than a couple of brief drops in the internet during the live-streaming of Vespers, all the technology worked well on the night of the event. The pre-recorded event video, which premiered after Vespers, is still available for viewing. You can also watch the video "Bethany: Supporting Spiritual Fatherhood" separately.

We are really close to reaching the maximum $100,000 matching funds! There are still a few mail-in ballots (oops, we mean donations) coming in, but we're not sure how much the total of those will be. The matching donor has extended the match until the end of the year, so if you missed the chance to make a matching donation by the day of the banquet, you can still send one in or donate online (choose "Bridegroom's Banquet 2020" as the fund in step 4). Thank you so much!

We are deeply grateful for your financial and spiritual support, which makes it possible for us to live our life of prayer and hospitality. We are praying for you and your intentions, and we hope that our life here is a gift and help to you in your life.

Your support also makes possible our upcoming chapel renovation project. On Monday, we had a meeting with the engineers who will be working on the specs. We are getting excited! There is a lot of work ahead of us in getting quotes, making decisions, etc., but your generosity is making the project possible! We hope that many of you will be able to pray with us in our renovated chapel in the coming years. 

God bless you all!

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Today is our Virtual Bridegroom's Banquet!

Event Schedule

Event Program Booklet: includes the text and music for Vespers, as well as all needed links for the event

All times Eastern Standard Time

4:45 p.m. Live-streamed Jesus Prayer in silence from our chapel

5:00 p.m. Live-streamed Vespers (Evening Prayer) from our chapel,

followed by a live greeting from the nuns

Location: Our Facebook Page (click on the live video)

                (You do not need a Facebook account to view)


6:00 p.m. Pre-Recorded Program

Location: Video on our YouTube Channel (or click on video below)

  • Introduction by Mother Gabriella

  • Invocation by Fr. Michael McCandless, Vocation Director for the Diocese of Cleveland

  • Premier of the video “Bethany: Supporting Spiritual Fatherhood”

  • Remarks by Fr. Michael McCandless

  • Opportunity to donate

  • Thank you from Mother Theodora, Hegumena 

Visit the Event Page for more information. Thank you for all of your love and support!

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Why-We-Give Wednesday

Enjoy this week of fun activities on our Facebook page leading up to our Virtual Bridegroom's Banquet this Sat. Nov. 7! Earlier today, for "Why-We-Give Wednesday," we read messages from three of our biggest benefactors on a live-streamed video. We also share them with you below. We are so grateful to these benefactors for their beautiful words, which will encourage us to persevere. And we are so grateful to all of our benefactors, and to those who cannot give in a material way but who pray with and for us.

The Virtual Bridegroom's Banquet is our online benefit event that includes live-streamed Vespers, the premier of our new video: "Bethany: Supporting Spiritual Fatherhood," and a chance for your donation to be doubled! Please visit the event page for more information.


We support Christ the Bridegroom Monastery because we all need this community of faithful prayer to continue and grow. The world needs to see that not all nuns are stern and forbidding, or solemn and sorrowful. These brides of Christ are joyful, loving and full of fun. They make it clear that, like Christ, they love you with all your faults and failings. You know this for sure when they hug you. Their poustinias provide a refuge for people to be alone and encounter God. Their hospitality is unbounded. They have nothing but what they are given, but they take that gift, bless it, and multiply it for a starving world.


There are very few places in this busy world where we can go find silence.  And even in those places of silence, fewer still are those that are specifically created to bring the silence of listening to the voice of God.  Christ the Bridegroom Monastery is one of those places.  I suspect that each person who has had the wonderful opportunity of spending time at the Monastery will have a story of meeting God in silence.  And finding that same peace in some way reflected in the nuns of Christ the Bridegroom Monastery.  My story is simply one of many. 

 I believe that God is working here, at the monastery, in ways that are distinct.  And powerful.  I believe that God has created this place of silence as a refuge from the world of distractions that we have created around us.  This monastery is not a “nice to have” – it is critically imperative for the sustainment of the Christianity that has been passed down to us by our Holy Fathers.  I believe that it was for this reason the Desert Fathers left the comforts of the cities to enter the desert.  To secure the Christianity that flourishes in quiet and sacrifice.  To experience God’s grace rather than just our personal comfort.

 It is a privilege for me to support Christ the Bridegroom Monastery.  I am thankful to God for the role that the nuns play in my life.  I am hopeful that we will have a long and Christ-filled relationship for many years to come!


It is no coincidence that God has given us a beautiful gift to increase and enrich our spirituality, but one that is also dependent on us to sustain it.  Christ the Bridegroom Monastery has had an enormous impact on the spiritual development of many parishioners, priests, seminarians and religious, both in the Roman Catholic Church as well as the Byzantine Church, throughout the United States and Canada.  To sustain themselves they are totally dependent on the gracious financial contributions of those around them.

There is another reason we support the Monastery.  It is impossible not to fall in love with these nuns.  There is something about them, their pure hearts, their kindness, their joy, their selflessness, and their love for God and His people.  We can’t get them to say an unkind remark about anyone, even a politician, even after drinking a bit of scotch (and the Lord knows I’ve tried).  They see the goodness in people, that part of us that is made in the image and likeness of God.  They are patient with our failings and faults, like a mother with her child.

Finally, there is one more thing we should notice about this Monastery.  Haven’t you wondered how someone could pray for 5 or 6 hours a day or more.  Recently a missionary priest explained to me that prayer is a grace we receive from God.  We need to pray for this, and God will give us the grace to pray as we should.  Christ the Bridegroom Monastery is a powerful witness to that spirituality and the impact it can have on a world in desperate need of the graces extending from it.  Bishop Robert Barron in his Catholicism series, points out how Hur and Aaron supporting Moses’ arms as he prays over the battle between the Israelites and Amalekites, is a beautiful depiction of the Church.  Like Hur and Aaron, we laity play an essential part in God’s plan by supporting these nuns so they are able to pray for our salvation.

Monday, November 2, 2020

Meet-the-Nuns Monday

Enjoy this week of fun activities on our Facebook page leading up to our Virtual Bridegroom's Banquet this Sat. Nov. 7! Today's posts for "Meet-the-Nuns Monday" are compiled below. The Virtual Bridegroom's Banquet is our online benefit event that includes live-streamed Vespers, the premier of our new video: "Bethany: Supporting Spiritual Fatherhood," and a chance for your donation to be doubled! Please visit the event page for more information.

Mother Theodora

Patron saint: Blessed Theodore Romzha

Feast day: October 31

A few of my saint friends: St. John Paul II, St. Mary Magdalene, St. Augustine, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Elizabeth the New Martyr, St. Martha of Bethany, St. Mary of Egypt, St. Symeon the New Theologian

Interests: Sacred Scripture, Iconography, Gardening, Canning, Painting, Cooking, Sewing

One of my favorite quotes: "I belong to my Lover, and for me He yearns." Song of Songs 7:11

An Interesting fact: I used to teach ballroom dancing.

Where I grew up: Niles, Ohio

Mother Cecilia

Patron saint: St. Cecilia, virgin-martyr of Rome

Feast day: Nov. 22

A few of my saint friends: St. Elizabeth of the Trinity, St. Thérèse of Lisieux, St. John the Baptist, St. John of the Cross, St. Anthony of the Desert, St. Porphyrios of Kafsokalivia, St. Mary of Bethany, St. John Paul II

Interests: Prayer, silence, nature, taking walks with Jesus, writing poetry, painting icons, watercolors, camping, skiing, photography, saints, spiritual motherhood, adventures.

One of my favorite quotes: (A story from the desert fathers) Abba Lot came to Abba Joseph and said: “Father, according as I am able, I keep my little rule, and my little fast, my prayer, meditation and contemplative silence; and, according as I am able, I strive to cleanse my heart of thoughts: now what more should I do?” The elder rose up in reply and stretched out his hands to heaven, and his fingers became like ten lamps of fire. He said: “Why not become fire?”

An interesting fact: So far, I am the only nun in the monastery named after a female saint!

Where I grew up: North Royalton, Ohio (near Cleveland)

Mother Gabriella

Patron saint: St. Gabriel the Archangel

Feast day: July 13 - Synaxis of St. Gabriel

A few of my saint friends: St. Dorotheos of Gaza, St. Francis de Sales, St. Jane Frances de Chantal, St. Teresa of Avila, Servant of God Catherine Doherty, Servant of God Walter Ciszek, Servant of God Fulton Sheen

Interests: Hiking, kayaking, reading, painting icons, The Awkward Yeti, Calvin and Hobbes, hugs, watching sports, people!

One of my favorite quotes: Relying on God has to begin again everyday as if nothing had yet been done. -C.S. Lewis

An interesting fact: I was at St. John Paul II's beatification AND canonization! 

Where I grew up: New Franklin, Ohio (near Akron, Ohio)

Mother Iliana

Patron saint: St. Elias (aka the prophet can read about him in lots of places in the Bible)

Feast day: July 20

A few of my saint friends: St. Thérèse of Lisieux, St. Teresa of Calcutta, St. Pio of Pietrelcina, St. Philip Neri, St. John the Beloved, St. Peter the Apostle, Hosea the Prophet, St. Michael the Archangel, because each of these saints has touched my life in a very particular way and drawn me to receive the Father's love.

Interests: Ask any of the nuns and they'll tell you, I have a lot of "favorites!" That means, I also have a lot of interests (which are my favorites). I'm interested in all things beautiful and have loved art since before I can remember. I love drawing, watercolor, and painting icons, or going to the art museum to see everything (with a soft spot for French Impressionism). Baby faces, fall leaves, and sunsets cause me physical pain (because they are beautiful). I'm also always interested in eating ice cream and talking about prayer, saints’ lives, and funny stories. I love swimming, braiding hair, and watching movies or documentaries. I love to be outside whenever possible, especially hiking in the woods, and to laugh. I also love reading lots of books especially ones by Michael D.O'Brien and Elizabeth Goudge)! I should probably stop now, as I've only listed about the first 0.005% of my favorite things.

One of my favorite quotes: Some monks came to see Abba Poemen and said to him: "Tell us, when we see brothers dozing during the sacred office, should we pinch them so they will stay awake?" The old man said to them: "Actually, if I saw a brother sleeping, I would put his head on my knees and let him rest."

An interesting fact: When I was a kid I would watch a Mother Teresa of Calcutta documentary (the 1986 one narrated by Sir Richard Attenborough) religiously (pun intended), probably hundreds of times. I'm not sure, I just remember being obsessed. I was drawn to her love for God in a powerful way and I remember aching for His love when I watched. In 1996, when I was just a teen, I had the chance to meet Mother Teresa. I happened to be at the right place and right time and she held my hands and spoke with me. I'm completely convinced that she's praying for me in my vocation today.

Where I grew up: Silver Spring, MD

Sister Natalia

Patron saint: St. Nathanael (Bartholomew) the apostle

Feast day: June 11 in the east, August 24 in the west

A few of my saint friends: St. Photina, St. Mary of Egypt, Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassatti, Bl. Bishop Theodore Romzha, St. Mary Magdalene, St. Ephraim, St. Nicholas

Interests: Reading, Hiking (especially 14ers), Climbing trees (or anything, really), Watching Star Trek

One of my favorite quotes: "God is not a deceiver, that he should offer to support us, and then, when we lean upon him, should slip away from us." -St. Augustine

An interesting fact: I lived in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba for two years!

Where I grew up: I've moved over twenty times, but my last (and favorite) residence before entering the monastery was Colorado. 

Sister Petra

Patron saint:  St. Peter the Apostle

Feast day:  St. Peter in Chains (January 16)

A few of my saint friends:  St. John Henry Newman, St. Thomas More, Julian of Norwich, St. Elizabeth of the Trinity, St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, St. Joseph, St. Barlaam of Antioch.

Interests: Reading, Gospel Nonviolence, the Inklings, England, hiking and biking

One of my favorite quotes:  "Therefore I will trust Him.  Whatever, wherever I am, I can never be thrown away.  If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him; in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him; if I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him.  My sickness, or perplexity, or sorrow may be necessary causes of some great end, which is quite beyond us.  He does nothing in vain; He may prolong my life, He may shorten it; He knows what He is about.  He may take away my friends, He may throw me among strangers, He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide the future from me--still He knows what He is about." (St. John Henry Newman)

An interesting fact:  Raised Wesleyan, I was received into the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil in 2009.  Since then, I have made four pilgrimages:  an Inklings pilgrimage to Oxford, England; a Flannery O'Connor pilgrimage to Milledgeville, Georgia; a St. Joseph pilgrimage to L'Oratoire de Saint-Joseph du Mont Royal in Montreal; and a Holy Land pilgrimage with all the nuns.  Before I die, I hope to make pilgrimages to see the tilma of the Virgin of Guadalupe, pray at the shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham in England, and walk the Camino de Santiago.

Where I grew up: Indiana

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Virtual Bridegroom's Banquet week is coming!

Next week is banquet week! We encourage you to register for our Virtual Bridegroom's Banquet, Saturday, November 7. In thanksgiving, everyone who registers will be remembered in the Divine Liturgy at the monastery once each month during the coming year. Donations given the day of the event, or before, will be doubled! 

We also invite you to join us for our pre-event activities on our Facebook page. Enjoy!

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Mother Gabriella a host on new podcast


Mother Gabriella is one of several people from the Cleveland area who take turns hosting a new podcast sponsored by the Diocese of Cleveland Vocation Office, called "Created & Called." The podcast seeks to encourage a culture of vocations through the sharing of stories. Learn more about the joys and struggles of the journey to priesthood, consecrated religious life, marriage, diaconate, and single life from those who have lived it!

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Register by Oct. 25 for a small gift from us!


We hope you can join us for our Virtual Bridegroom's Banquet on Saturday, November 7! We encourage you to register by Sunday, October 25, so that we can send you a reminder postcard and a small gift! Since we can't be with you in person, we are enjoying sending our love in the mail.

We have also been sending every 20th registrant an additional gift in the mail. We've been having fun sending different gifts, such as chotki or a pack of notecards. Here are the recipients so far:

Suzette from Colorado

Katherine Marie from Ohio

Hope from Florida

Matt, Alyssa & family from Ohio

Angela from Manitoba, Canada

Monday, October 19, 2020

Day of Prayer and Fasting for Priests, Oct. 23

In gratitude for the gift of the priesthood and for all the suffering that priests endure for us, let's increase our prayer and fasting for them! The Evil One launches frequent, powerful attacks upon our priests because they are the visible witnesses and leaders for us, called to draw us to God and to provide for us with the Holy Mysteries (Sacraments). The Devil knows that if they are led away from God's will, the rest of the Body of Christ will fall more easily too. We need to pray and fast for them, supporting them in their struggles to resist these attacks of the Evil One and to grow in holiness. 

Join us for a day of prayer and fasting for priests this Friday, October 23, the feast of St. James the Brother of Our Lord and First Bishop of Jerusalem. The event is organized by AM 1260 The Rock (the Catholic radio station in the Cleveland area). Our chapel is one of the participating locations of prayer. You are welcome to pray in our chapel at any time throughout the day and/or join us for any of our services today (listed below). We also encourage you to join us in praying and fasting at home and at work throughout the day, as well as in the future! In our monastery, we especially pray and fast for priests on Wednesdays and Fridays (as well as for other members of the clergy and those in formation). 

Friday, October 23

Chapel open all day for prayer

Noon: Roman Catholic Mass followed by our prayer for priests (we pray this prayer and read aloud the names of hundreds of clergy and seminarians every Wed. & Fri.)

4:45 p.m.: The Jesus Prayer in silence

5:00 p.m.: Vespers (Evening Prayer)

9:00 p.m.: Compline (Night Prayer)

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Chapel waterproofing project complete

We are so grateful for all of the support that made this big project possible! Last month, the entire perimeter of the exterior walls of chapel basement was waterproofed, as well as the connected guest house/poustinia (St. Photina), and the land in front of the chapel was graded for proper water drainage. Here is a link to some photos. The buildings are much drier! Now we can remove the mold in the basement and continue planning the interior renovations of the chapel! 

The project was largely funded by donations from last year's Bridegroom's Banquet, our annual benefit event. Please help us to make our next project (the interior renovations) a reality by participating in our Virtual Bridegroom's Banquet, Nov. 7! This is a great opportunity for your donation to be doubled! Thank you so much for all of your prayers and support. May everything glorify God!

Monday, October 12, 2020

Mother Gabriella to speak at Cleveland Catholic Women's Conference


Mother Gabriella is one of three speakers at the Cleveland Catholic Women's Conference this Saturday, October 17. The conference is a live-streamed online event that includes Mass celebrated by the new bishop of the Diocese of Cleveland, talks, interactive small group discussions, and praise & worship. The talks will be available to all who register, even after the day of the event. 

Also, Mother Gabriella was recently interviewed by Brooke Taylor for her podcast, "The Brooke Taylor Show." The interview aired last week on AM 1260 The Rock in the Cleveland area. Anyone can listen to the interview here!

Monday, October 5, 2020

Registration now open for our Virtual Bridegroom's Banquet, Nov. 7!

Dear friends,

Given the craziness of this year, it can bring a bit of serenity to know that some things are continuing ahead like they do every year – though with the typical COVID twist! We are glad to announce that even though we cannot meet in person, we are planning to make our annual Bridegroom’s Banquet a virtual event. We are very sad not to be with you and hug you! But we are with you in spirit, praying for you and holding you in our hearts. Despite the change, we are working hard to maintain many of the same aspects from previous years. The banquet will be held on Nov. 7 as a finale to a week of special virtual activities for everyone on our Facebook page. We invite you to join us as we live-stream Vespers (Evening Prayer) from our chapel and continue the evening with a prerecorded virtual program, including this year’s video, about spiritual fatherhood. We encourage everyone to register beforehand for the event. Everyone who registers before Oct. 25 will receive a small gift from us in the mail, and every 20th person who registers will receive an additional gift from us! Also, everyone who registers will be remembered once a month during Divine Liturgy at the monastery for the coming year. 

The event is absolutely free to all who participate, but we encourage each person to seek to understand what God may desire for him or her to give for the benefit of all those who experience the Bridegroom through our ministry at the monastery.

We continue to be blessed with a matching funds opportunity so that each person’s donation will be doubled, up to a total of $100,000! Those who are unable to attend can still make a donation that will be doubled. Please visit the event page for more information and to register.

Thank you for all of your prayers and support! Know of our frequent prayers for you! 

In the love of the Bridegroom,

Your Nuns
Christ the Bridegroom Monastery

Monday, September 7, 2020

52-mile Bicycle Pilgrimage

Last week, Fr. David Stavarz, parochial vicar at St. Gabriel Catholic Church in Concord Township, Ohio, made a 52-mile round trip pilgrimage to the monastery with his bicycle to pick up and bring home the icon he commissioned. The icon he requested was Padre Pio, the name he chose as his "priesthood name" which he added on to his name at his ordination to the priesthood last year in June.

Fr. David joined us for 6th Hour in the chapel at noon, lunch, and some conversation before wrapping up his icon carefully in a towel and heading back to his church, carrying the icon in his backpack. Fr. David said he looks forward to growing in his relationship with Padre Pio through this icon. May God bless him and his ministry!

Correction from original post: The original post said that the icon was by the hand of Mother Iliana, but the icon was actually by the hand of Mother Pelahia, a nun from Ukraine who was living with us for several months. Please forgive me (Mother Cecilia)--I wasn't here when it was painted and I got confused!

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Rest in Your Heart's Foundation

Are you feeling a bit lost, uprooted, unsettled or divided lately? Take a minute to read (and then pray about) this reflection from the book, "This is the Day the Lord Has Made: 365 Daily Meditations," by Fr. Wilfrid Stinissen, O.C.D. (Aug. 17 meditation):

Rest in Your Heart's Foundation

"The depth of the human heart can't be measured. Its very nature is infinite, as it is rooted in the infinity of God. Your life has full meaning only if you try to discover the depth of your heart, the center of your being.

Ephraim the Syrian (306-373) says that when God created us, he put all of heaven in the depths of our hearts. Our task is to dig sufficiently deep to discover the hidden treasure we carry.

God can only be found if you search for the secret room in the depths of your being. If you dig deep into yourself, you will find the gate to the reign of God, and God Himself will stand at the gate and wait for you. The best way to dig is by daily reserving time for interior prayer.

When you have finally found your heart, you need to try to remain in it, live in it. This is not easy. The various tasks in life often force us to live with our attention far from our heart. But if you are rooted in your center, it doesn't need to be divisive to use the mind and the attention to do what the tasks of the day demand. Your heart is the foundation upon which all of your interior and exterior abilities rest, and, in the midst of all these external preoccupations, your heart can be rooted in God's infinity and silence."

Friday, August 14, 2020

Happy Feast of the Dormition!

Happy Feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God! The Divine Liturgy propers from the Metropolitan Cantor Institute share the following tradition about this feast: 

"Tradition relates that the Mother of God died in Jerusalem, after a visit with all of Christ’s apostles. They carried her coffin to the Garden of Gethsemane where it was placed into a tomb. The apostle Thomas came late, and asked that the tomb might be opened so that he could reverence her body. When opened, the tomb was found empty except for the winding sheet."

Mother Cecilia wrote the following poem on her recent 30-day retreat, and would like to share it with you for this feast. Enjoy!


July 3, 2020 – Roman Catholic feast of the Apostle Thomas



perhaps it wasn’t your fault

that Jesus came that evening you were away,

stepping through the locked door,

making tremble the hearts of the apostles

as He pierced them with His Holy Spirit

and peace.



you traveled the farthest

of any of these apostles,

having been expanded by doubt and longing,

seeing and touching fire;

your humiliation compelled you

to love.



what grief did you feel

when you arrived late for our Mother’s Dormition?

The angels flew each apostle to her side,

yet you alone they carried slowly.

It was your tears that opened for us her empty tomb

and our hope.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Poem for the Feast of the Apostle Matthias

Sometimes in the Byzantine Tradition we celebrate many things at once. It makes setting up for the services rather complicated, because the liturgical typikon (instruction manual for the daily liturgical services) prescribes that we pray particular sections of the texts for each of the things we are celebrating, but it is a joy to celebrate them all! Today is the 10th Sunday after Pentecost, so we celebrate the Resurrection with joy as we do every Sunday, and it falls during the post-festive period of the Transfiguration, so we continue to celebrate this great feast, and it is the feast of the Apostle Matthias! In honor of St. Matthias, here is a poem written by Sr. Natalia. Enjoy!

Fear of Being Chosen

O Matthias, what did you think,

what did you feel,

when you were beckoned forward?

Did your heart race at the idea

of joining ranks with those eleven?

Eleven different types of broken,

all seeking to be whole.

Did you fear the possibility

of secret brokenness revealed?

And did you also feel

the thrill of sure adventure,

after having seen the ups and downs

of the men whose eyes were now on you?

You’d seen their pain, their dying,

and in your heart felt a pull.

One thing you must have known,

known without a doubt:

being witness to the resurrection

would mean a life of miracles.

And when you heard your name called out,

and reality sunk in,

did you feel that joyful pain of knowing

that all now know that you are His?

Did your thoughts bounce back and forth

between death and resurrection?

And did you steal one more glance

at Joseph Barsabbas

and wonder, “Why not him?”

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Save the Date for the Bridegroom's Banquet

Update: The in-person event has been canceled, but we will hold an online event. More information coming soon!

Save the date for our annual benefit dinner, the “Bridegroom’s Banquet,” on Saturday, November 7, at a new location: St. Elias Melkite Catholic Church in Cleveland. There is no cost to attend the dinner, but registration is required (by October 26). Adults 21 and older may attend. Enjoy a buffet dinner, entertainment, and an evening with us and our guests. Learn more about and support our life of prayer and hospitality. Donations given at the event or designated ahead of time will be doubled by matching donors! If an in-person event is not possible, a live online event may be held. More information and registration will be available in August.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Happy Father's Day!

Happy Father's Day to all biological and spiritual fathers! Thank you for your fatherly love, in calm times and in crisis. Thank you for your strong and tender care and for being an image of the Father's love for us!

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Spring/Summer Newsletter

We hope you enjoy the new issue of our newsletter, Pomegranate Blossoms. This issue shares the fruits of our reflection on the current pandemic situation, in the ways that it has affected the Church and as it has personally affected some of the nuns. We share photos that we received from families who benefited from our "Holy Week and Pascha in the Domestic Church" guide, ideas and resources for praying at home, book recommendations and personal reflections.
We hope you'll take some time to read it! God bless you!

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

New podcast begins with Sr. Natalia and Fr. Michael O'Loughlin

Sr. Natalia is the co-host of a new podcast that aired for the first time today, called "What God is Not."  Her co-host is Fr. Michael O'Loughlin, pastor of the Proto-Cathedral of St. Mary Byzantine Catholic Church in Sherman Oaks, California, who formerly participated in the popular Catholic podcast "Catholic Stuff You Should Know," while he was pastor of Holy Protection Byzantine Catholic Church in Denver. Fr. Michael introduced many Roman Catholics to Eastern Catholicism on the "Catholic Stuff" podcast, and now he and Sr. Natalia have begun their own Byzantine podcast, with a conversational style. 

The title is a reference to apophatic theology, which is often used in the Eastern Churches to talk about God by saying what He is not rather than trying to use our limited language and understanding to define what He actually is. For example, words such as "immeasurable" and "incomprehensible" are used in the Liturgy. We hope you enjoy the podcast!

Monday, June 1, 2020

Boys & Girls Camps Canceled

Sadly, we need to let you know that the Eparchy of Parma Boys and Girls Camps for the summer of 2020 have been canceled due to the pandemic. An online talk and discussion for teen girls may be scheduled for later in the summer. Check back here or visit for updates. Our hearts go out to all of the teens who had hoped to participate. We love you and we're praying for you! God is with you!

Monday, May 25, 2020

Preparing for Pentecost

In the spirit of our "Holy Week & Pascha for the Domestic Church" guide, here are some ideas for celebrating the great feast of Pentecost in your domestic church! Even though many of you may now be able to return to celebrating the Divine Liturgy and other services at your parish, there are still plenty of things that you can also do at home to incorporate the celebration of the feast into your daily life and therefore to enjoy a richer experience that permeates your whole being! Isn't that the gift of the Holy Spirit?--to be "everywhere present and filling all things!" May the Holy Spirit fill you with joy!


  • The color used in the Byzantine Tradition for Pentecost is green, the color of new life. Cut some greenery from your yard and decorate your icon corner, or even your dining room and/or other places in your home. Let these leaves remind you of the abundance of life that the Lord wishes to give us in Him, beginning now and continuing into eternity. Keep the decorations until the Saturday following Pentecost.


  • This Saturday evening, if Vespers is not offered at your parish or if you are unable to attend, pray a portion of Vespers, including the Old Testament readings, in your icon corner.  Great Vespers Booklet      Propers for Pentecost
  • On Sunday morning, attend Divine Liturgy at your parish OR pray along with a live-streamed Liturgy OR pray Typika in your icon corner.   Typika Service       Propers for Pentecost
  • On Sunday evening, pray one or more of the Kneeling Prayers (p. 17, 20 & 24), while kneeling in your icon corner. During the Paschal season, we do not kneel (in celebration of the Resurrection), but on the evening of Pentecost we may kneel again as we humbly welcome the gift of the Holy Spirit and enter back into a greater asceticism because we haven't reached our own final resurrection yet!

In addition to the above:

  • Pray the full Vespers service with propers for Pentecost.
  • On Sunday morning, pray Pentecost Matins, or a portion of Matins, before Divine Liturgy or Typika.   Matins Service       Propers for Pentecost (much of the music is difficult, so feel free to straight chant or recite)
  • You may also continue to use the propers for Vespers and Matins for your prayer during the whole week.
See our Holy Week & Pascha guide for more information and tips about praying at home.

  • Each day this week, in addition to your daily routine of prayer, sing the Pentecost Troparion (Divine Liturgy propers p. 2) to begin your prayer before meals. The Feast of Pentecost continues until Saturday afternoon. 
  • Another hymn we can sing again (we refrain from singing it during the Paschal season and Ascension in anticipation of Pentecost), is Heavenly King (Divine Liturgy propers p. 1). It is good to begin our daily prayers with this prayer to the Holy Spirit, because we can't pray without the action of the Holy Spirit within us!
  • Get creative! Here is a fun idea for some cookies to make to remind you of the powerful fire of the Holy Spirit who inflames our hearts with love for God and each other! They are sugar cookies made with a heart-shaped cookie cutter, cut in half. Make yellow and red frosting and blend together in the middle of the cookie.
  • Share photos of your celebration of Pentecost with others, or tell other families/couples/individuals about your feast. If you are on Facebook, share photos on the Facebook group The Domestic Church, Byz-y at Prayer.
Learn More!
  • Visit God With Us Online to learn more about the Sundays, feast days and prayer of our Church.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

The gift of monastics during the pandemic

Below is a beautiful letter by a bishop in Italy to monastics (in particular, fully cloistered ones) during this pandemic time. In actuality, it is a letter to everyone, pointing out the profound and timely lessons that monastics can teach us by the witness of their lives.

Before we get to the letter, here is a link to some videos and other resources for the Sunday of the Man Born Blind, and here is a quote from the liturgical typikon arranged by Fr. David Petras:
"Jesus anointed the eyes of the Man Born Blind, and he was enlightened, professing Jesus to be his Lord. He is an image of our baptisms, when we are enlightened out of darkness by the anointing of the chrism of the Holy Spirit. We remember the salvation of the Man Born Blind and our own enlightenment as we close the Feast of the glorious Resurrection of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ."

A letter by Bishop Aiello of Avellino:

Monastics’ gift to Italy

Letter to the nuns and monks:

We turn to you, sisters and brother monks, to ask for your prayers, to support your raised arms, like those of Moses on the mountain, in this time of particular danger and unease for our communities: by your persistent prayerful intercession, we acquire resilience and future victory.

You are the only ones who do not move a facial muscle in the face of the rain of decrees and restrictive measures that rain on us these days because what we are asked for, for some time you have always done it and what we suffer you have chosen.

Teach us the art of being content living  with nothing, in a small space, without going out, yet engaged in internal journeys that do not need planes and trains.

“Give us your oil” to understand that the spirit cannot be imprisoned, and the narrower the space, the wider the skies open.

Reassure us that you can live even for a short time and be joyful, remember that poverty is the unavoidable condition of every being because, as Don Primo Mazzolari said, “being a man is enough to be a poor man”.

Give us back the ability to savor the little things you who smile of a blooming lilac at the cell window and greet a swallow that comes to say that spring has come, you who are moved by a pain and still exulted by the miracle of the bread that is baked in the oven.

Tell us that it is possible to be together without being crowded together, to correspond from afar, to kiss without touching each other, to touch each other with the caress of a look or a smile, or simply … a gaze at each other.

Remind us that a word is important if it is reflected upon, ruminated within the heart for a period of time, leavened in the soul’s recesses, seen blooming on the lips of another, called a low voice, not shouted or cutting because of hurt.

But, even more, teach us the art of silence, of the light that rests on the windowsill, of the sun rising “as a bridegroom coming out of the bridal room” or setting “in the sky that tinges with fire”, of the quiet of the evening, of the candle lit that casts shadows on the walls of the choir.

Tell us that it is possible to wait for a hug even for a lifetime because “there is a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embraces,” says Qoelet. President Conte said that at the end of this time of danger and restrictions we will still embrace each other in the feast, for you there are still twenty, thirty, forty years to wait …

Educate us to do things slowly, solemnly, without haste, paying attention to details because every day is a miracle, every meeting a gift, every step a step in the throne room, the movement of a dance or a symphony.

Whisper to us that it is important to wait, postpone a kiss, a gift, a caress, a word, because waiting for a feast increases its brilliance and “the best is yet to come”.

Help us understand that an accident can be a grace and a sorrow can hide a gift, a departure can increase affection and a distance that can finally lead us to encounter and communion.

To you, teachers and masters of the hidden and happy life, we entrust our uneasiness, our fears, our remorse, our missed appointments with God who always awaits us, you take everything in your prayer and give it back to us in joy, in a bouquet of flowers and peaceful days. Amen.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Reflections for the Sunday of the Samaritan Woman

Enjoy these two reflections:

2. Reflection from Sr. Petra:

You ask her for a drink—not because You need anything from her (even in Your humanity:  presumably Your disciples would soon return with drink, as well as food)—in order to open the dialogue between you, to gently entice her heart to open to Yours.  You are here initiating

She responds to Your request for a drink with some bewilderment:  It doesn’t make sense socially or religiously for You to speak to her.  In inviting us—to pray, to respond to our vocations, to seek union—we also feel the dissonance between our view of the world (and of ourselves) and what You’re doing.

You lead her further…  “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water.”  You’re opening before her another way, another path:  her response to Your request could be like a doorway.  You’re offering a quenching to her thirst that goes beyond this world, deeper than the desires of mere flesh.  You’re letting a ray of Your identity penetrate her darkness—begging her to ask the question:  Who are You?

She responds accordingly, curious in her thirst.  How will You do this, having nothing with which to draw water?  Are You greater than Jacob?  She wants, needs, further revelation and reassurance before she opens herself to You.  The burden of action is back on Your shoulders.  She responds, but You must direct this encounter.

And yet, for all Your leading, Your reply isn’t really an answer to her questions.  “Every one who drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”  You’ve gently lifted her desire heavenward.  For a moment, she forgets her puny, earthly questions.  You’ve danced with her into the realm of the Spirit.

She responds from a heart moved beyond worldly constraints.  Eyes off herself, no longer weighing You against logic, her heart cries in eager hope, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw!”  She wants freed from more than the inconvenience of drawing water:  She aches to be free of the shame that enfolds her as she walks to the well alone in the heat of the day, in order to avoid the condemnation of the “respectable” women.

Knowing the throbbing wound behind her request, You go there, knocking on the door behind which her shame crouches.  “Go, call your husband and come here.”  You aren’t playing with her, or tricking her into confessing for legal necessity.  You are moving to open her capacity to receive You, this gift You are.

“I have no husband.”  She can’t bring herself to unveil the painful truth.  At that point, such a confession is beyond her ability to utter.  And so—You do it for her, relieving her of the burden:  “You are right…”  And You speak the terrible truth of her deeds:  they take form between you.  This must be; there is no other way to union. 

She tries to deflect this solid history, to remove herself—her heart—from the conversation.  “Lord, I perceive You are a prophet.”  Then she turns to the shield of theological controversy, a vain effort to cover her spiritual nakedness.  She implies a concrete, external question (where is the proper place to worship?).  Is she also trying to robe herself in the illusion of respectability?  See, she seems to say, I care about such things!  Perhaps she’s also trying to distance herself from You in self-protection, by bringing to the fore all the deep divisions between you, Jewish Man, and Samaritan woman.

You move through that strategy as though through a spider’s web, guiding her back to the heart of this whole exchange, to Your Heart for her:  to worship, the restoration of man’s union with God.  “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth…”  You reply to her query as though, yes, worship has significance even for her, fallen as she is.  Once more, she retreats.  “I know that Messiah is coming; when he comes, he will show us all things.”  As though to say, I don’t need to deal with this now.  Let it wait for another day.

The urgency of Your love—the Truth—pierces her last defense.  Heedless of the shame that bound her minutes before, she rushes into town, bearing witness.  Many come to believe in You because of her testimony—because You sought her in love, pursuing her gently yet inexorably.  You are not rebuffed by our resistance.  Again and again, You move to woo Your bride.  Locked in our prisons of shame, pain, and sin, we can’t reach You, we can’t seek You.  So You seek us.  You knock on the door of our cells and offer the key of love—love unto death, Love that trampled Death, the jailer of our souls.

When I feel the lie that it all depends on me, remind me, Lover of Mankind, that You’ve taken the lead, You’re taking the lead, and You’re leading me back to the Garden where we may drink deeply of Love.