Dancing with the Cardinals

Dancing Cardinals Meet the Pope
(and other such nonesense)

By: Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick

H/T: Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy (here)

Even if I were somehow able to be convinced of Rome’s unique dogmas, stuff like the above is one of the main reasons I could never become a Roman Catholic. I have been told by Rome’s apologists that these kinds of things are really just “abuses” and that the “true” worship of Rome shouldn’t be like this. But if a major, global-level Catholic event like World Youth Day (this video is from the 2013 WYD) has the Princes of the Church themselves dancing like this for the Pope himself, what exactly is the real, official stuff? This seems pretty official to me.

I’ve known more than one person who converted to Roman Catholicism because of what he read and then later saw this sort of thing (or even just the rather bland form of Lutheran-style liturgics that passes for much of American Catholic worship) and subsequently left. I can understand if someone leaves a religion because of experiencing abuse (even while I would hope they would see past it to the non-abused form of that religion), but it’s hard to argue that the liturgics of Rome that one sees nearly everywhere are abuse, particularly when they are on worldwide display with the official sanction of the Vatican. Rome’s ecclesiology with its emphasis on the papacy makes it all the harder to make that argument convincing. If the Pope says it’s okay, one has a hard time arguing that it’s an abuse.

And one also has a hard time wondering how Rome would ever be able to go back to its ancient tradition of worship, which, as St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco once said, “is far older than any of her heresies.”

One can read more on this theme from Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy contributor Fr. John Whiteford at his post today: Unfortunate Trends in the Roman Catholic Church.

Hit and Get Hit


There was once a monk who happened to slip and sin by himself continually, yet he would always arise at once and do his prayer rule. The demon that kept throwing him into sin lost his patience seeing the courage and hopefulness of this brother. So he visibly appeared to him, and to said to him with vexation:

“Don’t you fear God, you defiled wretch? You have just sinned, so with what face can you now stand before God? Aren’t you afraid that God will burn you?”

But since the brother had a valiant soul, he said to the demon:

“This cell is a forge: you hit and get hit. As God is my witness, Who came to save the world, I will not stop fighting you, falling and getting up, beating and getting beaten, until my final breath – and let’s see who will win: you or Christ!”

When the demon heard this unexpected reply, he said:

“I won’t fight you any more, because if I do, I’ll make you win crowns.”

On Carnal Warfare, “Counsels from the Holy Mountain”, Selected from the letters and homilies of Elder Ephraim


The True Faith of Methodism

H/T: NewsBiscuit (here)

Madonna foreswears celebrity religion; converts to Methodism

Music legend Madonna has turned her back on the controversial Kabbalah sect to embrace ‘the one true worldwide faith of Methodism’. The controversial singer explained the circumstances of her dramatic conversion at a hastily-convened press conference: ‘After the divorce and failed adoption bid I’d hit rock bottom. One night I found a copy of The Methodist Recorder in my hotel room, and I started reading it for solace. Halfway through the first story ‘Connexional working party report urges district chairs to convene ecumenical dialogue over fall in peripatetic lay preaching throughout the Methodist circuit’ I was in tears.’

She then accepted an invitation to a bring-and-share supper at the nearby church hall. ‘Those people had something special that I knew I didn’t have: a sort of gentle serenity, along with an absence of crazed hubris and stratospheric sense of entitlement. By the time we tucked into the lasagne, I knew I had found my spiritual home.’

Ms Ciccione (50) says she now forswears what she calls ‘exotic designer religions that nobody else can understand or afford’: ‘That Kabbalah sect kept droning on about how life was one big mysterious journey into the unknowable. I’m a single mother of three; I haven’t got time for all that ‘unknowable’ s***. To be frank, I’ve had it up to here with those premium rate mystics; give me a decent Wesley hymn and a good solid working party report any day.’

The announcement has led to a mass defection of celebrities to so-called ‘non-elitist’ religions; Richard Gere has abandoned Tibetan Buddhism, and is considering a move to Britain to be closer to his ‘spiritual kin’ in the United Reformed Church, along with fellow converts Chris Martin and Gwynneth Paltrow.

Meanwhile former Scientologist Tom Cruise is taking a sabbatical from his acting career at a Salvation Army training college in Milwaukee. In a prepared statement, he has told fans he is ‘embarking upon a guided but non pre-ordained discourse towards the ineffable Other we commonly refer to as God’ as well as learning the B-flat euphonium.

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Man was created for love


H/T: Notes on Arab Orthodoxy (here)

Metropolitan Ephrem Kyriakos

“And God saw that it was good.” Man was created free for the sake of love. He is the link between the Creator and creation. His feet are on the earth and his thought is directed toward heaven. He is body and spirit, manifest and hidden.

Saint Irenaeus says, “God created man so that He could offer him wondrous gifts.” Creation is an act of love from one side, for the sake of communion, exchange, and affection. This initiative invites acceptance or rejection.

Man was created, then, in order to participate in divine love. Contemporary civilization refuses communion with God because it uses creation without reference to the Creator, which causes contemporary man to reject the other.

Rejecting immortality causes man to search for his happiness through earthly possessions. His sin is that he is mistaken about the goal: this is the source of human tragedy.

When man opens his heart to God, the uncreated divine energies grip him from within and change his being without altering his nature, like iron heated in fire, becoming red-hot and glowing: an image of divinization. Man accepts communion with God without becoming a god by nature.

The Christian East always looked to creation for contemplation and giving praise.

The Christian West preferred to consume it. This is a summary of the history of science.

The West, starting in the second millennium, directed itself towards technological activity that caused it to long for “the created rather instead of the Creator.”

“How great are your works, O Lord. In wisdom You made them all.”

From the start, man possesses not only bodily eyes but also spiritual eyes that help him to understand the meanings of the symbols in God’s creation.

All this does not negate the importance of matter, the material of nature, but it causes us to look at it from a different perspective and to deal with it from this perspective.

God is always present in all creation. “Everywhere present and filling all things.” Contemporary scientists have learned, through the examination of particles, that all things are connected to each other.

Man is a microcosm. He is a bridge between earth and heaven, a message of love. Love alone leads to freedom. If man is united, he is able to unite creation, since he leads creation to its creator. He does this through his giving thanks for the blessings he enjoys. With humility he recognizes the Creator’s generous giving.

If a person enjoys this giving thanks and this humility, he comes to be in the image of Christ, the priest of creation, offering everything to God, including the natural environment. In return, God gives him joy and holiness: “Your own of Your own, we offer to you on behalf of all and for all.”

Large Families

kidsII“God especially loves and provides for large families.  A large family provides children with many opportunities to grow up normally, as long as the parents give them the proper nurturing.  One child helps the other.  The oldest girl helps the mother; the second child takes care of the younger one, and so forth.  There is a sense of giving, and they live in an atmosphere of sacrifice and love.  The younger ones love and respect the older ones; and this is something that comes naturally in a large family.”

From the Teachings of the Blessed Elder Paisios: On Family Life
[provided by Fr. Demetrios Carellas]

Vocation and Repentance


From a homily delivered by His Grace Maxim, Bishop of Western America on the Feast Day of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist.

H/T: (here)

“…[the two Gospels read today] connect the two realities of our life in Christ’s Church. One of them is calling or vocation and the other is repentance. As one church hymn says, the beginning and foundation of my being is Thy creative commandment, O Lord. God’s commandment, His calling, directed at all of us, is the foundation of our existence when Christ calls us; God with His wondrous, creative Word calls man into being, into existence, and with that He gives him a foundation – and for all us the foundation and basis and the guarantee for eternal life – is God’s commandment, God’s word. At the same time, the foundation of our being is repentance – a change in the way we exist and the wrong and sinful life which – without Christ – is senseless.  When Christ, as this morning’s gospel says, called His first disciples, His very word “Follow Me”, was the same…and of the same strength and power as God’s creative word when He called the world into being, and that each of us be created. And that’s why the Apostles set out with Him so decisively, without much thinking. We can only image what that moment was like…..[in the beautiful frescoes and icons] and one of them is by a Western artist named Carraggio who portrays that relationship that Jesus established with the Apostles Andrew and Peter when He tells them, “Follow Me”. And from then on they follow Him, just as St. John the Prophet and Forerunner followed Him … He was His forerunner and, at the same time, he announced His coming….The Apostles had certainly heard the Forerunner’s preaching of the coming of Christ and also his preaching about repentance and the necessity of change in our lives, of the Jews at that time and all people of all generations. But that which connects repentance with vocation is our love …. and I remind myself and all of you that God calls us, causes repentance within us and, simultaneously, in that manner in a beautiful and wondrous manner, He touches the strings of our being and in them also causes love and that is which, today, has called us to this church to celebrate the Holy Prophet and Forerunner John….”

St. Budimir of Dobrun


Saint Day for all of the Dabor Bosnia Saints, including St. Budimir!

A father survives the Nazis, but is executed for his faith by the Communists.

The son, surviving on a young boy’s memories of a loving parent, must deny the father publicly lest the same authorities put him to death.

After immigrating to America, the Rev. Vasilije Sokolovic continued to be haunted by all that he did not know of the fate of his father, who was dumped in a shallow grave in an unmarked field in Serbia in 1945.

But the longtime pastor of St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Cathedral in Parma never lost faith.

Rev. Budimir Sokolovic, canonized as a priest-martyr, entering him into a select pantheon of saints that the church declares led lives so holy that the faithful may pray to them for inspiration and divine protection.

Budimir of Dobrun and 29 other priest-martyrs of World War II.

The 66-year-old priest makes the sign of the cross and lets the tears flow as he speaks of the wonder of moving from a lifetime of praying for eternal peace for his father to being able to pray to him in heaven.

“He is closer to God,” Sokolovic said in an interview at St. Sava. “I’m not anymore sorry for what I suffered all my life. Thank God.”

In 1944, the Rev. Budimir Sokolovic rode into the Serbian village of Milanovac on horseback, scooped up 6-year-old Vasilije and his brother and told them, “You are my life.”

It is the last memory Vasilije Sokolovic has of his father, who returned to the battlefield during World War II as a spiritual counselor to a Serbian group that fought against the German occupation of Yugoslavia.

In the Gospel accounts, fear of retribution causes the apostle Peter to deny Jesus three times. Sokolovic understands the pain of the early church leader forced to deny a loved one.

But he followed his father into the seminary, becoming the 42nd generation of Sokolovics to enter the priesthood.

Sokolovic feared revealing his heritage even in the seminary, telling his story only to trusted older priests. He still is overcome with emotion at the memory of priests who knew his father hugging him and giving thanks that he and other members of his family were alive.

In 1966, Sokolovic left Yugoslavia under a false name and immigrated to America. He worked in steel mills and construction in Gary, Ind., before he got his first parish in Masontown, Pa., in 1970. He served there for five years and was a pastor in Steubenville, Ohio, for a decade before coming to St. Sava in 1985. He served as pastor of the Parma church until 1999.

The pain of a boy without a dad became the suffering of a man haunted by not even knowing where his father’s body lay. It “was thrown into the ground like a dog, never any prayers.”

Sokolovic’s daughter, Mirjana Damljanovic, remembers that on family trips back to Yugoslavia, her father would put on his liturgical robes and say a memorial service over a patch of ground near where his father was killed.

When a Serbian Church official told him that the Holy Assembly of Bishops approved his father’s cause for sainthood, Sokolovic “just burst into tears he was so overcome with joy,” his daughter said.

Today, he is writing the hymns to be sung on his father’s feast day, and “he lives now with a real mission,” said his wife, Zorine.
Catholic and Orthodox faithful pray that departed loved ones go to heaven, but it is only in the cases of saints that the church speaks definitively of an individual’s place in the afterlife.

The boy who grew up afraid to tell anyone “who I am, who my father was” has lived to see his father achieve sainthood.

“The great suffering,” Zorine Sokolovic said, “led to great glory in the end.”