Thursday, March 5. 2009
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Find the mess.
Investigate the mess.
Call the cops.
Maybe people can quibble around the edges about how much is openly discussed, but this doesn't feel like the way things were handled in the OCA even one year ago, and that's a good thing.
Can you imagine Met Herman choosing to go to a place of controversy to talk with those affected?
#1 Rebecca Matovic on 2009-03-05 16:28
Were the United States the size of, say, Belgium, then one seminary could suffice. Our country is too large to make practical only one Orthodox seminary. Some people struggle against great odds to pay for seminary and to live far from their homes. Regional seminaries make far more sense. Having only one definitely would deter people from matriculating.
In addition, more than one seminary is invaluable as a "checks-and-balances" measure. If "Seminary A" veers too far in a particular philosophical direction, "Seminary B" just may provide critical balance by tending in a different direction.
#1.1 A. Colias on 2009-03-12 13:51
There has never been any real transparency there. The ruling, residing bishop ruled everything. Nothing was done without his knowledge and all financial matters were manipulated by him. So, here we are. Illegal mortgages and second mortgages; mismanagement of all funds; misappropriation of gifts and grants; etc. How can St. Tikhon's continue as a seminary? The seminary needs to close. The property should remain as a monastery, cemetery, clergy retirement complex and camp. There is only a need for one Orthodox seminary and it may as well be the the one which is clearly the best already.
This is what happens when there are no real checks and balances and transparency is just a word!
#2 Anonymous on 2009-03-05 16:33
Close St. Tikhon's? How is that the best option? What makes it such a bad seminary?..... I don't see how that's gonna help us out at all.
Now that St. Tikhon's Monastery is going to be under new management, it seems like it's heading in a good direction, and that can only help the Seminary. Why close it when it could be at the threshold of becoming a powerhouse for Orthodoxy in America.
#2.1 Anonymous on 2009-03-06 12:08
St. Tikhon's has never been a power-house of anything. Even their accredidation to offer a Master's degree is bogus. Where is their library? ..... Now, trying to educate future leaders of the Church and telling them, "This is how you do it; with fraud, deception, theft and manipulation of gifts and grants.
Close the place!
#2.1.1 Anonymous on 2009-03-06 17:37
St. Tikhon's received accreditation through The Association of Theological Schools (ATS) in 2004. This agency gave the same status to Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, St. Vladimir's, and Harvard University Divinity School. Bogus? I think not.
#22.214.171.124 Archpriest John T. Bacon on 2009-03-06 20:20
Accreditation bogus? Ask the ATS about St. Tikhon's, it's one of the models they list for small schools looking to get accredited. The Library exists, there's just not a separate building for it yet.
It's interesting that the people proclaiming that it should be shut down don't take the current seminarians into account. While there are certainly things about St. Tikhon's that aren't ideal, there are many things that are very good there. the connection to a Monastery being one (St. Tikhon's is the only accredited seminary in the US other than Holy Trinity under the ROCOR to be attached to a Monastery) And I know there are plenty of students who would never be willing to go to St. Vladimir's because of various reasons, such as the above one. Would you tell them to there face "too bad, you have to because we don't 'need' two seminaries"?
#126.96.36.199 Anonymous on 2009-03-06 21:25
I wept to read this news, thinking of the saints who have labored at St. Tikhon's (see the monastery’s wonderful new site and read “Where Saints Have Walked”), the righteous departed who lie in their grave, awaiting for the resurrection, the faithful monastics, and all who in truth and love have labored at St. Tikhon's monastery and seminary.
Let's move the OCA headquarters to St. Tikhon's! I think it is a fitting locale for the headquarters of our Church. As Cathy Tatusko wrote (in another forum), I would be glad to see the Syosset property sold. Another benefit of selling that property and moving to South Canaan would be to be able to renegotiate salaries (not be in the trap of NYC-area salary requirements). We do not need to be devoting the large amount of money we currently are to salaries for central administration. The OCA has been in financial crisis, America and much of the world are in financial crisis. This is a good time to make a change.
I am already thinking about St. Tikhon’s in a new way. I am glad our Metropolitan Jonah is there. I pray for cleansing and strengthening of the monastic and seminary communities.
Lord have mercy on me. O Lord, save thy people! All you righteous who labored and walked at St. Tikhon’s, pray for us!
#3 Matushka Jan Koczak on 2009-03-05 17:00
I have been refraining from posting here for a long time, but this post and Cathy's on the OF have really gotten over the top for me in the constant irresponsible bashing of the administration AND its headquarters.
Let's get some facts straight first, please, and forgive me for saying it as I see it. First of all, continuing to equate Syosset with Mordor, as some of the wittier posters do (not the aforementioned, but plenty of others), is plain mean and unwarranted. The Chancery of the OCA is not the Dark Tower, and it never was. The Chancery is the place of repose of the saintly Metropolitan Leonty, and his spirit will endure in those walls long after the ghosts of the later transgressors will be exorcised. The St. Sergius Chapel is a place sanctified by the many relics of the saints of North America and filled with some 50 years of fervent prayer. Syosset also houses the precious archives of the OCA, our entire history from the first American saints through the years of the Metropolia and into our autocephaly. The Griswold estate was a gift to the Church and it is as much part of our turbulent history as the Holy Protection Cathedral or the Kodiak Island. So let us get over the Mordor image already.
Second, the administration that occupies the offices of the Chancery is not an abstract “force” to be contended with. The “administration” is made up of real people, grossly understaffed as a result of the reorganization which was more reactive than constructive, and we have all seen and heard them and presumably know, at least to some extent, what they are worth. We have been witnessing their titanic efforts to salvage the ship which has more holes in it than Swiss cheese for many months. Those of us who are still obsessed with money more than anything else have been shown that it is possible to balance the budget in spite of the dwindling stewardship and mounting legal expenses. Moreover, we have witnessed acts of personal courage. Our Chancellor has literally put his head on the chopping block by writing an open letter to the Alaskan clergy when the Synod backed out of their poorly conceived and incomplete effort to deal with Bishop Nikolai. Have we forgotten that? If yes, why?
Forgive me, Matushka, but as far as I am concerned (since the matter of salaries is public information) the staff is paid half of what they should be since they are doing the work of several people each, the four offices serve as priests in the Chapel (that's work, too, as you well know!), and, if anyone paid attention to how the budget that was presented at the AAC had been balanced, a lot of money was cut out of Syosset basically beyond what was prudent, IMHO...
Please forgive me, especially Matushka and Cathy, as I do not intend to offend, and this post is not directed at you personally but much wider. I just don't think we are going to get anywhere if we continue on the road of knee-jerk reactions and constant suspicion of double standard lurking behind every move and every press release from "over there"...
#3.1 Inga Leonova on 2009-03-06 08:42
I am also wondering about how many structures we need and where within the OCA.
We have a central administration on Long Island and two seminaries within 3 hours of each other, all within about 6 hours from each other?
And then there is suffering St. Herman's up there in Alaska with its own financial challenges and difficulties.
I would love to see an OCA seminary or satellite out west or south and not two hours from each other. The monastery there in South Canaan should be there, but structuring, and where, should be examined.
It really appears that some services or structures could be consolidated.
But right now, with a police investigation, the wheels forward on this I guess will just have to wait.
#3.2 Patty Schellbach on 2009-03-06 10:19
Another very bad idea! The headquarters of the OCA does not and should not be located in the middle nowhere. The OCA headquarters needs to stay in the NYC area where all the Orthodox have their top hierarchs. NYC is the capitol of the world - not Scranton, PA!
#3.3 Anonymous on 2009-03-06 17:41
Scranton, PA is not the "middle of nowhere." St. Tikhon's Seminary and Monastery are not located in the "middle of nowhere." Many of our saints led a sanctified life in the "middle of nowhere." Any of our hearts, minds, and souls are not trained to live in the "middle of nowhere," but with Christ.
Dear Anonymous, please get over this notion of the "middle of nowhere."
In this day and age, our world is much more connected through our moden avenues of communication. Also, there is an airport in Scranton and any other major airports could be driven to, if necessary.
St. Tikhon's has the available land to be able to build a "central administration" that +Jonah wants to lessen anyway.
However, with the current financial crisis and police investigation, any future planning about this land or its assets will have to be put on hold.
#3.3.1 Patty Schellbach on 2009-03-07 18:41
I totally concur with Mat. Jan.....(see my husband's reflection #34 of about two years ago) where he says the same under one "solution" to re-locate. Most of the particulars in his example have changed, but this ****solution**** has not. I did raise this point in my questions to the Holy Synod at the Pittsburgh AAC, but it was not addressed in anyone's handling of those questions, which were then pronounced as all having been ***addressed******* Not.
(Matushka) Faith Johnson
#3.4 Matushka Faith Johnson on 2009-03-08 16:43
I am cautiously pleased by this response. The most telling aspect is the Holy Synod made the decision after its initial investigation to bring in the cops. This suggests that while it is serious, that the Synod is not trying to cover anything up.
Why does it seem that when the chancery or Tikhon's are over budget and the economy sucks , someone is the blame ? Can it be that everyone in PA. or NY are thieves ? I think not !
It's not thievery , it's not enough bread to do everything you want to do. We will all have this issue for many years !!! But if you want to complain just blame the oca or RSK ! That seems to be the way of this church and site.
Happy lent mark and where is the all caps guy , he makes me laugh.
#5 Anonymous on 2009-03-06 04:08
"I believe that one of the fundamental means by which the Orthodox Church in America can move forward in its healing from the past and its strategic planning for the future is to strengthen the monastic life on this continent," His Grace (+Tikhon) said. "The key lies in the deepening of a life of asceticism, for which the monastics serve as an example for the whole Church."
The above statement by Bishop Tikhon is refreshing. Not all OCA monastic institutions have problems, but the difficulties at St. Tikhon's are not the only ones that should be investigated and into which the OCA faithful should have transparency. Also, the faithful expect that monastics are doing what they should be doing.
#6 anonymous on 2009-03-06 06:55
There is a wonderful litlte booklet by Fr. Thomas Hopko entitled Finding One's Calling in Life. here is an on-line link:
Monastic asceticism is only one kind of asceticism. Asceticism as a broad category is seeking no longer to live for yourself, but to have Christ living in you, sacrificing your selfish desires for the sake of His love being poured out of you to those around you, which is God's will for you and which becomes Christian perfection. It's not about imitating Christ, but actually letting Christ live in you from moment to moment. And it's certianly not about cloistering and dressing a certain way.
The example for asceticism is not the monastery, but is Christ Himself seen in all who *no longer live, but Christ who lives [in them]*.
Some are called to monasteries, but monasteries are never the example. Maintaining and building new monasteries can actually end up thwarting the will of God, the will of God meaning that each, no matter what his vocation, would seek perfection, the Life of Christ. Living a gospel life should not only be a consoling lamp hidden and protected under a bushel behind monastery walls, but should be an unhindered light shining from the spiritual heights of every person overflowing with the Spirit into the dark valleys of the whole world.
I'm not against the monastic life; but I just think it should not be the prime example in its poverty, chastity and obedience to be followed in this perilous and pagan age, when the Church has lost so much credibility in society. We need more examples of lay witness to the ascetic, sacrificial love of Christ, in and outside the parishes.
Being in the world, but not of the world should be true for every Christian: it is Christ Himself in us who is the example. He alone s the Way the Truth and the Life.
#6.1 Ever and anon. on 2009-03-06 09:28
The Jews have a concept in halakha (Jewish law): Dina de malchuta dina - "The law of the kingdom is the law (for Jews)". In other words, whatever man-made law is not in conflict with Jewish law, Jews are to obey it.
I was taught as a Catholic that we are not only to obey the laws of God, but also the just laws of man. As far as I can tell, that teaching exists in the Orthodox Church as well. Our Lord stated as much: "Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's." I would think that matters of finance are definitely within the purview of Caesar.
So, calling the police is exactly the correct response to financial turpitude. Moreover, I 100% agree with not divulging any details right now. The police have the case, let them do their jobs.
#7 Wayne Matthew Syvinski on 2009-03-06 08:58
It is wrong to ask the “faithful” to financially support the monastery and the seminary without even detailing its financial status and crisis. Until the Holy Synod/MC gets to the bottom of these crises, identify the sources of corruption, and REMOVE it, we will still be stuck in the middle of the tunnel. We have done it before and should continue to do it again and again until we see the light at the end of the tunnel.
It is also wrong for the Holy Synod to take a back seat using the excuse of “beyond our capability”. We all know that the enforcement authorities will only investigate criminal doing. They will not clean up or “bail” us out of the financial mess we created. It is our problem and we should have full investigation and hold accountable the responsible officials who managed the monastery, bookstore, and the seminary directly or indirectly. This includes the past and present Bishops of Philadelphia and Eastern Pennsylvania since these facilities were/are under their jurisdiction. The Orthodox Church in America is obligated to guarantee to our monks, nuns, and seminarians an environment free of corruption and abuse.
Holy Annunciation Church
#8 Michel Michail on 2009-03-06 13:20
Anyone who has walked through St Thikon's knows the feelings of spiritual renewal that occurs there. From that standpoint alone it may seen prudent to move all central church operations to South Cannan. There is plenty of room on the seminary side of the property to set up administrative structure. I think before that happens MH+ needs to be removed from the property. It may sound crazy but if enough people donated the needed supplies and talent an appropriate structure could be put up in good order. The residence MH is presently residing in should be adjusted for MJ+ The only problem lies in thw cannon law regarding the residence of the metropolitan.
#9 JJ on 2009-03-06 17:31
Apparently the house that Metropolitan Herman used to reside in is now Bishop Tikhon's house, as well as the Diocesan headquarters. Which seems fitting, given the fact that the Diocese of Eastern PA payed for it's construction when Herman was just a Bishop.
#9.1 Anonymous on 2009-03-06 21:14
The OCA is undertaking a strategic planning process. From this, areas of cost-cutting should be identified. St. Tikhon's at this time needs a HUGE infusion of cash due to mismanagement. There is no need for two seminaries within the OCA. St. Tikhon's should remain a monastery & cemetary. The idea of a clergy retirement center with condos is a great idea. So is a camp.
Syosset should be sold. The archives can be moved to St. Vladimir's Seminary Library and + Jonah can be moved to the NY/NJ Diocese house in Bronxville.
#10 Anonymous on 2009-03-06 17:52
This is absolutely right. We have:
An expensive chancery
An expensive but modest house in Bronxville
A broken seminary
A working seminary
Why would you choose the broken seminary in this mix? No, you wouldn't. You wouldn't send money to a place that has misused donations and gone into debt. You would send money to a seminary (St. Vladimir's) that has gone into debt purposefully, deliberately, and thoughtfully, to provide good and honorable housing to its married students who will pastor parishes of the Church. Track records have meaning!
#10.1 Anonymous on 2009-03-07 07:17
.... St. Tikhon's Seminary has a very good reputation of making great parish Priests.
...We've also had a very high enrollment for several years. The incoming class of two years ago was over 35 people! Not gigantic to be sure, but the entire student body was almost too big for the school to handle.
Last year, the dorm was filled past capacity, there was not a single empty room, all because young men want to go here. We weren't sure of the numbers as St. Vladimir's, but I'm told we had a bigger enrollment than they did last year, I don't know about this year.
#10.1.1 Anon. Seminarian on 2009-03-08 16:19
Your summary of the situation while quite succinct is highly inaccurate. I put forth the following as a more accurate, if less succinct formulation:
A historic chancery on an estate in one of the highest cost of living areas in the country
An redundant and expensive hierarch's residence in Bronxville
A pastoral training-class seminary in a relatively low cost of living area adjacent to a historic monastery, both suffering under questionable administration
A theological academy-class seminary in a very high cost of living area with a prudent administration
#10.1.2 Mark C. Phinney on 2009-03-09 03:48
Mark wrote on 3/9
A historic chancery on an estate in one of the highest cost of living areas in the country
Exactly! I don't care who gave it to the OCA or why, but we have
no business continuing to maintain this facility. The Metropolitan is supposed to be in the country's capital, which is Washington DC. It is idiocy to keep this property, especially considering the
financial disaster the OCA has suffered in the last 2 decades.
An redundant and expensive hierarch's residence in Bronxville
Get rid of that as well - They're supposed to be monastics, right?
Why do they need expensive residences?
A pastoral training-class seminary in a relatively low cost of living area adjacent to a historic monastery, both suffering under questionable administration
May I ask yet again, why Herman has not been prosecuted in the civil courts ? Or
Theodosius or Kondratick either???
A theological academy-class seminary in a very high cost of living area with a prudent administration
The idea that NYC is the "center of the world" is egotistical and
certainly no longer true. The OCA had no business adding and
adding buildings when they could have bought beautiful already-
existing facilities in the Midwest from the Roman Catholics for a song back in the 70's, compared to what property costs in and around NYC.
This was told to them decades ago by a gentleman I know who was on the Metropolitan Council, but he was rebuffed.
And now they're stuck!
#10.1.2.1 Pauline Costianes on 2009-03-10 12:56
I love St. Tikhon's. I hope that prayer is being said for it. Please let us not throw out the baby with the bath water. St. Tikhon's is a good seminary with good profs. It is a honor and blessing to have the monastery here. The spiritual richness that comes from this is wonderful and unique to St. Tikhon's. Please pray for us here instead of throwing angry words around...somehow I can't see that bringing much good fruit. Let us love Christ and one another...
#10.1.3 St. Tikhon's Seminarian on 2009-03-09 19:42
Our accreditation is the same as Vlad's, etc. And our library is at the end of the hall on the second floor. We have great professors....
The problem at St. Tikhon's has always been Herman and his band of favorites. I don't know why action is not being taken against any of them, but just having them out of the picture (for the most part) has made it a much better place. Once we are back on our feet and have recovered from all of this "mess" St. Tikhon's will be a great place to be. There is so much good here that is being overlooked now that the Seminary's name is being dragged through the dirt. Those who say that it should be closed down are being ridiculous. You don't know what you are talking about.
#11 Anon. Seminarian on 2009-03-07 02:48
Shouldn't this well reasoned post be the last word on this, from us. Closing STS, selling Syosset and all the order numbskull ideas here are just silly. We can recover the OCA, make it bette,r without dumping assets, and closing historic sites.
God bless you seminarian, you are in my prayers from now on!
#11.1 no name on 2009-03-07 07:12
no name 11.1,
Given the widespread financial problems that are Metropolitan Herman's patrimony to the OCA, those faced with cleaning up after the "business savvy" hierarch -- that is the rest of us --should consider a wide range of options. Similarly, those charged with developing the Long-Range Strategic Plan for the OCA need to consider making some radical changes to the status quo. Among the options to consider should be:
Relocating either or both of the OCA seminaries in the "Lower 48" to reduce the concentration of Orthodox seminaries in the New York-New Jersey-Eastern Pennsylvania region. Keep in mind where Orthodoxy is growing on this continent. Let us plan for the future.
Where should the chancery be located: in the national capital area, the largest metropolitan area, or someplace else? If the national capital area, which one: the U.S., Canada, or Mexico? Keep in mind that wherever the chancery is located, it must be within the boundaries of the primate's diocese.
Change the number of dioceses or the boundaries of the existing dioceses. Dr. David Ford, St. Tikhon's Seminary, has proposed modifying the boundaries and sees of the OCA dioceses in preparation for an administrative merging with the Antiochian Archdiocese. At the All-American Council held in Pittsburgh in 1999, at one of the last council sessions, a graduate student presented a geographic analysis of the then current diocesan structure and proposed a set of changes to rationalize the boundaries of the dioceses. The Long-Range Strategic Plan must deal with this very contentious subject.
Let us, the Church, consider these subjects as part of the renewal of the vision of Frs. Florovsky, Schmemann, Meyendorff, and others.
#11.1.1 Mark C. Phinney on 2009-03-09 04:35
I certainly hope St. Tikhon's seminary is not closed down. It gives me great sorrow to hear that that is even being suggested. I spent some time at St. Tikhon's during Nativity of 1999 and was very favorably impressed by the students, monastics, and priests that I met there. They were gracious and welcoming to me. I was really impressed by some of the priests I met there and the sacrifices they had made to enter the priesthood and their zeal and dedication to our Lord. Everyone there was thankful that the seminary and monastery were located together on the same campus. I met no one who criticized that arrangement, but I did meet many people who remarked about how beneficial it was to have the monastery there to assist in the spiritual formation of the seminarians. I loved the remoteness of St. Tikhon's and its location in a peaceful, quiet valley in the Poconos. Its a wonderful and tranquil setting, quite conducive to prayer and meditation. I could certainly understand why someone would want to go to seminary there. True, it isn't a perfect place. (What is perfect in this world?) And, yes, the library is quite small and needs to be expanded. But I would not close the place down. No way. Although I think the idea of adding condominiums to the place for retired priests would be a wonderful idea. We need a place for our retired clergy where they can still be connected to the Church and each other.
#12 Tikhon Griffin on 2009-03-07 05:42
It is so sad that the Fellowship of Orthodox Christians in America (FOCA) have to put their project on hold until this mess is straightened out. They have architectural plans and have raised funds to build seminary housing for married students at St. Tikhon's. A worthy cause to be sure - but now the land itself is in question. Mortgaged away without a care. So sad.
#13 BF on 2009-03-07 06:34
A definitive answer to whether or not the OCA needs two seminaries in the Lower 48 requires a wiser head than mine...although it seems to me that both St. Tikhon's and St. Vladimir's have valuable contributions to make in priestly formation. And given its process and its self-interest in maintaining its reputation, the ATS's grant of accreditation was hardly bogus; so that comment was gratuitous mud-slinging and just plain bearing false witness against one's neighbour.
What seems to have slipped under the radar is the plan to have the monastic brotherhood elect their own abbot (well, eventually, anyway). This---if it actually happens---will be a HUGE step forward in regularising and energising the monastic life of the place, because it will be at long last treating the brethren like grown-ups; and it will allow a properly-formed monastic, rather than one of our "instant monk" hierarchs, to direct the monastery's life along a path that will develop true monasticism rather than hold the brethren hostage to episcopal whims and vanities. (And tremendous credit is due to Bishop Tikhon of Eastern PA, both now as a bishop and formerly as acting superior of the monastery, for pushing St. T's in the direction of healthy coenobitic monasticism. He may be quiet; but he seems to get the job done, sometimes against great odds.)
It will also advance financial accountability in the monastery, in that an abbot is directly accountable to the monastery brotherhood for his administration of the monastery's patrimony. And such accountability, modeled by the brotherhood, will inevitably influence the future priests studying at the seminary.
But that's in the (hopefully near) future. In order to live a healthy life, any and every monastery (like any and every family) must live within its means. For St. T's, that is now extra tough, because in addition to ordinary running expenses, the monastery faces the daunting task of digging itself out of the rumoured US$2 million it is now in debt to various banks, thanks to certain folks from whom both accountability and restitution should be sought. One hopes that some sort of interim financial committee (including a healthy representation from the monastic brotherhood) will be appointed, not only to try to sort things out, but to instill genuine confidence in the monastery by practicing genuine transparency about its finances, so as to encourage debt-reduction contributions from the rest of the OCA. One also hopes that the OCA clergy and laity will even now help lift that load of debt, perhaps---as a start---by taking at least some of the money they're saving on food by observing the lenten fasting and sending it to the brotherhood. (And yes, this writer is putting his money where his keyboard is.)
As for the Metropolitan's call for monastic renewal and growth, and the less-than-subtle shots taken at it, the critics quite miss the point, because they have lived so long without access to healthy monasticism. One crucial function and ministry monasticism is called to exercise in the Church is that of being living models of ascesis as a way of encouraging others to embrace greater ascesis in their own role in life. (You get the idea: If the monastics can abstain from meat all year long, surely I can do it on Wednesdays and Fridays, and during the lenten seasons...If the monastics can spend somewhere between four and eight hours in church every day, surely I can take time for properly saying and praying morning and evening prayers...If monastics can live in non-acquisitiveness, surely I can be more sensible in my spending and do without that 57-inch flat screen TV...etc.) Monastic life is, after all, ordinary Christian life, just kicked up a notch or two. The health of the Church as a whole is tied rather closely to the health (or lack of it) in monasticism, precisely because monastics are supposed to be both models of everyday ascesis leading to that "peace with all and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord" (Heb.12:14) and those who pray for the Church and the world even (yea, especially!) when the Church and the world aren't praying for themselves. The "either-or" proposition that it's either monasticism or ascesis for everybody, is a false dichotomy and, at best, very fuzzy thinking that's completely out of sync with the "both-and" mind of the Church.
Well, enough. I'm late for Matins.
#14 Igumen Philip (Speranza) on 2009-03-07 06:52
Agreed that monastic life is about peace and holiness but is it really just ordinary Christian life kicked up a notch or two???
So the example your espousing says, just fast, pray; forget the people around you in the world that are on the fast track to hell.
The ordinary Christian life is never ordinary in any sense; it's being a living witness for Christ in a dark world. It's the smile and joy in the midst of physical or mental suffering, it's the helping hand when one has no strength of one's own, it's the encouraging word to the downtrodden when one is fighting one's own spiritual battles, in short, it's the proclamation of the Gospel!
It's the The Spirit of te Lord is Upon Me from Isaiah.
From There is a balm in Gilead
If I cannot sing like angels (monastics)
If I cannot preach like Paul (clergy)
I can tell the love of Jesus
And say He died for all!
Is this not really the ordinary Christian life afterall, the proclaiming of the Gospel, living the perfect Christian life in the midst of a dark world. Perfection is only perfection when it is devoid of all self-interest, when it reaches out, when its ascesis is other-centered. Do we really need a monastic example for this and does that monastic example teach us to reach out?
I believe monasticism came about when society was being influenced greatly by an active missionizing Church, and so there was an opportunity for men and women to seek a more intense personal spiritual experience in seclusion because the Church was fulfilling its role in proclaiming and living the Gospel. The Church is not fulfilling its
role today it seems. I believe then that in our time and place, it's a time to return to the parish as the locus of witness, through
an ascesis that goes beyond perfecting oneself personally for the remote possibility of being an example to the Church at large to an ascesis that's proactive
not only in fasting and praying, but also in good works created beforehand for all those who are in Christ Jesus. Perhaps it's time to return to the parish body being the light in the world.
#14.1 Ever and anon. on 2009-03-09 06:30
Dear "Ever and Anon:"
Please stop creating "either-or" false dichotomies. Instead, please study the history of the spread of the Gospel from Kievan Rus' to Archangelsk, and the role monasticism played in that process. And please remember how the Scripture insists that there are "diversities of gifts...differences of
ministries...diversities of activities" in the Body of Christ, and that it is God Who determines who gets which gift and who does what (I Cor.12:4-6,11,18, etc.). By God's own designing, neither one size nor one function fit all.
And while Fr. Melchizedek is absolutely spot on about the martyric and prophetic role monasticism plays, I must suggest that both of those ministries are also the call of every Orthodox Christian, because the Gospel itself is, has always been, and will always be, "counter-cultural."
Monasticism in particular is essentially a lay vocation, not a clerical one. Hieromonks and hierodeacons were few and far between in the early days. Ordinations were only to supply the liturgical needs of the monastic community; most of those called "abba" were not ordained; and even today one need not be a priest to be elected abbot of a brotherhood. Moreover, women monastics are not ordained; but I'd hate to be the one to tell a certain abbess of my acquaintance that she's not a monastic.
Anyway, consider that in Matthew 28:19-20 and Acts 1:8, the Lord Jesus commissions every Christian to bear witness to Him; while in Matthew 10:32-33 He speaks of "whoever" either confessing Him publicly or failing to do so, and of the consequences of each. And bearing witness to Christ inevitably involves the prophetic function of forth-telling the word and will of God (cf., e.g., I Thess.5:11-22). To be forthright about and to stand in public opposition to the evils of abortion, for example, is a prophetic ministry to which Orthodox Christians are clearly called...and it's a really good way to get into socially very hot water.
Certainly the monastic bearing witness to Christ seems somewhat more radical, but only on the surface. Every Christian is called to detachment from the things of this world and to non-acquisitiveness (cf., e.g., II Cor.9:6-11, about a believer's financial priorities, and James 4:4), just as every Christian is called to chastity (the use of God's gift of sexuality reverently and as appropriate to one's state in life), and to obedience to one's lawful superiors (parents, spouse, one's boss, etc.---that mutual submission out of reverence for Christ which the Apostle teaches in Eph.5:21-6:9). If we look at how Acts 2:42-47 describes the life of ordinary Christians immediately after Pentecost, we see a good description of what historic coenobitic monasticism should look like.
Admittedly, the monastic's bearing of witness APPEARS different in some ways. Think of those three temptations we read about in Matt.4:1-11. What is the temptation to turn stones into bread, if not---at one level, anyway---the temptation to use one's power to indulge the flesh selfishly? In response, the monastic says "NO" by offering and consecrating totally to God one of our most powerful drives, sexuality. What is the temptation to leap from the pinnacle of the temple, if not---again, at one level---as the temptation to achieve success without sacrifice? In response, the monastic says "NO" by rejecting the world's standard measure of success, money and what it buys, and instead embracing voluntary poverty and (equally importantly) non-acquisitiveness. And what is the temptation to "fall down and worship" the Enemy, if not---yet again, at one level---the temptation to set one's own goals, according to one's own will? In response, the monastic says "NO" by embracing the cutting off of his/her own will and embracing obedience to the superior as to God. Certainly, the monastic bears witness to the rest of the Church and to the world to "the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord" (Phil.3:8) by saying "Jesus Christ is worth THIS much!" But again, in what way does this differ from what every Christian is called to do, except as a matter of degree?
The same applies, I would submit, to the "creative tension" necessary to the Church enjoying a healthy life. While on the one side some monastics, at least, have had the call and courage to confront an out-of-control hierarchy, so have the lay brotherhoods in defending Orthodoxy against an episcopally-supported Unia a few centuries back. (For more contemporary examples, sit in on just about any parish council meeting. Any parish council that fails to ask questions and/or challenge the occasional arbitrary and/or idiotic pastoral fiat isn't doing it's job. Of course the reverse is also quite true. Parish councils can on occasion devise some very strange ideas "for the good of the parish.")
The fundamental prophetic role within the Church seems to me to be ensuring mutual accountability and mutual fidelity to "the faith once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3); and that task seems to fall, albeit in varying degrees, on the shoulders of hierarchs, other clergy, monastics, and laity alike.
#14.1.1 Igumen Philip (Speranza) on 2009-03-10 06:00
You and I essentially agree, and I admit my ignorance of monastic history. I guess what I have trouble with is what I have perceived in my observations as self-centered motivation for becoming monastic, i,e, perfect ing my holiness for my own image and not for the sake of others. Archimandrite Melchizedek has given me a better perspective also in showing me the role of monastics as a body or brotherhood of prophets, as a God-given provision for keeping vibrant the life of the Holy Spirit in the Church which operates freely in all of its members (through giftings as you have pointed out) . The example he gives concerning matyrdom I have yet to get a handle on. To a monasticism that fulfills such a prophetic role, I can say Yes and to the extent that that prophetic role suffers for the truth of upholding the life of the Holy Spirit in the Church, I can embrace monasticism as a type of martyrdom.
#188.8.131.52 Ever and anon. on 2009-03-10 08:09
Some thoughts on Orthodox Christian Monasticism by Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware) of Diokleia:
"Monks are the sinews and foundations of the church."
-St Theodore the Studite
The simplest and perhaps the best definition of the monastic vocation is provided by St Basil the Great when he calls it "[l]ife according to the Gospel." The monk or nun, in other words, is nothing else than a Christian who takes the gospel seriously. It is true that monastics express this evangelical life under particular outward conditions that mark them out from other Christians; but, on a more basic level, monastics and married Christians are both following the same path and share a single commitment and an identical spirituality.
In the works of St Basil, it is in fact often unclear whether he is writing specifically for nuns and monks or more generally for every baptized Christian. When, for example, he speaks of "flight from the world," this signifies flight from sin rather than withdrawal into the desert; and when he refers to those "in the world," this does not mean the married laity but persons of a secular, materialistic outlook foreign to the gospel. By the same token, when he mentions obedience, this usually denotes obedience to Scripture rather than to a monastic rule or to an abbot or abbess. he has in view a flight and an obedience that are required of every Christian, although the monk and nun express this in an especially radical manner. Thus, monastics are not so much an exception or aberration but rather an example to the whole Church.
Monks are like sentries on the ramparts, protecting the other members of the church as they go about their daily tasks within the spiritual city. Against whom do the monks guard the walls? Palladios and Makarios would have given a precise answer: against the demons, who are the common enemies of the entire human race. In this way, monks perform a ministry of love for the whole human community. And with what weapon do they perform this work of guardianship? Once more there is a specific reply: with the weapon of prayer. Through their invocation of the Spirit-not just through explicitly intercessory prayer but through all their prayer-they are making the world a safer and more joyful place for society as a whole.
It is prayer that explains the strange assertion of St Isaac that it is better to convert our own soul than to convert a multitude of the heathen from error. For, unless we ourselves have been converted to Christ through prayer, it is unlikely that we shall succeed in converting anyone else from or to anything. Such is the hesychast paradox, evident again and again in monastic history: The less a monk thinks about converting the world and the more he thinks about converting his own soul, the more probable it is that the world will in fact be converted. "Seek first the Kingdom of God" (Matt 6:33).
St Seraphim of Sarov sums the matter up when he states, "Acquire inner peace, and thousands around you will find their salvation."
This primacy of prayer in the monk's personal vocation and in service to the world is powerfully expressed in the stories told about St Arsenios the Great (c.360-449) in The Sayings of the Desert Fathers. "They also said this about him, that late on Saturday evening, as Sunday drew near, he turned his back on the setting sun and stretched out his hands in prayer towards the heavens, until once again the sun shone on his face. And then he sat down." On another occasion a brother looked through the window of Arsenios's cell and saw him "entirely like a flame of fire." This is exactly the aim and purpose of the monk: not merely to be someone who says prayers from time to time, but to be transformed all the time into a living flame of prayer. And if a few women and men become in this way a living flame, they transfigure the universe by the sole fact of their presence, simply by their very existence.
#184.108.40.206.1 Anonymous on 2009-03-14 08:16
This is truly beautiful description; I long to see a monk or nun who is a *living flame*, to see the Spirit under the costume and the body of flesh.
St Maria of Paris (Skobtsova) was such a monastic, was she not?. She lived the Gospel, putting her very life on the line for the sake of love. I'm all for that.
True peace is found in submitting to God, doing His will and letting Him fight the battles.
People are seeking peace above all; they need to witness this peace to find salvation. St. Maria of Paris demonstrated that peace while doing God's will. Her prayer life went beyond words between two parties (one of whom forever begs for mercy all the while proclaiming that God is All-Merciful) to a union with the Spirit where there is no longer two but only one. She no longer just spoke with God, she co-operated with Him with her entire being, His words became her life and her words no longer mattered. She let Him work through her in practical ways: her mysticism was as real as that of Christ who went about doing good, healing the sick, telling the good news and finally mounting the cross
Here was a woman who, though she drank and smoked, demonstrated true peace to the world around her, not by
imitating humility but by living it to the end.
#220.127.116.11.1.1 Ever and anon. on 2009-03-16 07:00
As a graduate of St. Vladimir’s Seminary, and as a former faculty member of St. Tikhon’s Seminary (who took part in the initial processes of accrediting St. Tikhon’s) I would like to second pretty nearly everything which Fr. Philip has said above. I would only demur slightly from his characterization of the monastic life as “ordinary Christian life, just kicked up a notch or two”. First, the last time I checked, the consensus was pretty general that Christian monasticism had its roots in the period when the Christian Church was passing from a condition of martyrdom to the status of acceptance in the Roman Empire, and one of the purposes of the monastic life was precisely to preserve a species of martyrdom, of ultimate witness, in the midst of the perceived dilution of Christian witness which ocurred as a result of both the acceptance of and mass conversions to Christianity in that period. This witness is no less necessary in the midst of the radical secularism which confronts the Church today. Second, Christian monasticism has, at its best, tended to serve as something akin to, or analogous to, the prophetic witness of the Old Testament. While many of the prophets were members of the “professional” hierarchy of Israel and Judah, many were not, but in all cases the “professional clergy” and the spirit-endowed prophets existed – ideally, at least – in a state of creative tension wherein the prophets refused to allow the “professional” clergy to stifle or ignore the living, active confrontation of God with His people, and the clergy, in turn refused to allow the prophets to go off on wild tangents which would take people outside the polity. Likewise, while many of the great monastic saints have been clergy, many have not. But all of the great monastic spiritual fathers have been those who have lived in a relationship of creative tension with the established hierarchy so that the hierarchy is not permitted to stifle or ignore the life of the Holy Spirit in the Church – the true Tradition of the Church: The living faith of the departed, as opposed to the dead faith of the living (to paraphrase Jaroslav Pelikan) – by organizational fiat, and likewise, the monastics are not permitted by the hierarchy to splinter the polity of the Church.
(Editor's note: Fr. Melchisedek Pleska has been nominated by the Diocese of W. PA to be their new Bishop, and is awaiting official election by the Synod of the OCA.)
#14.2 Archimandrite Melchisedek Pleska on 2009-03-09 12:53
That sounds right to me! Thanks for the education of what true monasticism is. Mayit be so in these perilous times.
#14.2.1 Ever and anon. on 2009-03-10 06:15
Look, the financial problems that STOTS has may not be recoverable. You have + Herman to thank for this mismanagement. Correcting the situation there will take consolidation there and with other properties of the OCA. The OCA just doesn't need two seminaries. Schools of higher learning need to be located near other centers of higher learning not in the woods & mountains. The wood & mountains are for monasteries.
Now, the monastery; some have said it's a big joke, others say it's also mismanaged - I don't know. To say that a school of higher learning needs to be connected with a monastery really doesn't make sense.
#15 Anonymous on 2009-03-07 07:22
Exactly...YOU don't know. Anyone who says the the monastery here is a big joke is either anti-monastic to begin with or has never been here.
Yes, it was a "joke" for a long time in the sense that it existed (without the knowledge of the monks) in order to provide archdeacon alexei with a whole lot of money for nothing. I won't get into it because if I did Mark here would surely delete it all anyway :-), but lets just say that what was wrong with St. Tikhon's is no longer there or happening, but what was left behind is going to take a while to sweep up.
As far as monasteries go, St. Tikhon's is a model in many ways. The Fathers here are true monastics and great spiritual Fathers. They have a fuller cycle of services than most other monasteries in the country. The academics at the seminary are geared towards making priests, so yes they are different than at St. Vlad's because St. Vlad's has more than one focus, but no they are not less or substandard in any way.
The fact that you can't understand the importance of having a monastery connected to a seminary shows the real depth of your spiritual understanding. Thank God that its the biggest reason why most of us are here. If by "higher learning" you are referring to a degree, then no, a monastery is not necessary, but if by "higher learning" you are referring to a person's spiritual formation as well as their classwork, then the benefits of monastic community should be obvious to you or anyone else.
#15.1 Anon. Seminarian on 2009-03-08 16:24
As a recent graduate of St Tikhon’s Seminary, I want to second what the above seminarian says about the monastery, but also to add some critical nuance.
It would be neither fair nor accurate to call St Tikhon’s Monastery “a joke.” In my personal experience, I found the monks to be spiritually serious and sincere in their discipline. Moreover - with one or two rare incidents of an exceptional kind, which I attribute to the stress of atmospheric pressures as well as personal idiosyncrasy - I saw them trying very hard to be kind and welcoming to the students and their families. It should also be known that they, too, like the students and faculty (maybe even far more so), were suffering under obedience to a Metropolitan who treated them with contempt, and who insisted on his own will in all things pertaining to the monastery church, without reference to the needs of those worshipping there.
It is true that the monastery church has not always been the most “friendly” place. I would say: most specially to families. I believe his, however, was due almost entirely to the hegemony of Herman and his favored “people,” who were always around and exercising their influence over things at the monastery church. To name one easy example: a number of years ago, Herman ordered the seminary wives not to come to all the Holy Week services with their children, as the "noise" irritated him. Other incidents of a similar nature, some more egregious and downright even cruel, could also be told.
But none, or almost none, of this attitude could be attributed to the monks (some of whom actually objected to it at least in private). To the contrary, in my time there, two or three of the ordained monks showed the most generous spiritual support to many seminarians AND their families. Without these monks, some students would almost certainly not have survived the stress of the program - with the work overload, the general poverty of most students, and the suspicious, controlling and (on occasion) abusive treatment which came from the seminary administration. Far from being source of the famed abuse and corruption, these monks deserve our gratitude and sympathy.
Yet, that being said, I do believe that St Tikhon’s seminary has relied far too much on the presence of the monastery as a selling point - and that in a rather misleading way. True, the monastery church offers a very full cycle of services. However, the seminary community itself does not worship as a whole together on a daily basis, as is the case at the other Orthodox seminaries in this country. Instead students have their assigned weekly “choir days” which they are required to attend. On any given Monday morning liturgy, say, when there is no such assignment, there may be a total of three students present in church. This set-up has a way of dividing the community somewhat, and creating a very individualist, and at the same time rather impersonal, approach to worship life.
Thus it is misleading to suggest (as has often been done) that the presence of the monastery allows students at St Tikhon’s a fuller experience of the services than at other seminaries - most especially as regards married students, who have to live off campus. In fact the seminary communities at both St Vladimir’s and Holy Cross enjoy a far more regular and frequent celebration of worship together than at St Tikhon’s: These seminary communities worship together on a daily basis, whereas St Tikhon’s does not.
The lack of married student housing, as well as of a regime of services specifically tailored to a seminary (not a monastery) schedule, make a big difference in this regard. It is common advice that in the life of prayer, daily regularity is on the whole far more important and effective than length or solemnity. In the case of a community which must live and work together day in and day out, this prayer should be both daily and corporate, involving the whole community - not just different groups putting in their time on different days.
Another thing. While some experience of a monastery may be very beneficial, it is also important that those studying to become priests get the opportunity to work in parishes during their time in seminary. In this regard, St Tikhon’s has almost totally failed (at least in recent years). With the exception of those already ordained, seminarians are allowed almost no opportunities to attend and help out in parishes.
In spite of all the talk about St Tikhon’s being the more “pastoral” school, it is again St Vladimir’s and Holy Cross which both allow and indeed require M Div students to do parish work in a variety of different capacities (music, teaching, youth work, etc), whereas again St Tikhon’s does not. There are students who have spent a total of 7 years at STS (undergrad priestly formation + M Div) and who - apart from one summer of parish internship - have come out having had almost ZERO opportunity to work in a parish. All those years - what a tragic waste of human time and energy. And the sheer number of students all together on Sundays in the monastery church (as well as some possible favoritism at work) does not allow much opportunity for many of them even to serve in the altar. Many seminarians are reduced to being simply choristers for most of their time in seminary.
Add to this the un-friendly atmosphere created at the monastery church by Herman’s sycophants and favored cretins, and in the case of married students and their families, this situation was, during my time there, even more painfully tragic. And ridiculous. Most of the married students have more than one Orthodox parish closer to their home than the monastery church. Yet students are not allowed to go to those parishes on the weekends; instead they are required to drive to the seminary/monastery 7 days a week (and twice on Saturdays - for morning liturgy and Vespers). All this costs gas money, and most students are poor, just scraping by. And when one considers the obvious need for teaching in the surrounding parishes - the most basic kind teaching which even many first year seminarians could provide! - the enormity of the waste, and the stunted vision of the seminary leadership which insisted on this arrangement, is all the more apparent. It is truly tragic.
It may be that, as the above seminarian wrote, “what was wrong with St. Tikhon’s is no longer there or happening, but what was left behind is going to take a while to sweep up.” I truly hope so. But I would insist that part of this “sweeping up” needs to include a re-consideration of the arrangement regarding seminary worship life. The monastery-seminary relationship is not a bad thing, but neither is it an unqualified good, especially if it means being cut off from the parishes.
Why not require weekend attendance at the monastery church for first year seminarians, but then allow freedom for 2nd and 3rd year students to attend nearby parishes? Why not give parish assignments to all 3rd year seminarians? That the seminary could exercise such a controlling and suspicious approach to grown men (many of whom are husbands and fathers) who will then be expected to lead parishes in just a few years is just plain twisted and contradictory.
Sorry for the long-windededness, but I don't hear these things being discussed - at least not in any balanced way.
#15.1.1 STOTS Alumnus on 2009-03-09 21:24
While I agree with you a great deal on the matter of students not being involved enough in parish life. I have to disagree with your assessment of the communal worship situation.
You forget that for all of the unmarried students, it is a requirement to attend vespers every night with the exception of Friday night and Sunday night. This is roughly half of the student body, and take peoples church days into account and you see that roughly 65-70% of the student body is praying together on a daily basis, for vespers at least. Those who are not there, are perfectly welcome to be, and it is no fault of the seminary.
I do think that married student housing would help a great deal with this as well, but it's a few years away before that will come into play.
#18.104.22.168 Current STOTS Seminarian on 2009-03-10 15:07
Why do some still advocate closing St.Tikhons Seminary? Why not St.Vladimirs? The OCA and a seminary do not have to be in a big city where temptations are greater. A seminary connected to a monastery is a time honored tradition. The late Bishop Jonah,would tell the seminarians at that time,that they will learn to be priests on the kliros of the monastery.That doesnt mean that academics are not important.St.Tikhons was,is and always will be a fine seminary.They have professors who write books,have PHDs and are well experienced.Students come from all over the Orthodox world.Not all want or care to go to St.Vladimirs. St.Tikhons Seminary does not have to take a back seat to any other. If St.Tikhons is the Center of Orthodoxy in America then put everything there and re-enforce that label.Close St.Tikhons? NEVER!
#16 anon on 2009-03-07 09:59
Hey, it's not fair to diss St Vladimir's just because some people are dissing St Tikhon's. It's important to remember that these two seminaries were started at the same time by the same people, to serve the Church in two different ways. (And for the record, THE OCA HAS THREE SEMINARIES, not just two! Everyone seems to forget St Herman's!)
SVS is doing well, by the grace of God, and there is simply no reason in the world it should be closed. A sinful or temptation-filled environment doesn't follow from its proximity to New York City. In fact, from what I've heard, most of the surrounding community seems to appreciate having SVS in their midst - glory to God!
I think the people who are advocating closing STS are uninformed. St Tikhon's situation is bad, but not at all hopeless, especially if we heed MJ's words and support them through their crisis instead of clenching our fists around our purse strings (and hearts) because we can't stand to be hurt again. Think of the monastics who live the life of the angels, and the seminarians who strive to serve Christ and His flock. And even think of the sad, pitiful men who stabbed the monastics and seminarians in the back - pray earnestly for their salvation, but do not hold their crimes against the people who were victimized by them.
Thank you for allowing me to comment, and if I have offended anyone or presented anything inaccurately, please forgive me.
#16.1 pobrecita on 2009-03-08 21:53
This is precisely the argument AGAINST decentralization. Instead of a "dictator", as we had in the case of +Herman, we will soon have 10 or so. And, instead of one centralized scandal, we may very well have just as many. Alaska, NY/NJ, E. PA, South - each one of these dioceses have many questionable problems relating to operations and finances.
If there is ever a case for a centralized leadership, it is now!
(With respect to +Jonah, I think its tremendous that law enforcement have been called in. He has said from the beginning that the church is not exempt from civil law and crime. I think its magnificent to say that if there is the implication of impropriety, that law enforcement will be immediately called in. Hopefully, this will get the attention of other such "crooks".)
#17 Anonymous on 2009-03-08 22:30
I would appreciate some specifics to your allegation of "many questionable problems" relating to the finances of the Diocese of the South.
Diocese of the South
#17.1 Milos Konjevich on 2009-03-09 16:33
I wrote "operations and finances". I am not aware of any wrongdoings of finance in the south, but the fact that Fr. K. is still in a cassock, ministering at a church / acting in a priestly capacity, is extremely disturbing and in full disregard to the overall financial crisis (operations). Fr. K. was removed from the ranks of clergy. He should not be allowed to wear a cassock / preach and teach at all. I believe that the Archbishop should be down there immediately to end that and could be if he wanted to.
#17.1.1 Anonymous on 2009-03-10 17:31
Thanks for the clarification. There are many issues discussed on this forum and I have an opinion on every one of them, but am ever mindful of the comparison of opinions to a certain part of the human anatomy and therefore express myself only to those matters which touch upon my official duties.
#22.214.171.124 Anonymous on 2009-03-12 08:57
It's but a nit, but the 4Q 2008 financials for the Diocese of the South aren't up yet. Worse, there's never any mention of minutes from diocesan council meetings. (Wasn't a council meeting held in February?)
#17.1.2 John on 2009-03-10 22:10
I try to have the quarterly financials up by the end of the quarter following, which in this case would be 3-31-09.
I've received very few comments on any of the previous financial postings, and that has been a bit of a surprise. I'll therefore use this opportunity to invite those who have a thought or two thereon to ring me up at email@example.com, or telephone 214-522-4149. There really is a lot to talk about. I'm particularly interested in hearing from the delegates to the upcoming Diocesan Assembly, as I believe they have an obligation to their parish to be informed about what's happening in the diocese.
#126.96.36.199 Anonymous on 2009-03-12 09:39
The tenor of much of this discussion is disturbing.
At long last, the much-rumored financial issues at St. Tikhon's are being investigated and dealt with. That's a good thing and a tremendous credit to Met. Jonah, Bp. Tikhon, the central administration [i.e., today's 'Syosset'], and the current administrations at the monastery and the seminary.
To jump from this to a call for closing St. Tikhon's Seminary is a mighty great leap. It is particularly troubling that a bunch of the calls for closure are playing into a sense of rivalry and division between the STOTS and SVOTS 'camps.' Nothing good can come from such division and rivalry.
Let the strategic planning process proceed and let's see where it all ends up when people take a fresh look at things. We need to know much more about how this process will work, but it hasn't even started yet and people settling in to fixed ideas of what the outcome should be.
#18 Rebecca Matovic on 2009-03-09 08:24
I was under the impression that both STOTS and St. Vlad's were growing. If the number of seminarians is, in fact, on the rise, that in itself would seem to indicate a need. It does seem a little odd that the only OCA seminary outside the Northeast is in Alaska; but that still doesn't mean either of the East Coast seminaries should close.
It seems to me we need more of these institutions--both seminaries and monasteries--not fewer.
#19 Morton on 2009-03-09 08:45
For years both St. Tikhon's Seminary and St. Vladimir's Seminary provided training for future priests, choir directors and other lay workers for the church. Both have their ministries and their histories. It is neither one nor the other. We want Orthodoxy to spread in the United States surely in order to do this we need all three seminiaries to be healthy, pastoral, theological training ground for the future health of our church. If anything online courses for these institutions would be quite beneficial for the church. Why should students, from other jurisidictions go to the middle east or eastern europe for a theological education. Other jurisdictions do and should use both St. Tikhon's and St. Vladimir's. Some people prefer the country others the suburbs and/or metropolitan areas to live and study. That is why there are so many colleges and universities across the US. Each with their own unique gifts and opportunities for students. Why shouldn't the Orthodox Church in the United States offer that also?
#20 anonymous on 2009-03-09 08:45
The Church is only as strong as its monasteries! The example set by our monastic community sets the tone for the faithful. I am a former member of the OCA....my parish was taken to court by Met. Herman many years ago. It was a question of the church property and the calendar. Our parish was degraded, our priest was referred to as MR. not FR. by local OCA clergy, OCA members were ordered by their parish priests not to attend our church or any function run by our church. The nightmare still continues with the neighboring priest in Jermyn, PA. Our priest has always remained kind and accomodating to everyone (OCA, Patriarchal, Synodal). Last Memorial Day the Kursk Icon visited St. Tikhon's Monastery. Our priest announced this event in church and in the parish bulletin. For the first time in many years I (along with many others from our parish) went to the Monastery which is only a few miles from our town. I noticed immediately that the tone of St. Tikhon's has changed from 25+ years ago. It seemed more like our Monastery in Jordanville, NY. The monks were very friendly, prayerful, and welcoming. I felt good about being up there again! This year I know more people from Mayfield will be visiting St. Tikhon's now that Herman and his crew are gone. St. Tikhon's is a wonderful Seminary and Monastery. Priests who come from this seminary are pastors -- this is a wonderful thing --shepherds who lead their flock. If there is a movement to close this holy place, I, personally, will initiate a movement in my parish to begin support of St. Tikhon's -- and we're not OCA. Prayers are needed for all involved. May God give you strength, wisdom and direction to do what is right for the Holy Orthodox Church.
(Editor's note: Bless you! "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!" Psalm 133:1
#21 Anonymous Observor on 2009-03-10 03:25
As a seminarian at St. Tikhon's I can tell you first hand that there is no longer any reason why our community and your parish cannot work together. Herman is gone, and everyone here has nothing but love for our brothers and sisters in ROCOR. All of the obstacles are gone.
#21.1 Anon. STOTS Seminarian on 2009-03-10 19:50
That's nice to hear. I guess the coolness and tense feeling we have felt over the past 25+ years was all initiated by Herman and his groupies. It's time this nonsense comes to an end and we work together as brothers and sisters in Christ and in Holy Orthodoxy!
#21.1.1 Anonymous Observor on 2009-03-12 02:46
Greetings! Not true that all the obstacles are gone. As long as the tail riders of Herman and company are still serving in front of an Altar, there will always be an uncomfortable situation. It will take many years for what has happened in NEPA and Western Pa to heal. Yes, the younger generation will be fine, due to the fact that they have none or little knowledge of what really happened. However, the older ones are the problems. First, they would have to ask forgiveness, Second, they would have to (in a nut shell) eat crow. Many actions and most importantly many words have been spoken by the faithful and clergy of the OCA. Knowing the people in ROCOR in NEPA, they have forgiven years ago. But, hostility still runs within the oca, with or without Herman. So, honestly I feel that in those two parts (NEPA and Western Pa.) of the world, it will take many years for the healing to happen. Besides, the issue in NEPA and Western Pa isn't the only problem. I understand that ROCOR has many issues with OCA and that will be dealt by the Holy Synod of Bishops of the ROCOR. Which again, may take many years. Also, don't be mislead, the MP have full knowledge of what the situation is between the ROCOR and the OCA, and as well as the NEPA and Western Pa. situation. Only through time and most importantly, *PRAYER*, will there be an improvement.
#21.1.2 born and raised in the NEPA and moved away years ago. on 2009-03-12 16:30
From a perspective of a member of the ROCOR, and speaking only for myself, I say if the OCA doesn't appreciate the holy place that is St. Tikhon's Seminary/Monastery, and the OCA wants to close it down, I think that the ROCOR would be happy to take this holy place off of your hands!
Should the OCA decide to keep St. Tikhon's, I was thinking that since there are still OCA parishes on the Church Calendar ("Old Calendar"), it would not be unreasonable for STOTS to go back, especially since His Beatitude, Metropolitan Jonah is a good son of Valaam.
This would definitely go a long way to dropping the wall between STOTS and Holy Trinity (Jordanville). Metroplitan Hilarion of the ROCOR is already making the "language of the people" a priority in the future work of the ROCOR. Think of what these two "traditional" Seminaries/Monasteries could accomplish together in North America by pooling their resources!
We in the ROCOR do not like to see St. Tikhon's as an ugly step-sister to SVOTS. Instead of closing it down, please, work something out with the ROCOR!
#21.1.3 Anonymous on 2009-03-14 08:51
EXCELLENT IDEA!!! I, too, am a member of a ROCOR parish in NEPA. I feel that Vladyka Hilarion could work miracles at STOTS in South Canaan. Let's face it...many of our boys would love to go to an English speaking seminary. The first several years at Holy Trinity are extremely difficult for non-Russian speakers. St. Tikhon's would be an excellent alternative. Only problem is the calendar. Let's pray for some sort of jointure between Holy Trinity and St. Tikhon's Seminaries. Imagine what could occur. We certainly are living in strange times -- no one would even imagine any occurrence like this 25 years ago. Even if it doesn't happen, it's nice to know we could dream about it. May God bless us all.
#188.8.131.52 Ed N. in NEPA on 2009-03-15 02:43
Yup, we need more monasteries.
Greek abbot arrested on sex abuse charges
2009-03-10 15:53:11 -
ATHENS, Greece (AP) - Greek police say they have arrested a monastery's abbot on suspicion of sexually abusing at least 21 underage novice monks over the past two decades.
A police statement says the 68-year-old man was arrested late Monday after four men aged 18-34 accused him of forcing them to engage in sexual acts with
The abuse allegedly took place between 1988 and 2007, when the men were novice monks at the Greek Orthodox monastery near Keratea, on the eastern outskirts of Athens.
Police say an investigation found that the suspect allegedly abused at least another 17 underage youths residing at the monastery.
Police said Tuesday the abbot abused the youths by taking advantage of his position. The abbot denied any wrongdoing.
(Editor's note: Do not paint all monastics with the brush created by a few bad ones. This is stereotyping of the worst sort. The problem is not that some men do bad things; but that policies of transparency and structures of accountability are not in place to insure that when such things do happen - and they will continue to happen for it is a fallen world - they can be quickly exposed because victims feel encouraged to come forward, and the perps be stopped.)
#22 Anonymous on 2009-03-11 07:06
What about having one seminary with two campuses; i.e. keep both facilities open but under a single administrative structure and academic program? The STS campus could be a satellite campus of SVS, retain its monastic community and perhaps students would be required to spend a semester or year of their studies there.
Just a thought.
#23 JPS on 2009-03-11 09:52
I'm not trashing your idea, and I am not keen on any rivalry between STOTS and SVOTS, but fact is that we are two very different schools. Men come to St. Tikhon's for one reason and one reason only, and that is to be priests. People attend Vlad's for that and any number of reasons, which is why they have more than one degree program. We also have an undergraduate program which allows those of us who never completed our Bachelor's to do so before moving on to the MDiv. program. I don't think that is the case with Vlad's. Priestly formation is emphasized over academics here, but the work we do and the class load we have to carry is no less than at the other seminary. Met. Jonah has spoken about standardizing seminary programs, but I don't see how that could happen without completely changing things here, and I would hate to see that happen. Not everyone goes to seminary for the same reasons, but it safe to say that all of us here are.
That being said, there is no reason for us to be a satellite campus for St. Vlad's. St. Tikhon's exists for really one reason (to train future priests). Plus you have to take into account that the majority of the Seminarians (at least here) are married with children, so nobody can move around from one state to the next anyway.
#23.1 Anon. STOTS Seminarian on 2009-03-12 21:31
I think it's utterly ridiculous that people are actually suggesting the closure of St. Tikhon's Seminary. Aside from Jordanville, it's the only seminary attached to a monastery in America. And of course, that being said, it's the only English-speaking seminary attached to a monastery in America. And it's the oldest currently functioning seminary as well. That alone should suffice.
Of course, there are other considerations as well. Who, after all that the OCA has gone through over the years, thinks it's a good idea to have all theological education take place in one location? That's stupid. We've already seen what happens when church business happens in one location....
#24 Mark Atkins on 2009-03-12 14:04
"And it's the oldest currently functioning seminary as well. That alone should suffice."
Not true! In 1888, Archbp Vladimir opened a school in San Francisco. Then in 1897, the Minneapolis School opened. It was then moved to Cleveland, O and Tenafly, NJ in 1912. St. Tikhon's was a monastery with a nearby orphanage. In 1937, at the American SOBOR, St. Tikhon's Pastoral School was established and St. Vladimir's ACADEMY, a theological school of higher-learning.
#24.1 Anonymous on 2009-03-16 05:56
There's no substantive difference between a pastoral school and a seminary. They are one and the same thing. And calling something an "academy" versus "school" makes no difference either. St. Vladimir's and St. Tikhon's are both seminaries. And we Orthodox have so pathetically few of those here in America, that it would be foolish and self-destructive to close any of them right now, most of all St. Tikhon's. So, I really hope that doesn't happen, because it would be very sad.
#25 Mark Atkins on 2009-03-17 18:41
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