Wednesday, August 31, 2011

You may have already won!

Found in my email spam box today:


I'm so glad that someone else reads books :) I found Chronicles of Narnia in your profile, it is one of my favorite ones! By the way, I do not know if you read etc., I can recommend it to you, I think you should like it.

I just want to thank you for your wonderful blog

I read the first post "Coffee Beans and an Elusive Sighting " and then I spent another hour on your blog by reading your posts with pleasure :) Every article is interesting and easy to read. I really like the "Church Desecration ".

By the way, I also read similar blog to yours -, I am sure you will find it interesting too.

I work for ___ company, we aggregate job adverts around the world.

My job is to persuade bloggers to link to our site.

I really love my job! We have a friendly team and good management, but unfortunately I have no idea how to convince a blogger to link to us, I'm afraid I might lose my job because of it :(

And that is why, instead of sending letters to thousands of different blogs, I am reading yours.

Honestly, I am not really sure if the link to our website in USA -, will be appropriate for your blog, but if you believe it will and it is possible to add it, I would be really grateful to you! Our site is really cool, it can greatly help hundreds of people to find a job.

I wish you to have a good day and excellent mood! Thanks again for your nice blog. Write more! Thanks!

LOL, this is so obviously a form letter. Look:


I'm so glad that someone else reads books :) I found [book name] in your profile, it is one of my favorite ones! By the way, I do not know if you read [book name, except they forgot to put one in] etc., I can recommend it to you, I think you should like it.

I just want to thank you for your wonderful blog [blog name].

I read the first post [post title] and then I spent another hour on your blog by reading your posts with pleasure :) Every article is interesting and easy to read. I really like the [different post title - interesting that they picked Church Desecration for this one. Did anyone else find it "enjoyable"??]

By the way, I also read similar blog to yours - [blog from my profile], I am sure you will find it interesting too.

I work for ____company ['m not going to give them free advertising here], we aggregate job adverts around the world.

My job is to persuade bloggers to link to our site.

I really love my job! We have a friendly team and good management, but unfortunately I have no idea how to convince a blogger to link to us, I'm afraid I might lose my job because of it :( [insert violins]

And that is why, instead of sending letters to thousands of different blogs, I am reading yours.

Honestly, I am not really sure if the link to our website in USA -, will be appropriate for your blog, but if you believe it will and it is possible to add it, I would be really grateful to you! Our site is really cool, it can greatly help hundreds of people to find a job.

I wish you to have a good day and excellent mood! Thanks again for your nice blog. Write more! Thanks!

 Just how stupid do you think I am? On the other hand, this is probably one of the more canny attempts I have seen. Anyone else gotten a better one?

The Devaluing of Life: Part I

Death with Dignity
Compassionate Choice
Selective Reduction
Genetic Counselling

Words get tossed around, bounced back and forth from political group to citizen's group to medical board to national news. Words have power, they're not merely words. The obvious example is the dichotomy between "pro-choice" and "pro-life". Any first grader will tell you that the opposite of "life" isn't "choice", it's "death".* People always have a choice. Only in places like China are people not really being given a choice - being forcibly sterilized after one or two children, having children within days of birth aborted because they already have one child. So why the odd choice of words? Because it sounds better, of course. Anything calling itself "pro-death" won't get very far, especially when you're talking about babies.

That brings us around to "death with dignity" and "compassionate choice". There's that "choice" thing again. Both are, in plain-speak, euthanasia. Euthanasia means quite literally "good death". Whatever the semanticists want to term it, it's just suicide. As Orthodox (and we don't have a monopoly on this) we have a very different idea of what constitutes a "good death" and it's not suicide. Suicide is the ultimate expression of despair and lack of faith and hope (same thing) in God. In Roman Catholicism this is considered a crime against the Holy Spirit and is unforgivable. In Orthodoxy we have much the same view and can only plead for God's mercy for the soul of the person who commits suicide. In the case of the truly deranged who jump off of buildings, etc., the person is considered ill and not wholly responsible for his or her death. The folks in charge of Compassionate Choice wouldn't consider giving lethal drugs to someone clearly out of his mind; they will only help the person who is in complete possession of his faculties to commit suicide. Hm. You can see the legal and "ethical" ramifications of this, but from a theological point of view, the person who commits suicide while sane is in much greater danger of losing his soul than the person who doesn't really know what he's doing. (And in that latter case case it would be murder, the implications of which should be obvious and won't be discussed here.)

For Orthodox, suicide is the ultimate rejection of faith:
The only "eu-thanasia" (Greek for "a good death") recognized in Orthodox ethics is that death in which the human person accepts the end of his or her life in the spirit of moral and spiritual purity, in hope and trust in God, and as a member of his kingdom. True humanity may be achieved even on a deathbed. (source)
Here's how someone has described being present at the time someone used lethal drugs to commit suicide:  "It's almost like being at a birth, where you're emotional about that, too, and it's more joyous, of course, but it's still that same wonderful awe-inspiring feeling of taking part in something that's really important." (source) I think that when we start comparing suicide to the joy of birth, then something has gone seriously awry. What are the implications of calling death by suicide, "death with dignity"? Is it only dignified if you're suffering from cancer? What about schizophrenia? What about depression? Is it only dignified if you're over 18? To me and to many, "death with dignity" means something very different.

Compare this to the account of the recent death of Archbishop Dmitri, which I would say is a beautiful example of death with dignity:
He was surrounded by those who loved him who quietly sat at his bedside while turns were taken to read the Gospels. He took shallow breaths and did not move. Through the course of the next few hours his situation remained the same. People who knew him or were inspired by him trickled in and out pray at his bedside. His room was dark and dimly lit. He was without any suffering. At midnight there were about 15 people left with Vladyka, including some who have known him and been close to him for decades. Fr Seraphim held Vladyka’s hand and stroked his head as others gathered around him. At midnight, which began the Dormition of the Theotokos, Bishop Alejo, who had been there since I arrived, stood and said some prayers for him in Spanish. Vladyka must have been overjoyed by this. For the next two hours Archbishop Dmitri remained the same, slowly breathing in the faint light of his bedroom. At 2 AM, he suddenly took a big breath, perked up his head and opened his eyes. I was sitting right at the foot of his bed and he looked right at me. He looked like he was about to speak. Everyone came to him immediately and put their hands on him. He slowly let out his breath and departed this life. As everyone held tightly onto him Fr Seraphim immediately began to pray. Archbishop Dmitri was completely at peace. (source)
You don't have to be 87 and an archbishop to have this kind of death:

This afternoon, October 8, at 5:15, Mary Evelyn’s sweet spirit went to be with our Lord. Mark, Thomas and I were with her and we each spoke to her. I kissed her sweet face near her left ear and told her that her guardian angel was coming to take her to heaven and that she would see my momma. I told her to tell my momma that Thomas and I miss and love her. I told her that all the saints who have been praying for her would be happy to see her and that they would all love her.
She died within a minute with her family surrounding her with love and prayers. She is free now. All day, we have surrounded her with prayer and psalms. After her death, our family prayed the Trisagion prayers over her as well as other beautiful prayers for her as she went to heaven.

We are grateful for God’s gracious mercy that He gave her to us and we were able to be blessed by her sweetness for eight precious years. She left this earth with a pure, beautiful soul that can never be sullied. She will be a joy in heaven and we will wait until in God’s grace we can rejoin her.Somehow, we will find grace to live our lives until then. (source)
For some people, the dying process is accompanied by great pain and other sufferings. No one would wish to prolong this. Given the state of medicine today it is possible to reduce significantly the dying person's pain. Programs like hospice are specifically set up to assist the dying process for both patient and family. Not "assist" as in "hasten", but to accompany, to comfort. It is not always possible to completely alleviate all sufferings unto the end, but we were never guaranteed a painless death.
Generally speaking, the Orthodox Church teaches that it is the duty of both physician and family to make the patient as comfortable as possible, to provide the opportunity for the exercise of patience, courage, repentance, and prayer. The Church has always rejected inflicted, and unnecessary voluntary suffering and pain as immoral; but at the same time, the Church also has perceived in suffering a positive value that often goes unrecognized in the "logic of the world." (source
Although life in general, and dying in partic­ular, are ascetic struggles, one should note that Orthodox Christianity recognizes the importance of pain control and comfort care. In particular, Orthodox Christianity has from the beginning ap­preciated that pain and distress can bring the dy­ing to temptation and despair, thus leading them away from a wholehearted pursuit of salvation. St. Basil the Great (329–379) therefore notes with approval that “with mandrake doctors give us sleep; with opium they lull violent pain.”4 In­deed, twice in each Liturgy, the Church prays for “a Christian ending to our life, painless, blame­less, peaceful, and a good defense before the fear­ful judgment seat of Christ.”5 This prayer empha­sizes the goodness of a death that is painless and peaceful. In so doing, however, it does not lose sight of the great offering to God made by the death of martyrs. In all these cases, a blameless death is like the death of the thief, repentant and marked by confession of Christ. As a result, there is nothing more frightening than the prospect of dying peacefully in one’s sleep without warning, without a final opportunity for prayer and repen­tance. (source)
There are prayers for the dying that are appointed by the church. Both in those prayers and also in our private prayers we pray for a swift end to the patient's sufferings.
 However, it must be emphasized that this is a prayer directed to God, who, for the Orthodox, has ultimate dominion over life and death. [snip] To permit a dying person to die, when there is no real expectation that life can sustain itself, and even to pray to the Author of Life to take the life of one "struggling to die" is one thing; euthanasia is another. (source)
Ending with these petitions from the Ectenia of Divine Liturgy:

That we may complete the remaining time of our life in peace and repentance, let us ask of the Lord. A Christian ending to our life, painless, blameless, peaceful and a good defence before the dread judgment seat of Christ, let us ask.

*Of course, for most pro-choice people, they're not "advocating death" because to do that they would have to admit that the baby has life. The thrust of most arguments is that there is no life until birth.

[In future posts I'll address selective reduction and genetic counselling.]

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

7 Quick Takes

1. Father is off to Dallas for Archbishop Dimitri's funeral services. He'll be home Thursday night. We're together so much it's bizarre when he's not here. We'd prefer to be with each other over anyone else. I made a good move marrying my best friend.

2. Homeschool officially started yesterday. Pickles loves kindergarten in theory, but it's iffy in practice. We're doing a very small amount of "sit down" work together (practicing letters, etc.) but mostly we're doing school all over. He's still four after all. It's hard to get back in the grind for all of us!

3. I'm working on a blanket for the first time in a while. Orders more or less dried up this summer. I have material grouped together for at least three more quilts but can't handle the thought of getting into one. I'd work on a crib quilt - more doable because of the smaller size - but I don't have anyone to make it for.

4. The weather turned very, very dry. Only the heat/drought tolerant plants are flourishing and I have to give those a drink as it is. I'm sure some people on the NE coast would be happy to have a little of the weather we're having to help them dry out. In return, I'd like a little of their rain. I don't think FedEx has a program for this...

5. I've been enjoying Pres. Magda's new blog, Riches and the Kingdom, in which she's chronicling her push to simplify and purge her house of unnecessary "stuff". It's good inspiration.

6. I need to get back to drawing. I took a break after the last illustration and am not sure which section I want to illustrate next.

7. I sat down while folding clothes and watched a good portion of Star Wars IV for the first time in a long time. I was reminded of how much I love Obi Wan Kenobi's character. Some fantastic quotes:

Obi-Wan: "Obi-Wan Kenobi...Obi-Wan...Now, that's a name I've not heard in a long time...a long time."
Luke: "I think my uncle knows him. He said he was dead."
Obi-Wan: "Oh, he's not dead – at least, not yet."
Luke: "You know him?"
Obi-Wan: "Well, of course I know him! He's me!"

Gotta love House...

Monday, August 29, 2011

Experiencing Archbishop Dmitri’s Last Week and Hours

From a parishioner of St. Seraphim’s Cathedral, who was with Vladyka when he reposed.


The Liturgy today, August 28th, 2011, at St Seraphim’s Cathedral in Dallas culminated for me an amazing and transformative week in which I was blessed to be able to witness the repose of Archbishop Dmitri, who having set an example to all Christians on how to live a godly life, remained true to form and showed us how to fall asleep with happiness and peace in the sureness of his faith.  This time was a remarkable blessing to all those who were able to witness it or hear about it.

Having spent nights with him in his room and hospital over the past weeks I often saw and heard him late at night in his semi-consciousness pray aloud for those he knew.  Many who spent time with him in these last days will attest to this fact.  This was a constant prayer that went through the night when he had the strength to speak.  He was never seen to show despair despite enduring an exhausting and sometimes painful deterioration in his health.  When he had the strength and alertness to speak he wanted his spiritual children around him and took great joy in telling stories and listening to what others wanted to tell him.  By God’s grace his loving and jovial manner remained with him to the end.

When I saw him last Sunday, August 21st, Archbishop Dmitri had become exhausted after his stay in the hospital and had not had the strength or will to eat or drink.  He was anxious and jittery in his bed and his speech was nearly incomprehensible.  His doctor, one of his parishioners at St Seraphim’s who devoted large amounts of his time to caring for Vladyka, was there to help keep him comfortable and ensure that he was able to repose in his home.  Archbishop Dmitri was extremely adamant on this point.  By Monday morning his condition had declined further.  He was either non-responsive or barely able to respond at all.  An Unction service had been scheduled on Tuesday the 23rd, but due to his condition permission was given for another service to be conducted in his bedroom Monday afternoon.  I have said what Vladyka’s condition was prior to the service.  As the Unction was conducted those who were there witnessed Archbishop Dmitri slowly respond to the prayers and chants of the choir.  He began opening his eyes and looking around.  He began smiling.  Eventually he could be heard singing.  By the end of the service Vladyka’s melodious one-of-a-kind Texan voice was heard by all participating in the service.  All were struck by his joyful recovery.  This service was attended by over 30 people in Vladyka’s 2nd story bedroom next to the Cathedral.  It was nearly 110 degrees that day and he had only one window unit and several fans in his room.  The combination of body heat, candles, and incense brought the temperature of the room to around 90 degrees, but after standing witness to this remarkable transformation in our beloved Archbishop no one was greatly bothered by the discomfort.  I stayed with Vladyka that night and realized how much he had recovered after seeing him ask for coffee and cough drops, two simple pleasures he loved.

The next day Archbishop Dmitri was brave enough to be taken next door to the Cathedral for the previously scheduled Unction service, an exhausting experience for him but a gift to his spiritual children.  As Fr. John Anderson said, the events that occurred at the beginning of this week were a blessing to all of us.  He personally did not need to remain with us, but we needed him.  Vladyka was always ready to leave this life, and in a way that I can only hope to achieve.  Having a few more days with him and being able to witness his grace and joy as he left us was an experience beyond words.

By Friday it was apparent that he would soon depart from us.  His consciousness slowly slipped away.  When I saw him Saturday morning he was virtually non-arousable.  His breathing was regular but weak.  He was not moving voluntarily.  I left him around lunchtime with Metropolitan Jonah and Fr Seraphim Hipsh quietly praying over him.  I returned that night at 9 to stay with him overnight.  He was surrounded by those who loved him who quietly sat at his bedside while turns were taken to read the Gospels.  He took shallow breaths and did not move.  Through the course of the next few hours his situation remained the same.  People who knew him or were inspired by him trickled in and out pray at his bedside.  His room was dark and dimly lit.  He was without any suffering.  At midnight there were about 15 people left with Vladyka, including some who have known him and been close to him for decades.  Fr Seraphim held Vladyka’s hand and stroked his head as others gathered around him.  At midnight, which began th Dormition of the Theotokos, Bishop Alejo, who had been there since I arrived, stood and said some prayers for him in Spanish.  Vladyka must have been overjoyed by this.  For the next two hours Archbishop Dmitri remained the same, slowly breathing in the faint light of his bedroom.  At 2 AM, he suddenly took a big breath, perked up his head and opened his eyes.  I was sitting right at the foot of his bed and he looked right at me.  He looked like he was about to speak.  Everyone came to him immediately and put their hands on him.  He slowly let out his breath and departed this life.  As everyone held tightly onto him Fr Seraphim immediately began to pray.  Archbishop Dmitri was completely at peace.

Over the next hour Fr Seraphim prayed for Vladyka.  I called Fr John Anderson who came immediately and performed a Panikhida with Fr Seraphim.  Others who loved him came as well when they were notified.  At around 3:30 Fr John and Fr Seraphim began to prepare the Archbishop’s body as a deacon and subdeacon read the Scriptures.  I was blessed to be able to help with this, and will never forget how I was struck by the tremendous care and affection with which his body was handled.  It was such a great testament to the immense love which we had for him.  I also will always remember that despite having departed us hours earlier and having been sick for some time, Archbishop Dmitri’s body had a lively hue that I am not accustomed to seeing in the deceased.  After he had been properly cleaned and dressed, people continued to trickle in to silently pay their respects to this godly man.

I went home to sleep for a couple hours until the Liturgy.  Besides the other things I have mentioned that will stay with me, I will also remember with happiness and tears Metropolitan Jonah’s homily, in which he charged us to keep Archbishop Dmitri’s memory eternal, and to model our lives after his example.  The deacons’ voices cracked as they chanted prayers for his soul.  There was sadness that we will not see Vladyka again in this world, but great rejoicing that God sent him to us and brought him back home.

A friend asked me to write recollections down of what I witnessed over the past week, and I thank him for it.  As I write this I’ve been eating a handful of Vladyka’s cough drops.  That, combined with the smell of incense still on my clothes, is bringing tears to my eyes as I become nostalgic for my remarkable experiences with him over the past weeks..  I’ve only known him personally for a few short years.  I was never able to witness the full force of his personality, but I was able to be transformed by the gravity of his influence.  One did not need to know him on a deep personal level to be affected in this way.  Just the way that he would smile at you as he walked through the crowd after the Liturgy on Sundays would make you want to follow him.  I rejoice that I was able to be a part of the end of this great man’s life.  He was truly an example of how we should live our lives in Christ.  May his memory indeed be eternal!

– James

h/t Fr. Alexander Fecanin

Sunday, August 28, 2011

+Archbishop Dmitri 11/2/23 - 8/28/11 Memory Eternal!

1999 (That's Ribby) at St. Symeon's in Birmingham

2006 at St. Symeon's in Birmingham

From an email this morning...

Our beloved retired Hierarch, His Eminence, Archbishop Dmitri of Dallas and the South, fell asleep in the Lord at 2am Sunday Morning, August 28, 2011, at his residence in Dallas, TX. Information regarding the funeral arrangements will be made available as soon as the plans are finalized. A brief obituary follows below.
May his memory be eternal!
VRev Fr Marcus C Burch
Chancellor, DOS
864 299 1140

In Memoriam:  +  His Eminence, Archbishop DMITRI

Orthodox Christians were deeply saddened to hear of the falling asleep in the Lord on Sunday, August 28, 2011, at 2:00 am [CDT] of His Eminence, The Most Reverend DMITRI, retired Archbishop of the Diocese of the South, Orthodox Church in America.  The Archbishop was eighty-seven years old.  Ordained in 1954, then consecrated to the episcopacy in 1969, his ecclesial ministry spanned fifty-seven remarkable years. 

     His Eminence was born Robert R. Royster on November 2, 1923, into a Baptist family in the town of Teague, Texas. He often credited his mother for providing him and his sister with a strong, initial faith in Christ.  After discovering Orthodoxy as teens they asked their mother for a blessing to convert, whereupon she asked one basic yet predictive question:  "Does the Orthodox Church believe in Christ as Lord and Savior?"  As it turned out, a specific emphasis on the person and work of Jesus Christ became the hallmark of the future hierarch's ministry, profoundly influencing his preaching and writing. 

     Having received their desired blessing, and after a period of inquiry and study, brother and sister were received together as Orthodox Christians at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Dallas, Texas in 1941. It was at that point that the two received the names of Dmitri and Dimitra.

     Dmitri was drafted into the US Army  in 1943, after which he underwent intensive training in Japanese and linguistics in Ann Arbor, Michigan and the Military Intelligence Service Language School in Fort Snelling, Minnesota. Following this he served as a Japanese interpreter at the rank of Second Lieutenant on the staff of General Douglas MacArthur.  After his military service Dmitri completed his education, receiving a Bachelor's Degree from the (now) University of North Texas in Denton, just outside of Dallas, and a Master's Degree in Spanish in 1949 from Southern Methodist University.  He completed two years of post graduate studies at Tulane University in New Orleans whereupon he returned to his home in Dallas. 

     In 1954, as a subdeacon with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church under Constantinople, Dmitri worked with the Mexican Orthodox Community of Our Lady of San Juan de Los Lagos, at which time he began translations of Orthodox liturgical services into Spanish.  In April of 1954 Subdeacon Dmitri, his sister Dimitra and their priest, Fr. Rangel sought permission of the local hierarch, Bishop Bogdan, to establish an English language Orthodox mission in Dallas, the future St. Seraphim Cathedral.  Dmitri was ordained to the diaconate and priesthood that same year and assigned as rector of St. Seraphim's. In 1958 permission was sought and given to bring both Fr. Dmitri and the parish into the Russian Metropolia, predecessor to the Orthodox Church in America. During his pastorate Fr. Dmitri served as an instructor of Spanish at Southern Methodist University.  He functioned in this capacity for a number of years.  Dmitri also taught at Tulane University in New Orleans for a brief period during his tenure as student.  

     During the early years of St. Seraphim's Fr. Dmitri continued his missionary activities among the Mexican Americans but was intent on developing the new community placed in his care. As a direct result of his desire that people from all walks of life hear the message of Orthodox Christianity, the Cathedral remains to this day, a multi-ethic parish, consisting of both cradle Orthodox and converts.

     While working outside the Church and tending to priestly responsibilities, Fr. Dmitri found time to print his own original articles in a weekly Church bulletin. In the 1950's and 60's Orthodox theological works in English were scarce, particularly on a popular level of reading.  Fr. Dmitri saw a need and sought to address it.  Later, his curriculum for catechumens used at St. Seraphim's would be published by the Department of Christian Education of the Orthodox Church in America, with the title: Orthodox Christian Teaching. The Dallas community grew steadily;  Fr. Dmitri had a unique gift for relating to all people. Both young and old looked to him as a loving father.

     From 1966 to 1967 Fr. Dmitri attended St. Vladimir's Orthodox Seminary in New York while concurrently teaching Spanish at Fordham University. He studied with people like Fr. Alexander Schmemann, Fr. John Meyendorff, and Professor Serge Verhovskoy.  In 1969 Fr. Dmitri was elected to the episcopate.  On June 22 of that year he was consecrated Bishop of Berkeley, California as an auxiliary to Archbishop John (Shahovskoy) of San Francisco.  The consecration of Bishop Dmitri is regarded by some historians as the first consecration of a convert to the episcopate in America (though Ignatius (Nichols) was consecrated in 1932 but subsequently left the Church).    

     In 1970 Bishop Dmitri was given the title, Bishop of Washington, auxiliary to Metropolitan Ireney. He would later recall the helpful training he received as an auxiliary under both Archbishop John and Metropolitan Ireney, particularly the many periods of instruction in Church Slavonic.
     On October 19, 1971, Bishop Dmitri was elected Bishop of Hartford and New England.  In 1972 the Holy Synod of Bishops brought Mexico under the auspices of the Orthodox Church in America, which had received its autocephaly (the right to govern itself) in 1970 from the Moscow Patriarchate.  Given his knowledge of and fondness for Mexican culture and the Spanish language, Bishop Dmitri took on additional responsibilities from the Holy Synod  as Exarch of Mexico.  He was as much beloved by the Mexican people as by those in his own Diocese.

     In 1977 at the 5th All American Council convened in Montreal, Bishop Dmitri received a majority of popular votes in an election for a new Metropolitan of the Orthodox Church in America. For the sake of continuity -- a cradle Orthodox occupying the Primatial See was more in keeping with the contemporary challenges of a young territorial Church -- the Holy Synod chose instead The Right Reverend Theodosius (Lazor), Bishop of Alaska who became an advocate and supporter of missionary work in the southern United States.  

     In 1978 the Synod of Bishops took an important step by creating the Diocese of Dallas and the South.   His Eminence became its first ruling hierarch, taking St. Seraphim Church as his Episcopal See.  Christ the Saviour Church in Miami, Florida, a prominent Orthodox community in the South, became the second Cathedral of the newly formed Diocese.  The Archpriest George Gladky, a veteran missionary and rector of Christ the Saviour, was named Chancellor.  He and Bishop Dmitri worked admirably with others to establish Churches and teach Orthodoxy in a region of America where Orthodox Christianity was relatively unknown. The first Diocesan Assembly of the South was convened in Miami, August 25-26, 1978.
     In 1993 the Holy Synod elevated Bishop Dmitri to the rank of Archbishop. During his tenure as hierarch the Archbishop chaired various departments of the Orthodox Church in America, and was instrumental, early on, in speaking with representatives of the Evangelical Orthodox Church seeking entrance into canonical Orthodoxy. 

     On September 4, 2008, following the retirement of Metropolitan Herman, the Holy Synod named Archbishop Dmitri as the locum tenens. Archbishop Seraphim (Storheim) assisted him as administrator.  In November of 2008, Archbishop Dmitri's role as OCA locum tenens ended with the election of Bishop Jonah (Paffhausen) of Fort Worth as Metropolitan.  On March 22, 2009, the Archbishop requested retirement from active duty as a Diocesan Bishop effective March 31, 2009.  Under his leadership the Diocese of the South grew from approximately twelve communities to over seventy at the present time and remains one of the most vibrant Dioceses in the OCA.  

     During the past two years the Archbishop has lived quietly at his home, writing, making occasional visits to Diocesan communities, and maintaining a quiet involvement with the life of St. Seraphim Cathedral.  He was blessed in his last days to have many parishioners who visited and cared for him at home twenty-four hours a day as well as medical professionals who came to his bedside to treat and evaluate his condition.  The community in turn received a great blessing from the love and courage with which the Archbishop welcomed them and approached his illness. He remained courteous, hospitable and dignified throughout, even attending Church when his strength allowed.  These unexpected visits to the Cathedral by the Archbishop were sources of joy and inspiration to the faithful.

     For his former Diocese and the Orthodox Church in America, His Eminence leaves behind a progressive vision of evangelism and ecclesial life, a solid foundation upon which to develop future communities and schools. He leaves the faithful the experience of having had a compassionate father whose enthusiasm was contagious, inspiring many to look profoundly at their own vocations in the Church. 

     Archbishop Dmitri's greatest joys as well as sorrows were connected to his episcopal ministry. The establishment of new missions, the ordinations of men to the priesthood or diaconate, and the reception of others into Orthodoxy were continual sources of delight.  In addition he patiently dealt with clergy and laymen during his tenure who needed correction.  In fact, it would be difficult to recall an instance where he strongly reprimanded anyone, at least publicly.  Private, gentle advice when needed was more "his style."  At times his approach confused and frustrated some who believed that his manner of oversight should be stricter; that he should be more demanding in his expectations.  Again, this was never the Archbishop's way.  It was not in his character to remind people bluntly of their responsibilities. The Archbishop chose to lead by example rather than by decree.  Ultimately and personally this became a source of his extraordinary influence and popularity.  Accordingly he lived in a modest manner and was generous to a fault, not only giving beyond the tithe to his Cathedral, but donating to seminaries, charities, diocesan missions, and persons in need. 

     As stated, Archbishop Dmitri's episcopacy was strongly characterized by a single-minded devotion to the person and work of Jesus Christ.  His publications are testimony to this dedication.  They include commentaries on: The Sermon on the Mount, The Parables of Christ, The Miracles of Christ, St. Paul's Epistles to the Romans and to the Hebrews,  The Epistle of St. James, and the Gospel of St. John.  His works also include the aforementioned Introduction to Orthodox Christian Teaching, as well as A Layman's Handbook on The Doctrine of Christ.  Some of these have been translated into other languages, enthusiastically received as instructional tools by the faithful abroad.  When asked to document his personal thoughts concerning evangelism or American Orthodoxy the Archbishop consistently hesitated, preferring instead to dwell on the teachings of the fathers regarding Scripture and Church doctrine. 

     For many years His Eminence was the editor of the first diocesan newspaper in the Orthodox Church in America:  The Dawn.  This modest publication was a primary means of education and an instrument of unity amongst members of a Diocese spanning over one million square miles. One full page in The Dawn was regularly devoted to making available his translations of Orthodox Spanish material.  Later the Archbishop included a Russian page to minister to the needs of new immigrants.
     The dignity that he brought to his episcopacy was well known.   People commented on his bearing, the way he carried himself as a bishop of the Orthodox Church.  Some found it surprising that such an august figure possessed great love and respect for others, that he presented himself as one of the people.

     Without exaggeration it can be said that His Eminence was a rarity, a unique combination of faith, talent, intelligence and charisma. For the Diocese of the South, indeed for the Orthodox Church in America, he was the right person at the right time.

     Forty- two years a bishop, each day offered in service to Christ with Whom he now enjoys the blessedness of the Kingdom.  We pray for his continued prayers and we thank the Lord for having given His flock the gift of Archbishop Dmitri. May his Memory Be Eternal.

      "Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the Word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct" (Hebrews 13:7). 

     "For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel..." (I Corinthians 4: 15)

Memory Eternal!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Comfort Food: Doughnuts from Biscuit Dough

This is something we used to have on occasion growing up. It's SO easy and good for a quick dessert.

Simply use canned refrigerated biscuits. [Note: if you check labels you can find some that are vegan and thus usable for fast days.] Separate each biscuit into two or three layers.* Heat oil (I use canola) in a heavy pan over medium high heat then turn down to medium. Fry about five biscuits at a time - more or less depending on the size of your pan. Give them room. Turn over when they're browned - not more than a couple minutes. If your oil is too hot they will be too dark on the outside and not done on the inside. You may have to make adjustments as you go along. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain in a pan on paper towels. (If you're doing lots of them you may want to keep the first batches in the oven on warm so they don't cool. They'll stay hot through at least one can-full of biscuits.)

You can shake powdered sugar over them or toss a few at a time in a paper bag with sugar, cinnamon, whatever. Eat quickly - they don't improve with time.

*If you like the appearance of a traditional doughnut you can make a hole in the middle of each biscuit layer.


If you bungle raising your children, I don't think whatever else you do well matters very much.

--Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

Friday, August 26, 2011


It sounds like such a nice, sweet name, doesn't it? Of course, Camille, Katrina, Rita and Elena all sounded that way too. I guess you can't tell much from a name.

While I'm concerned for the safety of those on the Atlantic coast, particularly NC and the low-lying areas north of there, I'm sorry to be so far away from landfall. Our forecast here is for highs in the 90's, lows in the 70's and sun. For the next 10 days. Sigh. Oh, and the ever present humidity. (of course)

It looks like although Irene has been downgraded to a category 2, it will probably make landfall in NC as a 3. I think that some people (not so much on the outer banks of NC - they're too experienced) think of a 3 as a fairly weak hurricane because it's not a 4 or a 5. Anything above a 2 is a strong hurricane. Another thing, the strength of a hurricane does influence the storm surge, but you can have a pretty devastating storm surge with a category 3 hurricane. Besides the category, it also depends on the size of the hurricane, the angle of impact on the coastline, the bathymetry (the slope and contour of the coastal floor) and the speed.

Any area that is impacted by a hurricane only rarely may have a few reactions to being placed under a hurricane watch or warning: (1) OH MY GOSH GET OUT NOW! AAAUUGGHH!!!, (2) Heck, we've weathered hurricanes before and even my grandmother doesn't remember it ever being bad here or, and less commonly, (3) Take all necessary precautions calmly. It looks like Hurricane Irene is going to impact a similar area to the 1938 New England Hurricane (the "Long Island Express") which devastated Rhode Island and caused great damage to NJ, NY, CT and MA. That was the first major hurricane to impact the coast since 1869. As far as I can tell the last major hurricanes to strike that area was in 1954 (Carol then Edna two weeks later) and they weren't as bad as the one in 1944 (the Great Atlantic Hurricane). When memories fade, lots of people don't take action.

1938 "Long Island Express"

1944 "Great Atlantic Hurricane"

projected path of Irene

I hope people will pay attention to the advisories and stay safe. Storm surge doesn't just happen on the beach. There was over 13 feet of water in some areas of downtown Providence in 1938...

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Support Smoking!

...or your Bible might cost a whole lot more!

How so?

Apparently, the companies that produce the really thin paper Bibles are printed on would never make it if that were their only product. They are kept afloat by making paper for cigarettes.* So you owe a debt of gratitude to the legion of smokers who have allowed Bibles to be produced and sold at reasonable prices.

How's that for a surprise?

*It turns out it's essentially the same paper.

h/t Fr. Benedict

[I hope everyone realizes this is tongue-in-cheek; I detest smoking and would happily pay more for a Bible. I'm just sharing my amazement at the connection between cigarettes and Bibles.]

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

"Keepin' it Real" Award for this week

And it goes to...

For her post, "Dare to Not Compare". She's illustrating the whole concept of 'keeping it real' perfectly. Thank you, Rebeca, for your post. Here's a short excerpt to encourage you to read the whole thing:

I recently read an article about how social networking is making people miserable. The premise was that people tend to put their best self out there, leaving others to feel they are the only ones experiencing the difficulties of life. I have found, the more I'm on the internet, the more likely I am to compare my life with someone else's. Of course I know this is pointless and foolish, but the thoughts creep in, and I have to be vigilant to not let the seemingly rosy glow of someone else's life make mine seem dull.

I noticed this most recently as many home schoolers are happily finishing up lesson plans, posting photos of lovely, organized school rooms, well thought out menu plans, and schedules organized down to the moment. And here I sit, just enjoying summer, thoughts of the upcoming school year surfacing here and there but not taking up too much space.

This is when the ugly beast of Comparison sends in her twin, Condemnation. Condemnation comes to visit me a lot lately, and I'm trying for the life of me to not to let her in. Condemnation whispers, sometimes shouts at me: "You're not doing enough! You need to try harder! You're kids would be more obedient (happier, kinder) if only you were a better Mom. You suck! Her house is clean and she has twice as many kids as you. They would be better off with someone else. You send your kids to bed with dirty feet: your Mom never would have done that, and she had five kids! You haven't planned out the next school year yet! Dinner is late again?" And so on...

Thank you, Jodie!

Jodie had a little contest a while back and I won! I just got my prize in the mail today - it's adorable!

And look at the button!

Suddenly I'm humming hits from the Beatles...

Comfort Food: Caramel Cake

If you've never had a caramel cake, you're missing out. I'd never made one because it looked intimidating...I mean, 10 layers! I had no idea how you could slice layers that thin! Come to find out you bake the layers separately, just really, really thin. No slicing involved. Except for servings, of course.

The cake itself is just plain old yellow cake. I made this one from a mix. {All you from-scratch people out there, deal with it. Betty Crocker does a great job and I hired her for the occasion. Her rates are very reasonable.} That left me energy to concentrate on the construction and icing. Side note: Is it true that you mostly hear "icing" in the south and "frosting" in the north? What with human migratory patterns, I'm sure there's been some mixing.

I only made five layers because that's how many 9 inch round pans I had. It was so successful that I'll consider doing a full 10 layers next time. The trick is to grease and flour the heck out of those pans. And don't use spray, use Crisco. I've just about decided to throw the spray out the window. I measured equal amounts into the pans (with one regular cake mix it came to 1 cup plus about 1 tablespoon in each pan) and spread it out gently to the edges. I baked them at 325 and kept adding minutes until I figured out what the ideal bake time was. It was 18 minutes (obviously this varies with oven). When they pull away from the edge, they're done. You can also use the "poke the middle and see if it springs back" method. [Note: I baked 2 pans at a time. If you reuse pans, make sure they're cool before you put the batter in.]

Each layer came out beautifully. I was shocked, to put it mildly. You may remember some of my alternate disasters experiences with getting cakes out of pans. I let them cool on a rack for a good while. Long enough to go to the library, get Ribby from school, straighten up, check blogs and wash dishes.

The icing is penuche (I checked and it's pronounced "pan-noo-chee".) which totally makes the cake. It's a cooked icing which if you let it, turns into a blond fudge. (Try not to let it if you're planning on spreading it onto a cake. That's professional advice - write it down.) There are recipes all over the internet but I got smart and called Mom and got her recipe. It's from a 1970's Betty Crocker cookbook. See - Betty Crocker rules the day. Here it is:

Penuche Icing
(this is doubled - you need more with more layers)
  • 2 sticks butter (or 1 cup)
  • 2 cups firmly packed brown sugar (some people prefer dark, some light)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
Melt the butter over medium heat. Add the brown sugar and stir frequently until boiling. Turn heat down to low. Boil for 2 minutes (it will look a lot lighter and almost frothy when it's boiling hard enough) stirring continuously. Add the milk and stir, bringing it back to a boil. Once it comes to a full boil, remove it from the heat. Then leave it. Don't stir it or you'll be very sorry (it will start to crystallize). Let it cool. After it's cool add the powdered sugar, stirring briskly with a fork. It will start to look more like icing at this point and less like you made a mistake somewhere along the way. [If it's not stiff enough you can add a little more powdered sugar - if it's too stiff you can add a little hot water.]

Then frost your cake! Especially if you're making lots of layers, spread the icing fairly thinly between them. Also keep checking to see that the layers are straight so you don't end up with a leaning tower of cake. When the cake is frosted, put it in the fridge. Let it sit there for a few hours until it sets. The icing will feel fairly hard to touch. This is one of those cakes that is good cold - with milk. And cut small slices. It's very, very rich.

Obviously, the more layers you put on the more important it is that each layer is not domed in the middle. You can see that I ignored it and got away with it because I only used five layers.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Are YOU prepared?

Father happened upon this book on Amazon last night and we laughed hysterically at some of the text (it has the "Look Inside!" option). As most of you have figured out by now, I'm a fan of the "absurd, but presented seriously" humor. [Examples: Cat fight, Clergy field guide, Weather forecast, Bad poetry] 

Here's a tiny excerpt from the Introduction:

Keep reading if you want to live.

Call them what you want. Garden gnomes. Lawn ornaments. Little evil outdoor statuary hell-bent on world domination. It doesn't matter. What does matter is that, right now, they're hiding in plain sight, pretending to be signs of merriment and good will. But secretly, quietly, while pushing diminutive wheelbarrows and brandishing miniature flower-pots, they're planning home invasions all over the world. Perhaps they're in your backyard right now - and you're staring at one while reading this. (Wait a moment - does that gnome look a little closer to the patio door than yesterday?)

Father is now considering getting a garden gnome. I wonder if I should be worried...

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Church Desecration

This just made me feel sick. Lord have mercy!!

(UOC-USA) We ask all who read these words to keep the parish family of St. Andrew, Los Angeles, CA in their prayers during these difficult days. In the early morning hours of 15 August, an intruder broke into the parish Church and desecrated the Holy Altar, Tabernacle, Iconography and the entire altar and sacristy area. The most devastating aspect of this horrendous crime was the scattering of the Reserve Sacrament on the floor among and beneath the various altar crosses, candles and vestments strewn throughout the church. The Holy Altar itself was pulled from its foundation and dragged through the Royal Doors into the nave of the church. It was a senseless act of destruction and obvious anger that left the Church and the neighboring community in much distress.
Father Vasyl Shtelen and members of the parish were able, following the completion of the police investigation and the insurance examination, to gather the scattered religious vessels and items, clean them and bless them through special prayers and sprinkling with Holy Water in time for the celebration of Divine Liturgy on the Great Holy Day of the Transfiguration of our Lord. We pray that Father Vasyl and the members of his flock were able to experience the Glory and presence of our Lord on this Feast, saying, as did the Apostle Peter - “Lord, it is good for us to be here” – in spite of the obvious hurt and sorrow they have experienced.
We assure Father Vasyl and all St. Andrew Parish members of our continued prayers. Insurance coverage will most likely cover most of the expenses to repair or replace many of the damaged vessels, vestments and other items, there will most certainly be additional expenses. Any parishes, organizations or individuals who might care to offer contributions to assist our brothers and sisters will be appreciated more than words can express.

Donations may be sent to the Consistory, which has established a special fund. All contributions will be listed and accompany the funds when they are forwarded to the parish.

Please send all donations to:
St. Andrew Parish Support FundConsistory UOC of USA
P. O. Box 495
South Bound Brook, NJ 08880

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

New Release: Field Guide to North American Orthodox Clergy

She was no lady...

A 24 to 28 feet storm surge.

A central pressure of 909 millibars at landfall, second only to the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935.

The only Atlantic hurricane to make landfall with sustained winds at 190 mph or above.

One of only three hurricanes to make landfall in the U.S. as a category 5.

An eyewall diameter of less than 8 miles.

Wave heights of over 70 feet in the open Gulf of Mexico.

The Mississippi River flowed backwards for 125 miles.

143 people were killed along the coasts of Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana...

...but 153 people were killed in the area around Nelson County, Virginia from catastrophic flooding as a result of over 27 inches of rain in less than 8 hours.

Hurricane Camille made landfall late the night of August 17, 1969 between Bay St. Louis and Pass Christian, Mississippi. Never forget.

Here is a great documentary on Hurricane Camille from 1971. Wonderful footage. (I will only say a few things: (1) A storm surge is NOT a tidal wave, as is suggested by stock footage in the video. (2) The "hurricane party" at the Richelieu Manor apartments is a myth.)

One of my favorite quotes: "I got the clothes I got on and $22 in my pocket. And if I'd a had the choice I'd a picked some better clothes.

Further reading:

Roar of the Heavens: Surviving Hurricane Camille
Hurricane Camille: Monster Storm of the Gulf Coast
Category 5: The Story of Camille, Lessons Unlearned from America's Most Violent Hurricane

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The sad truth...

This is what I thought doing laundry for my family would be like when I was younger. Anyone else get lied to by a commercial?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Completed Illustration

I may still tweak it, but here it is:

Dormition of our Holy Lady Theotokos

Joyous Feastday!

In giving birth thou didst preserve thy virginity,
In falling asleep thou didst not forsake the world, O Theotokos. 
Thou wast translated to life, O Mother of Life,
And by thy prayers, thou deliverest our souls from death.

Here's a link to last year's post that contains music/video clips of O Pure Virgin in various languages as well as the text.

Saturday, August 13, 2011


We just got word that a friend of ours succumbed this morning to injuries received in a motorcycle accident last Monday. He was a firefighter in the Birmingham, AL area and the local firefighters in VA (where the accident took place) rallied around his wife from the beginning, never leaving her side. The local Orthodox priest was also there. His injuries were severe and he never regained consciousness. Please pray for the servant of God, Phillip, his wife of one year, Larisa, and all of their family and friends.

May his memory be eternal!

Friday, August 12, 2011


Illustration for part one coming along...

Next: work on the angel.

Someone has kindly posed for photos for me to work from.


(Boy, still needs some work - but I have to go start supper.)

"Keepin' it Real" in retrospect

Today I'm awarding a post that was actually published last week instead of this one. So, combination last week/this week's "Keepin' it Real" Award goes to...

from Pithless Thoughts! He really should get an award retired in his honor because he always keeps it real. In this particular post, however, he really went out on a limb to be very personal. I know this post had to be an encouragement to many others. Thanks, Steve, and keep up the good work!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The perfect presvytera/matushka/preoteasa/khouria...

This is DELIGHTFUL and had me rolling in the aisles. I'd seen the posts about "the perfect priest" before and they're very funny, but I hadn't seen one about his perfect wife! I'm posting an excerpt but please go to the original site to read the rest. You won't regret it.

* The Perfect Presbytera is very articulate. She never says a word at church meetings. She has a full-time, high-paying career, and home schools at least 3 kids. She never misses a church service, fundraiser or social event.

* The Perfect Presbytera stands up for the sanctity of marriage. She never minds all those females flocking around her handsome husband, or him being home late from church meetings night after night. After all, she too is unspeakably gorgeous. She never wears any makeup or spends money that should go to the poor on a hairdresser. She is always dressed in the height of fashion. Her babushka scarf, loafers and ankle-length skirts come from the Thrift Shop. [Note: I thought I would split a rib at this point - that's what I look like! (the thrift store part, that is)]

~Additional note: The source is The Orthodox Clergy Wife by Presbytera Anonyma:
the secret sisterhood of Orthodox clergy wives. I'm only just examining it but it looks like a good resource for clergy wives (for all of you out there).

Some Beautiful Children's Books

I came across some beautiful books in the library yesterday when I was looking for read-aloud ones. The illustrations caught my eye immediately but the stories are lovely too.

The illustrator for each of these is Roberto Innocenti, a self-taught artist from Italy.

The Last Resort by J. Patrick Lewis c. 2002

Essentially, an artist's imagination is lost, goes on holiday without him, and he chases it down to a sea-side resort. There he meets all manner of interesting characters and tries to figure out what they have in common. This is not a book for small children although they might enjoy looking at the illustrations (gorgeous and detailed). This is a good read-with-them book for children over nine or ten depending on reading level. They will almost certainly not catch the literary references, but you can help them through it. Older children (high school) will probably find this book enjoyable despite the fact that it's shelved with the young children's books.

The House by J. Patrick Lewis c. 2009

Unlike the previous book this one can easily be enjoyed by younger children. This story, in poem form, traces the history of a stone house from 1656 to the present, concentrating on the most recent hundred years. The illustrations are two-page spreads and exquisite. Each one is a story in and of itself. Children will enjoy picking out the differences in style of dress, transportation, and other signs of the changing times. Older children who have learned a little history may enjoy it a bit more and be able to identify critical historical events which are alluded to. Again, this is a good read-along book. (Adults will enjoy both of these. Promise.)

Nutcracker by E. T. A. Hoffmann c. 1996  (original 1816)

Ok, I know it's not Christmas nor anywhere near, but since I'm on the subject of Innocenti, I might as well include this one. Everyone is (or should be) familiar with the story of the Nutcracker. This book is not the Tchaikovsky Nutcracker Suite, but the original story. I hadn't read the original and was surprised to find it existed. The basic plot is the same, but there is a lot more to the story. Reading this is similar to reading the original book after you have only watched a so-so movie. The illustrations are very realistic and bring the story to life. It is not a short book so I suggest reading a chapter a night and taking your time over it. Each illustration is worth poring over.

There are more books illustrated by Innocenti which I am eager to see, notably Rose Blanche and Erika's Story which are about the Holocaust and The Adventures of Pinocchio (self-explanatory).

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Ven. Herman of Alaska

"From this day, from this hour, from this minute, let us strive to love God above all, and to fulfill His holy will!"
-Ven. Herman of Alaska

Life of St. Herman here.

Troparion - Tone 4

O blessed Father Herman of Alaska,
North star of Christ's holy Church,
The light of your holy life and great deeds
Guides those who follow the Orthodox way.
Together we lift high the Holy Cross
You planted firmly in America.
Let all behold and glorify Jesus Christ,
Singing his holy Resurrection.

Children's books about St. Herman:



Venerable Herman of Alaska pray to God for us!!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Holy Transfiguration

Joyous Feastday!

Troparion - Tone 7

Thou wast transfigured on the mountain, O Christ God,
revealing Thy glory to Thy disciples as far as they could bear it.
Let Thine everlasting Light shine upon us sinners,
through the prayers of the Theotokos.
O Giver of Light, glory be to Thee!

For an explanation of the feast check here and here.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Use it or lose it.

I think I lost it.

The beginnings of an illustration for part one. It is so obvious I haven't been drawing in a long, long time. Oh well.

A few comments later...

**Ok, when I say "use it or lose it", I mean lose what I had before:**