Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Greek Catholics in the USSR

Recalling that it was for only 30 silver shekels that Judas betrayed the Lord

A brief excerpt from's page on Carpatho-Russian Religion:
Greek Catholic Bishop
Theodore Romzha -
Killed by the NKVD
(KGB) in 1947 

"In 1946, all the Greek Catholic bishops and the majority of priests were sent to concentration camps in Siberia." -Anna, niece of Aleksander Simkovich

Conversely, it was Greek Catholics of the Carpathians who suffered in the 1940s. The Soviet government annulled the Union of Uzhgorod in 1946, and the Greek Catholic Church was liquidated. Priests who refused to convert to the Russian Orthodox Church were sent to the Siberian and Arctic labor camps, where most died. Others were simply murdered in their home villages. To add salt to the wound, in 1971 the Russian Orthodox Synod of Zagorsk, U.S.S.R. indirectly justified this violence by officially ratifying the annulment.

Wednesday's Wages are a series of posts which highlight past and present struggles faced by Eastern and Oriental Catholics including the topics of bioethics and persecution. Do you know of a homily, lecture, interview or biography which you think should be featured here? Leave a comment to let me know.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Nathan Hicks' Pilgrim Iconography

I recently interviewed iconographer Nathan Hicks about where his interest in iconography started, his apprenticeship, and the opening of his own icon studio.

Nathan: You have an icon studio called Pilgrim Iconography. I'd like to talk with you about how you became an iconographer. Were you always interested in art?
Art has always been a passion of mine, so yes. I've been drawing ever since I could remember, and started trying to draw comics around the age of eight. I was a huge fan of Spider-Man, and my parents probably saved all my old comics that I'd made. I was a huge fan of Calvin and Hobbes, as well as Star Wars. At eight I'd decided to become a comic book artist.
When were you first introduced to iconography and how did that affect your vocational aspirations?
I've been around iconography in some way, shape, or form for my entire life. My father has an icon of Saint Nicholas that's been hanging on our wall since before I was born. It was that I was so caught up in what I was doing that I didn't really take the time to look. It wasn't until I was fifteen and saw Father Tom's iconography that I realized the potential for beauty and truth that iconography had. Right then I decided that iconography was what I wanted to do, and the rest, as they say, is history (well, history that I'm going to relate to you anyway).
Father Tom being Father Thomas Loya of Annunciation of the Mother of God Byzantine Catholic Church in Homer Glen, Illinois?

How did you come to see his iconography and what was it that made such a profound impression upon you?

Yes, Father Tom of Annunciation. He's a great man, and I can only hope to be half the man that he is. I started going to his church at fifteen, and the reaction that I had to those walls... someone had to yank me out of the church cause they saw I was about to start shouting in excitement.
One of the central tenets of iconography is that beauty and truth are connected on a profound level. This was something that I'd known long before I'd learned it from iconography. I honestly think it was the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes that first introduced the idea to me. There are so many moments in that comic that are hilarious, beautiful, and true, that I couldn't help but notice on some intuitive level that they seemed to be connected. When I saw Father Tom's work it was the most beautiful art I'd seen in my entire life, and therefore the most true. There was something in the way that Father used the color white that was amazing, and I found myself wanting to imitate that. 

Monday, February 14, 2011

St. Joseph the Betrothed UGCC of Chicago, Illinois

I will post more information tonight on the parish, but I want to get this out there right now. St. Joseph the Betrothed UGCC is live streaming Vespers for the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple right... about... now.

(It was live streaming and had not yet started a couple minutes ago, but at the moment of posting it was saying the channel had gone offline. Hopefully it comes back quickly.)

Go see it here:

Then come back tonight to read more about their parish!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Win a free icon! Read more here...

Your Word From The Wise is bringing you three opportunities to be entered into a drawing for this beautiful Deisis icon! 

With a gold and silver background, the 6 ¾" x 8 ¼" icon on wood depicts Christ Pantocrator--Christ in His majesty--with the Mother of God and John the Baptist flanking him, their heads bowed and arms raised in prayerful supplication to Christ on the behalf of mankind. It's approximately a $30 USD value, which one Your Word From The Wise reader will receive free of charge directly from The Byzantine Seminary Press!

  • Publicly "follow" Your Word From The Wise and you'll be entered once. 
  • "Like" the Your Word From The Wise Facebook page and you'll be entered once. 
  • Share this link with at least 10 other people through e-mail, your Facebook wall, YouTube, your website, and/or another online venue and let me know that you've done so and you'll be entered once. 

How to enter up to three times:
  1. To be entered for following the blog, click the "Follow" button near the top of the right hand column of the blog (under "Be a Lover of Truth") and follow the instructions. All those who show as public followers on March 1, 2011 will be entered into the drawing once. (
  2. To be entered for liking the Facebook page, click the thumbs-up "like" button at the top of the Your Word From The Wise facebook page. All those who show as fans on March 1, 2011 will be entered into the drawing once. (
  3. To be entered for sharing the drawing with others, first share this page about the drawing with at least 10 others online and then contact me one time through a PM, post or comment on Facebook, by commenting to this blog post, or by emailing me. Tell me that you shared this page and would like to be entered in the drawing. I will respond with a confirmation that it was received. If you don't receive a timely response, please write me once more and note that it is a second correspondence. All those whom I send a confirmation to by March 1, 2011 will be entered into the drawing once. (
That's it! Three easy ways to have this magnificent icon in your home by Easter!

**Edited to clarify** If you're already following the blog or Facebook page, you do not need to unsubscribe and resubscribe. You will be entered as long as you show up in the list of fans/followers on March 1; it doesn't matter when you signed up. If you do not want to be entered, you can write me an email or you can forego the icon should you win.

Coptic Midnight Praises (Tasbeha)

Because I quite possibly have the coolest husband in the world, our alarm clock is set to play the tasbeha hymns as we awake. Unfortunately, I can't find a Coptic Catholic audio or video source for them on the Internet. If you know any Coptic Catholics, please let them know that there is a desire to have them online!
Arise, O children of the light, let us praise the Lord of hosts
That He may grant us the salvation of our souls.
Whenever we stand before You in the flesh
Cast away from our minds the slumber of sleep.
Grant us sobriety O Lord, that we may know how to stand before You at times of prayer.
And ascribe unto You, the befitting glorification, and win the forgiveness of our many sins. Glory be to You, O Lover of Mankind.
Behold bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord. Glory be to You, O Lover of Mankind.
You who stand in the house of the Lord, in the courts of the house of our God. Glory be to You, O Lover of Mankind.
By night, lift up your hands, O you saints and bless the Lord. Glory be to You, O Lover of Mankind.
The Lord bless you from Zion, who made heaven and earth. Glory be to You, O Lover of Mankind
Let my cry come before You, O Lord. Give me understanding according to Your word. Glory be to You, O Lover of Mankind.
Let my supplication come before You, deliver me according to Your word. Glory be to You, O Lover of Mankind.
My lips shall utter praise, for You teach me your statutes. Glory be to You, O Lover of Mankind.
My tongue shall speak of Your words, for all Your commandments are righteousness. Glory be to You, O Lover of Mankind.
Let Your hand become my help, for I have chosen Your precepts. Glory be to You, O Lover of Mankind.
I longed for Your salvation, O Lord, and Your Law is my delight. Glory be to You, O Lover of Mankind.
Let my soul live and it shall praise You, and let Your judgments help me. Glory be to You, O Lover of Mankind.
I have gone astray, like a lost sheep, seek Your servant for I do not forget Your commandments. Glory be to You, O Lover of Mankind.
Glory be to the Father and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Glory be to You, O Lover of Mankind.
Now and forever, and unto the age of all ages amen. Glory be to You, O Lover of Mankind.
Glory be to the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and forever and unto all ages, amen. Glory be to You, O Lover of Mankind..
Glory be to You, O Good One, the Lover of Mankind. Glory be to Your Mother the Virgin, and all Your saints. Glory be to You, O Lover of Mankind.
Glory be to You O only-begotten One, O holy Trinity, have mercy upon us. Glory be to You, O Lover of Mankind.
Let God arise, and let all His enemies be scattered, and let all that hate His holy name, flee from before His face. Glory be to You, O Lover of Mankind.
As for Your people, let them be blessed, a thousand thousand fold, and ten thousand ten thousand fold, doing Your will.
O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall show forth Your praise.
Friday's Fast features homilies, lectures, interviews, and biographies on topics such as prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and repentance. For in the cross of Christ crucified lies both the power of God and the wisdom of God for those being saved (I Corinthians 1:24).

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Union of Brest

The Union of Brest was the 1595-1596 decision of the majority of Orthodox bishops in the region of what is modern Ukraine, Poland and Belarus to depart from the Orthodox Church and to seek reunion with the Pope of Rome. They and Rome agreed to the below 33 conditions of union and, from that union, the Belarusian Greek-Catholic Church and Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church emerged.
Brief History of the Union of Brest (1595) 
[These articles were accepted by the hierarchy of the Church in Kiev in three languages: Ukrainian, Polish, and Latin. It is on this basis that the Church of Kiev is in communion with the Roman Catholic Church.
The articles frequently refer to the King of Poland. The function of the King of Poland vis-à-vis the Greek-Catholic Church were assumed by the Austrian Emperor. As there is no longer a King or Emperor, and the Greek-Catholic Church is certainly not state-supported in Ukraine, these functions revert to the synod or lapse entirely.]
We require prior guarantees of these articles from the Romans before we enter into union with the Roman Church.
1.—Since there is a quarrel between the Romans and Greeks about the procession of the Holy Spirit, which greatly impede unity really for no other reason than that we do not wish to understand one another—we ask that we should not be compelled to any other creed but that we should remain with that which was handed down to us in the Holy Scriptures, in the Gospel, and in the writings of the holy Greek Doctors, that is, that the Holy Spirit proceeds, not from two sources and not by a double procession, but from one origin, from the Father through the Son.
2.—That the divine worship and all prayers and services of Orthros, Vespers, and the night services shall remain intact (without any change at all) for us according to the ancient custom of the Eastern Church, namely: the Holy Liturgies of which there are three, that of Saint Basil, that of Saint Chrysostom, and that of Epiphanius which is served during the Great Lent with Presanctified Gifts, and all other ceremonies and services of our Church, as we have had them until now, for in Rome these same services are kept within the obedience of the Supreme Pontiff, and that these services should be in our own language.
3.—That the Mysteries of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ should be retained entirely as we have been accustomed until now, under the species of bread and wine; that this should remain among us eternally the same and unchangeable.
4.—That the Mystery of Holy Baptism and its form should remain among us unchanged as we have served it until now, without any addition.
5.—We shall not debate about purgatory, but we entrust ourselves to the teaching of the Holy Church.
6.—We will accept the new calendar, if the old one cannot be, but without any violation of the Paschalia [the Easter cycle] and our other feasts as they were in the time of unity, because we have some special feasts which the Romans do not have; on the sixth of January we celebrate the memory of the Baptism of the Lord Christ and the first revelation of the One God in Trinity. We call this feast Theophany, and on this day we have a special service of the Blessing of Waters.
7.—That we should not be compelled to take part in processions on the day of Corpus Christi—that we should not have to make such processions with our Mysteries inasmuch as our use of the Mysteries is different.
8.—Likewise that we should not be compelled to have the blessing of fire, the use of wooden clappers, and similar ceremonies before Easter, for we have not had such ceremonies in our Church until now, but that we should maintain our ceremonies according to the rubrics and the Typicon of our Church.
9.—That the marriages of priests remain intact, except for bigamists.
10.—That the metropolitanate, the episcopate, and other ecclesiastical dignities shall be conferred on no one except the Rus' people or Greeks, who must be of our religion. And since our Canons require that the Metropolitain, the Bishops, and so on, first elected by the clergy, must be worthy people, we ask the King's Grace that the election be free, leaving intact the authority of the King's Grace to appoint the one whom he pleases. This means that as soon as someone has died we should elect four candidates, and the King's Grace will freely chose whom he wishes from among the four. This is necessary, especially so that the persons named to such positions will be worthy and educated, for the King's Grace, who is not of the same religion, cannot know who is worthy of this, and thus it has happened that such uninstructed people were appointed that they were scarcely literate. If the King's Grace should wish to appoint a layman to these spiritual posts, the appointee must receive Holy Orders within no more than three months under pain of losing appointment, according to the Constitution of the Parliament of Grondo and the Articles of King Sigmund Augustus of blessed memory, approved by the present King's Grace, for at the moment there are some who hold certain spiritual appointments in their hands but do not receive Holy Orders even for years, justifying themselves with some sort of royal "exemptions". We ask that in future this should not be.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Armenian Genocide

Recalling that it was for only 30 silver shekels that Judas betrayed the Lord 

An excerpt from
"Armenian History"
by Levon Zekiyan

Persians ruled Eastern Armenia until 1828, when it was annexed by Russia. However, it was the Ottoman Turks who governed most of the Armenian land and population (Western Armenia). During the 19th century, Armenians under Turkish rule suffered from discrimination, heavy taxation and armed attacks.

As Christians, Armenians lacked legal recourse for injustices. They were taxed beyond their means, forbidden to bear arms in a country where murdering a non-Muslim often went unpunished, and were without the right to testify in court on their own behalf. During the late l9th century, the increasingly reactionary politics of the declining Ottoman Empire and the awakening of the Armenians culminated in a series of Turkish massacres throughout the Armenian provinces in 1894-96. Any illusion the Armenians had cherished to the effect that the acquisition of power in 1908 by the Young Turks might bring better days was soon dispelled. For in the spring of 1909, yet another orgy of bloodshed took place in Adana, where 30,000 Armenians lost their lives after a desperate resistance. World War I offered a good opportunity for Turks to "solve the issue." In 1915, a secret military directive ordered the arrest and prompt execution of Armenian community leaders.

Armenian males serving in the Ottoman army were separated from the rest and slaughtered. The Istanbul government decided to deport the entire Armenian population. Armenians in towns and villages were marched into deserts of Syria, Mesopotamia and Arabia. During the "relocation" many were flogged to death, bayoneted, buried alive in pits, drowned in rivers, beheaded, raped or abducted into harems. Many simply expired from heat exhaustion and starvation. 1.5 million people perished in this first genocide of the 20th century. Another wave of massacres occurred in Baku (1918), Shushi (1920) and elsewhere.

The defeat of the Ottoman Turks in World War I and the disintegration of the Russian Empire gave the Armenians a chance to declare their independence. On May 28, 1918, the independent Republic of Armenia was established, after the Armenians forced the Turkish troops to withdraw in the battles of Sardarapat, Karakilisse and Bashabaran. Overwhelming difficulties confronted the infant republic, but amid these conditions the Armenians devoted all their energies to the pressing task of reconstructing their country. But due to pressure exerted simultaneously by the Turks and Communists, the republic collapsed in 1920. Finally, the Soviet Red Army moved into the territory (Eastern Armenia) and on November 29, 1920, declared it a Soviet republic. Armenia was made part of the Transcaucasian Soviet Federal Socialist Republic in 1922, and in 1936, it became one of the Soviet Union's constituent republics.

The tumultuous changes occurring throughout the Soviet Union beginning in the 1980's inevitably had repercussions in Armenia. In 1988, a movement of support began in Armenia for the constitutional struggle of Nagorno Karabagh (Artsakh) Armenians to exercise their right to self-determination. (This predominantly Armenian populated autonomous region had been placed under the jurisdiction of Azerbaijan by an arbitrary decision of Stalin in 1923.)

That same year, in 1988, Armenia was rocked by severe earthquakes that killed thousands, and supplies from both the Soviet Union and the West were blocked by the Azerbaijani Government fighting the Armenians in Nagorno Karabagh. Both of these issues have dominated Armenia's political arena since the first democratic election held in Armenia during the Soviet era. In 1990, the Armenian National Movement won a majority of seats in the parliament and formed a government. On September 21, 1991, the Armenian people overwhelmingly voted in favor of independence in a national referendum, and an independent Armenia came into being.

Wednesday's Wages are a series of posts which highlight past and present struggles faced by Eastern and Oriental Catholics including the topics of bioethics and persecution. Do you know of a homily, lecture, interview or biography which you think should be featured here? Leave a comment to let me know.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Holy Ghost in McKees Rocks, PA

Monday's Map: We're traveling with the angels! 

Today we're flying over to McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania, USA where you'll find the Byzantine Catholic (Ruthenian) parish of Holy Ghost.


The parish has Eastern Christian formation (religious education) classes every week, is surrounded with beautiful iconography and stained glass, and maintains a mission location in northern Pittsburgh. Their Sunday Liturgy is broadcast on WEDO and streamed online from 9-10 AM EST. They also maintain a presence on Facebook, which you can find here.

Their website has a wealth of information including numerous articles for those unfamiliar with the Byzantine Church or making a first visit. Check it out!

Liturgy schedule:
  • Saturdays until April 2011 4:00 PM (Anticipated Divine Liturgy--typically 6:00 PM)
  • Sundays 9:00 AM (Divine Liturgy)
  • Sundays 9:00 AM (Divine Liturgy broadcast on 810 AM WEDO)
  • Sundays 10:30-11:15 AM (Eastern Christian formation classes)
  • Sundays 11:00 AM (Divine Liturgy at mission location)
  • Weekdays 8:00 AM (Divine Liturgy)
  • Holy Days 9:00 AM (Divine Liturgy)

The parish is currently served by the following:
  • Fr. Frank A. Firko
  • An extremely proficient crew of altar servers, so I hear.

Monday's Map gives updates on the Universal Map project and highlights Eastern and Oriental Catholic institutions as well as those who run and serve them.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Social Saturdays (2/05/11)

It's Saturday! That means we're chatting with the living and praying for the dead. 

Prayer Requests: 

  • For Jim F., whose diabetes is swinging to extremes requiring emergency attention, that his doctors are able to restore him to health. Also for his wife K that the Holy Spirit guide and direct her in peace and contentment.
  • In thanksgiving that Father Deacon Stan is stable and home and for his continued restoration of health.
  • For all those traveling this weekend, that they return home safely.
  • For Australians affected by cyclones and flooding, that they be protected as they begin the rebuilding process.
  • For Christians in Europe, Egypt, Somalia, China, the Middle East, and around the world who are persecuted for their faith.

Continuing Prayer Requests: 

  • For the souls of the reposed, especially of Kaye, Tim L., Mother Nadia Baranik, Fr. Constantine Brown, Elaine Dorko, Helen Boytim, and George Michael Ritchey.
  • For the infant Gregory, and his parents and doctors, that he be restored to the fullness of health.
  • For an abused woman and mother, A, who is in desperate straits and in need of many prayers.
  • For Kat's family, including their current and future children, that they be restored to health and guided in discernment and finances in their next adoption. (Kat has other prayer requests at the link.)
  • For Francisco and his mother who are surrounded by violence that the Lord protect them and give them hope and peace as well as guide them to jobs that allow them to provide for their needs and glorify Him.
  • For all of our clergy, religious, and monastics that they be directed in strength, courage, patience, and fortitude to radically live God's will for their lives.
  • For mothers, that they not abort their offspring; for infants in danger of being put to death in the womb; for a change of heart of providers of abortions and of their collaborators; for human victims of stem cell research, genetic manipulation, cloning, and euthanasia; and for all entrusted with the government of peoples, that they may promote the "Culture of Life" so as to put an end to the "culture of death."
  • For Your Word From The Wise and all who are connected to it, that it may bring glory to God.
  • For the intentions of those who are praying.
Do you have a prayer request you'd like to add? Please put it in the comment box any time this week so we can pray with you.

What's going on at Your Word From The Wise?
  • I followed up on the interviews that are out.
  • I researched several upcoming blog posts.
  • I got my first unsolicited email! It's a short book. The cover letter was 12 pages long! From what I gleaned from my skimming, it is a Protestant-inspired personal revelation which might have gnostic leanings. I feel so official now.
  • I've been having trouble with Facebook. The posts show on the Your Word From the Wise page wall, but don't show in my feed. Some friends see it in their feed while others don't. I think it is a Facebook issue and not something I can affect. Please check the blog or the fan page directly while Facebook works out the kinks.

Praying for the Dead in the Syro-Malabar Church

The commemoration of the dead was also given special importance. When a person died, his body was washed, dressed and anointed with perfumed oil before it was exposed before the community to pay due homage. Usually, the dead body was placed facing the East. Till the purification of the house after the burial, no food was prepared or eaten in the house. After the burial service, the members of the family would gather in the house in the presence of the parish priest and say special prayers for fhe dead and sprinkle holy water to purify the house. There were also special observances for the commemoration of the dead on the 7th, 16th, 28th, and 41st day after the demise. The annual ceremony to commemorate the dead is known as sradham or chattam. Till the commemoration on the 41st day only vegetarian meals were served in the house.
The above is an excerpt from an article on the catechetical heritage of the Syro-Malabar Church on the Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly's webpage for the Department of Catechesis and Bible Apostolate.

Social Saturdays feature homilies, lectures, interviews, and biographies related to funerals, memorials, and prayers for the dead. Do thou thyself, Lord, give them rest there in the land of the living, in thy kingdom, in the delight of Paradise.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Anger, Desire, Timidity and Envy

Friday's Fast: Focusing on the Cross 

The righteous path leads from matter, to the spirit, to life. Whoever fixes his attention on the radiance and grace of this beauty, will take something from It and will be marked by It, as though by a dye, when he exposes his own face to its colored rays. In this way the face of Moses, who participated in this Beauty, was glorified during his communion with God.

Anger, desire, timidity and envy all confuse the soul's intuition. In the same way that a dull eye does not perceive visible objects, it is also impossible to attain a knowledge of truth with a troubled heart. Therefore, we should withdraw from worldly affairs and not introduce superfluous thoughts into our souls.

-St. Basil

Friday's Fast features homilies, lectures, interviews, and biographies on topics such as prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and repentance. For in the cross of Christ crucified lies both the power of God and the wisdom of God for those being saved (I Corinthians 1:24).

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Live Webcast Tonight (2/3/11)

1 There are two ways, one of life and one of death; and between the two ways there is a great difference.

2 Now, this is the way of life: …

The second commandment of the Teaching: "Do not murder; do not commit adultery"; do not corrupt boys; do not fornicate; "do not steal"; do not practice magic; do not go in for sorcery; do not murder a child by abortion or kill a newborn infant. "Do not covet your neighbor's property; do not commit perjury; do not bear false witness"; do not slander; do not bear grudges. Do not be double-minded or double-tongued, for a double tongue is "a deadly snare." Your words shall not be dishonest or hollow, but substantiated by action. Do not be greedy or extortionate or hypocritical or malicious or arrogant. Do not plot against your neighbor. Do not hate anybody; but reprove some, pray for others, and still others love more than your own life. The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles from The Didache (1st Cen. AD)

The pro-life movement is uniting TONIGHT on a huge nationwide webcast to respond to the recent videos which show yet more Planned Parenthood clinics/employees involved in covering up human sex trafficking of minors.

The webcast will be live-streamed at 
on Thursday, February 3rd at 8:30 PM Eastern, 
7:30 PM Central, 6:30 PM Mountain, 5:30 PM Pacific Time. 

On the webcast, you’ll hear the latest from nationally respected pro-life leaders on how we must respond right now to the shocking video. It is not recommended for minors. Presenters include:
  • LILA ROSE, Live Action 
  • MARJORIE DANNENFELSER, Susan B. Anthony List 
  • TONY PERKINS, Family Research Council 
  • DAVID BEREIT, 40 Days for Life 
  • ABBY JOHNSON, Former Planned Parenthood Director, Now Pro-Life Activist and Author 
  • DR. ALVEDA KING, Priests for Life 
  • WENDY WRIGHT, Concerned Women for America 
  • CHARMAINE YOEST, Americans United for Life Action 
  • STEVE WAGNER, The Renewal Forum 

During the event, you will:
  • Watch key parts of the undercover video, narrated by Lila Rose, President of Live Action 
  • Learn how Planned Parenthood is aiding and abetting in alleged human trafficking while receiving MILLIONS of our tax dollars 
  • Discover what YOU can do about it 
We look forward to seeing you there tonight! Learn More.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Minnesota Blizzard's Americanism

Recalling that it was for only 30 silver shekels that Judas betrayed the Lord 

A Roman Catholic archbishop who was nicknamed the "Minnesota Blizzard" was so convinced of the heresy of Americanism that it led him to drive what eventually became tens and possibly hundreds of thousands of Ruthenian Catholics out of the Catholic Church, leading to the new nickname of "The Father of American Orthodoxy" in reference to the Ruthenians who joined the Russian Orthodox Church in Archbishop Ireland's wake. Below is a short excerpt from Marvin Richard O'Connell's John Ireland and the American Catholic Church which covers some of the difficulties Greek-Catholic immigrants from Eastern Europe experienced upon moving to the United States in the 18-1900s. (It uses terminology that is considered offensive today but which was acceptable at the time.)
     Two weeks after writing the long report to Cardinal Gibbons about the Scandinavians, on December 19, 1889, the archbishop of St. Paul gave an interview in his office to Father Alexis Goergievich Toth, recently arrived in the United States from his birthplace and the scene of his early priestly ministry in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Toth, a learned man of thirty-six, was a Uniate--that is, he belonged to one of the non-Latin rites in union with the Roman see but distinctive in their liturgical languages and ecclesiastical customs. A group of Ruthenian Uniates had established their own parish earlier in the year in Northeast Minneapolis--where a good many eastern European immigrants had settled--and had called Father Toth to be their pastor.
     The priest presented the archbishop his credentials, and, as Toth recalled it, Ireland's hands trembled as he read them. Then he looked up, and said abruptly in Latin: "Have you a wife?"
     "No," Toth answered in the same language.
     "But you had one?"
     "Yes, I am a widower."
      Ireland tossed the documents on the desk in front of him. "I have already written to Rome protesting against this kind of priest being sent to me!"
     "What kind of priest do you mean?"
     "Your kind."
     "I am a Catholic priest of the Greek rite," Toth protested. "I am a Uniate and was ordained by a regular Catholic bishop."
     "I do not consider that either you or this bishop of yours are Catholic; besides I do not need any Greek Catholic priests here; a Polish priest in Minneapolis is quite sufficient; the Greeks can also have him for their priest."
      This rude and testy reaction on Ireland's part was only the beginning of his vendetta against the Uniates. He immediately instructed the clergy of Northeast Minneapolis to have no association with Toth and, furthermore, to state publicly from their pulpits that not even the Ruthenian Catholics were permitted to approach the Uniate priest for the sacraments. Nor was the archbishop content to manifest his dislike within the limits of his own jurisdiction. In every national forum during the succeeding years he pressed for a general prohibition of Uniate activity, and he carried his case directly to Propaganda. Father Toth, meantime, was not one to be intimidated; he carried on his ministry in the face of Ireland's hostility until 1891, when he and 365 parishioners, refusing in effect to either be Americanized or Latinized, were formally received into the Russian Orthodox church. What started as a trickle in Minnesota soon swelled into a vast wave of schism all around the country, costing the Roman church, by conservative estimates, a quarter of a million communicants.
      Ireland's bias against the Uniates was by no means unique; his episcopal colleagues, Americanist and anti-Americanist alike, shared it, or at least condoned it and thereby participated in causing the massive exodus. Their conduct, if tragically shortsighted, was perfectly predictable. One principal reason for it can be seen in the very first part of the exchange between Ireland and Toth: celibacy for the parochial clergy was not a requirement in the Eastern tradition, whether Uniate or Orthodox. Some bishops feared--though Ireland himself did not stress this point--that their Latin-rite priests would demand wives if the married Uniates established parishes nearby. For Ireland, however, the problem was not so much one of sexual expression as of status and and conformity. In the United States a Catholic priest was, in the popular mind, defined as an unmarried man, and indeed enjoyed a certain position within his community as a result. Would it do to try to explain to the average Catholic parishioner that Father Toth was as much a priest as, say, Monsignor Ravoux? But of course he was, as the Catholic church had taught consistently for unnumbered centuries, and Ireland knew it. His attitude therefore is hard to forgive, but not hard to explain. And even leaving aside the celibacy issue, his obsession with the process of Americanization would have led him to strike hard at the Uniates, who were notoriously attached to their Old-World customs. Bad enough the Germans, who at least worshiped in the Latin tongue and maintained an unmarried clergy like other Catholics.
      Finally, the conflict boiled down, as did so many conflicts in Ireland's career, to the issue of governance. Toth's credentials came from his bishop back in Slovakia. They stated clearly that Toth and those like him were subject to the local Latin ordinary, until such time as a Uniate jurisdiction were established in the United States. This was a perfectly reasonable and canonically acceptable position to take. But Ireland and the rest of the hierarchy stubbornly resisted any such intrusion into their authority. Propaganda, so often annoyed at the American bishops' claims to independence of Rome, supinely surrendered to their demands vis-à-vis the Uniates, and so shared responsibility for the catastrophe that followed. When on one occasion Ireland wrote Simeoni to thank him for his support against the "Greeks," he put it succinctly the principle of policy that meant more to him than any other: "The difficulties encountered by the Church in America due to diverse populations coming to our shores are immense. The only remedy, I am convinced, is to strengthen the authority of the bishops [les bras episcopals]. It is the only way to bind the different elements together and prevent chaos and schism." These words have a hollow sound in light of events going on before Ireland's eyes.
      If Ireland's advocacy of the blacks displayed him at his best, his belligerence toward the Uniates showed him at his bull-headed worst. Meanwhile, the American dream still awaited fulfillment for all that multitude of diverse peoples who had settled the new land, but Ireland never doubted that his own mixture of religion and patriotism could bring that happy day ever closer.
Wednesday's Wages are a series of posts which highlight past and present struggles faced by Eastern and Oriental Catholics including the topics of bioethics and persecution. Do you know of a homily, lecture, interview or biography which you think should be featured here? Leave a comment to let me know.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Cultural Differences in Icons

Have you ever wondered what cultural differences there are in icons?
Most icons of given saints or events will have common, shared story elements.... In addition to these common elements - shared by most icons - icons often reflect the culture and tradition of the iconographer's ethnic background. There are four readily recognized ethnic types of icons: Greek, Russian, Arabic, [and Coptic]. When representative examples are placed side-by-side the differences become quite clear. 
This webpage offers a simple chart that will have you in-the-know on the four main cultural styles of icons in less than 2 minutes!

Talented Tuesdays is a feature which focuses on art, architecture, music, culture, food, and the running of the domestic church. User submitted questions and solutions are welcomed.

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