Archive for the ‘Pilgrimage’ Category

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis Fall Fr. John and I had the great blessing of going on a little spiritual retreat to the wonderful monastery of the Mother of God the Consoler (Panagia Parigoritissa) in Brownsburg-Chatham, Quebec. While we were there my brother, Fr. Matthew, and his wife Presvytera Catherine, came over from Ontario so we could spend some quality family time in the peaceful and prayerful environment of the monastery. I wanted to share some photos of our pilgrimage with you, along with the history of the monastery and ask you to please consider donating to the monastery’s building fund.

The History of the Monastery (taken from the monastery’s website with minor edits):OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Panagia Parigoritissa (the Most Holy Theotokos the Consoler) Greek Orthodox Monastery – the first Greek Orthodox monastery in Quebec – was founded in 1993, under the auspicious care of his Eminence, Metropolitan Sotirios, head of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Toronto  (Canada).

Under the direction of their spiritual father, Elder Ephraim of Philotheou, two monastic women, Abbess Thekla and Sister Ephraimia, migrated from the ancient and historical Monastery of Saint John the Forerunner of Serres in central Macedonia to Canada. Once in Quebec they found themselves in particularly trying conditions. They were obliged to forego the age-old organized monastic life which flourishes in the mild Mediterranean climate of Greece, and destined to engage in an effort to establish a new type of settlement.

skete2An old farm once belonging to an English-speaking family was bought with the purpose of being converted into a monastery.  It was an extensive landscape comprising of 235 acres of dense forest set on a hill in the breath-taking Laurentians, 16 km northwest of Lachute in Brownsburg-Chatham.  Grass and bramble had grown over the property and the house was in ruins and in need of repair.  A surfeit of love, sacrifice and arduous labour on the part of the increasing number of sisters and kind volunteers was required in order to transform the area into a garden of our Most Holy Mother the Consoler, to whom the monastery is dedicated.

For a more complete history see here.

P:5-267 MonastèrePérimés5-267-A105-Périmé 19 déc.dwg A105.1 (1)

A beautiful sketch of the proposed expansion.

The Monastery’s Construction Project (also taken from the website, with minor edits):

Fr. Matthew showcasing a fantastic book (Abba Dorotheos' Practical Teachings on the Christian Life) in the monastery's lovely boutique.

Fr. Matthew showcasing a fantastic book (Abba Dorotheos’ Practical Teachings on the Christian Life) in the monastery’s lovely boutique.

In the Spring of 2009, the building project of a pavilion for the sisters’ needs began.  The building will house the 22 sisters who are now sharing 16 rooms in two different buildings, far apart from each other.  There will be an infirmary, workspaces, a kitchen and a dining room, an office, a library and two chapels to solely serve the needs of the nuns.  By accommodating the sisters, facilities will be available once again to receive pilgrims. For, aside from monastics’ objectives of spiritual ascent, prayer and constant contact with God, their goal and ongoing endeavor is to provide a place of reprieve for the weary souls of pilgrims.  Thus, beyond serving the day to day needs of the sisters, the expansion of the monastery will also provide much needed guest houses and reception space for pilgrims and people in need.

The monastery's beautiful courtyard.

The monastery’s beautiful courtyard.

And so, financial aid is needed for the continuance and completion of the project.  One can offer money, expertise, material, equipment or anything that could be of help in the project.  According to the Church Fathers by offering alms to monasteries we relieve the monastics slightly from their material burden, allowing them more time for prayer and spiritual work.  In this way, the monastics pray for their benefactors and everyone benefits from their prayers.

You can offer a donation by credit card or by sending a check or money order to the address below. Donations can be made in whole amounts or monthly payments over a certain period of time.  If you wish to help in other ways please contact the sisters of the monastery.

“Blessed are the merciful for they shall find mercy.” (Mt 5:7) Give and you will receive God’s blessings.  You will be counted worthy of His grace and you will be eternally commemorated in the monastery’s Divine Liturgy: “For the builders of this holy monastery let us pray to the Lord…  Lord have mercy”, (from the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom).

under construction

The current state of the building’s construction.

Monastere Vierge Marie la Consolatrice
827 ch. de la Carriere
Brownsburg-Chatham, QC
J8G 1K7

Tel: 450-533-4313/ 450-533-1170
Fax: 450-533-1169/ 450-533-6234


To the far right you can see the building under construction. Next to that is the icon of the Mother of God which is located just above the entrance to the monastery’s chapel.

If you wish to see photos of the building project go here.

Please share information about the monastery’s building project with as many people as you can!

May the Mother of God be with us all!

Here Fr. John is laughing about how one of the ponies just started eating Pres. Catherine's shirt.

Fr. John is laughing about how one of the monastery’s ponies just about chewed off the bottom of Pres. Catherine’s skirt.

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All Saints of North America

(The “mainland” is what Newfoundlanders call the rest of Canada.)

I spent a wonderful week up in Ontario with some old friends and many new ones! It was a busy but very blessed week filled with speaking engagements, church services and loads of good conversations in between.

Unfortunately, I was a little too busy to take any photos so I don’t have a lot of images to share (the ones in this post are borrowed from online). But I do have one video from a talk I did in London for a fundraiser for Holy Trinity Monastery in Michigan (thanks to the technical skills of my fellow Newfie). The theme was Gerontissa Macrina: A Contemporary Mother of the Church. It was the talk I looked most forward to because it was a topic so close to my heart, so inspiring; it was just stories and information from Gerontissa’s book Logia Kardias. It’s linked below if you’re interested. (The first 50 seconds or so are in Greek but the rest is in English).

The three-part talks I gave in Hamilton for All Saints of North America OCA parish will be sold as a DVD set in the parish bookstore (Desert Wisdom) at a later date.

St. George Antiochian Church

And I’d just like to thank everyone who showed me so much love and hospitality while I was in Ontario: Truly, Christians love one another and are known by their love.

To those of you who said you will one day visit us in Newfoundland: we await you. And to those who expressed a desire to correspond with me through e-mail I would gladly answer any questions you have or at least point you in the direction of someone more qualified if need be.

To those on the New Calendar I wish you good strength for the Nativity fast and ask your prayers in return!

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Photo by Nektarios: http://www.pbase.com/tario/image/61850256

Photo of Holy Trinity Monastery by Nektarios: http://www.pbase.com/tario/image/61850256

Just a reminder for those of you wanting to attend one of the speaking engagements I’ve been invited to this week in Ontario. Here is the schedule:

Wednesday, November 6, 6:30PM

(Location) Apostle Paul’s Orthodox Christian Bookstore in Toronto

(Topic) Christian Struggle

A book signing will follow.

Saturday, November 9, 1:00PM-8:30PM

(Event) Ten-year Anniversary Fundraiser for All Saints of North America Orthodox Church

(Location) St. Stephen’s Anglican Parish Hall in Hamilton, Ontario

1:30pm – Registration
2pm – Session One (Topic) Hospitality: Giving More than a Cup of Water
3:15pm – Break
3:30pm – Session Two (Topic) Reverence in All Things
4:45pm – Break
5:00pm – Vespers Service
6:00pm – Lenten Dinner
7:00pm – Session Three (Topic) Obedience: Means to Eternal Salvation 

A book signing will follow.

For more information or to order tickets for the talks in Hamilton see this electronic pamphlet. (At the door registration will not be possible so make sure to purchase your tickets before Saturday.)

Sunday, November 10, 4PM

(Event) Fundraiser for Holy Trinity Monastery (Smith Creek, Michigan)

(Location) Four Seasons Restaurant in London, Ontario

(Topic) The Ever-Memorable Abbess Macrina: Contemporary Mother of the Church

Tickets are available for purchase at Apostle Paul’s Bookstore and, from what I understand, tickets will also be available at the door of Four Seasons on Sunday afternoon.


Fr. John and I at Holy Annunciation Hermitage in Nova Scotia.

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Fort Amherst, St. John’s, Newfoundland photo from here: http://www.stare.ca/fort-amherst-st-johns-newfoundland-017594.php

Well we have much to give thanks to God for this season. We finally arrived in St. John’s, Newfoundland two weeks or so ago now and we are very grateful for our home, our parish and this island in general.

We’re celebrating Thanksgiving in Canada for the first time in eight years. The last one we spent in Canada was our wedding day.

You may have noticed that the blog posts have slowed down to about two a week. Unfortunately I just don’t have time to post more often than that. I’m really busy with my studies, keeping up with services at the Mission, and settling into our new home/city.

I will be traveling to Ontario next month for a series of talks I’ll be giving over a span of a few days (Nov. 6-10). Preparing for these talks has been a wonderful opportunity to catch up on some spiritual reading on a variety of topics.

Here is the rough schedule of the talks. (I’m unsure of some of the locations but I will update the information when I have more details):


Wednesday, November 6, 6:30PM

(Location) Apostle Paul’s Bookstore in Toronto

(Topic) Christian Struggle

Thursday, November 7, 11:00AM

(Location) Toronto

(Topic) The Virtue of a Woman

Saturday, November 9, 2:00PM-8:30PM

(Event) Ten-year Anniversary Fundraiser for All Saints of North America Orthodox Church

(Location) St. Stephen’s Anglican Parish Hall in Hamilton, Ontario

1pm – Registration
2pm – Session One – Topic: Hospitality: Giving More than a Cup of Water
3:15pm – Break
3:30pm – Session Two – Topic: Reverence in All Things
4:45pm – Break
5:00pm – Vespers Service
6:00pm – Lenten Dinner
7:00pm – Session Three – Topic: Obedience: Means to Eternal Salvation
A book signing will also take place.

Sunday, November 10

(Event) Fundraiser for Holy Trinity Monastery

(Location) Four Seasons Restaurant in London, Ontario

(Topic) The Ever-Memorable Abbess Macrina: Contemporary Mother of the Church

For more information or to order tickets for the talks in Hamilton see this electronic pamphlet.

allsaintsI hope to see some of you there!

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IMG_0975When we were children we fought a lot – I mean a lot. I’m surprised our mother wasn’t committed on account of how crazy we must have made her. But at the age of 15 my brother found his conscience and stopped being so mean.

With our joyful mother.

With our joyful mother.

I’m sure he’d say I stopped being such a contrary whiner – or perhaps I haven’t stopped but the change in our relationship was brought on solely because he grew kind. In any case, our relationship slowly turned from one of dislike to one of love and my little sister and I began to admire him.

With our proud father.

With our proud father.

From a young age we thought he would one day become a priest because God had spared his life on numerous occasions (from being temporarily blind and paralyzed due to infant-Meningitis; to running into a busy road in his toddler years; to falling through an ice-covered lake in his adolescence – just to name a few). Somehow we had it in our heads that God protected him because one day he would become a priest. Funny, looking back, the only priests I thought existed were Catholic…

IMG_0993Years ago Fr. Matthew borrowed a book from our Nova Scotian friends who had converted to Orthodoxy, and he slowly (and sometimes not so slowly) began to turn the whole family toward the East.

Hip, hip for our Nova Scotian friend, Matthew (on the right)!

Three-cheers for our Nova Scotian friend sub-deacon Matthew on the right! (a prominent person in both Father John’s and Matthew’s ordinations)

Through Fr. Matthew’s fervent priestly prayers, his zeal for Christ, and his gift as a teacher may he turn many more toward Christ and His Church! AXIOS! AXIOS! AXIOS!, dear brother. I hate to say “I told you so,” but I told you so: You were destined to be a priest!


With his matushka, Catherine.

The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest. Go your ways: behold, I send you forth as lambs among wolves. Carry neither purse, nor scrip, nor shoes: and salute no man by the way… And into whatsoever city ye enter… heal the sick that are therein, and say unto them, The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you (Luke 10: 2-9).


Love you big brother!

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The following is the address given by His Grace Bishop Basil to the parish of St Mary Orthodox Church in Wichita, Kansas regarding the crisis in Syria, on the morning of their patronal feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos, September 8, 2013.

This week will be a very important week, an historical week, one way or another–our church, our Patriarchate in particular, and this world in general. This week our elected representatives will be asked to vote either for or against supporting aggression in the Holy Land. As I said it’s important first and foremost for our church. It’s where our spiritual roots are, the roots of all Christians. Not just us, but we as Antiochian Orthodox in particular, as our Father in God (Patriarch John of Antioch) lives there along with a million and a half Orthodox Christians.That’s more than we have total in the US. The Orthodox in Syria and Lebanon is not negligible, it’s 10 percent of the population. In our country, we’re less than 1 percent, our country being the United States.

Syria in particular but Lebanon as well, which is an integral part of greater Syria just by its geography and the majority of its history, is dotted with holy places. Holy places made holy by the presence of our Savior. Remember his conversation with the Canaanite woman, the Syro-Phoenician woman when he visited Tyre and Sidon in south Lebanon. It’s not in Disney World or Never Never Land. Its a real place with real people with real Orthodox Christians living there. You’ve heard of Caesarea Philippi, where our Savior went and had conversation with his 12 apostles saying, “Who do men say that I am?” and then to Peter “Who do you say that I am?” Caesarea Philippi is in Golan Heights, what now is the occupied portion of the Golan Heights. It belongs to our sister archdiocese, the archdiocese of Bosra-Hauran. And the Golan Heights itself is dotted with now empty, they were depocketed by the Israelis, Christian villages, Orthodox villages, whose churches during the occupation have been totally desecrated. Stripped. Not only of the icons and the chandeliers, but of windows, and water faucets. Their dead in Konetra were taken out of their graves, and teeth–gold teeth–taken from their mouths and wedding rings taken from the corpses’ fingers. These are holy places. Our Saviour walked there, the apostles walked there. Sweida, Bosra-Hauran in south Syria is where Timon, one of the original seven deacons as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, one of the original seven deacons was the first bishop. Paul the apostle made his way from Jerusalem up to Damascus, and the road is still there, the spot where he was knocked off his horse by the presence of our Saviour Jesus Christ when he was struck blind. There’s a monastery there, an Orthodox monastery. These are not just places in books, brothers and sisters. These are holy places where Christians, your spiritual ancestors, and for many of you your physical ancestors have lived the Holy Orthodoxy for the past 2,000 years. It’s why what happens this week is important. It’s important.

We ask your prayers first and foremost for our president. That God might speak as we say in the liturgy “good things to his heart. That God might speak reasonableness and peace to the heart of our president. That he might speak peace to the heart of our elected officials, that they indeed become our representatives, that they speak the voice of the people. God speaks through his people, not through a congressman alone, or a president alone. He speaks through his people. May God hear our prayer for our armed forces. Men and women who sit on the edges of their seats to know whether they will be going to war or not. And don’t believe this “no boots on the ground.” It’s impossible. We’ve  heard the promise many times. May God give strength to the parents. The spouses first and foremost of those soldiers, and their children, and their parents and their families, that he might grant them grace during these next coming days to prepare for the tension that must be laid upon them. And God be with the people of Syria. All of them, whether they’re Muslim, they’re Druze, Christians, Orthodox and not. May he be with our Father in God (Patriarch John of Antioch) who has already lost thousands of his people, and priests and deacons and monks and nuns in the war already. Whose monasteries and churches have been occupied and many destroyed by the so-called Free Syrian Army. Whose own brother was kidnapped and still remains kidnapped, Metropolitan Paul along with Archbishop Yohanna, since April 22 by freedom fighters. Freedom fighters–people who rape women, abduct bishops, desecrate churches, open peoples’ chests and pull their beating heart out and eat it in their presence. That’s the Free Syrian Army and their allies, Al Qaeda.

Two days ago I received a call from our Metropolitan Saba Esper, who you know, he has visited here. He is the archbishop of our own Wichita diocese’s sister diocese in south Syria. He spoke by telephone, right before he called me, with Mother Belagia. Mother Belagia is the abbess of the monastery of Saint Thekla in Maalula. It’s only like a 20-30 minute drive north of Damascus. It had been occupied for 3 days (the town). The town is one of three where they still speak Aramaic–Aramaic which our Saviour spoke. The only 3 towns left in the world. The majority of the people in Maaloula are Christians–Orthodox Christians. There’s a smattering of Catholics there, and there’s also some Muslims there, and they live there in peace. The beginning of this week they were occupied by the Free Syrian Army. It turned out to be Al Qaeda, and they turned out to be Chechens–the same ones who abducted our 2 bishops. The nuns took the children there, orphan girls there of St. Thekla, and they and the nuns, many who are aging, into the caves of the village to hide for 4 days. They didn’t even go out to buy bread. The villagers didn’t leave their homes for 4 days. And if you’ve never been to the Middle East, they don’t shop like we do. They go every morning to buy their bread and food for the day. So they were locked in their homes for 4 days. Those who went out were shot, so they knew to stay in their homes. Saba called me on Wednesday. Mother Belagia, and they were ringing all the bells in the town’s churches–the Syrian Army, you know the one that we’re told is so bad. The Syrian Army finally came and drove Al Qaeda out. And what did they find? They found 2 churches in the village completely destroyed. St. Thekla, which is ours, the Orthodox church in the village, and St. Sergius, which is a Catholic church in the village–completely destroyed. On the inside, the icons, the holy books, everything had been desecrated. Not just ripped off the walls, but covered in urine. Real desecration by that wing of the Free Syrian Army. God knows what the people of Syria, and by extension the people of Jordan, the people of Lebanon, the people of Turkey and the people of Iraq–because if there’s a war there’s a regional war–God knows the burden they may have to carry this week. Lighten their burden as you can. And that’s by your prayers. Have a soft heart towards the people. Wrongs were done on both sides–vicious wrongs on both sides. But as we’ve heard from some honest politicians this past week, there’s really no good armed force over there. No one we can trust. None. So the choice is between the evil that we know and that we’ve had for 30-40 years in that part of the world, or another evil we don’t know about except what they’ve shown us in this awful civil war for the past 2 and a half years.

So this week, really pray. Thank God that we live in a country that is safe. Where we can send our children to school, where you can go out and buy your groceries. But realize that that blessed country where we live can also be a disruptive force in other parts of the world, as it has been. Remember Bosnia. Remember Kosovo. Remember what happened in Belgrade, the capital of an Orthodox country, bombed by our armed forces on Pascha night, while people were going to church for the midnight service. God bless America–but a lot of evils have been done in her name. We pray that God will restrain our leaders from being the cause for any more evil and sorrow and hurt in this world. That we might extend a healing hand, to bring enemies together like we’re supposed to. Where we teach people to turn the other cheek, where we teach people to bless those who curse them, to love our enemies. That’s the gospel we preach, the gospel we die for. It’s the gospel which Orthodox Christians have been and I guess will continue to die for. Remember them in your prayers, and as I said, most especially our leaders, who will make the decisions. That God might pour out his Holy Spirit on them, and speak good things to their hearts.

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