Heat Wave

Today the thermometer hit 92 in Southbridge. Man this is hot. I have been spending the day in A/C here at the parish house and watching old episodes of West Wing. Early this morning, Fr. Greg came by to help me move some chairs back into storage after our picnic. Thanks for coming and helping out it made the job much easier. Try and stay cool for the next few days. It is like a blast oven out there.

Record Church Attendance

Our church here in Southbridge is very small in comparison to some others. We have 75 members, that’s individuals not families. Yesterday, on what could be described as one of the hottest days here in Central Massachusetts we had 50 people in church. Now that may not seem like many to some people but for us that was big time! We average 35 on Sunday mornings when the temperature is not so high, it was 90 degrees in the church yesterday. It was so nice to see all of the seats with people in them, even the ones down front!

Revenge

Since the tragic accident a few days ago my mind has turned toward revenge. At the coffee hour yesterday after the Liturgy people were talking about how they wanted to kill the person that threw the rock over the bridge. How tragic that would be also. I spoke with many of them about the difference between revenge and justice. Revenge is not ours to seek. Vengeance is mine says the Lord. The person responsible will have to answer for their actions some day. However, justice is another matter. We can seek justice and make the person pay. But how much should one pay for a crime such as this? Life in prison? Maybe hit them in the head with a rock. I know this is hard to grasp, and hard for me also, but we need to seek justice and learn to forgive. That is what Christ would want us to do. Not become door mats in any sense of the word, but forgiveness. In the Divine Liturgy we pray for those who love us and those who hate us. In the Lord’s prayer we pray to forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Isn’t that what the Christian life is all about? Forgiveness? Well, something to ponder on this hot day.

Unnecessary violence

Today I went to the hospital to visit the son of one of my parishioners. He was driving to work the other night, and someone threw a rock off of the overpass and hit the windshield of the car. After that he went across the road and hit the guard rail. His skull is fractured in two places and his jaw is broken. The doctor is not sure if he will ever regain the sight in his right eye. I will never understand why people do the things they do.

Immanuel Kant

In addition to my many pastoral responsibilities, I also am an adjunct professor in the humanities department at Quincy College in Quincy, Massachusetts. For the past year I have been teaching the General Psychology class but this summer I have been teaching Ethics. This is an introductory course, and has required some reading on my part. I have been fascinated by the Categorical imperative Philosophy of Immanuel Kant. Just to summarize, the CI is the theory that morality is a system of rules that one must follow from a sense of duty, regardless of one’s wants or desires. There is more to it than that of course, but you will have to sign up for the course to get the rest of the lecture. Anyway, I mention this only because it has got me thinking, and that can be dangerous. Kant felt that every human being had dignity and as such should be treated accordingly. So, in view of my previous post on the preferential option for the poor, and the Kantian view of personal dignity, I would think that we have an obligation to assist in anyway we can to aid the poor in their plight. Just some random thoughts…

Church Picnic

Last Sunday was our 82nd Annual Church Picnic. What a wonderful event and thanks to all of the hard working folks here at St. Michael’s it was also a financial success. I would say about 300 people came by for some food, fun, and fellowship. It is great to re-connect with folks that we do not see until the picnic. The weather is always a concern and this year the sun was shining and there was a light breeze that kept things cool. Thanks to all who came by, and if you could not make it, you missed a great day.

Pastoral Theology

This past week I have been re-reading the book Orthodox Psychotherapy by metropolitan of Nafpaktos Hierotheos. This was a textbook from one of the Pastoral Theology classes in seminary. The subtitle of the book is The Science of the Fathers. Excellent book on the subject and looks at the patristic tradition of the priest as healer. For the past year I have been teaching undergrads a course in General Psychology, and now I can add some patristic thoughts to my file on the mind and how things work. The premise of the book is that due to the fall, we are all broken and need healing. Our nous, or eye of the soul, has been darkened and needs to be cleaned. This can only happen in the church which he calls a hospital. This has much in common with the doctrine of Sanctification that is a large part of the holiness movement of the Church of the Nazarene.

There are several other good books on the subject and I will just mention the titles of these;
Raising Lazarus, Integral Healing in Orthodox Christianity Edited by Stephen Muse
Inner Way, Toward a Rebirth of Eastern Christian Spiritual Direction by Joseph Allen

Reality TV

Okay, so I am reality TV nut what can I say. It all started years ago with survivor and has continued to today. Tonight we have the continuation of Big Brother All Stars. If you have never seen that show, they take 16 people and put them in a house together, with no contact with the outside world. No phone, TV, internet, news papers, books, etc. Just each other for company. This season, people from past season are together for the all stars show. Could be interesting. Tune on CBS at 8pm eastern time.

Picnic Season

This Sunday is the 82nd Annual Church Picnic at the parish of St. Michael in Southbridge. This picnic is by far the best in town. Of course I have to say that as I am the priest here so I am little biased. People will be coming to the church from far and wide. The church office has received calls from all over New England. It seems that we have been put on some sort of Folk Dance Mailing list and all the folk dancers will be coming. Let’s hope it is not too hot!

Many people are involved in the set up and clean up of this event. It does not happen by itself although to some it would seem so. I have to say a big thank you to Fr. Greg from St. Spyridon’s in Worcester. Fr. Greg came out today and gave us a hand doing some of the grunt work. Fr. Greg and I are also school chums from seminary and have begun a friendship that I hope will last many years.

I hope some of you will be able to drop by on Sunday for some Lamb, music, and fun.

Sunday, July 9th

As I was preparing for Liturgy for the weekend, I began to read again from the Book of Psalms. I am not sure how many Orthodox view this book, but I have always found comfort in this little treasure trove. I settled on Psalm 41.

“Happy the man who considered the poor and the weak. The Lord will save him in the day of evil, Will guard him, give him life, make him happy in the land and will not give him up to the will of his foes.”

The Jesuits have a saying that is sort of the mission statement. A Jesuit must have a Preferential Option for the Poor. Everything that a Jesuit does must be aimed at alleviating the suffering of the poor and less fortunate. Is this not the call of all Christians, or dare I say the call of all humans?

As I begin to focus on the sort of monasticism I am being called to begin here in Southbridge, I am reminded of this motto daily. We must have a preferential option for the poor. In the Rule of St. Benedict, he makes the point clear that we must receive all visitors as Christ. Another point well taken. How many of us have had interruptions during the day and cursed that interruption. I believe that Benedict wants us not only to put up the stranger over night, as it was, but also deal with those little interruptions, and savor the moment. I am rambling again.

I invite comments on the point of the preferential Option for the Poor. Is this an Orthodox thing? And if not why? Should it be? And if so how do we begin?

Have a blessed Sunday.

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