Posts Tagged With: Saint

Don’t Be Afraid If You Commit A Sin

Sounds heretical doesn’t it? I mean, come on, don’t be afraid to sin, isn’t that the total opposite to promising never to sin again and doesn’t Christ himself tell us to go away and sin no more?

Yes of course I’d never encourage you to sin and I’m not asking you to go out and sin but to plunge into life and not be afraid to sin.

I’m thinking of the video I viewed recently where a heroic soldier in Mosul ran from the safety and cover of a tank to rescue a child caught in the firing line upon the middle of a dirt road. He ran out and although he got shot in the leg, he came back to safety with the girl in his arms alive and well which brings me to my next point.

The man in scriptures was afraid to lose the talent he had been given because he was so fearful of his master. Many of us miss opportunities to save others or to share our faith in the world and the talent (the Gospel) we’ve been given because we view God as someone who is a big judge that should we speak wrongly or act in a way so terrible he will judge us harshly.

We must battle in the world and to expect ourselves to walk through a thorny bush and come out clean on the other side is a little silly. God doesn’t look at our sins so much as our endurance.

Here is a story I learned from Elder and Saint Paisios.

He recalled how a young monk from Asia Minor came to the monastery in his youth. He was a serious alcoholic. How it happened was his parents worked in the fields all day and when he was a baby his mother, to keep him from crying would give him a very strong drink called Raka. Seriously strong stuff.

So he grew up an alcoholic. Elder Paisios tried to help this monk from his addiction by giving him a strict prayer rule. The monk drank 20 glasses of this stuff every day but after many many years through constant adherence to this prayer rule of Paisios, managed to reduce the number of glasses right down to just 4 a day but it would still make him drunk.

He was in charge of the gates at the monastery in Mount Athos. The pilgrims always complained about this drunk Monk as the stink of alcohol off him they thought it was an absolute scandal he should even be a monk at all.

The Monk never really eliminated his alcohol addiction. Well, one day the pilgrims arrived only to find the monk in charge of the gate, the one who always smelled of drink and fell all over the place as he fetched for the keys to open the gate was not there anymore.

They soon learned that the poor man had died. They went to St.Paisios with a sigh of relief and said to him ”Ah that man is dead now the one who was always drunk” hoping the elder would agree with them he lived a scandalous life.

Well, the elder just said to them ”Ah yes, I remember when it happened, the moment he died I saw the heavens open and thousands of Angels and all the Archangels surrounded him and took him to Heaven.

The people were indignant about what the elder had said and sharply continued that ”this was impossible he was such a sinner and drunkard and drunkards don’t go to heaven”.

The Elder told them the story of the monks life and then said ”You see, what you saw was nothing but a scandalous old sinner and drunkard. But what God saw was a true warrior who endured and battled with the demons until the very end.”

What I’m telling you is don’t get too caught up on your vices and sins. Don’t be afraid to do battle and receive some scars. Don’t avoid life and bury the talent but go out into the heavy thickness of the battlefield and leave all your worries about sin behind you and just do your best.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t battle sin and avoid sin, but not to be afraid of falling into it, because the Lord sees your effort and is always ready to forgive, always waiting for you to show your worth, ask forgiveness and get back into the thick of the battle.

 

 

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My Miraculous Meeting With St.Spyridon

SPYRIDON

St.Spyridon lived somewhere between the latter part of the 2nd and early part of the 3rd century.

He was at the first ecumenical council of Nicea and was instrumental in the arguments against Arius.

Originally from Cyprus and buried there, when the Arabs took Cyprus he was removed from the grave to be taken to Constantinople where they witnessed he was incorrupt. In his hand was a scent of Basil indicating true sainthood.

After Constantinople fell to the Ottomans in 1453, his relics were removed by a Corfiate monk to the island of Corfu where they remain to this day in St.Spyridon Church.

One of his miracles during his lifetime was calling forth rain during a time of drought. This is where it got interesting for me.

An Orthodox Priest and friend of mine learned that I was in Corfu via facebook and highly recommended I visit this church and venerate the Saints relics. He noted that the relics are not always there due to them being moved around a lot and when he was there some years ago they were not present.

Eventually we made our way through the Venetian cobbled streets until we landed upon the Church. I took some pictures of the boys outside in front of the icon of the saint.

From there we entered and there was a short enough queue and to my surprise the relics were present with two priests at either side. Before I entered everyone was quiet. When me and Christian entered the priests began to chant ”Kyrie Eleison”.

I wasn’t sure what to kiss and didn’t realise that the priest opened the Casket for me to kiss the Saint so instead I kissed the Casket as did my son Christian.

That was all good and so we decided to go around the corner to the byzantine Museum which was an old Church now in disuse but everything still in place just used as a Museum for Icons.

I wanted to go back and buy an Icon in the shop directly across the road from St.Spyridons Church and so we headed back that way.

The woman in the shop kept me there for quite a considerable time. By the time my wife came along she was waiting on me and obviously does not share the same enthusiasm as I do for the Orthodox icons or churches so she’s impatient and wanting to leave.

She approaches me and said ”Stephen you need to hurry it up, dark clouds are gathering and it looks like it could actually rain.”

I kept calm and allowed the lady to finish showing me all her icon collection. Then a seriously heavy down pour of rain and hailstones began. It was so heavy I’d never seen anything like it not even in Ireland. The rain was so thick, heavy and chunky. You could hear it just slam into the ground.

I wanted so desperately to visit the Church again with my icons but I knew Audrey wouldn’t have it and so whilst in the shop and anxious about these things it began to rain.

I said to my wife I want to touch the icons off the casket of St.Spyridon and in this way have them blessed. We might as well go over to the Church and inside there because we are blocking entry to the shop.

The woman approached me and said ”This is such unusual weather for this time of year but it shouldn’t last long”. But it did, a whole three hours.

I was delighted to be back in the Church. This time I actually peered in and saw his face with his little skull-cap and vestments all still on him.

It was at this moment that the Saint revealed to me that it was him who, calling forth the rain all those years ago to end the drought, had called forth the rain yet again that I may have my icons blessed and venerate him once more.

Whilst I stood there, the rain plummeting from the heavens, to many it was an inconvenient moment where they had to refrain from shopping and it ended their day out in Corfu. To me however, I stood there in the church with a gleeful smile on my face knowing who it was that called forth the rain and hailstone.

It was an undeserved grace for a rotten little sinner like me. It almost seems prideful to even assume that the Saint would accommodate just one speck of dust such as myself with all the problems going on in the world but I was convinced that this miracle was simply God’s simplicity shining forth giving me the time I really needed to soak up the experience of venerating one of the churches greatest ever saints that lived.

 

 

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My Sore Feet And St.Theresa Of Kolkata

This morning I awoke with really sore feet yet I was just hours a away from doing another job which requires I stand all day for 6 hours. 

Each step I took I could feel the pain shoot up my leg and even when I sat down or lay down didn’t matter. My muscles ached even when they had a rest. 

Suddenly I thought of St.Theresa of Kolkata and how she had really sore feet and walked the streets helping the poor all day and yet here I was, young man like me, complaining about mine. 

I thought it strange how all day I’d sore feet on the day the woman who suffered severe pain from walking and standing  all day herself was made a Saint. 

Perhaps St.Theresa obtained this gift of suffering for me? Considering the weight of my sins it is possible her prayers obtained this for me as a way to help me return to God. 

Many critics of St.Theresa like to come down heavy on her for her glorification of suffering. The reason they do so is because the world doesn’t quite understand suffering because it doesn’t understand the Cross which is why it hates that which it doesn’t understand. 

Saint Theresa doesn’t wish any suffering upon anyone but she understood rather, that suffering is useful in as much as whilst its present we can put it to good spiritual use. 

This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t eliminate suffering but we should elminate our perception that suffering can be eradicated from the world. To make any attempt to do so would be like using a Hoover bag with a hole in it or throwing a bucket of paint at the blue sky to change its colour. 

Nobody likes suffering, even Christ himself asked his father to spare him the Cross. However there is some suffering we cannot avoid and St.Theresa of Kolkata was just teaching us how to transform the unavoidable suffering into something beautiful that saved souls in this world and the other as well as our own. 

People without faith will never understand it but to those who do it is rewarding. 

I myself who have little faith am still trying to come to terms with suffering and bear all the hallmarks of an ordinary decent complainer. The world and I need Saints like Theresa of Kolkata to help us realise that suffering, whilst it is present in the body is more valuable than gold when offered to God for our sins and the sins of the whole world. 

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Why do we want to be a Saint and what does it mean to be one? 

I don’t want to become a saint and leave behind some sort of legacy. People often say, in fact the church asks us to strive for sainthood but I don’t want it. I always just encourage myself  and others to be a good Holy Christian. I don’t want to be recognised and leave behind some sort of legacy. 

Here’s the thing, I want to be a saint alright ( Sanctus = Holy) I just want to protect myself from romanticising it. We’ve all closed our eyes when we were kids and wished we were The pop singer being praised and worshipped by millions. 

I feel that many of us fall into the spiritual trap laid out for us that we strive to be Holy before the world only because we want to be remembered and romanticise people kissing our icons when we’re dead and gone or flipping through our theological books ( if we’ve written any ) remarking how “intelligent and full of the Holy Spirit we were”. 

It’s like the guy who becomes charitable only because he himself gets a kick out of helping people. Can it really be called charity if we are giving only to receive the profitable inflation of our ego as a result? Is that really selfless giving?

Likewise with sainthood. What do we want it for? Maybe I’m wrong by saying I don’t want to be a saint or that we shouldn’t strive for saint hood. Perhaps I’m afraid to because like alms giving and love whose meaning has been torn in two, the meaning of sainthood has also been torn in two. 

I’ll give you another example. A guy sees a fellow solider about to be blown by a grenade. The soldier jumps on the grenade to save his friend. He effectively lays down his life for his friend. This is selfless love right? Surely that guy died a saint. But how do we know his intentions? What was running through his mind? Maybe it was “I’ll be remembered as a great hero ” and I’ll leave behind a great legacy and they’ll erect statues in my honour”.

So I’m asking you now what goes through your mind when you think of sainthood? What do you want it for? 

You know one of the reasons God put many of the saints throughout the centuries into a spiritual desert where he deprived them of all graces and consolations, was to humble them. He didn’t want them falling in love with the experience and develop a relationship with the graces but Christ Himself. Therefore he deprived them of these to remind them of who it is they should be looking at. It’s all part of the training. 

Why, then, do we want to be saints? When we think about sainthood, are we more in love with the idea of becoming a saint or becoming closer to God? Are you striving to be a Saint or are you striving to enter a relationship with God? 

I am weak and so I always ignore my desire to become a saint or when the desire presents itself I ask myself why I want to be a saint. I want to just focus on my relationship with God every day and be an ordinary Christian striving for Holiness through a relationship with God. 

The church has these definitions of what a saint should be before they recognise someone as a saint. I won’t go too deep but some are “led a good life, no skeletons in the closet and practiced what he preached ”

That’s the only definition they have. I disagree with this assessment. Yes, I actually disagree with the Catholic Church for once. Not that I’m more clever than they. 

A saint is someone who can also be a great sinner who endured to the end. I’ll give you an example. Elder Paisos of the Holy mountain Athos one related a story to people who complained about a monk who was always drunk when he greeted them at the gates. When he died they related to the monk Paisos how relieved they were this sinful monk was dead. Elder Paisos said “ah yes him, I saw a thousand angels come to take his soul to heaven when he died”.

The people were scandalised by this. They reminded Elder Paisos just how sinful this monk was and how could he a drunk get into heaven? So the monk told the story. 

A boy once came to the monastery and he drank strong raka and was drunk. He was an alcoholic since birth as his parents, who worked in Asia Minor ) gave him strong raka to get him to sleep. He cried a lot as they worked in the fields so this is why they did this. He grew up an alcoholic. The Elder Paisos advised the new novice to pray to the Theotokos and make many prostrations everyday and to slowly eliminate the amount of glasses of raka he consumed a day. 

The monk did this and after many years of prayer he reduced himself from 10 a day to just 1 glass. The raka was so strong however that it still made him drunk and stink of alcohol. 

So, said Paisos, “what you saw was a dirty sinner unworthy of heaven but what God saw was a saintly warrior who endured to the end and fought the devil all the way until his last breath. 

So you see, we need to ask ourselves why we want to be saints and what a saint actually is. Unfortunately I have always felt the hierarchy of the Catholic Church whom I love and am obedient to, have overlooked many many saints throughout the centuries .

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Old Mellifont Abbey, Co.Louth

We went to visit the old ruins of a monastery today. It was a kind of de tour as we were visiting the local animal sanctuary and had not planned to go here. We came for a little bit and the whether began to turn so I grabbed some photos like this one before leaving. We learned that tomorrow from 2pm onwards there will be monastic beer tasting and tile painting for the kids. There will also be guided tours so we plan to go on those tomorrow. I will collect more photos and gather as much info on the guided tour and post it back on here because right now my knowledge of the monastery is limited. What I do know is that it was Cistercian, founded by St.Stephen and St.Bernard. The first abbot of the monastery built in the 11th century was St.Christian who travelled to Ireland from France. We named our son Christian as a result of this as we are quite close to this community who reopened a new monastery close to this site in the 50s.

So good night for now and speak soon. God bless.

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I Saw A Saint Once

Long before my conversion to the Catholic faith I am pretty confident I saw a Saint. A cousin of my father who lives in a village had a granddaughter who lived with him. She had Cerebral palsy and she couldn’t speak well. She was only 15 years old. When we entered the house she would be all cozy in a tartan blanket on the couch watching TV. I recall Pop Idol being on the television at the time. She never took her eyes off me ( I was 16/17 at the time ) and smiled with a beautiful smile, a smile that one could recognize all of heaven in.

Jokingly her Grandfather said ”What did I tell you about boys? snip snip” and we all laughed and he said ”You look like a member of one of her favorite boy-bands hmmm” and he smiled.

After a short while of conversation we left the house. The following year we learned that she had fallen asleep in the Lord. So my Father took me out to the wake so he could say some prayers. There she was in the coffin and her eyes were opened. They sparkled and she was smiling. Later I asked my father why her eyes were open and why she was smiling? He replied that the moment she passed away, her Mother was at her bedside and she gently said to her mother, ”I hear the angels mama, they are coming to take me, do you hear them?” and she passed away with her eyes open in that moment and smiling.

It is said that the Church does not ”create” saints, she recognizes them, and admits that there are many saints she fails to recognize. This little girl I do believe is a little Saint that humbly fell through the cracks of such recognition. I would be doing well to ask her for her prayers.

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What exactly is a Saint?

I am just a lay man with little or no knowledge at all on what grounds the Church may view a Saint to be. So take my words with a pinch of salt and a dash of suspicion thrown in for good measure.

Many of us seem to think that a Saint is someone who just locks themselves away in a monastery somewhere and embarks upon a life of spiritual perfection. Ok that is true. But what about those people who live tireless lives of working hard with the Lord, those who never tire of being tenacious in their bid to be united with him by reducing their vices and passions and confessing them daily?

I do believe we have two types of personalities in the Church that reflect the apostles St.Peter and St.John. St.Peter was forever making blunders and even denied Our Lord three times. Yet he was excited about God and the first opportunity he got to repent, he did. Yet this is the Saint upon whom Christ built his Church and put in charge of the universal Church.

St.John of course reflects the kind of person who wishes to really get close to Christ. For me he reflects the people who lead the life of spiritual perfection of whom I spoke about earlier.

I saw a documentary of a woman who did a great job for the local addicts in her town. She took them in to her halfway house in the Bronx and really worked hard on them. She was loud, sometimes cursed too and there is one stage in the movie where she drops the F-bomb because she is feeling ill. Her name is Sister Helen. This woman is a Saint in my eyes. Some may say, ”But isn’t a saint somebody who doesn’t say curse words or is loud and shouts a lot?” Lets re-phrase that question to ”Is not a saint somebody who does not sin?” and we begin to see how stupid a question that is because . . . We all sin!!!

But don’t we know the tree by its fruit? Well yes of course, but is not St.Peters sin of denial and return to God through repentance a fruit? Is not the woman who does good yet struggles with the passions and asks mercy from God to forgive such sins and get on with the battle evidence of someone who bears fruit amidst the struggle?

So I think we need to sit back and meditate on what exactly it is that makes a sinner a saint. To meditate on the two personalities, that is, St.Peter and St.John. The man who lives in the world, yet is striving to be not of the world, and the man who has removed himself from the world and is on a path to spiritual perfection in the Lord. If you ask me, I think in order to be like St.John we must first stand and walk in the shoes of St.Peter first. And some of us may never leave the shoes of being a St.Peter. But I’d rather my life reflect one of these saints than none at all wouldn’t you? St.Peter was a rock. The winds of sin try to blow him down but he is tenacious and keeps on begging the Lord to forgive his sins and is tenacious in staying close to the Heart of God.

I am not condoning sinning, God forbid. But I am saying we should not deny someone sainthood because of it. We should look at how they lived their lives and look for the fruits. The rosary, going to confession, Mass, adoration, fasting, scriptures, worked hard in reducing that passion of alcoholism, he was a fighter not a man of despair and never gave up trying even though he died with this passion weighing heavily on his shoulders. This is also the kind of man that makes a saint. The fruit of ”tenacity” was in him until the end.

Thank you my friends for reading my post. As I said before, take what I say with a pinch of salt and a dash of suspicion for I am a wretch who in reality has not a clue what he is talking about, therefore if I said anything wrong please by all means correct me.

Domestic Monk

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