Bishop Richard Stephen of the St. Nicholas Eparchy      Patriarch Sviatoslav of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church      Bishop Kevin Vann of the Fort Worth Diocese      Bishop Kevin Farrell of the Dallas Diocese      Benedict XVI, Pope of Rome
October 26th, 2018

Prayer in Our Parishes and in Our Families

To Our Clergy, Hieromonks and Brothers, Religious Sisters, Seminarians and Beloved Faithful

Prayer in Our Parishes and in Our Families

In the last few years in our Church we often mention the “Vibrant Parish” strategy. In my opinion, one sign of a vibrant parish lies in its ability to give life and give birth to new, living, vibrant parishioners. A dead or dying parish is unable to give birth to new parishioners, or it will give birth to parishioners who are spiritually dead. In my view, a living parish exists when there are two dimensions present in it – vertical and horizontal. The vertical dimension is reflected in our relationship with God, especially in prayer, both personal and communal. The horizontal dimension is that which we underline by the term “sobornist” (соборність) (catholicity, conciliarity, togetherness) and this entails firstly, communal prayer, but also communal work and the diversity of activities in the parish.

I want now to turn your attention first of all to the vertical dimension, which I regard as the most essential. If we are sincere with ourselves, we will admit that we cannot fully appreciate the importance and value of prayer for us. In our Church, I have never heard that a priest has ever received an ecclesiastical award because of the exemplary liturgical services he celebrates in his parish, or because of the high level of his own spiritual and personal prayer life.

In speaking about our prayer life, we have to admit that we all have difficulty. Very often we imagine an image of God that is incorrect and generates a fear of Him within us; a fear that the Lord will make demands of us or take something we possess away from us. Often, we don’t want to pray because prayer is an encounter with God, like a mirror in which we are afraid to see ourselves in the reality of our true state. In a similar way, a sick person is often afraid to visit his doctor because he is afraid of the diagnosis he may make. In the Ukrainian language there is a saying that “what the eyes don’t see will not pain the heart”.

From our experience, it is possible to analyze and measure everything that touches our physical life. It is the same with prayer, inasmuch as we can measure how much time we dedicate to praying. We have 24 hours in our day, and seven days in our week, totaling 168 hours. The average parishioner in our church spends around 1.5 hours in church on Sunday. Hopefully he also spends at least 5 – 7 minutes in prayer morning and evening – another 1.5 hours. Together this makes 3 hours of prayer in a week. However, is this truly the case? If so, this paints a sad picture of our prayer life. According to this measure we give only 2% of our time to God, while we devote 98% of our time to our earthly life and cares, which sooner or later we will have to leave behind at any rate.

The average Protestant Christian, by example, spends 4 hours a week in church, not counting private prayer at home. Yet, for us, if the Sunday Divine Liturgy stretches a little beyond an hour, we complain that it is too long! An observant Jew spends a half hour in prayer in the morning and another half hour in the evening in addition to six hours in synagogue on the Sabbath. We know also that the majority of Muslims pray 5 – 7 times daily from ten to 30 minutes. Just think – all of this comprises from one to three and a half hours daily. How often and how long do we pray on a daily basis? In fact, Muslims adopted the practice of praying 7 times a day from Christians. Today in our Church, the practice of praying 7 times during the course of a day remains only in monasteries.

Are we faithfully investing our time? Certainly, if our prayer life was our personal business, we wouldn’t be so lax. No thinking person would invest his money in an unprofitable venture, yet we invest almost all our life and our time in something that has no prospects for the future. We realize this, yet we still persist in investing our unique life in something that is completely unprofitable. Yet, sadly, statistics show us that in reality it is our earthly life that captures our interest and attention and not God or abiding with Him. From this we can clearly understand that we are not very interested in living our lives with God. What will eternity be like then, where we will spend “24 hours a day, seven days a week” with God, forever? Therefore, in order that we learn to love God more, it is imperative that we learn to love less that which is of the earth, to spend less time tied to earthly things, and more time to things that are eternal. What must we do? We must find time for God, and that is time for prayer, both personal and communal.

God is a living God, and when we encounter God – and prayer is an encounter with God – it follows that our parishes, our monasteries, our eparchies, will be alive as well. Dear friends, when we pray everything in us becomes revived. Catechism will be revived, missionary outreach will take place, our parishes will be alive with social and charitable service. Again, I emphasize, we will have vibrant parishes and a vibrant eparchy only when we maintain a constant relationship with the Fountain of Life. The Lord is alive and therefore only He can enliven us. Forgive me for stating categorically that without personal prayer and communal prayer in our parishes, we can achieve nothing good. Even the best thought out plans, decisions and strategies will not produce the desired fruit. They will be dead. It is worthwhile here to recall the words of His Beatitude Lubomyr Husar, which he often repeated: “Work as if everything depended on you, and pray as if everything depended on God.”

We can’t do much using a computer that is “offline”; a car no matter how shiny and expensive, won’t go anyplace without gas; even the latest model of the iPhone, if we don’t charge up the battery, will be useless to us before too long. So it is with each of us: if we are “offline” as far as God is concerned, we won’t be able to achieve anything really good. In my view, saints are those who were and have always managed to be “online” with God. Many times the saints, without having access to many resources, or any outside aid, and having minimal influence on the powers that be, did great things that under normal circumstances would have cost millions of dollars. Why were these individuals successful? Because they were truly “poor” in God.

Our brain does not have the capacity to be certain we are always making good and wise decisions. What can the telephone or a computer do without the Internet? Even with “ДивенСвіт (Divensvit)” we will not pray for long without renewal. Therefore, we must unite ourselves to God through prayer to draw strength and energy from Him. In my humble opinion, both Europe and America will be able to function for a while yet on the foundation of those “batteries” that were formed in the last century thanks to Christianity. However, this cannot continue for much longer. If there is no unity with God, then inevitably, new ideologies will appear. Examples from history readily come to mind: Nazism, communism and others. We see growing signs of this in our modern society again today. Because if we do not believe in the One Living God, we will create other gods for ourselves.

Every one of us, our parishes, our entire eparchy must be always “online” with God, so that we can be “recharged” through prayer and always draw upon the energy and grace of God. If we depend solely on our own ideas, plans and strategies, we will not go far; our “batteries” will quickly run dry. At one time Adam and Eve desired to live independently from God and this led to a great loss and fall. For this reason, Jesus Christ came to us to restore this lost unity. The Lord became a human being in order that we would be able to be participants in the Divine Life, so that human beings would become capable of life with God.

Therefore, my belief is very simple: if we desire a vibrant Church and vibrant parishes we must begin to pray. We must all do this beginning with me, the bishop, and the priests, deacons, religious and faithful. When we place prayer and liturgy in their rightful place of first priority, then everything else will fall into place.

Outdoors, when I seek warmth, I face the sun. If there is an obstacle placed between me and the sun, then the sun’s rays cannot reach me. If I desire the sun to warm me even more, I will stand where it shines brightly with no obstacles to its rays. The sun always shines, yet sometimes the clouds block it from us. As St. Augustine said: “God has already done everything for us and our salvation”. We must make time to spend in prayer with the Lord. When I pray I open myself to Him and God’s light enlightens me. Then, I am certain of how I must act, how I must live, which strategy to choose, which social project to engage in, when to speak and when to listen, when to stand on principle and when, out of love, to overlook the shortcomings of others.

In prayer we experience God in a personal and direct way. God possesses all the knowledge and the answers we need: what, how and when to act, and how not to act. In prayer we gain not only knowledge, we also receive a new experience of God. The more we pray, the deeper becomes our “being” with God, our abiding in Him; we are always “online” with Him. In prayer, we, not only individually, but collectively, as a parish and eparchy, gain the answers we seek. When each of us turns toward the one and the same God, He speaks to each in the same way and reveals the same message to each of us. For the individual and for the entire community, He points to that which is truly good.

“Liturgical prayer is the life of all of God’s people, of its very nature it is ‘with the people’ ‘folk prayer’, and not clerical, which is demonstrated by the etymology of this word. Therefore, it is necessary to evade all clericalism, so that the liturgy would break down all barriers, creating a community which includes everyone as participants.” Pope Francis addressed these words on August 24, 2017 to the participants of the 68th National Liturgical Week in Italy. Examining the history of our Church, we see all the grandfathers and grandmothers, who, thanks to the liturgical services celebrated in their parish churches, grew in Christian virtues, passed the Faith to the succeeding generation and became witnesses to their Faith even to the point of martyrdom. Of course, no decree or proclamation promulgated will instruct us in prayer, if we do not begin to pray ourselves. We are all capable of, and indeed, it is necessary for each of us to desire to learn to pray, to find time for this. Then, no one but the Lord Himself will teach us how to pray.

Pope Francis also underlined the fact that: “The Church that prays gathers everyone to herself, whose heart is open to the Gospel without turning anyone away: the great and small, rich and poor, children and elders, righteous and sinners. The liturgical gathering “overcomes every barrier of age, race, language and nationality in the name of Christ.”

It is a bitter truth, however, that Christ has been relegated to the periphery in the life of the average parishioner in our churches. Many feel that God should not be allowed to overly ‘interfere’ in their daily life. People habitually insist that they believe in God, but in reality they act as if God truly does not exist. This is the result of contemporary secular ideology that has left its mark on the life of the Church. Therefore, I think we have no need of adapting ourselves to our contemporary secularized world by devising new prayers or new liturgical services. Rather, it is much more urgent that we rediscover the true content, sense and “power” of personal prayer and the liturgical services we already possess. It is not for us to alter the liturgical services to fit the individual, but rather to alter the individual to fit the liturgical services; in other words, to fit God.

When we rediscover the value of personal prayer and the true meaning and “power” in our liturgical services, when our prayer life (God) becomes the foundation of our world view, only then will we discover a powerful resistance to secularism. So, there is nothing more important for us in our parishes and in our Saint Nicholas Eparchy than a true return to the Truth, the Light and the Life, that is, a return to Christ, Whom we encounter in prayer.

We all live the material world that influences us and makes us materialistic. Each of us looks upon things in a subjective, dependent way, which compels us to think about and approach questions in a fragmented way. We do not possess the capability of looking at life, people or things in their entirety. This is why prayer is so essential in our life, so that we can be freed from our dependencies. True freedom lies in freeing ourselves from whatever binds us. Human science often tells us that intellect leads to freedom and truth. However, our intellect limits our ability to see ourselves. We attempt to understand ourselves by means of our imperfect human reason. Humans, being imperfect, desire to act perfectly. When we have a weak relationship with God, then of course, we will look upon the world through the lens of our personal imperfection. When we begin to live a life of prayer, then we draw directly from the wisdom of God.

Saint Irenaeus of Lyon said at one time that if we do not see the sowing of the seeds of the Kingdom of Heaven in someone’s eyes, we cannot begin to seek the Kingdom. To paraphrase: if we do not see the sowing of the seeds of the Kingdom of Heaven in the liturgical services, we cannot begin to seek the Kingdom. It is imperative that we show the Heavenly Kingdom in our life and in the liturgical services. This is not easy to do, in fact, the holy fathers of the Church stated that to pray was to spill blood! It is easier for us to do anything but pray; each of us knows this from personal experience. The Protestant preacher, Wilfred Smith rightly wrote that “the devil would rather see us doing anything else, even a pious work, than praying on our knees.” We all theoretically realize this and “have nothing against it.” However, to live in prayer and to truly love prayer and the liturgical services is another thing altogether. One of our greatest difficulties remains finding time, or better, wrestling time from our other occupations, for personal prayer and participation in the divine services. It is also important to note that one of the factors contributing to the alienation of our faithful and the growth among our faithful of different religious sects and the general de-Christianization of our society remains the often overly formal and totally incomprehensible nature of the liturgical services.

We must admit that almost all of our church offerings are in the form of “buy and sell”: we barter in candles, holy cards, rosaries, even in liturgy intentions. We are used to this, but still we must think of what we are doing. It is readily noted that in most of our parishes, only liturgical services that have a stipend-intention attached to them are regularly celebrated, yet the faithful have the right to participate in services for which no stipend-intentions have been attached.

Many people do not attend the Liturgy for the simple reason it is never suggested to them to come. Liturgy times are often not placed on websites, bulletins or in announcements. Often, as I read recently on Facebook, we Ukrainian Catholics have a relationship with our liturgical services similar to the love/hate relationship of some couples. We should admit to ourselves in all sincerity that we don’t have much love for the liturgical services. Exceptions to this exist but are, unfortunately, rare.

The pastor of the church is obligated to pray for his parish and to give a personal example of prayer. The service of the priest constitutes part of his “working day”, and he, just as working people in the world, is expected to follow a certain “workday discipline.” A question we clerics should ask ourselves: “Do each of us, bishops, priests and deacons, work a full 8-hour working day? Do we find ourselves often at the place of our work?” By this I mean the church, the place of personal and communal prayer. Seek first the Kingdom of Heaven and its righteousness and everything else will be given!

In conclusion, I wish to propose to you a program for deepening our religious awareness and encouraging people to a strengthening of their spiritual life. A result of the implementation of this program in our parishes can be the growth of a deeply faithful people in union with God. To achieve this, we need to inform our people about the fundamental aspects of the Christian faith, because, as we can see, they are not deeply rooted in them. Unfortunately, our average parishioner is, for all intents and purposes, unchurched.

Knowledge and understanding of the Christian and spiritual life among our faithful is admittedly very weak. I am convinced that this is one of the main reasons contributing to the distancing of our people from active participation in the life of the Church, its service and activity. We are all aware that parents, because of their weak knowledge of the Faith, have passed very little of it on to their children. As sad as it is to admit, many families exist in religious/spiritual and moral/ethical darkness. Precisely because of this, we see many cases of spiritual/emotional breakdown and a dimming of the moral conscience in our families today. Flowing out of this we also see the rise of conflicts in the family, disagreements, divorce and other unfortunate situations. The Lord is the sole Source of Good in the world and in the family. When a person abides in unity with God, then God helps to solve all problems and leads the person to salvation and life in God.

From the above we realize the need for raising the level of awareness of God, the actions of God and the Church, among our people. We must give our people an understanding of the essence of the Church and teach them to become active participants and members. This we must achieve through a systematic teaching about God, about the person of Christ, the Church and her teachings, the Holy Mysteries, living the Faith, etc. This will give our faithful the opportunity of raising the level of their knowledge of religious and spiritual life and deepening their experience of it in prayer. I must emphasize that this should be done not in a dry or formal manner, but rather through a lively, spiritual catechization. From the outset I stress that we are dealing here with the teaching of adults, not children.

  • For this to be achieved I propose that in all parishes the pastor/administrator, without fail, gather his faithful together on a weekly basis, other than a Sunday or a Holy Day, during which all would pray and then share their personal prayer experiences to gain fresh insights about prayer. They could also read and meditate upon a liturgical text. It would also be beneficial to read a portion of the Catechism of the Ukrainian Catholic Church (Christ, Our Pascha, Part 2), as well as the Catechism of the Catholic Church (Part 2), on prayer. Other resources could be used as well, for example, video materials on the Liturgical Year and others from the blog of the Patriarchal Liturgical Commission: http://plc-ugcc.blogspot.com.es.
  • I advise priests to organize weekly meetings of the faithful in their parishes for the study of the Christian faith, which would consist of a reading of the Bible, the Catechism of the UGCC and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I feel that if priests are supportive of this initiative, these types of gatherings would begin to bring forth obvious fruit within a year or two, and a positive stimulation to all aspects of parish life.
  • I call our Christian families to the practice of morning and evening prayer. I especially encourage you to gather in your homes in prayer as a family each evening at 9:00 pm. The prayer could be for the needs of the family, the parish, the eparchy, for our entire Church, for peace in Ukraine and in the United States, for vocations to the religious life or for other intentions.
  • I ask priests to frequently remind the faithful of the importance of personal prayer, especially the importance of prayer in daily life, and the benefits of cultivating a personal prayer regime at the very least the practice of morning and evening prayer, prayer before meals, and prayer before important life events. It is important also for family members to pray together at least once a day. This could be a family prayer at any time but perhaps best at the end of the day at 9:00 pm.
  • I call upon priests to organize and prepare the parishioners for a 10 – 15 minute reading every Sunday in church immediately before the Divine Liturgy from the Catechism of the Ukrainian Catholic Church (Christ, Our Pascha: Part 2) and the Catechism of the Catholic Church (Part 2). Each priest could determine the optimal way of doing this: either before or following the liturgy.
  • I ask priests to apply maximum effort in organizing the liturgical services in such a way as to ensure as many faithful as possible take active part in them. It is necessary to develop a liturgical catechism and to continually explain the meaning and depth of the liturgical texts to the faithful.
  • I propose to priests that excerpts from the Catechism of the Ukrainian Catholic Church (Part 2) and the Catechism of the Catholic Church (Part 2) be included on parish websites, newspapers and bulletins throughout 2018-2019.
  • I remind priests of their obligation to pray for their parish and to set a personal example for the parishioners of a life of prayer. Priestly service is a part of their “working day” during which they, as the faithful do in their daily work, adhere to rules and workplace discipline. Each priest in his daily personal examination of conscience must ask himself how closely he conforms to this. Are we often present in our place of work that is, in our parish church, doing our priestly work, that is, practicing personal and communal prayer?
  • I ask priests and parishioners to focus not only on those who regularly attend church services, but also on those who, for whatever reason, do not attend church. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, we must constantly meditate upon what we must do to bring those who have fallen away back to God, as well as those who have never in their lives heard about the Good News of Jesus Christ or who have never entered a church. What can we do, so that our common prayer and our liturgical services would interest them?
  • Priests should constantly inquire of their parishioners regarding the reasons why members of their family, friends and acquaintances do not attend church services. Encourage them to think about the reasons for this situation, in hopes of understanding their problems, and their reluctance in attending liturgical services.

All of us, priests and faithful alike, are obligated to make a special effort in ensuring that personal and liturgical prayer has priority in the life of every parishioner. We must discover the authentic, central place of liturgical services in the life of the Church and teach everyone that personal and liturgical prayer can truly touch the heart, so that each would realize that he or she is a temple of God. Therefore, let us help everyone, and ourselves as well, in realizing a reform of heart. Reform requires first of all, a personal conversion; not merely a change of rubrics but a change of mentality in everyone from the bishop down to the smallest child. Let us always find the time for prayer and meditation upon the Word of God in self-sacrificing service to each other and trust in God!

May the blessing of the Lord be upon you!

BENEDICT
Bishop of Saint Nicholas Eparchy
Bp Benedict Signature English

 

Venedykt Aleksiychuk

10 жовтня 2018 р. Б.                                                                                                OUT-2018-358

Всевітлішим отцям парохам, адміністраторам, настоятелям, священнослужителям
та мирянам єпархії св. Миколая

Молитва у наших парафіях і родинах

В останні роки в нашій Церкві ми часто згадуємо про стратегію “Жива парафія”. Як на мене, ознакою живої парафії є її здатність давати життя і породжувати нових, живих парафіян. Мертва ж парафія – безплідна. Живою є парафія тоді, коли в ній присутні, на мій погляд, два виміри – вертикальний і горизонтальний. Вертикальний – це стосунки з Богом, особливо молитва, як особиста, так і спільна. Горизонтальний вимір – це те, що ми окреслюємо словом соборність, це насамперед спільна молитва, а також спільна праця і різноманітна активна діяльність на парафії. Насамперед зверну увагу на вертикальний рівень, який вважаю найпринциповішим.

Будьмо зі собою щирі, ми у своєму житті не усвідомлюємо важливості та цінності молитви. Ніколи не чув, щоб в нашій Церкві хтось з священиків отримав певну церковну нагороду за те, що він має взірцеві богослужіння в себе на парафії, чи за те, що він провадить активне особисте молитовне і духовне життя.

Коли ми говоримо про молитву, то щиро потрібно визнати, що у всіх нас тут є певні труднощі. Дуже часто неправильне уявлення про Бога породжує в нас страх зустрічі з Ним. Боязнь того, що Господь щось буде вимагати від нас або чогось позбавить нас. Дуже часто ми не хочемо молитись, бо молитва – це зустріч з Богом, це немов би дзеркало, в якому ми боїмось побачити себе та свій реальний стан. Це подібно до хворого, який не бажає йти до лікаря, щоб не довідатись про справжній стан свого здоров’я. У нас в народі кажуть: “Коли очі не бачать, то серце не болить”.

Як свідчить досвід, ми, тією чи іншою мірою, можемо аналізувати усе те, що стосується нас. Подібно є і з молитвою, оскільки можемо підрахувати, скільки часу ми присвячуємо для неї. Маємо 24 години в добі, сім днів в тижні, а це разом – 168 годин! Середньостатистичний парафіянин нашої Церкви перебуває 1,5 год у неділю в церкві; дай Боже, щоб щодня молився по 5-7 хвилин вранці й увечері, це ще близько 1,5 години. Увесь час разом в ідеалі становить 3 години. Однак чи так є насправді? Коли б навіть так було, це засвідчує сумний факт: ми не більше 2 відсотків свого часу віддаємо Богові, а 98% вкладаємо в земне, яка рано чи пізно й так залишимо.

Для нашого прикладу, середньостатистичний протестант (вірний протестантських церков чи спільнот) проводить у своєму храмі 4 години, не кажучи ще про приватну молитву. А нам, коли Божественна Літургія в неділю триває понад годину, здається, що це вже задовго. Віруючий юдей перебуває на молитві півгодини вранці і півгодини – ввечері, до того ж – шість годин у суботу в синагозі. Більшість мусульман моляться 7 разів на день. Скільки разів і як довго молимося ми? До речі, таку практику молитви мусульмани запозичили від християн, з наших монастирів, де б і у наш час мали б молитись богослужіння 7 разів на день.

Чи ми правильно інвестуємо свій час? Напевно, якби це був особистий бізнес (справа), то ніхто з нас так би не чинив. Адже жодна мисляча особа не вкладає гроші у збиткове виробництво, однак ми вкладаємо майже ціле своє життя, свій час, в те, що не має перспективи. Знаємо це, однак і далі інвестуємо своє унікальне життя в щось цілковито “не прибуткове”. Як би це не було сумно, однак статистика – річ чітка, і вона нам показує, що всіх нас реально в нашому житті цікавить не Господь і не перебування з Ним, а земне буття. З огляду на це, стає чітко зрозуміло, що нам не дуже цікаво бути на землі з Богом. Але як тоді буде у вічності, де з Господом потрібно “бути 24 години на добу і всіх 168 годин на тиждень” та цілу вічність. Саме тому, щоб ми могли любити Бога більше, нам необхідно любити менше земне і відповідно менше приділяти часу земному, а більше часу – вічному. Що маємо зробити? Знайти час на Бога, тобто на молитву, як на спільну, так і на особисту.

Бог є Живий, і коли будемо зустрічатись з Богом, а молитва – це і є зустріч, тоді будуть живими наші парафії, єпархії, монастирі. Коли будемо молитися, дорогі друзі, тоді все у нас оживе. Буде тоді катехизація, буде місійна праця, будуть живі парафії і буде справжнє соціальне і харитативне служіння. Наголошую, що живими парафії та єпархія в нас будуть лише тоді, коли матимемо постійні стосунки і зустрічі з Джерелом Життя. Бо ж Господь Живий, і тільки Він може все оживити. Можливо, скажу дуже категорично, однак якщо не буде особистої молитви і молитви у наших парафіях, то нічого доброго ми не зробимо. Які би ми плани, рішення чи стратегії не мали б, – все буде у нас мертве. Тут варто пригадати усім нам слова, які часто повторював Блаженніший патріарх Любомир: “Роби так, якби все залежало тільки від тебе, а молись так, як би все залежало від Бога”.

На комп’ютері, який “офлайн”, небагато зробимо; авто, яке б гарне і дороге не було, без пального нікуди не поїде; телефоном, хай і найдорожчим, без підзарядки довго не покористуємось. Подібно є з особою, яка є “офлайн” щодо Бога, – небагато чого правдиво доброго вона може зробити. На мій погляд, святі – це ті, що завжди були “онлайн” з Богом. Святі, часто без будь-якої допомоги ззовні, без коштів та впливів, робили великі речі, які б за звичайних умов складали б мільйонні бюджети. Чому цим особам це вдавалось? Тому, що вони були справді в Бозі – “вбогі”.

Наш мозок надто малий, щоб приймати завжди добрі і мудрі рішення. Що може зробити телефон або комп’ютер без Інтернету, навіть з програмою “ДивенСвіт” ми довго не помолимося без оновлення. Тому маємо єднатись з Богом через молитву, щоб від нього черпати сили та енергію. На мій скромний погляд, як Європа, так і Америка ще можуть трохи функціонувати на основах, на тих “акумуляторах”, що сформувалися за останні століття завдяки християнству. Однак так довго не зможе бути. Якщо цієї єдності з Богом не буде, то неодмінно прийдуть різні ідеології – приклади ми вже мали в історії: нацизм, комунізм та інші… Ознаки цього всі ми щоразу більше бачимо в сучасному суспільстві. Бо як ми не віримо в Живого Бога, тоді створимо собі інших, власних богів.

Кожний з нас особисто, наші парафії, ціла наша єпархія має завжди бути “онлайн” з Господом, щоб “підзаряджатись” через молитву, черпати стало енергію-благодать від Бога. Бо лише на своїх ідеях, планах, стратегіях ми далеко не заїдемо, наші акумулятори скоро виснажаться. Свого часу Адам і Єва захотіли існувати самі, без Бога, і це привело до втрати. Саме тому і прийшов Ісус Христос, щоб повернути нас до втраченої єдності. Господь став людиною, щоб ми стали причасниками Божественного життя, щоб людина стала здатною до життя з Богом.

Тому моє переконання є дуже просте; коли ми хочемо живої Церкви і живих парафій, маємо почати молитись. Це маємо зробити усі ми, я як єпископ, священики, диякони і миряни. Коли поставимо молитву і Богослужіннях на властиве їм місце, то все буде на своїх місцях.

Коли я хочу зігрітись на вулиці, то стаю напроти сонця. Якщо ж між мною і сонцем є якась перешкода, тоді сонячне проміння не досягає мене. Якщо я хотів би більше зігрітись від сонця, то я маю стати там, де воно краще світить. Сонце завжди світить, лиш хмари його час від часу, закривають. Як сказав святий Августин: “Бог вже все зробив для нас і нашого спасіння”.

Маємо знаходити час, щоб перебувати з Господом на молитві. Молячись, стаю відкритий на Нього, і світло Боже просвітлює мене. Також тоді добре і певно знаю, що маю робити, як жити, яку стратегію вибирати, яку саме соціальну працю виконувати, де говорити, а де – мовчати, де бути принциповим, а де – реагувати на недосконалі вчинки інших з любов’ю.

У молитві ми досвідчуємо Бога, тоді маємо свій особистий, безпосередній досвід. Бог володіє всіма знаннями і відповідями на все: що, як і коли робити, а що не робити. В молитві ми осягаємо не лише знання, а отримуємо новий досвід Бога. Що більше молимося, то більше глибини буття з Богом, перебування з Ним онлайн повсякчас. У молитві не тільки особисто пізнаємо, що чинити, а всі разом – як парафія чи єпархія. Бо коли кожен з нас звертається до того самого Бога, то цей Господь каже і відкриває те ж саме кожному з нас, вказує, що є правдивим добром для кожного з нас зокрема і для всіх разом.

“Літургійна молитва – це життя цілого Божого люду, зі своєї природи вона є «народною», а не клерикальною, на що вказує етимологія цього слова, отже, необхідно уникати клерикалізації, так, аби богослужіння ламали бар’єри, творячи спільноту, в яку включені всі її учасники”. Такими думками Папа Франциск поділився у четвер, 24 серпня 2017 р., з учасниками 68-го італійського Національного літургійного тижня. Погляньмо на історію нашої Церкви, наші дідусі чи бабусі через богослужіння та завдяки богослужінню передавали віру, зростали у християнських чеснотах і ставали свідками віри аж до мученицького подвигу. Самі по собі жодні наші рішення чи послання не навчать нас молитви, коли ми не почнемо молитись. Всі ми до цього здатні, але маємо захотіти навчитися молитися, знайти час на це, і тоді ніхто інший, але сам Господь навчить нас, як творити молитву.

Папа Франциск також підкреслив, що “Церква, яка молиться, збирає всіх, чиє серце відкрите на Євангеліє, нікого не відкидаючи: великих і малих, багатих і убогих, дітей і похилих віком, праведників та грішників. Літургійний збір “долає у Христі будь-які межі віку, раси, мови і національної приналежності”.

Така вже є гірка правда, що у свідомості й у повсякденному житті пересічних парафіян Господь насправді є далеким. На їхню думку, не можна дозволити Богові занадто втручатися в їхнє щоденне життя. Люди можуть твердити, що вони вірять у Бога, однак насправді поводяться в житті так, ніби Його немає. Це є наслідком секулярної ідеології, і вона також залишила свій слід у житті Церкви. Тому ми, на мою думку, не так аж дуже потребуємо нових молитов чи богослужінь, які були б пристосовані до сучасного секулярного світу. Набагато потрібнішим є наново відкрити істинний зміст, сенс та силу як особистої молитви, так і богослужінь. Не богослужіння маємо підлаштовувати під людей, а людей – під богослужіння, або, краще сказати, щодо Бога.

Коли ми відкриємо цінність особистої молитви, справжнє значення і силу наших богослужінь, коли молитовне життя (Бог) стане основою нашого світогляду, саме тоді знайдемо цю єдину протидію «секуляризму». Саме тому немає нічого важливішого в цей час для нашої єпархії св. Миколая та для наших парафій, як повернення до Істини, Світла і Життя, тобто до Христа, з яким ми можемо зустрічатись у молитві.

Всі ми живемо в матеріальному світі, який впливає на нас, зматеріалізовує. Всі маємо суб’єктивне, залежне бачення, часто думаємо і підходимо до питань фрагментарно, не маючи здатності в цілості дивитись на життя, людей чи речі. Тому так потрібна в нашому житті молитва, щоб ставати свобідними від залежностей. Правдива свобода полягає тому, щоб позбутися прив’язань. Наука ж людська часто вказує на те, що інтелект приводить до свободи і правди. Однак інтелект обмежує наше бачення щодо нас самих. Особа хоче розуміти себе саму власним недосконалим розумом. Людина будучи недосконалою, хоче чинити досконало. Коли ми маємо слабкі стосунки з Богом, то неминуче будемо дивитися на світ через окуляри власної недосконалості. Коли ж ми починаємо жити молитовним життям, то черпаємо від Бога безпосередню мудрість.

Святий Іриней Ліонський свого часу сказав, що як ми не побачимо сяяння Царства Небесного в чиїхось очах, не можемо почати шукати Царства. Можна перефразувати: якщо ми не побачимо сяяння Царства Небесного в богослужіннях, то не можемо шукати цього Царства. Необхідно являти Царство Небесне своїм життям і являти Його в богослужіннях. Це не легко, святі отці казали, що молитись – це проливати кров. Легко будь-що робити, аніж молитись, і кожен знає це зі свого досвіду. Влучно про це сказав один протестантський проповідник Вілфорд Сміт: “Диявол радше хотів би бачити нас при якісь, навіть побожній, праці, ніж на колінах”. Ми всі про це теоретично знаємо і не заперечуємо цього. Однак жити цим, тим паче любити молитву та богослужіння, – тут справа вже інша. Тому це – одне з найбільших наших завдань, – щоб знаходити час, а навіть сказав би, щоб відвойовувати його для нашої особистої молитви та для нашої участі в богослужіннях.

Важливо також сказати, що часто формальне, цілковито незрозуміле богослужіння є однією з причин відчуження народу від Церкви, поширення різних сект та новітніх рухів, а також прогресування дехристиянізації суспільства. Скажімо собі правду: майже всі наші пожертвування відбуваються у формі купівлі-продажу, e храмі у нас – торгівля свічками, образками, вервичками, відважусь сказати – й інтенціями також. До цього всі звикли, однак і над цим маємо замислитися. Дуже легко зауважити, що у більшості наших парафій звершують лише ті богослужіння, на яких є інтенції, але вірні мають право також на богослужіння, на яких немає інтенцій.

Багато людей не приходять на богослужіння, бо не знають про них, їх не популяризують на сайтах, розкладах і різних оголошеннях. Часто, як недавно прочитав у Фейсбуці, ми греко-католики, маємо такі стосунки з нашими богослужіннями, як чоловік з нелюбою жінкою, якої не можемо спекатись і не личить розлучитись. Тому живемо з нею, вдаючи любов. Маємо признатись собі щиро, що любові в нас до богослужінь є замало. Винятків так мало по наших парафіях, що вони тільки підтверджують правило.

Парох має молитися за парафію та особисто подати приклад молитви. Служіння священиків є також їхнім «робочим днем», в який вони так само, як і вірні, мали б дотримуватись певної «робочої дисципліни». Питання до совісті кожного: чи працює кожен із нас, єпископів і священиків, своїх вісім робочих годин упродовж доби? Чи є ми часто присутніми на місці нашої праці, яким, безсумнівно, передусім є особиста молитва і молитва у храмі? Тож шукаймо найперше Царства Небесного і його справедливості, а все інше додасться.

Наприкінці хочу подати пропозицію і запропонувати програму для того, щоб поглибити релігійну свідомість і спонукати людей до посилення духовного життя.Внаслідок виконання цієї програми у наших парафіях можуть сформуватися глибоко віруючі вірні, які були би в єдності з Богом. Щоб це осягнути, потрібно допомогти людям усвідомити фундаментальні основи християнської віри, які, як ми всі бачимо, на жаль, не є глибоко закорінені. З цього випливає, що наш пересічний християнський люд несвідомий своєї християнської віри.

Така вже є правда, що в наших вірних знання та розуміння про християнське та духовне життя є дуже слабке. Я переконаний, що саме це є однією з головних причин, яка віддаляє народ від активного життя в Церкві, щоб люди могли брати дієвішу участь в її житті, служінні та діяльності. Всі ми є свідомі того, що батьки зі свого слабкого знання про духовне життя мало що передали або часто й нічого не передали для своїх дітей. Як не сумно констатувати, але багато родин перебувають у релігійно-духовній темряві. Це породжує конфлікти в сім’ях, незгоди, розлучення та інші негаразди. Господь – єдиний, який є Джерелом добра у світі та в родині. Бо коли особа перебуває в єдності з Богом, тоді Господь допоможе вирішити всі її проблеми і привести до спасіння та буття з Ним.

З огляду на це вважаємо, що потрібно піднести рівень свідомості людей про Бога, про справи Божі та церковні. Потрібно дати людям розуміння того, що є Церква і навчити їх бути активними її учасниками і членами. Це маємо зробити через систематичне навчання людей про Бога, Церкву, Святі Тайни… Як також – знання про Бога, знання про всі аспекти віри, а остаточно – про життя вірою. Важливо допомогти людям усвідомити, ким є Ісус Христос, навчити їх розуміти передання Церкви. Це дасть можливість піднести рівень знань і розуміння народу у релігійно-духовному житті.

Варто наголосити, що цю справу потрібно провадити не сухо і формально, а у характері живої, духовної катехизації. Одразу хотілося б підкреслити, що тут йде мова про формацію і навчання дорослих.

Для осягнення цього поручаю, щоб в усіх парафіях парох (адміністратор), обов’язково збирав раз у тиждень, окрім неділі і свята, своїх парафіян на зустріч, під час якої усі спільно могли б найперше молитись та ділитися особистим молитовним досвідом. Як також – читати і розважати на текстами богослужінь, щоб отримати необхідні знання про молитву. Похвально було б на цих зустрічах також читати Катехизм УГКЦ (2 частину) і Катехизм Католицької Церкви (2 частину), де йдеться про молитву. Можна використовувати для перегляду відеоматеріали про Церковний рік та інше з блогу Патріаршої Літургічної комісії: http://plc-ugcc.blogspot.com.es.

Поручаю священикам організовувати в парафіях систематичні щотижневі зустрічі з вірними для пізнання християнської віри, під час яких вони могли б отримати знання про свою християнську віру, мати біблійні читання, читання Катехизму УГКЦ і читання Катехизму Католицької Церкви.Вважаю, що за умови підтримки священиками, ці попередньо вказані два типи зустрічей (або принаймні одна, яка поєднала б перше і друге) вже за один-два роки принесла б свої позитивні плоди і зрушення у всіх ділянках нашого парафільного життя.

Закликаю усі наші християнські родини плекати спільну ранішню і вечірню молитву в родинному колі. Особливо заохочую Вас збиратись родиною на спільну молитву у своїх домівках о 9 годині вечора (незалежно від часового поясу). Молитись маємо за свої потреби: за родину та парафію, єпархію та цілу нашу Церкву, за мир в Україні і США, за покликання та інші намірення.

Прошу священиків, щоб часто пригадували вірним про важливість особистої молитви. Про те, що є преважливо повернути молитву у своє щоденне життя, що дуже корисно кожному мати своє молитовне правило, принаймні практикувати ранішні і вечірні молитви, молитву перед їжею та молитву перед іншими важливими життєвими подіями. Важливо всім членам сім’ї молитися разом хоч би раз в день, – це могла б бути спільна молитва по наших домівках, однак з цілою Церквою – увечері о 9.00 год.

Зобов’язую усіх священиків організувати, а особливо – роз’яснити та приготувати парафіян до того, щоб хтось із них в 2018-2019 роках щонеділі читав чітким голосом по 10-15 хвилин Катехизм УГКЦ (2 частину) і Катехизм Католицької Церкви (2 частину). З огляду на ситуацію, необхідно подумати, як це можливо краще зробити: читати до або ж після Божественної Літургії, чи, можливо, читати 5 хвилин до і 5 хвилин після богослужіння.

Прошу священиків прикладати максимум зусиль і організовувати богослужіння в такий спосіб, щоб у них брала більша кількість вірних. Потрібно постійно пояснювати вірним богослужбові тексти, які вживаються на богослужіннях, проводячи літургійну катехизу по парафіях.

Прошу священиків протягом 2018-2019 років на парафільних сайтах, в газетах і в парафіяльних бюлетенях подавати цитати з Катехизму УГКЦ (2 частину) і Катехизму Католицької Церкви (2 частину).

Пригадую священикам про те, що вони мають молитися за парафію та особисто подати приклад молитви. Служіння священика є також їхнім «робочим днем», в який вони так само, як і вірні, мали б дотримуватись певної «робочої дисципліни». Питанням до совісті мало би бути: чи працює кожен зі священиків своїх вісім робочих годин упродовж доби? Чи є ми часто присутніми на місці нашої праці, яким, безсумнівно, передусім є особиста молитва і молитва в храмі.

Прошу священиків і парафіян не тільки зосереджуватися на людях, які ходять до храму, але почати все більше зосереджуватись на тих, хто з різних причин до церкви не іде. Запалені благодаттю Святого Духа, маємо неустанно роздумувати, що робити аби привести до Бога людей, які з різних причин перестали ходити до храму або й ніколи ще не чули Доброї Новини і ніколи в церкві не були. Що ми можемо зробити, щоб наша спільна молитва, наші богослужіння їх зацікавили?

Священики мають постійно запитувати парафіян, які регулярно беруть участь у богослужіннях, чому їхні рідні, знайомі та друзі не ходять до церкви. Нехай подумають, чому є така ситуація, спробують зрозуміти їхні проблеми, довідатися, звідки випливає їхня нехіть перебувати на богослужіннях, на молитві.

Всі ми, священнослужителі та миряни, маємо прикласти наших зусиль, щоб повернути особисту молитву і богослужіння в щоденне життя кожної особи та парафії. Маємо віднаходити автентичне, центральне місце богослужінь у житті Церкви та вчити, приготовляти всіх людей до того, щоби особиста молитва і богослужіння реально доторкались до їхніх сердець, щоб люди розуміли, що вони – храм Божий. Тому допомагаймо змінюватися кожній людині, особливо в її серці. Реформа – це найперше особисте навернення, це не лише зміна рубрик, а зміна ментальності всіх: від єпископа до дітей. Знаходьмо щоразу більше часу на молитву та розважання над Словом Божим, у жертовному служінні один одному та у довір’ї до Бога!

Благословення Господнє на Вас!

ВЕНЕДИКТ
єпископ єпархії св. Миколая УГКЦ
Bp Benedict Signature Ukrainian

September 4th, 2018

Bishop’s Special Appeal

Steier Study GraphicBishop Benedict is launching a fundraising planning study in cooperation with the Stewardship Committee and their consultants, the Steier Group. The study will help the
eparchy test the case for Bishop Benedict’s Special Appeal and gather information necessary to conduct a successful campaign.

The campaign seeks funding for the following goals:

  • restoring our Cathedral by addressing structural issues and repair water- damaged ceilings and walls;
  • strengthening our parishes and missions by allowing them to address their individual issues and needs;
  • supporting seminarian and diaconate formation and ongoing education of clergy;
  • growing the Eparchial Share program, which supports Eparchial administration and operations and develops our ministries such as religious education programs for children, teens and adults;
  • developing an endowment to sustain the long-term viability of our churches and our Eparchy.

Parishioners received an email link to a quick survey. Please fill it out. The Steier Group is also conducting phone calls with similar questions. You can learn more about these needs in the Steier Study fact sheet by reading the attached Steier Study Graphical Fact Sheet.

August 30th, 2018

Bishop responds to “Scandalous and Unacceptable Situation”

AleksiychukAugust 24, 2018

Glory Be to Jesus Christ!

My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Last year having started my episcopal ministry in the United States I encountered a new culture and religious situation, in particular relating to the Catholic Church in the United States. There are many new challenges and problems. Recently I learned about the scandalous and unacceptable situation about which I, as well as all of you, are equally very upset and outraged. I have in mind the information of recent weeks about the sexual scandals committed by the clergy.Even one instance of sexual abuse is inadmissible, and we have learned from reliable sources of allegations in isolated cases more than once. It seems that thereis a deep and systemic problem with sexuality among those who promised to live a chaste life. Likewise, it is a great evil to conceal scandalous situations, which wound thousands of innocent souls. The same as you, I am experiencing moments when I’m completely shocked by the thought of the prevalent nature of this problem.

The question is: how do we deal with this scandal? My advice can be found in the Gospel pages when St. Peter walked on the water towards Jesus, he was safe as long as he kept his gaze on the Lord and trusted Him completely. As soon as he turned his attention away from the Lord and looked upon the threatening wind and waves, he began to sink in the dark and turbulent waters. This is the answer for us in this time of darkness. Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, not on all of this evil that threatens us and the Church at large.

I want to assure you that our Eparchy takes any substantiated accusations of abuse by clergy most seriously. For this reason, we have invested a great amount of energy into an effective Safe Environment Program. If you have been the victim of any past or present abuse by a member of the clergy of whatever rank, please report this to the civil authorities and notify the Eparchial Office for Safe Environment. In such cases there can be no talk of any cover up, nor can any abhorrent behavior be tolerated. We can also expect various enemies of the Church to create false claims and fill the headlines with reports aimed at destroying the Church. At the same time, I want to assure our faithful that the innocent will be vigorously protected immediately to the full extent of our power.

During this time of darkness, we need to walk the path of light and we will find this path through prayer and fasting. Please utilize all the prescribed times of abstinence: Wednesdays and Fridays, the four fast periods of our liturgical year, and other prescribed days of abstinence. Prayer and fasting is our weapon against the Evil One; and make no mistake about it, the Evil One has infiltrated the Church, hoping to undermine the Church from within. Let us remember that our Risen Lord is infinitely more powerful and through prayer and fasting we permit the Lord to empower us, protect us, and render us ready to do battle with Satan and his forces. Christ is Risen, and He has defeated all the powers of Hell. We shall stand firm in our Lord Jesus Christ, and through Him, together with His Eternal Father and His All-Holy, Good and Life-giving Spirit, to Whom be glory now and forever and ever.

The blessing of the Lord be upon you

MOST REVEREND BENEDICT (ALEKSIYCHUK)
Bishop of St. Nicholas Eparchy


Venedykt Aleksiychuk24 серпня, 2018 р. Б.

Слава Ісусу Христу!

Дорогі Браття і Сестри,

розпочавши минулого року своє єпископське служіння на теренах Сполучених Штатів Америки, зустрівся із новою культурою та релігійною ситуацією, зокрема щодо Католицької Церкви в цій країні. Багато є нових викликів та проблем. Останнім часом довідався про скандальну та неприйнятну ситуацію, яка мене, як і Вас усіх, дуже засмутила та обурила. Маю на увазі інформацію останніх тижнів про сексуальні скандали скоєні духовенством. Навіть один випадок сексуальної непристойності недопустимий, а ми довідуємось про достовірні докази про більше ніж окремі випадки. Виглядає, що існує глибока й системна проблема з сексуальністю серед тих, які повинні були жити в чистоті. Рівно ж є великим злом приховування скандальних ситуацій, які глибоко ранять тисячі невинних душ. Так як і Ви, я переживаю моменти, коли цілковито приголомшений думкою про те, якою поширеною являється ця проблема.

Стоїть питання: як нам дати собі раду з цим згіршенням? Моя порада знаходиться на сторінках Євангелія – коли св. Петро ішов по воді до Ісуса, він лишався в безпеці так довго, як він вдивлявся в Ісуса й вповні Йому довіряв. Як тільки Петро відвернув увагу, поглянув на вітер і хвилі, то почав потопати в темній і розбурханій воді. Це – відповідь для нас у цей час темряви. Вдивляймося в Ісуса, а не у це все зло, яке загрожує нам і всій Церкві.

Хочу запевнити Вас, що наша Єпархія дуже серйозно трактує будь-які обґрунтовані звинувачення щодо надужиття членами духовенства. Саме тому, ми доклали великих зусиль щодо ефективної Програми Безпечного Довкілля. Якщо Ви стали жертвою будь-якого сексуального надужиття, в минулому або теперішньому, заподіяного членом духовенства будь-якого рангу, прошу це повідомити державним органам влади, а також поінформувати Єпархіальний Відділ Безпечного Довкілля. В таких випадках не може бути жодної мови про якесь приховування чи прикриття. Не можна толерувати таку мерзотну поведінку. Також можемо очікувати, що вороги Церкви старатимуться наповнити пресу заявами, спрямованими на знищення Церкви та її авторитету. Водночас, запевняємо вірних єпархії, що у випадку звинувачень справи будуть розглядатись негайно і невинним буде надано захист в міру наших сил.

В цей час темряви необхідно іти дорогою світла, а цю дорогу знайдемо через молитву та піст. Прошу Вас використовувати всі приписані пости: середи та п’ятниці, чотири посні періоди нашого літургічного року, та інші приписані дні повздержливості. Піст та молитва – це наша зброя проти лукавого. Нехай ніхто не сумнівається, лукавий просочився в ряди Церкви, хотячи її підірвати з середини. Та пам’ятаймо, що наш Воскреслий Господь є безмежно могутніший, а через молитву й піст, ми дозволяємо, щоб сила Господня увійшла в нас, охороняла нас і озброїла нас на боротьбу зі сатаною і його посіпаками. Христос воскрес і всі сили пекла він розорив. Ми встоїмося у Господі Ісусі Христі та через нього, разом з безначальним Його Отцем, і Всесвятим, Благим і Животворящим Духом, яким належить слава на віки віків.

Благословення Господнє на Вас!

ВЕНЕДИКТ

Єпископ єпархії св. Миколая

Download the bishop’s statement in an English PDF
Download the bishop’s statement in a Ukrainian PDF

February 1st, 2018

Bishops call Christian families to morning and evening prayer

PASTORAL OF THE UKRAINIAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY OF THE U.S.A. “CALL TO PRAYER IN OUR FAMILIES”
To Our Clergy, Hieromonks and Brothers, Religious Sisters, Seminarians and Beloved Faithful

ПАСТИРСЬКЕ ПОСЛАННЯ ЄРАРХІВ УКРАЇНСЬКОЇ КАТОЛИЦЬКОЇ ЦЕРКВИ В СПОЛУЧЕНИХ ШТАТАХ АМЕРИКИ НА  ЗАКЛИК ДО МОЛИТВИ У ВАШИХ РОДИНАХ
Всечеснішому Духовенству, Преподобному Монашеству, Семінаристам, Нашим Дорогим Вірним

The Lord, who loves every human being in the world, gifted each one of us with a unique and unrepeatable life. When we contemplate our life, then we see how much effort we expend in order to feel happy.  In this materialistic world, each one of us associates his/her happiness with one thing or another.  All of us achieve something, however nothing satisfies us, and again, we apply immense effort to obtain and achieve the next perception of “happiness”.
Господь, який любить кожну людину у світі, подарував кожному унікальне і неповторне життя. Коли ми споглянемо на своє життя, то бачимо, як багато прикладаємо зусиль, щоб почуватись щасливими. Кожен з нас пов’язує своє щастя з тим, чи іншим у цьому матеріальному світі. Усі ми щось здобуваємо, однак ніщо не задовольняє нас, і ми знову прикладаємо неймовірних зусиль щоби здобути, і осягнути чергове відчуття “щастя”.

This is the way the rest of our entire life could pass us by.  The problem is that we identify ourselves with our body and aspire to attain happiness on the physical level.  However, the human being is comprised not only of a body, because there is also a soul. That is why, Saint Augustine, reflecting on this understanding of our nature, says: “My heart is restless until it finds its rest in the Lord”. Our dwelling with the Lord, our prayer, fills us with the understanding as to how and what we should do, what to avoid, and how to build relationships with people. In this manner, we begin to be ever more aware of what God really wants of us in this case or in a different situation. The quality of our prayer may be seen from the way we are afterwards. Our prayer puts an imprint on our entire life!
У такий спосіб може пройти ціле наше життя. Проблема у тому, що ми ідентифікуємо себе зі своїм тілом і бажаємо осягнути щастя на тілесному рівні. Однак людина складається не тільки з одного тіла, бо ще є душа. Святий Августин віддзеркалює таке розуміння нашої природи: “Моє серце не зазнає спокою, аж поки не спочине в Господі”. Наше перебування з Господом, наша молитва сповнює нас розумінням того, що і як ми маємо робити, чого уникати, та як будувати стосунки з іншими людьми. У такий спосіб починаємо все більше усвідомлювати, що дійсно від нас Бог хоче в тій чи іншій ситуації. Якість нашої молитви можна побачити з того, які ми є після неї. Наша молитва кладе відбиток на все наше життя!

We can frequently think that conversation with God, which is prayer, is a useless waste of time. The reason might also be that we ourselves do not completely understand how important it is for us to abide with our Creator. We are materialistic because we live in this materialistic world. Throughout life, we devote much time to everyday matters or concerns, although we see how little time we spend in prayer. Very often, owing to a lack of prayer, we stumble upon a mistaken conviction and make the incorrect choice. We can be certain that the root of all our negative conditions, problems, and crisis is the same ― neglect of prayer.  From personal experience, each one of us knows that, when we are “watchful” about prayer, then everything else also goes well, in harmony and uniformity with God.
Ми часто можемо думати, що спілкування з Богом, тобто молитва, є марною тратою часу. Причиною цього може бути те, що до кінця самі не розуміємо на скільки для нас важливо перебувати зі своїм Творцем. Ми є матеріалістичні, бо живемо у цьому матеріалістичному світі. У своєму житті ми присвячуємо багато часу буденним речам чи справам, однак бачимо, як мало часу проводимо у молитві. Дуже часто, з огляду на брак молитви, ми потрапляємо у помилкове переконання і робимо неправильний вибір. Можемо бути певні, що корінь усіх наших негативних станів, проблем, та криз є спільний — занедбання молитви. Кожен з нас добре знає з власного досвіду, що коли “пильнує” молитву, то тоді все інше йде також добре, у Божій гармонії та порядку.

Exactly for this reason we call upon all Christian families to nurture shared morning and evening prayer in the family circle. Especially we encourage you to gather together and pray as a family in your homes at 9:00 o’clock in the evening (regardless of time zones). We should pray, each one for their needs: for the family as well as the parish, for the eparchy and the entire Church, for peace in Ukraine and USA, for vocations and other intentions. Therefore, let us begin this year with prayer together, with reflection on God’s Word, in selfless service to one another and with trust in God!
Саме тому, ми закликаємо усі наші християнські родини плекати спільну ранішню і вечірню молитву в родинному колі. Особливо заохочуємо Вас збиратись родиною на спільну молитву у своїх домівках о 9 годині вечора (незалежно від часового поясу). Молитись маємо, кожен за свої потреби: за родину та парафію, єпархію та цілу нашу Церкву, за мир в Україні і США, за покликання, та інші намірення. Тому разом розпочинаймо цей рік у молитві, у розважанні над Словом Божим, у жертовному служінні один одному та у довір’ї до Бога!

As a basis for our prayer we can use the Introductory Prayers starting with “Heavenly King”, through the “Our Father” and adding the “Hail Mary”.
Як основну молитву можемо вживати “Початок звичайний”, від “Царю Небесний”, до “Отче Наш”, додаючи “Богородице Діво”.

We also encourage our pastors to facilitate weekly or periodic prayer meetings with the faithful.  It can be an opportunity to share experiences about prayer and to grow in our faith.  The Catechism of the Ukrainian Catholic Church can serve as an excellent source for learning and reflection on our faith.  Excerpts read during the prayer meetings and before or after our worship gatherings may facilitate greater insight into the power of faith in our daily life.
Ми також закликаємо наших парохів щотижня або періодично організовувати молитовні зустрічі з вірними.  Це може стати нагодою ділитися досвідом про молитву і зростання у вірі. Катехизм   нашої Української Католицької Церкви може служити чудовим джерелом навчання і роздумування над нашою вірою.  Читання уривків підчас молитовних зустрічей, перед ними чи після, може  послужити глибшому проникненню в силу віри в нашому щоденному житті.

Your hierarchy of the Ukrainian Catholic Church join in solidarity with you with our fervent and steadfast prayers offered for all.  Let us gather in our families at home, and in our parish and eparchial families for shared prayer.  We love you and we pray for you.
Наші Єрархи Української Католицької Церкви приєднуються до вас у своїх щирих постійних молитвах за вас.  Збираймося нашими сім’ями вдома, в наших парафіяльних та єпархіяльних родинах для спільної молитви.  Ми любимо вас і ми молимося за вас.

+Stefan Soroka
Archbishop of Philadelphia for Ukrainians
Metropolitan of Ukrainian Catholics in the United States
+Високопреосвященний Стефан Сорока
Митрополит Української Католицької Церкви у США
Архиєпископ Філадельфіийський для Укpаіїнців

+Paul Chomnycky, OSBM
Eparch of Stamford
+Преосвященний Павло Хомницький, ЧСВВ
Єпископ Стемфордської єпархії

+Benedict Aleksiychuk  (author)
Eparch of St. Nicholas in Chicago
+Преосвященний Венедикт Алексійчук  (автор)
Єпископ Чіказької єпархії святого Миколaя

+ Bohdan J. Danylo
Eparch of St. Josaphat in Parma
+Преосвященний Богдан Данило
Єпископ Пармської єпархії святого Йосафата

+John Bura
Auxiliary Bishop of Philadelphia
+Преосвященний Іван Бура
Єпископ-Помічник Філадельфійський

+Andriy Rabiy
Auxiliary Bishop of Philadelphia
+Преосвященний Андрій Рабій
Єпископ-Помічник Філадельфійський

June 17th, 2017

Welcome Bishop Venedykt!

AleksiychukYour Excellency Bishop Benedict,

It is with great honor and pleasure that we, St. Sophia Parish Community, welcome you as the new head of the eparchy of Chicago.

Your appointment as the fifth bishop of St. Nicholas Eparchy, after a yearlong wait, brings joy and peace to our hearts. We welcome your spiritual guidance and believe your presence and leadership will bring many blessings and a brighter future for our parish as well as for the whole eparchy.

May Almighty God grant you patience, strength, wisdom, good health and many happy blessed years as the spiritual father of us all!

Yours in Christ,
Fr. Pavlo, Parishioners and Friends of St. Sophia Church

Преосвященний Влaдико Венедикте,

Великою честю тa рaдістю є для нaс, спільноти церкви св. Софії, вітaти Вaс в якості нового глави Чиказької єпархії.

Ваше призначення як п’ятого єпископа єпархії св. Миколая, після майже річного очікування, наповнює радістю тa душевним спокоєм наші серця. Ми вітаємо Ваш духовний провід та сподіваємося, що Ваша батьківська опіка та мудра управа буде джерелом багатьох благословень та світлого майбутнього як для нашої парафії так і для цілої єпархії.

Нехай Всевишній дарує Вам терпеливість, силу, мудрість, добре здоров’я та багато благословенних років як духовного батька для всіх нас!

Вaш у Христі,
о. Пaвло, Пaрaфіяни тa Друзі цекви св. Софії.

April 20th, 2017

Welcome Bp. Venedykt!

Venedykt AleksiychukHis Excellency Msgr. Venedykt (Valery) Aleksiychuk, M.S.U. has been appointed as the Bishop of the Eparchy of Saint Nicholas of Chicago for Ukrainians.

Active in children’s and youth ministry, monastic spirituality and reform, liturgy, psychology and spirituality, His Excellency has a breadth of experience spanning parochial, consultative, administrative, and monastic leadership. He is sure to be a blessing to our eparchy and to our nation.

У четвер, 20 квітня 2017 року, у Ватикані повідомлено про те, що Папа Франциск поблагословив рішення Синоду Єпископів УГКЦ про призначення дотеперішнього Єпископа-помічника Львівської архиєпархії владику Венедикта (Алексійчука) Правлячим єпископом єпархії Святого Миколая УГКЦ з осідком у Чикаґо, США, перенісши його з титулярного осідку Германіціяни.


Born on 16 January 1968 in the village of Borshchivka in the region of Rivne, Ukraine, the bishop began his post-secondary studies at the Rivne Medical College, completing his degree in 1987 as a Physician’s Assistant. After graduation, he worked as an Emergency Medical Technician at the ambulance station in Kostopil. From 1987 to 1989, he served in the military. Afterwards, he worked as a Physician’s Assistant, initially at a city clinic and later at a sanatorium in the city of Truskavets.

After attending the major seminary of Drohobych from 1990-1993, he was ordained a deacon by His Beatitude Phylymon (Kurchaba) on October 9, 1991 and a priest by His Beatitude Myroslav-Ivan (Lyubachivskyi) on 29 March 1992. A year later, on 13 May 1993, he joined the Univ Holy Dormition Lavra of the Studite Order–the only lavra (monastic hermitage) of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church. He accepted tonsure on 13 October 1993 and received the little schema on 31 December 1995.

In 1996, he completed a Masters of Theology degree at Lublin Catholic University with a thesis on the topic of “Christian spirituality according to St. John of Kronstadt.” Later that year, he was transferred to St. Catharine’s in Canada with the aim of founding a monastery there. At the time, he also served at the parishes of Grimsby and Beamsville for the Toronto Eparchy of the UGCC. He returned to Ukraine in April 1999 after being elected hegumen of the Univ Holy Dormition Lavra. In May 2000, he was re-elected hegumen and he was then elected for a third term in May 2005.

He went on to continue his theological studies at Lublin Catholic University with a licentiate degree in 2006 and a 2008 Doctorate of Philosophy with a thesis on “The Superior as a Spiritual Father: Investigation in the light of the works of Saint Theodore the Studite.”

Picking up the thread of his work as a Physician’s Assistant, he focused his studies on psychology from 2008-2012, completing a course of Practical Psychology at the European School of Correspondential Education (Kharkiv), Propaedeutics of Mental Disorders with the Ukrainian Community of Psychiatrists, and Pedagogy and Psychology at the Ignatianum Academy in Krakow, Poland.

All this was accomplished while he:

  • was an assistant priest at Holy Trinity Church in Drohobych,
  • was responsible for children’s ministry within the Drohobych deanery,
  • worked for the Patriarchal Catechetical Commission where he was responsible for the organization of mission work in Eastern Ukraine,
  • was a member of the Patriarchal Commission of Monasticism,
  • was the administrator of St. Nicholas parish in Peremyshlyany,
  • worked on the renewal of monastic life and the restoration of the Monastery of Borys and Hlib in Polotsk (Belarus) while simultaneously serving at the parishes in Polotsk, Vitebsk, Gomel, Mogilev, and Brest (Belarusian Greek Catholic Church),
  • was the spiritual father of the Christian Youth Community in Minsk,
  • was the head of the Secretariat of the UGCC Council of Monasticism,
  • was the head of the UGCC liturgical council on preparing texts of divine services,
  • was the head of the Council of Higher Superiors of Monasteries of the UGCC,
  • was a member of the Secretariat of the Patriarchal Sobor,
  • was the head of staff of the Lviv Archeparchy Curia,
  • was the head of the Patriarchal Liturgical Commission of the UGCC,
  • was the chair of the Synodal Committee on Liturgical Issues,
  • and wrote four books: A Superior as A Spiritual Father, Spiritual Instructions, Be Saints, and Borshchivka – A Pearl of Polesia.

His episcopal ordination was held on 5 September 2010 at St. George’s Cathedral in Lviv with Archbishop Ihor (Voznyak), the Metropolitan of Lviv, as the main consecrator and Bishop Yulian (Voronovskyi) of Sambir-Drohobych and Bishop Pavlo (Chomytskyi) of Stamford as the co-consecrators. On 3 August 2010, His Beatitude Lyubomyr (Husar), Major Archbishop of Kyiv-Galicia, by general consent of the Synod of Bishops of the UGCC, appointed hieromonk Venedykt (Aleksiychuk) the bishop-auxiliary of Lviv Archeparchy with a titular see in Germaniciana.

From 2014-2016, the bishop studied in the Key Executive MBA Program at the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv and obtained a Master’s Degree in Business Administration. During this time, he also published two books (Reflections on the Liturgical Reading of the Gospel and Reflections on the Liturgical Reading of the Apostles), was awarded the Cross of Military Chaplain, and named a senator of the Ukrainian Catholic University.

On 20 April 2017, the synod of bishops’ election was confirmed by Pope Francis, appointing him Bishop of the Eparchy of Saint Nicholas of Chicago of the Ukrainians in the United States of America. We welcome him warmly to the eparchy!

Довідка про єпархію. Єпархія святого Миколая в Чикаґо входить до Філадельфійської митрополії та є її найбільшою частиною з огляду на територію, охоплюючи території північних, центральних та західних штатів країни. Вона була заснована 1961 року та згідно з даними «Annuario Pontificio 2017», станом на минулий рік нараховувала приблизно 50 парафій, надаючи духовну опіку понад 10 тисячам вірних. Цей осідок став вакантним 16 серпня 2016 року після відходу до вічності четвертого Єпарха Чиказького владики Річарда (Семінака).

December 23rd, 2016

Excerpts: Encyclical on Danger of Gender Ideology

Read the full Encyclical on the Danger of Gender Ideology

Prot. N. ВА 16/562 ENG.

ENCYCLICAL
OF THE SYNOD OF BISHOPS
OF THE MAJOR ARCHBISHOPRIC OF KYIV-HALYCH
OF THE UKRAINIAN GREEK CATHOLIC CHURCH
CONCERNING THE DANGER OF GENDER IDEOLOGY

Dearly Beloved in Christ!

Introduction

1. In the twentieth century, the people of Ukraine suffered from a godless Soviet regime that attempted to forcefully tear people from the roots of faith and impose an atheistic worldview. Presented as the only “scientific” one, this worldview denied human persons’ freedom of conscience and deprived them of the right to freely profess their religious beliefs. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, the world stands before similar challenges, which, however, are not accompanied by open and bloody persecution, but rather are served by hidden ideological means of destroying Christian faith and morality, as well as universal human values. Some of these challenges relate to areas of human sexuality and family life, and are not new to Ukraine; rather, they are accented or presented in public consciousness in a new manner. Others are entirely new and even far removed from the Ukrainian context, but certain forces are attempting to artificially impose them upon us.

3. Under these circumstances, the Church-Mother seeks by means of this Encyclical to warn the faithful and all people of good will of the threats that are hidden behind gender ideology and similar worldview systems, and recall the traditional biblical, Christian, and universal values upon which interpersonal relationships and the way of organizing social life are based.

Creation of Eve

I. Human Dignity in God’s Plan

4. The whole history of salvation attests to the incredible love of God for the human person. From the very first pages of Holy Scripture we learn about the extraordinary greatness of the human person. While everything else arose from only one word of God, Church tradition speaks of a Divine “meeting” that preceded the creation of the human person: “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness’” (Gen. 1:26). Particular attention should be given to the phrase “in our image, after our likeness.” This is the basis of the concept of human dignity, which in the New Testament is emphasized in the Incarnation of the Son of God in human nature. The image of God is integral to the natural dignity and spiritual beauty of every human person, from the moment of conception until natural death. This is a common feature of all people that reflects their equal and infinite value.

6. Sexuality, as a gift to be man or woman (cf. Gen. 1:27) given by God during creation, integrally covers all the natural dimensions of existence of the human person: body, soul, and spirit. A person is called to accept God’s plan for themselves as expressed in their sex—because sex does not depend on human choice—and to embody it in their lives. Sexuality can only be comprehended in light of the Christian understanding of love as a vocation to the communion of persons and the self-giving of one person to another. “In marital life, a man and a woman open themselves to God through mutual love, which becomes the foundation of their indissoluble union, fidelity, and fruitfulness. In the virginal state of consecrated life, sexuality is transfigured in the Holy Spirit in order to serve God and one’s neighbour in love for the sake of the heavenly kingdom (cf. Matt. 19:12). Any selfish exploitation of another person as a means for obtaining sexual pleasure contradicts God’s gift of love, deforms the essence of sexuality, and deeply wounds the person.”[1]

9. One of the features inherent in God’s image in the human person is free will, by which it can freely choose the good; however, it is also able to choose another way: “The most profound dimension of human freedom consists in being able to freely choose God and to be with him. This is the good. Yet with this same freedom, we can also reject our relationship with God—and this is evil.”[2] “The devil in Paradise lured Adam with a vain hope for divinization, proposing that he consider the measure of goodness resides not in God but within himself…The deceit of the Evil One is based on the premise that God is deceiving humankind with his commandment, thereby undercutting their freedom…”[3] From the biblical account of the fall of the progenitors, we conclude that a sinful choice has serious consequences for the person—the loss of paradise as a state of blessed communion and life with God and other creatures (cf. Gen. 3:4–14). The sin of the progenitors also obscured the truth about the human person as the image of God. Since then, human nature has also been marred by sin. The brokenness caused by sin continues in history, appearing in a variety of abuses in the area of ​​sexuality.

II. The Concept of Gender

13. Over the course of millennia, humankind has recognized the existence of two sexes based on biological criteria—male and female. Recently, worldviews that are contrary to the Christian faith, objective scientific reality, and natural law have become widespread and influential, namely theories of gender. Their basis is the distinction between biological sex, given to the person from conception, and gender, a certain personal choice of sexual behaviour. Consequently, gender identity is no longer considered a gift from God, but rather declared a matter of individual choice for each person. The person ”no longer understands its deep calling to eternal love, but considers it as a temporary diversion.”[4] While sexual identity is based on a biological, psycho-physical reality, gender identity abandons binary gender (male or female) in favour of a broad and free range of self-identification. Thus, sex is a natural phenomenon, whereas gender is the reality of psychological self-understanding often caused by social influence. Gender ideology insists that a person is free to choose and implement their sexual identity regardless of their biological sex. Such separation and opposition of sex and gender is dangerous, because it distorts the traditional foundations of society based on divine and natural law.

16. Of particular concern is the fact that gender ideologies are not just virtual worldview systems—they are aggressively imposed on public opinion, gradually introduced in legislation, and made ever more forcefully visible in different spheres of human life, especially in education and upbringing. “If these ideas circulated only in theory, they would not go beyond the right to private opinion and the possible existence of different philosophical views. The danger lies in the fact that such anti-human theories are trying to become the ruling ideology and be put into practice, sometimes by means of international pressures on the global community.”[5] Pope Francis states that “today a world war is being wagged to destroy marriage,” referring to the theory of gender as “destructive ideological colonization.”[6] That which was until recently considered sexual deviation is today proclaimed by gender theorists as not only normal, but as a rule of life to be followed under pain of ridicule, censure, and even punishment.

III. Destructive Outcomes of Gender Ideology

20. Gender ideology, which denies the existence of objective human nature, the complementarity of man and woman, and the values of marriage, actually denies the existence of the Creator and negates the truth of humans in his image. In such ideologies, there is no place for God, and therefore there is no place for the person in their uniqueness and dignity, because human uniqueness is grounded in its connection with the Creator. The biblical doctrine of the person, created by God, emphasizes the greatness and dignity of its origin and calling—from God and eternal life with him in holiness (divinization), while, according to gender theory, the person has a base origin and lowly potential—from itself and for temporary life, with a goal of its own pleasure. Therefore, one can say with conviction that gender theory is destructive and anti-human.

21. In addition to the fact that gender ideology clearly contradicts the teaching of Holy Scripture and Christian anthropology, it also does not correspond to objective scientific data, and is instead based on subjective hypotheses and pseudoscientific assertions made by interested parties. Objective researchers have concluded that gender ideologues ignore results of scientific research, medicine, psychology, anthropology, and bioethics that show the difference between men and women is based on the difference between the structure of the brain, hormonal balance, psychological nature…

IV. Proclaiming the Truth of Christ in the Context of an Expanding Gender Ideology

27. All people of good will should work together to defend the dignity of each person, to affirm their natural and God-given characteristics and freedoms, and also for the full protection and development of the family community on the foundation of God’s revelation, which is the real guarantor of human society’s development and worthy future. “Everyone, man and woman, should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity. Physical, moral, and spiritual difference and complementarity are oriented toward the goods of marriage and the flourishing of family life. The harmony of the couple and of society depends in part on the way in which the complementarity, needs, and mutual support between the sexes are lived out.”[7] At the same time, it is necessary to show greater vigilance and responsibility in order to prevent the spread of pernicious theories, which are the latest forms of ideological enslavement and destruction of the person, the family, and society as a whole.

Conclusion

29. The Lord calls people to salvation and the fullness of happiness, giving his Commandments as a guide on our earthly journey. We call the UGCC faithful and all people of good will to value and protect human dignity in the face of new ideological challenges and threats. Each of us is called to this, no matter what our position in society.

For this reason:

    • we call to mind that “individuals should be endowed with this virtue [of chastity] according to their state in life: for some it will mean virginity or celibacy consecrated to God…. For others it will take the form determined by the moral law, according to whether they are married or single,”[8] and therefore should be properly and responsibly prepare for the choice of their state of life, based on the solid foundation of faith, morality, and divine and natural law;
    • we encourage parents to lead a good Christian life that will be an example for their children. Please take care of the Christian education of future generations, not only by transmitting the foundations of faith, but also through all manner of encouragement that they live a life in Christ and by warning them against the dangers of the false exercise of one’s free choice. Parents “are called to be gentle and wise guides. It is they who must lead the child on its path of discovering God’s gift of sexuality in himself or herself, revealing its nature and meaning in a manner appropriate to the age, needs, and depth of the child’s inquiry”;[9]
    • we appeal to workers in the field of medicine, remembering that “the most important point of a physician’s oath is to serve human life from the moment of conception and to defend its health,”[10] to promote the dissemination of a culture of life, defending in particular the life of unborn children and the elderly or terminally ill;
    • we ask everyone, especially those working in the fields of information and education, to defend and disseminate traditional moral values ​​regarding ​​sexuality and the family, remembering that “nothing can justify recourse to disinformation for manipulating public opinion through the media”;[11]
    • we ask all who are responsible for developing educational curricula to prepare them on the basis of natural and divine law, respectful of the truth, the qualities of the heart, and the moral and spiritual dignity of man,[12] avoiding any propaganda against sexual purity, marital fidelity, and the true identity of the human person;
    • we call upon scientists to remember that science and technology should recognize the basic criteria of morality and be “at the service of the human person, of his inalienable rights, of his true and integral good, in conformity with the plan and the will of God,”[13] and also encourage them to use available means to demonstrate the truth about gender ideology and other destructive ideologies, and point to the importance of adhering to traditional moral and ethical foundations;
    • we remind pastors of their sacred duty to care for the spiritual condition of the family—a community of love and a “domestic church” (cf. Rom 16:5; 1 Cor 16:19; Col. 4:15; Phil. 1:2; Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16; 1 Tim. 2:8) that is “the primary cell of the Christian community” and “a school of social solidarity”[14] on which a healthy society is built. We also encourage them to accompany families at all stages of their existence, from preparation for married life, through support for young couples, diligent catechesis of families, and special care of families who are experiencing difficulties or crises. In addition, we ask pastors, while maintaining the teachings of the Church and observing a high level of spiritual and psychological maturity, to pay attention to pastoral work with people who have problems with the definition of their own sexual identity;[15]
    • we call upon all people of good will, especially government officials and legislators, to be vigilant that the legislation of Ukraine not give way to implementing uncertain and untested concepts of human identity or family, or principles of gender education, remembering that “the ruling authority has as its aim to serve the common good, to preserve and protect the natural and true freedom of citizens, families, and community organizations.”[16] Legislation will only be firm and unshakable when it is based not on temporary and dubious theories, but on the natural law affirmed by divine revelation.

30. We invite all to pray that God help us all to live according to his commandments, trusting in his Divine Providence and not succumbing to the temptations of opposing his will. The Lord, having created human beings as “male and female,” looked at them and said that it was very good (Gen. 1:27,31). May he embrace each person and family in his loving and life-giving gaze, confirm us all in his truth and love, and send down upon all his Fatherly blessing!

On behalf of the Synod of Bishops
of the Major Archbishopric of Kyiv-Halych of the UGCC

† SVIATOSLAV  

Given in Kyiv
at the Patriarchal Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ,
on the day of the holy martyrs Plato and Roman,
1 December (O.S. 18 November) 2016 A.D.

[1] Catechism of the UGCC, Christ – Our Pascha, § 862–863
[2] Catechism of the UGCC, Christ – Our Pascha, § 137.
[3] Catechism of the UGCC, Christ – Our Pascha, § 145–146.
[4] Joint Declaration of the Catholic Bishops of Ukraine Concerning the New Ideological Captivity of our Nation (25 November 2015).
[5] Joint Declaration of the Catholic Bishops of Ukraine Concerning the New Ideological Captivity of our Nation (25 November 2015).
[6] Cf. “Indifesa delmatrimonio. L’appello durantela visita alla chiesa dell’Assunta a Tbilisi,” L’Osservatore Romano (3-4 October 2016), 6.
[7] Catechism of the Catholic Church, § 2333.
[8] Persona humana (29 December 1975), § 11.
[9] Catechism of the UGCC, Christ – Our Pascha, § 865.
[10] Theological Department of the Patriarchal Curia of the UGCC, Defending Conceived Life: Theological, Moral-Ethical, and Pastoral Principles of the Moral Evaluation of the Problem of Destroying Unborn Children (Kyiv, 2012), § 71.
[11] Catechism of the Catholic Church, § 2498.
[12] Catechism of the Catholic Church, § 2526.
[13] Catechism of the Catholic Church, § 2294.
[14] Catechism of the UGCC, Christ – Our Pascha, § 656.
[15] Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons (1 October 1986), § 6: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_19861001_homosexual-persons_en.html
[16] Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky, How to Build a Native Home? (1942), § 7.

February 14th, 2016

Patriarch Sviatoslav on the Meeting of Pope Francis and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill

Below are excerpts from an interview with Patriarch Sviatoslav on the topic of the Cuban meeting of Pope Francis and the Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill. The full interview can be read in English here and in Ukrainian here. The joint declaration the two issued and on which Patriarch Sviatoslav is commenting can be read here.

Firstly, I would like to say something about the meeting of the Holy Father with Patriarch Kirill, and then I will comment on the text of the declaration.

One notices immediately, especially from their comments after the meeting, that the two sides existed on two completely different planes and were pursuing different goals. His Holiness Pope Francis experienced this encounter primarily as a spiritual event. He opened his remarks by noting that we, Catholics and Orthodox, share one and the same Baptism. In the meeting, he sought out the presence of the Holy Spirit and received His support. He emphasized that the unity of the Churches can be achieved when we travel together on the same path. From the Moscow Patriarch one immediately sensed that this wasn’t about any Spirit, or theology, or actual religious matters. No common prayer, an emphasis on official phrases about “the fate of the world,” and the airport as a neutral, that is, non-ecclesial environment. The impression was that they existed in two parallel worlds. Did these two parallel realities intersect during this meeting? I don’t know, but according to the rules of mathematics, two parallel lines do not intersect.

Speaking of the signed text of the Joint Declaration, in general it is positive. In it are raised questions, which are of concern to both Catholics and Orthodox, and it opens new perspectives for cooperation. I encourage all to look for these positive elements. However, the points which concern Ukraine in general and specifically the UGCC raised more questions than answers.

It was officially reported that this document was the joint effort of Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) from the Orthodox side and Cardinal Koch with the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity from the Catholic side. For a document that was intended to be not theological, but essentially socio-political, it is hard to imagine a weaker team than the one that drafted this text. The mentioned Pontifical Council is competent in theological matters in relations with various Christian Churches and communities, but is no expert in matters of international politics, especially in delicate matters such as Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. Thus, the intended character of the document was beyond their capabilities. This was exploited by the Department of External Affairs of the Russian Orthodox Church, which is, first of all, the instrument of diplomacy and external politics of the Moscow Patriarchate. I would note that, as the Head of our Church, I am an official member of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, nominated already by Pope Benedict. However, no one invited me to express my thoughts and so, essentially, as had already happened previously, they spoke about us without us, without giving us a voice.

In general, I would like to say that paragraph 26 of the Declaration is the most controversial. One gets the impression that the Moscow Patriarchate is either stubbornly refusing to admit that it is a party to the conflict, namely, that it openly supports the aggression of Russia against Ukraine, and, by the way, also blesses the military actions of Russia in Syria as a “holy war,” or it is appealing first of all to its own conscience, calling itself to the same prudence, social solidarity, and the active building of peace.

Nonetheless, I encourage our faithful not to dramatize this Declaration and not to exaggerate its importance for Church life. We have experienced more than one such statement, and will survive this one as well. We need to remember that our unity and full communion with the Holy Father, the Successor of the Apostle Peter, is not the result of political agreement or diplomatic compromise, or the clarity of a Joint Declaration text. This unity and communion with the Peter of today is a matter of our faith. It is to him, Pope Francis, and to each of us today, that Christ says in the Gospel of Luke: “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”

February 11th, 2016

Great Fast Pastoral

2016 GREAT FAST PASTORAL
OF THE UKRAINIAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY OF THE U.S.A.
TO OUR CLERGY, HIEROMONKS AND BROTHERS,
RELIGIOUS SISTERS, SEMINARIANS, AND BELOVED FAITHFUL

“Be merciful just as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:36)

Logo for Holy Year of MercyThere is a story of a mother who was pleading with Napoleon Bonaparte for mercy on the life of her son, an army officer, who had been sentenced to death for treason. The emperor called the young officer’s crime an unforgivable betrayal of the nation, which it undoubtedly was, and that justice demanded his life.

“Not justice!” cried the mother, “Give him mercy!”
“He does not deserve mercy”, was Napoleon’s curt retort.
“But”, said the mother, “if he deserved it, it would not be mercy!” This mother’s wise reply immediately softened the heart of Napoleon who spared her son from the sentence of death.

As we know, this year our Lenten journey is taking place during the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, inaugurated by His Holiness Pope Francis last December in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

We are called to be merciful as our heavenly Father is merciful. But before we are able show mercy to anyone else, we are called first to open our own hearts so that we can accept the gift of mercy freely given to us by the Father. This sounds easy enough in theory, but opening our hearts to God is, at times, not as straightforward as we may think. Because in order to accept this gift of mercy, we must first admit to ourselves and to God that we, abject and sinful human creatures, are indeed, in dire need of his mercy. We are called to acquire an attitude of sincere penitence and humility, which is not always easy for us who have grown up on a diet, served up by our modern society, of pride, entitlement, and self-sufficiency.

This is why the Church, in her great wisdom, has given us the great spiritual gift of this holy season of Great Lent. The unique and evocative prayers and services of Great Lent are such that they instill in us, firstly, a recognition of our own faults and failings and secondly, a desire for personal conversion and a return to the loving arms of God the Father and his mercy. And so, over and over again in the divine services we pray: “Lord, have mercy.”

One of the saints of the Byzantine church writes the following: “This expression – Lord, have mercy – is appropriate, since we should not ask for anything except for mercy. As sinners we cannot, nor dare not, say anything to our Loving Master except have mercy.”

Our limited human intellect cannot, of course, even partially grasp the depth and breadth of the mercy of God for us. The word mercy in English is the translation of the Greek word eleos, which has the same root as the old Greek word for olive oil, a substance which was used in the ancient world as a soothing agent for bruises and minor wounds. The oil was poured onto the wound and gently massaged in, thus soothing, comforting and making whole the injured part. This should immediately bring to mind of course, the gospel parable of the Good Samaritan and the traveller who poured olive oil on the wounds of the man lying beaten and left for dead at the side of the road. (Luke 10:29-37)

So when we pray “Lord, have mercy”, we are praying in effect: “Lord, soothe me, comfort me, take away my pain, show me your steadfast love.” This mercy refers to the infinite loving kindness of God, his compassion for us his suffering children, his desire to lift us up from our pain and sorrow and sinfulness. It is in this profound sense that we pray “Lord, have mercy” with such great frequency and fervor throughout the divine services.

If we are called to embrace the mercy of God with open arms and hearts for ourselves, then how much more are we called to share this gift with others and to witness to this gift in the world? Like the traveler in the gospel parable we too are called to be a good Samaritan to those in our lives whom we meet, even accidently, in our daily lives, who have need of the soothing balm of God’s mercy to be rubbed into their wounds of body and soul, whether or not these wounds come from outside themselves or are self-inflicted.

Jesus never compromised on his ideals, but he did beautifully describe and embody God’s unconditional love, mercy and forgiveness for everyone: a beggar with leprosy, a Samaritan woman with five failed marriages, a traitor like Peter, a selfrighteous human rights abuser like Saul of Tarsus, a prodigal son, an adulteress. The Gospel gives eloquent witness to this on many occasions. If Jesus showed a way of keeping the highest standards, while at the same time offering Living Water – love, forgiveness, mercy, to the least deserving of it, can we then, act any differently?

St. Isaac, the Syrian once said, “Never say that God is just. If he were just, you would be in hell. Rely only on his injustice, which is forgiveness, love and mercy”.

Our prayer today is that the Father’s gifts of forgiveness, love and mercy may brighten the path of our Lenten journey upon which we are now embarking and lead us spiritually renewed and refreshed to the Feast of Our Lord’s Resurrection!

+Stefan Soroka
Archbishop of Philadelphia for Ukrainians
Metropolitan of Ukrainian Catholics in the United States

+Richard Seminack
Eparch of St. Nicholas in Chicago

+Paul Chomnycky, OSBM (author)
Eparch of Stamford

+ Bohdan Danylo
Eparch of St. Josaphat in Parma

+John Bura
Auxiliary Bishop of Philadelphia

Download the pastoral in English and Ukrainian here

ПАСТИРСЬКЕ ПОСЛАННЯ ІЄРАРХІВ УКРАЇНСЬКОЇ КАТОЛИЦЬКОЇ ЦЕРКВИ В СПОЛУЧЕНИХ ШТАТАХ АМЕРИКИ НА ВЕЛИКИЙ ПІСТ ВСЕЧЕСНІШОМУ ДУХОВЕНСТВУ, ПРЕПОДОБНОМУ МОНАШЕСТВУ, СЕМІНАРИСТАМ, НАШИМ ДОРОГИМ ВІРНИМ

«Будьте милосердні, як Отець Ваш милосердний!» (Лк. 6, 36)

December 21st, 2013

2013 Christmas Epistle of His Beatitude Sviatoslav

This is an unofficial translation by Royal Doors and is presented until such is promulgated.
To the Son, eternally and immaculately born of the Father,
Who—in the fullness  of time—was born bodily, without seed, from a Virgin,
Let us cry out to Christ-God: Holy are You, O Lord,
Who fortified our strength!
(Canon of the Nativity).

Christ is born!

Icon of the NativityAt the voice of the angel, calling to the shepherds in the dark of night, let us now hasten to the poor stable in Bethlehem. Here we see in the Blessed Virgin Mary’s arms the Son of God, who came into our world as a man. Together with them, let us rejoice and marvel; let us sing and contemplate the living and true God, who—born in a human body—gives Himself into human hands as a small, gentle and defenceless child.

Our Saviour’s Nativity reveals the depths of Divine life as well as the truth about man. He—who today appears in human flesh—existed before the creation of the world, for—as God before all ages—He is eternally and immaculately born of the Father as a son! This is the ineffable and incomprehensible mystery of Jesus Christ’s divine sonship which today is revealed and preached to all mankind. This feast makes the divine sonship accessible for all through the proclamation that God the Father loves us as his sons and daughters. In His new-born Son, we experience today our nearness to God. We experience the same warm, powerful, real and life-giving intimacy which is the Father’s intimate affection for His first-born.

Gazing into the faces of the Divine Child and His Mother Mary, let us grasp the truth the Nativity teaches us about our humanity and of His humanity, which is a sign of God’s presence: “And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger” (Lk 2:12). This child—the God of Israel, Who—in the fullness  of time—was born bodily from a Virgin without seed. He bestows upon Joseph the Betrothed, the wonderful role of guardian. At the Nativity of Christ, we receive the Eternal God in our own form. For people rightly desire to be cared for and here in Bethlehem, God himself—as a child—is the one caring for the human family!

Humaneness—as a sense of and respect for the sanctity of human life—is a moving and saving path along which—on this mysterious night—the Son of God, the Son of Mary, comes to our homes, to our families, to our nation. And this divine-humanity—the God-Manhood of Incarnate Son of God—gives us a Christmas path to follow in order to love God and neighbour. By celebrating Christmas with travellers and the homeless, or in solidarity with those who are despised and whose dignity is denied, we, Christians, as true guardians and evangelists of God’s presence among us, make our world, our society more humane and dignified for man himself.

The birth of the Son of God, the Eternal Word of the Father, reveals along with the greatness and glory of our God, the Creator and Saviour, the greatness and glory of man as the crown of all creation. In His Incarnation, God reveals the special dignity of man, because He is incarnated in it—that is to say, in his own image. St. Irenaeus of Lyon says: “When the Word was made flesh… He Himself became what His image was… making man like the invisible Father through the visible Word” (Adv. Haer., 5, 16, 2).

Glorifying the dignity of the human person, Christ’s Church today sings out: “Let us cry out to Christ-God: Holy are You, O Lord, Who fortified our strength!” Just as the coming to earth of the Son of God through the Incarnation became the centre of world history, similarly the dignity of the human person is the foundation for a true and indeed humane society. The Church teaches that social institutions and their leaders must respect each human person and their prime duty is to promote the holistic growth of each person. The person can never be a means for the realization of economic, social or political agendas imposed by secular authorities. Rather governments must be vigilant when placing restrictions on freedoms or burdens on a person’s private life to never harm human dignity (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, § 131-133).

There is no future for a society in which man is demeaned. The dignity of the human person is the source for just laws and equitable social order. For in the human person the temporal and eternal, the divine and human, are united. Humanity is the door to eternity opened on Christmas Day by the Son of God’s humanity. So celebrating the Nativity means to keep open the doors of our hearts to human dignity, especially of the weak and defenceless, as was the Divine Child Himself in the arms of the Virgin Mary.

Today once again Ukrainian society is striving to build its future on the foundation of the Christian faith. The new-born Saviour is the fulfilment of the hopes of all mankind for the coming of God’s kingdom—a kingdom of justice, peace and goodness. The birth of the eternal King of Peace was announced by the angel, when he said to the shepherds: “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will come to all people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour” (Lk 2:10-11). This historic moment is important to us, for the word of the Evangelist proclaims that Christ Himself is the source of our joy and the end of our fears! In the Nativity of Christ, may our anxiety be transformed into hope, may confusion and uncertainty be directed along the path that leads to the place of our Lord’s birth. On this Christmas Day, when, according to the apostle Paul, the power of God was made manifest in human weakness (cf. II Cor. 12:9), our sense of powerlessness is turned into a realization of our self-worth. Through the action of the Holy Spirit, this realization of our self-worth becomes a force that will enable us to build a society worthy of man. That is why today we glorify the power of the divine-humanity, singing: “Holy are You, O Lord, Who fortified our strength!”

Patriarch Sviatoslav of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic ChurchDearly beloved in Christ! On this joyous feast day of Christ’s Nativity, I wish all of you my sincerest greetings. I wish for you goodness and peace, harmony and health. I desire to knock on the door of every Ukrainian family! With the sound of ancient carols, I wish to cheer every Ukrainian heart! Announcing the great joy of our Saviour’s birth, I want to gather around Bethlehem’s stable all of our church—both in Ukraine and abroad— into one community of God!

Today let us feel like one Christian family in which our Saviour is born. Along the path of humanity and Christian solidarity, we can touch all who defend their own dignity, the dignity of their family and their nation! Let us share our Christmas joy with those who are far from home, in hospital beds or prison bunks. Together, guided by the light of the star, let us make ​​haste towards our neighbours in order to see in the flesh—the Invisible One; in His poverty—the Source of all goodness; in His weakness—the Almighty, as the new-born Christ-God in the embrace of the Theotokos.

Christ is born!

Let us glorify Him!

 † SVIATOSLAV
Given in Kyiv,
at the Patriarchal Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ,
19 December 2013,
on the feast day of St. Nicholas, Archbishop of Myra, the Wonderworker

September 8th, 2012

Encounter 2012 is upon us!


ABOUT ENCOUNTER 2012
Every ENCOUNTER presents an opportunity for change.

An encounter is described as a ‘coming together,’ a face to face meeting, an experience, which may be unexpected and sudden.

Consider the unexpected spiritual encounters with God related through Scripture; accounts of Abraham and Sarah, Moses, David, Samuel, Elijah, and Jeremiah; Mary, Joseph, the Apostles, the centurion, the woman at the well, the blind man, the paralytic, the possessed, the adulteress, the myhrr-bearing women, and on and on. Their sudden and unexpected encounters with the living God resulted in each experiencing a personal change, a metanoia, and a call to discipleship; a burning desire, a commitment to spread the good news and good works of their God.

There are so many examples throughout church history and present times of encounters—those face-to-face meetings, sudden or unexpected experiences– with the living God. Contemporary society may refer to these as “Aha!” moments. But, when guided by the Spirit of love and the eyes of our hearts, God is encountered in the poor, the lonely, the hungry, the sick, the dying, the imprisoned, the orphans, the widows, the undereducated, the addicted, the abused, the homeless, the rejected and the persecuted. These encounters result in God’s people experiencing a personal change and the call to discipleship, with the desire, determination and commitment to become God’s eyes and heart, His hands and feet, His love and mercy. By sharing the love we receive from God, we act on our call to ministry. Led by the Spirit, this is spiritual discipleship.

One may ask, “Is a lay person really called to discipleship and to be about God’s work?” Paul guides us with these words, “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body,…and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.” (1 Cor 12:13). And so by virtue of our baptism we are all called to discipleship, members of the royal priesthood, anointed in the oil of chrismation and sent forth as workers in Christ’s vineyard, not alone, but as co-workers. “All you who have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ. Alleluia!”

ENCOUNTER 2012 of the Eastern Catholic Churches invites us—each one of us—to be open to our call to spiritual discipleship through the theme “Together in Christ” and with the purpose of exploring “clergy and laity together in the vineyard of Christ” with “Unity in Mission; Diversity in Ministry.” In Romans 12: 4-8, Paul tells us, “For as in one body we have many parts, and all the parts do not have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ and individually parts of one another. Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us exercise them: if prophecy, in proportion to the faith; if ministry, in ministering; if one is a teacher, in teaching; if one exhorts, in exhortation; if one contributes, in generosity; if one is over others, with diligence; if one does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.”

Encountering God, personal metanoia, service through discipleship, co-worker in the vineyard of Christ—this is the promise of ENCOUNTER 2012 of the Eastern Catholic Churches. Many are called, will you be among the chosen? Will you accept the invitation to…ENCOUNTER?

ENCOUNTER 2012: Eastern Catholic Churches “Together in Christ” is a unique Conference embracing the entire Church family, bishops, clergy, religious and laity, who through baptism, share in the priestly, prophetic and royal office of Christ.” The Eastern Catholic Bishops of the U.S.A. invite all seekers to come and experience ENCOUNTER. Choose the most convenient location and date.
 


CONFERENCE SCHEDULE
Thursday and Friday of the Conference are reserved for clergy due to Liturgical obligations Saturday and Sunday. The Clergy Conference, which begins Thursday with registration from 1 to 2 p.m., includes prayer services, sessions, vendor visits and hospitality. The conference concludes Friday 2 p.m. Topics for the sessions are the same as the main conference.

The Main Conference, for bishops, clergy, religious and laity, begins Friday at 5 p.m. with registration and hospitality. Registration will begin again Saturday at 8:00 a.m, for those arriving. A continental breakfast will be available until time of prayer. The opening prayer service is at 9:45 a.m. The day includes sessions, visits to vendor booths, meals, prayer and hospitality. The topics of the sessions include: Who is Church? Activity of the Royal Priesthood, The ‘How’ and ‘Why’ of Lay Leadership: Action—Put on Christ, and, Blueprint for Church Growth. Sunday begins with Matins, Divine Liturgy and the keynote address at brunch—a charge to ‘Servant Leadership: Be all you can be!” Liturgical services will be according to the sacred-uniqueness of the faith traditions of the various Eastern Churches.
 


CONFERENCE LOCATIONS
MID-WEST: Cleveland, Ohio
EAST: Hillsborough, New Jersey
WEST: El Segundo, California
 
HOTEL INFORMATION
MID-WEST September 20-23, 2012
Holiday Inn Cleveland South Independence
6001 Rockside Rd., Independence, OH 44131
Rooms: $89.00/night 216-524-8050

EAST October 11 – 14, 2012
St. Mary Byzantine Catholic Center
1900 Brooks Blvd., Hillsborough, NJ 08844
Rooms: Days Inn (½ mile from St. Mary)
$59.99/night 908-685-9000

WEST November 1-4, 2012
Hacienda Hotel (at LAX Airport)
525 N.Sepulveda Blvd. El Segundo, CA 90245
Rooms: $69.00/night 310-615-0015/800-421-5900

Contact hotel directly for room reservations. Use group name Encounter for special rate.
 


REGISTER ON-LINE
Conference registration and payment will be accepted on-line at the below links or registration may be by mail with the brochure registration form and payment sent to the regional coordinator at the indicated address. Brochures will be available at all Eparchial parishes, regional coordinator offices and on-line.

MID-WEST
EAST
WEST

Fee for the conference is $75 for individuals; $50 per person in groups of 5 or more. Reservations for hotel rooms are separate at nominal rates (see brochure or website for information).
 


DOWNLOADS
Encounter 2012 Brochure
Mid-West Conference Schedule
East Conference Schedule
West Conference Schedule
June 22nd, 2012

Pastoral Letter from Bishop Nicholas Samra to the Melkite Faithful

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Christ is among us! He is and always will be!

The Catholic Bishops of the United States have called for a Fortnight for Freedom, a two-week period of prayer, fasting, and public action in support of religious freedom in our country. Beginning on 21 June and ending on the 4th of July—American Independence Day—we are calling upon American Catholics and all people of goodwill to defend and protect religious liberty—the first and most cherished freedom of our Bill of Rights. What we ask, and what all Americans should ask, is nothing more than that our God-given right to religious liberty be respected. We ask nothing less than that our Constitution and the laws of the United States, which recognize that right, be respected.

As Melkite Catholics, sadly we are not strangers to the persecution of our Church in the lands from which we have come, or to the experience of being reduced to the status of second-class citizens because of our Christian faith. How many of our people have come to America precisely for the freedom to practice their faith! This experience should stir us to a robust and unrelenting defense of our right as Americans to religious freedom and conscience protection. In America, religious liberty has been something we have taken for granted. However, today, in this country, our precious right to freedom of religion is under attack by members of the very government sworn to defend it. This is a decisive moment in America. That is why the Catholic Bishops of the United States are committed to focusing “all the energies the Catholic community can muster” on the defense of religious liberty.

My brothers and sisters, during this Fortnight for Freedom, we ask that you pray the Prayer for Religious Liberty printed in your parish bulletin each day, and that, as we are in the time of the Apostles Fast, you offer your sacrifices for the restoration of religious liberty in our country. In addition, we call on you, as American Catholics, to make your voices heard in civic and political life in defense of the Christian principles upon which our country was founded. Finally, let us entrust all our prayers and efforts to God, that His mighty hand may preserve the United States of America as “one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

With my prayers and blessing for you and for our country, I remain
Yours truly in Christ our God,

Most Reverend Nicholas J. Samra
Bishop of Newton

——————————–

FORTNIGHT FOR FREEDOM
17 June – 4 July

Prayer for Religious Liberty

GOD OUR CREATOR, from Your provident hand we have received our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. You have called us as Your people and given us the right and the duty to worship You, the only true God, and Your Son, Jesus Christ. Through the power and working of Your Holy Spirit, You call us to live out our faith in the midst of the world, bringing the light and the saving truth of the Gospel to every corner of society.

We ask You to bless us in our vigilance for the gift of religious liberty. Give us the strength of mind and heart to readily defend our freedoms when they are threatened; give us courage in making our voices heard on behalf of the rights of Your Church and the freedom of conscience of all people of faith.

Grant, we pray, O heavenly Father, a clear and united voice to all Your sons and daughters gathered in Your Church in this decisive hour in the history of our nation, so that, with every trial withstood and every danger overcome—for the sake of our children, our grandchildren, and all who come after us—this great land will always be “one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

For You are good, O our God, and You love mankind, and we give glory to You, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and always and forever and ever. Amen.

March 1st, 2012

I Owe You an Update (HHS Mandate message from Cardinal Dolan)

Source: The Gospel in the Digital Age

Over the last six months or so, the Catholic Church in the United States has found itself in some tension with the executive branch of the federal government over a very grave issue:  religious freedom.  Can a government bureau, in this case the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), define for us or any faith community what is ministry and how it can be exercised?  Can government also coerce the church to violate its conscience?

I wanted to let you, the great people of the archdiocese, know how we’re doing in this fight.  Thank you for your extraordinary unity, support, and encouragement.  Throughout all the archdiocese, our people – both as patriotic citizens and committed Catholics — have been very effective in letting government know that we are not at peace at all with this attempt to curtail the  freedom of religion and sanctity of conviction we cherish as both Catholics and Americans.

This has not been a fight of our choosing.  We’d rather not be in it.  We’d prefer to concentrate on the noble tasks of healing the sick, teaching our youth, and helping the poor, all now in jeopardy due to this bureaucratic intrusion into the internal life of the church.  And we were doing all of those noble works rather well, I dare say, without these radical new mandates from the government.  The Catholic Church in America has a long tradition of partnership with government and the wider community in the service of the sick, our children, our elders, and the poor at home and abroad.  We’d sure rather be partnering than punching.

Nor is this a “Catholic” fight alone.  As a nurse from Harrison emailed me, “Cardinal, I’m not so much mad about all this as a Catholic, but as an American.”  It was a Baptist minister, Governor Mike Huckabee, who observed, “In this matter, we’re all Catholics.”

And it is not just about sterilization, abortifacients, and chemical contraception.  Pure and simple, it’s about religious freedom, the sacred right, protected by our constitution, of any Church to define its own teaching and ministry.

When the President announced on January 20th that the choking mandates from HHS would remain — a shock to me, since he had personally assured me that he would do nothing to impede the good work of the Church in health care, education, and charity, and that he considered the protection of conscience a sacred duty — not only you, but men and women of every faith, or none at all, rallied in protest.  The worry that we bishops had expressed — that such government control was contrary to our deepest political values — was eloquently articulated by constitutional scholars and leaders of every creed.  Even newspaper editorials supported us!

On February 10th, the President announced that the insurance providers would have to pay the bill, not the Church’s schools, hospitals, clinics, or vast network of charitable outreach.  He considered this “concession” adequate.

Did this help?  We bishops wondered if it would, and announced at first that, while withholding final judgment, we would certainly give it close scrutiny.

Well, we have — and we’re still as worried as ever.  For one, there was not even a nod to the deeper concerns about trespassing upon religious freedom, or of modifying the HHS’ attempt to define the how and who of our ministry through the suffocating mandates.

Two, since a big part of our ministries are “self-insured,” how is this going to help us?  We’ll still have to pay!  And what about individual believers being coerced to pay?

Three, there was still no resolution about the handcuffs placed upon renowned Catholic charitable agencies, both national and international, and their exclusion from contracts just because they will not refer victims of human trafficking, immigrants and refugees, and the hungry of the world, for abortions, sterilization, or contraception.

So, we have given it careful study.  Our conclusion: we’re still very worried.  There seem far more questions than answers, more confusion than clarity.

Now what to do?

Well, for one, we’ll keep up advocacy and education on the issue.  We continue to tap into your concern as citizens and count on your support.  Regrettably, the unity of the Catholic community has been tempered a bit by those who think the President has listened to us and now we can quit worrying.  You’re sure free to take their advice.  But I hope you’ll listen to your pastors who are still very concerned.

Two, we’ll continue to seek a rescinding of the suffocating mandates that require us to violate our moral convictions — or at least a wider latitude to the exemptions so that churches can be free — and of the rigidly narrow definition of church, minister, and ministry that would prevent us from helping those in need, educating children, and healing the sick who are not Catholic.

The President invited us to “work out the wrinkles,” and we have been taking him seriously.  Unfortunately, this seems to be going nowhere: the White House Press Secretary, for instance, informed the nation that the mandates are a fait accompli (and, embarrassingly for him, commented that we bishops have always opposed Health Care anyway, a charge that is simply scurrilous and insulting). The White House already notified Congress that the dreaded mandates are now published in the Federal Registry “without change.” The Secretary of HHS is widely quoted as saying, “Religious insurance companies don’t really design the plans they sell based on their own religious tenets,” which doesn’t bode well for a truly acceptable “accommodation.”  And a recent meeting between staff of the bishops’ conference and the White House staff ended with the President’s people informing us that the broader concerns of religious freedom — that is, revisiting the straight-jacketing mandates, or broadening the maligned exemption—are all off the table.  Instead, they advised the bishops’ conference that we should listen to the “enlightened” voices of accommodation, such as the recent hardly-surprising but terribly unfortunate editorial in America.  The White House seems to think we bishops are hopelessly out of touch with our people, and with those whom the White House now has nominated as official Catholic teachers.

So, I don’t know if we’ll get anywhere with the executive branch.

Congress offers more hope, with thoughtful elected officials proposing promising legislation to protect what should be so obvious: religious freedom.  As is clear from the current debate in the senate, our opponents are marketing this as a “woman’s health issue.”  Of course, it cannot be reduced to that.  It’s about religious freedom.  (By the way, the Church hardly needs to be lectured about health care for women.  Thanks mostly to our Sisters, the Church is the largest private provider of health care for women and their babies in the country.  Here in New York State, Fidelis, the Medicare/Medicaid insurance provider, owned by the Church, consistently receives top ratings for its quality of service to women and children.)

And the courts offer the most light.  In the recent Hosanna-Tabor ruling, the Supreme Court unanimously and enthusiastically defended the right of a Church to define its own ministry and services, a dramatic rebuff to the administration, but one apparently unheeded by the White House.  Thus, our bishops’ conference and many individual religious entities are working with some top-notch law firms who have told us they feel so strongly about this that they will represent us pro-bono.

So, we have to be realistic and prepare for tough times.  Some, like America magazine,  want us to cave-in and stop fighting, saying this is simply a policy issue; some want us to close everything down rather than comply (In an excellent article, Cardinal Francis George wrote that the administration apparently wants us to “give up for Lent” our schools, hospitals, and charitable ministries); some want us to engage in civil disobedience and be fined; some worry that we’ll have to face a decision between two ethically repugnant choices: subsidizing immoral services or no longer offering insurance coverage, a road none of us wants to travel.

Sorry to go on at such length.  You can see how passionately I feel about this.  But, from what I sense, you do too.  You all have been such an inspiration, and I owe it to you to keep you posted.  We need you more than ever!  We can’t give up hoping, praying, trying, and working hard.

February 29th, 2012

Pastoral letter of His Beatitude Sviatoslav (Shevchuk) to the faithful of the UGCC for Great Lent 2012

Source: UGCC.org
«Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!»
Mt. 4:17

Dear in Christ!

With these words of our Divine Savior, the Church of Christ is calling today each and every one of us to commence a blessed time of the Great Fast. The name “Great” of this fast is not accidental: it is caused by those God’s gifts and fruits for our spiritual life, which we can attain during this time, provided we spend it worthily. The greatness of this time is likewise determined by the depth of a spiritual change of our person and our life, which will be the result of the meeting with the merciful and loving Heavenly Father.

Hence, how do we live out this period worthily, so as to transform and enrich our lives? First of all, dear in Christ, we need to remember that fasting does not only mean limiting ourselves in food and entertainment. Fasting is primarily to keep away from sin, from evil habits and passions. It is also a rejection of indifference, evil thoughts and selfishness. Lent is an invitation, addressed to each of us, wounded by sins, encumbered with infirmities and depleted with the daily chores, to surrender ourselves to the Lord’s embrace.

The Fathers and spiritual teachers of the Church, urging Christians to live out the fast worthily, called it a time of spiritual awakening and renewal of man; they compared it with the spiritual spring, during which the divine life awakens in our souls: “…When winter ends and we start coming closer to the spring warmth, a seafarer takes his boat again out into the sea, a soldier cleans his weapons and trains his horse for a fight, a peasant sharpens his tools, a traveler, having felt a surge of strength, girds and embarks on a journey… And so let us also, at this time of the coming of the spiritual spring, similarly fix our spiritual weapons as soldiers, let us sharpen our tools as farmers, and, like the true leaders, let us take into our hands the boat of our spirit so as to be prepared to endure the heaps of the waves of senseless passions and, as the pilgrims heading towards our heavenly homeland, let us begin the fulfillment of our spiritual journey” (St. John Chrysostom, Word to the Antiochian People, 3).

Lent is a special time of repentance and penance. Just as in nature, a normal sign of an early spring is the awakening of all creatures to a new life, similarly the human soul, through repentance and penance, comes to life and, having been warmed by the warmness of God’s mercy and love, is freed from the dead stiffness and produces sprouts of a new life in the Holy Spirit. Whoever honestly admits his sins in the Holy Sacrament of Penance, feels the good-giving action of the warmth of God’s life-giving love. And just as spring wins over winter, so the power of the Lord’s forgiveness wins over fear, weakness and disbelief in us, proving that the Divine love is stronger than our sin and that there is no evil force, which would be able to resist the saving mercy of the Heavenly Father. That is why Prophet David, in repenting burst, sings to the Lord: “May Your compassion come to me that I may live, for Your law is my delight” (Ps. 119:77). Revived through repentance and penance and united with the Lord in the Holy Communion, a believer blossoms with God’s beauty of the righteous life and becomes the bearer of hope for his environs as well as for the entire society. For just as sin has a devastating impact not only on a sinner himself, but on all of his environs as well, conversion and repentance bring healing to our relationship with God, our neighbor and all of the creation.

Lent is a time of intensive prayer. Giving up during this period on entertainment, we concomitantly need to pay more attention to the communication with God: through participation in Lenten liturgical services in the church as well as through longer and more intense prayer in family circle and solitude. We cannot devoid of our attention a practice that has recently been introduced in our Church – the reading of God’s Word. Every day the faithful, whether alone or with the family or gathered in prayer groups in parishes, reflect upon and pray with some excerpts from the Sacred Scripture. In this way, the Word of God becomes for us a spiritual nourishment as well as recalls for us that “man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God” (Mt. 4:4). I fervently entrust to continue and spread this pious practice. And for those who have not started doing this yet, may Lent become an opportunity to begin to get to know the Word of God as well as to live it out ever more.

Charitable deeds are likewise a necessary condition of Lenten spiritual journey. The Lord, through the words of the Prophet Isaiah, directs to all of us a special call, showing the meaning of an authentic fast: “Is this not the fast that choose? … Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into the house; when you see the naked to cover him; and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?” (Is. 58:6-7). Just as in nature, the emergence of fresh green shoots in spring exposes the life of a plant, so the Christian almsgiving is a sign of the spiritual awakening of man, his openness to God and neighbor as well as a compelling witness of the living faith, “working through love” (Gal. 5:6). All Christians are called to do the almsgiving, regardless of wealth or financial capability. St. Pope Leo the Great teaches that “nothing can get into the way of our charity, with which we fulfill a vocation of the love of God and neighbor… Not only the rich and wealthy can perform the charity works vis-à-vis their neighbor, but also those that are poor and with the limited fortunes… Almsgiving transforms inequality in terms of the earthly goods into equality in obtaining the heavenly gifts” (Word on the occasion of Lent, 6, 1-2).

Dear in Christ! The time of Lent opens for us the way to Heaven. Let’s embark on it in the spirit of repentance, prayer and almsgiving. Let us walk it together, growing in the grace of the Holy Spirit. Let me remind you about the obligation to partake in this blessed time in the Holy Sacraments of Confession and Communion. May Lent grant us with the renewal of the spiritual life, the awakening of the Christian zeal and love of God and neighbor in our parish communities and monastery ambits! I implore our Father, “who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tm. 2:4), to lovingly bring all of you closer to His merciful paternal heart and, having forgiven your sins, make you, through the power of the Holy Spirit, the partakers of the glory of the resurrection of His Divine Son.

The blessing of the Lord be upon you!

† SVIATOSLAV

Given in Kyiv,
at the Patriarchal Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ,
on Cheesefare Saturday, 25th February 2012 A. D.

February 16th, 2012

Great Fast Pastoral from UGCC Bishops in USA

To Our Reverend Clergy, Reverend Religious, Seminarians and Faithful,

Glory be to Jesus Christ!

In twenty-first century America, it is impossible to escape the influence of fundamentalist Protestantism: it dominates the airwaves in the person of charismatic preachers, and it undergirds many of the positions taken by politicians. For them, the Bible is the only source of revelation. In this they are very different from Catholics and Orthodox, who are aware of the revelation manifested by the Holy Spirit in the living Tradition of the Church. For example, fundamentalist Protestants would discount the value of the Great Fast since it is not found in scripture; we, on the other hand, know that out Lenten observances provide an opportunity for us to encounter the Lord in a special way.

For us Ukrainian Catholics, our Lenten observances take on a distinct flavor, which is very different even from what is experienced among the Roman Catholics. These differences go beyond the fact that we begin the Great Fast two days before Ash Wednesday and finish it earlier than they, on Lazarus Saturday – that is, the day before Palm Sunday. Our emphasis is in fact very different from the Roman Catholics, who focus on the sufferings of Christ; this is evident in the Stations of the Cross – a quintessential Roman Catholic devotional practice not native to our spirituality.

Our Byzantine spirituality chooses, rather, to focus on conversion. This is expressed in the English word “repentance” which, contrary to popular belief, does not refer to sorrow for sins; rather, repentance is about a change of direction – that is, away from sin and toward God. This is also expressed in the Greek word metanoia, from which we get our Ukrainian word metania, which refers to the bow that we make every time we enter the church. As our metanias are not limited to the Great Fast, neither is our metanoia, our conversion; in fact, our ever-deeper conversion to the ways of the Lord Jesus Christ is the sum of the Christian life. The Great Fast is but a microcosm of the spiritual life, inviting us to focus more intently upon the life, which we should be living all year long.

The theme of conversion comes out clearly in our liturgies. In the weeks leading up to the beginning of the Great Fast, the Gospel readings provide us with examples of conversion to emulate: the eagerness of Zacchaeus, the repentance of the publican, the return of the prodigal son. This theme continues during the Great Fast, where the Church holds up for us the dramatic conversion of Holy Mother Mary of Egypt.

You are certainly all familiar with our Lenten practices: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Of the three, fasting has probably received the greatest emphasis, as is evident in the question “What are you going to give up for Lent?” For those who make the extra effort to come to church, we see that fasting even invades the liturgical realm: Divine Liturgy is forbidden on the weekdays of the Great Fast as we fast from that joyous celebration of “dynamic” Eucharist, so we need to content ourselves with the “static” Eucharist – that is, reception of the reserved sacrament during the majestic yet penitential Divine Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts. So often forgotten is the almsgiving which might give an indication that the other practices are more than theatrical. Remember: the Lenten practices are not an end in themselves; rather, they are aimed at our conversion of heart, and this includes a growing recognition of the “neighbor” whom God has given to us so that we might share our blessings.

Let us support one another during this holy season of the Great Fast, so that we – as individuals and as Church – might indeed come to the conversion which Christ desires of us.

+Stefan Soroka
Metropolitan-Archbishop of Philadelphia

+Richard Seminack
Eparch of St. Nicholas in Chicago

+Paul Chomnycky, OSBM
Eparch of Stamford

+John Bura
Apostolic Administrator of St. Josaphat in Parma

Great Fast, 2012
http://esnucc.org/news-amp-events/pastoral-letters-6