Philokalia Ministries
Letters of Spiritual Direction to a Young Soul - Letter Sixty-Seven, Part II

Letters of Spiritual Direction to a Young Soul - Letter Sixty-Seven, Part II

October 28, 2021

Tonight we concluded Letter 67. As we have seen in previous letters and as Theophan progresses in his teaching of Anastasia, he draws her ever deeper into the wisdom of the fathers. He picks up this evening speaking with her again about the importance of confessing all of one’s sins; not judging those that seem small or great but rather confessing everything that is contrary to the will and the love of God. No sin is ever to be deliberately omitted. If omitted - in essence it is unresolved. If ignored it will not be fully uprooted. 

Theophan then moves on  to address the importance of unceasing prayer. This little prayer that he taught her, the Jesus Prayer, he tells Anastasia, is a great treasure. In fact, it has no equal among spiritual activities. This is an extraordinary statement. He is telling Anastasia that the constant remembrance of God is not simply a spiritual practice or a discipline; it is seeking to “become” prayer. It is to live and move and breathe as one who seeks to and truly lives in constant communion with God. It is so important, he tells her, that she must exclude herself from any of the group who may be inattentive. She must never forget to turn the mind’s eye to the Lord or at least maintain the feeling that He is near. Turning mentally to God with reverence in the heart is already prayer. Whatever our struggles might be, whatever temptations we might experience against this practice, we must understand that God sees the desire and love within the heart. 

Furthermore, we must start the morning in the right way for it will set the tone for the entire day. We must read the gospel and other spiritual books the confirm ideas within us about what is truly worthwhile. Above all we must hear the voice of conscience; the voice of the omnipresent God in the soul. Theophan writes: “He who is in the world with the conscience is also in the world with God.”

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Text of chat during the group:

00:08:21 Ashley Kaschl: I’m not on video right now cause I’m jump-starting my car 😂 but hey everybody!
 
00:23:23 sue and mark: pg 155 speaks of thoedoras toll-houses.
 
00:26:01 carolnypaver: Page #?
 
00:33:52 Joseph Muir: For in this tent we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling— if indeed, when we have taken it off we will not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan under our burden, because we wish not to be unclothed but to be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.
 
2 Corinthians 5:2-5
00:35:13 Joseph Muir: On this subject, here is a beautiful prayer that is part of my morning offering, and which I try to pray at least once more throughout the day:
 
O Lord, I know not what to ask of You. You alone know what are my true needs. You love me more than I myself know how to love. Help me to see my real needs which are concealed from me. I dare not ask either cross or consolation. I can only wait on You. My heart is open to You. Visit and help me for Your great mercy’s sake. Strike me and heal me. Cast me down and raise me up. I worship in silence Your holy will and Your unsearchable ways. I offer myself as a sacrifice to You. I have no desire other than to fulfill Your will. Teach me how to pray. Do You Yourself pray in me. Amen.
 
00:44:25 Lyle: No one practicing the “Jesus Prayer” succeeds immediately.  It must be “practiced”.  The demons are constantly vying for EVERY thought.
 
00:45:45 carolnypaver: Very true, Lyle.
 
01:06:21 Lyle: Some critics of the "Jesus Prayer" say that it is no more than a mantra - (a word or sound repeated to aid concentration in meditation, such as within Buddhism or Hinduism.)  Hundreds of years and THOUSANDS of testimonies prove the Prayer to be helpful.
 
01:07:21 sue and mark: what about the rosary and divine mercy
 
01:12:06 Joseph Muir: That is a common criticism from many Protestants, accusing it of being “vain repetition”.
 
Growing up in the Bible Belt, I had to learn how to explain the faith in a way that spoke to where a common evangelical mindset may be. With that said, I was quick to tell them that Christ didn’t condemn repetition itself, but specifically VAIN repetition, with Christ even further describing it as being “like the heathens do”.
 
For “the heathens” of their day, the more one repeated a prayer, the better chance there was of God hearing it.
 
When it comes to something like the Jesus Prayer, the point of the repetition is transform ones entire mind and heart into prayer itself, teaching oneself to pray it with each breath, even, for some of the monastics, with each heartbeat (hence it’s commonly being called “the prayer of the heart”)
 
01:12:06 sue and mark: as aides to continual prayer
 
01:19:19 Lyle: The Omnipresent Voice worked for THEM and it will work for US.  (There is nothing new under the sun.)
 
01:20:37 Ashley Kaschl: Thank you, Father!
 
01:20:48 Rachel: Thank you!

 

The Evergetinos - Vol. I, Hypothesis XII, Part IV

The Evergetinos - Vol. I, Hypothesis XII, Part IV

October 26, 2021

Tonight we concluded Hypothesis 12, again considering the importance of parents raising their children not only to love virtue but also to be willing to sacrifice all for it and for Christ. We considered three stories where mothers had to set aside their natural sensibilities and desire to protect their children from harm. In each case, the mothers act out of their faith to encourage their sons to remain steadfast. We see in and through the stories that they are not only bound by blood but, in a deeper way, by faith. The mothers seek to protect the eternal life of their sons and are willing to sacrifice themselves and their own needs for that end. In doing so they become inheritors of the glory that belongs to the martyrs. Their sons will intercede on their behalf because of the virtue and support that they showed. 

These are not easy stories to consider and one is compelled to set aside one’s judgment and to listen to them with faith. We are to see these martyrs and those who support them as living icons of the gospel. In this they will be the most compelling witnesses - those who counted all in this world as refuse compared to the surpassing worth of knowing and gaining Christ.

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Text of chat during the group:

00:30:55 Eric Williams: “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.” - GK Chesterton
 
00:39:05 Anthony: I am friends with several Copts in Hampton VA.  Beautiful people, understand suffering.  Same with my Iraqi Syriac Catholic friends.
 
00:42:30 Anthony: Sometimes I wonder what is the dividing line between rigorous ascetic practice ans insanity.  Is love the difference?
 
00:54:33 Ambrose Little: Discernment of the will of God. Union of the will with God, so that the actions flow out of that union. So yes, love in that sense, in that God is love and union with His will is union with Love. There is some danger, it seems, in that persons may seek out the actions for themselves, as a kind of emulation of holiness, when what makes such acts holy is the heart in tune with God’s.
 
00:55:22 Anthony: Thank you, Ambrose
 
01:12:45 Carol Nypaver: What is that song called?
 
01:12:54 Fr. Miron Kerul-Kmec Jr.: billy joel lullabye
 
01:13:06 Carol Nypaver: Thank you!
 
01:13:12 renwitter: Its the one that begins “Goodnight my Angel"
 
01:15:23 Fr. Miron Kerul-Kmec Jr.: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CjSix58CXQQ
 
01:16:54 renwitter: The book is actually remarkably well adapted in the film. Very accurate.
 
01:26:32 Ann Grimak: Thank you so much Father
 
01:27:14 Rachel: Thank you

 

Letters of Spiritual Direction to a Young Soul - Letter Sixty-Seven, Part I

Letters of Spiritual Direction to a Young Soul - Letter Sixty-Seven, Part I

October 21, 2021

I love St. Theophan. The reason I say this is because one can see so clearly how deep his love is for the young Anastasia. He is a true spiritual father. 

At this point in their correspondence, Anastasia has come to a deeper understanding of the spiritual life and Theophan has shared with her the great riches of the spiritual tradition. Yet, his love for her makes him at times speak the truth to her with a kind of sternness. Not anger, but rather with a clarity about the weightiness of the matter they are discussing and its importance for her spiritual life and future. 

Tonight we began Letter 67 on “Diligent Confession”. Theophan rejoices with Anastasia over the fruits of her pilgrimage to the monastery of Saint Sergius. However, he rebukes her for something that she told him about the nature of her confession. Despite having made the pilgrimage with its physical and emotional rigors and having embraced the practice of unceasing prayer throughout the journey, when the moment came for her to experience the full fruit of the spiritual practice she held back. She did not confess all of her sins; she did not open her mind and her heart fully to God in order that she might also reap the benefits and all the grace that the sacrament offers. Theophan tells her that the essence of the mystery of repentance consists in the resolution of the sin one has confessed. Her preparation should have illuminated her heart fully enough that she would leave no sin unconfessed because she would see no sin is “small”.  Every sin has the capacity of growing and taking hold of one’s life and leading one away from God. She must avoid the craftiness of the worldly mind that seeks to rationalize certain behaviors and to minimize their effects.

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Text of chat during the group:

00:12:29 Eric Williams: I would very much be interested in a desert father society or similar. The Catholic men's groups I've seen are either mostly social or have an Evangelical vibe.
 
00:24:09 Art: I’m in!
 
00:31:00 Joseph Muir: What page number?
 
00:31:09 Carol Nypaver: 265
 
00:31:19 Joseph Muir: Spacibo
 
00:38:34 Rachel: The quote from St. Climacus, about striking the final blow and still having hope...which chapter is that from?
 
00:49:41 Rachel: lol yep
 
00:50:32 Rachel: @ the quirkiness...yet there is hope
 
00:54:57 Erick Chastain: the horologion and the pre-Vatican II breviary pray the entirety of that psalm, but it was deemed too difficult for moderns to include in the new breviary
 
00:55:19 Erick Chastain: (as far as I know, the horologion does, but I'm not sure)
 
00:56:08 Erick Chastain: that is, I think it does, since the byzantine psalters all include it in ther prayer rule
 
01:02:29 Joseph Muir: Speaking to Sue’s last point, one very real issue is how little time the average parish assigns each week for confession. In my hometown, most of the Roman Catholic churches had an hour each week; in the various places where I’ve lived, I’ve never seen a Byzantine church that has actual confession times, always seeking to leave it up to penitents to ask the priest. While a penitent must obviously take initiative, I assure you that there are far fewer Byzantine Catholics who make a regular confession than would if there were set times throughout any given week (on the latter point, the nearly total absence of daily vespers or matins at these Byzantine churches is also a shame)
 
01:04:03 Eric Williams: Confession has become juridical - we go to seek removal of criminal guilt at the price of some symbolic atonement in penance. It should be medicinal, though, such that we seek healing from skilled physicians, who work methodically, patiently, and compassionately. Too few priests were taught or bother to use good bedside manners.
 
01:05:37 Joseph Muir: This is also why there is value in having a regular confessor, particularly one who knows one well enough so as to call them out on their BS😂
 
01:19:57 Ann Grimak: Thank you Father
 
01:20:18 Cathy: Goodnight Father

 

The Evergetinos - Vol. I, Hypothesis XII, Part III

The Evergetinos - Vol. I, Hypothesis XII, Part III

October 19, 2021

Thank you everyone who participated tonight and for all of your great comments!  God bless

Synopsis:

Continuing along with Hypothesis 12, we are given another extraordinary story of the relationship between a mother and her son. Saint Alypios makes the decision to live a life solely dedicated to God and to silence. His plan is to go to live among the monks of the East and to leave home and family in the pursuit of the will of God. 

His mother, setting aside all natural sensibilities even though she’s a widow, supports this desire and seeks to deepen it through her own prayer.  Her desire is that her son’s desire would be fulfilled and that he would come to know the fullness of the love of God. When the Alypios’ bishop persuades him to return to his homeland in response to a Divine voice, his mother does not cease in her support of Alypios’ holy desire but rather helps him to pursue it with a singular focus. As he grows in virtue and prayer, she helps him to construct a shelter on top of a pillar on which to live in greater solitude. Very much like Mary the Mother of our Lord, she participates and her son’s pursuit of God‘s will. She’s not a passive observer but rather intimately united in faith with her son; a unity that far surpasses what any earthly love could produce. 

This example of living for God in the moment, even to the point of letting go of all sense of security, is foreign to us and, frankly, frightening. How is it that we are to live in the moment in our lives and in our vocations in such a way that we do not become calculating?  How can we walk the path of faith with purity and perfection - holding nothing back from God out of fear or anxiety or self-love? It is these greater and more personal questions that these stories put forward for us to contemplate!

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Text of chat during the group:

00:33:13 Ed Kleinguetl: Same as Mother Teresa of Calcutta
 
00:33:52 Rachel: Yes, I noticed that in my interactions with others. Something helped me very much, I heard a priest say, what people think of you is none of your business...
 
00:35:08 Rachel: then I realized, I don't even know what God thinks of me, I cannot store up virtues and line them up like trinkets. That yes, in the moment He is here. To love Him here and now.
 
00:36:16 Joseph Muir: The Missionaries of Charity (Mother Teresa’s nuns) in the Bronx have me on speed dial, and I sometimes get the most random phone calls from a small handful of the nuns in that particular convent, sometimes just to talk, but normally leading to their asking for a favor. They have such faith in their “associates”, the extended family of their community, to always be able to step up and help them out.
 
00:37:55 Rachel: Abandonment in this moment. It doesn't feel comfortable like some imply.
 
00:39:11 Eric Williams: My wife often mutters “You have a heck of a sense of humor, God!” ;)
 
00:39:16 Tyler Woloshyn: There is great joy in abandoning cares to the Lord no matter the overwhelming day when you find joy in setting aside that time to pray and do it joyfully.
 
00:41:09 Fr. Miron Kerul-Kmec Jr.: "We will conquer only through the cross." Elder Arsenie
 
00:49:04 renwitter: I think @carol roper should perfect her shelter-building skills for when Luke climbs up a pillar to live 😊
 
00:51:58 Rachel: wow
 
00:53:31 Rachel: that is so beautiful! It reminds me of when a soul or if a soul would tear down all of the comforts/consolations that prevent one from fully clinging to God alone
 
00:57:33 Ambrose Little: Who knew that facepalm gesture was so venerable and ancient.
 
00:57:47 Joseph Muir: 🤣
 
00:58:05 renwitter: I was literally just writing the same thing!!!
 
00:58:11 renwitter: 🤣🤣
 
01:16:52 Rachel: thank you!
 
01:17:02 maureencunningham: Thank You  Lords Blessing
 
01:17:16 Ashley Kaschl: Thanks, Father!! And welcome Joanne! 😁

 

Letters of Spiritual Direction to a Young Soul - Letter Sixty-Six, Part II

Letters of Spiritual Direction to a Young Soul - Letter Sixty-Six, Part II

October 14, 2021

Thank you again to all who participated in the group tonight. It was a great blessing as always and joyful. 

Tonight we concluded Letter 66 of Saint Theophan to the young Anastasia. Anastasia had decided to make a pilgrimage to the monastery of Saint Sergius. Theophan offers her counsel as to how not to turn this into an act of curiosity or to reduce it to a mere stroll. 

Pilgrimages involve the full self; specific sacrifices and hardships - all of which form and shape the heart. It is a reflection of our journey toward God. 

She can count upon the blessings and the prayers of Sergius in this journey. However, she must continue to embrace the practices Theophan has taught her. She must pray unceasingly along the journey; the short prayers that he taught her. Above all he encourages her to memorize the Psalms or those that speak to her heart in order that she might be reciting them along the way and meditating upon them. 

This journey is to be spent reflecting upon her relationship with God and the state of her heart. When she reaches her destination, she is to make a good confession and receive holy communion. The labor of her travel is meant to help sensitize her conscience in order that she might not overlook the most important thing, tears of contrition. It is such tears, rooted in the spirit of repentance, that will open the gates of heaven to her and the flood of God‘s mercy. One tear is like the renewal of baptism, cleansing the heart and restoring one’s relationship with God. 

She must remind herself that the most trustworthy path in this life is one of repentance and that all of heaven rejoices over someone who weeps and is contrite, feeling his sinfulness.

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Text of chat during the group:

00:23:48 Mark Cummings: I am not sure if I should feel bad that I have far less than 50,000 thoughts a day or if I should feel good that I potentially have less bad thoughts to fend off. I wonder when I lose my train of thought if those would be included in the total count for the day.
 
00:44:38 Ann Grimak: Thank you Father great explanation
 
00:44:40 Ashley Kaschl: We’ve kinda moved on but as a sidenote to what Father was talking about earlier...I was told, once, that BUSY is really just an acronym for “Bound Under Satan’s Yolk” when it comes to daily Mass, prayer, and the spiritual life, which was definitely a gut check for me 😅
 
00:47:20 Mark J. Kelly: Ashley makes a great point.  While most see Acedia or Sloth displayed by a spiritual depression or withdrawal many ancient and modern writers see Acedia or Sloth in “over-BUSYness”.
 
00:55:29 Eric Williams: I look forward to Fr Miron bringing back *all* the prostrations to Good Friday at our church. ;)
 
01:07:00 Rachel: In Divine Intimacy there are 2 readings that help with preparing for a good holy confession called, Simplicity and Sincerity. Two of my top 10 readings from that book. Yes, both traditions can compliment each other beautifully when one understands the language of the desert fathers.
 
01:11:31 Rachel: wow. yes
 
01:15:16 Rachel: That was such a good point. Infantilizing under the guise of obedience.
 
01:21:40 Mark Cummings: thank you, Rachel...I will look over Simplicity and sincerity before my next reconciliation
 
01:27:28 St. Stanislaus Kostka Religious Education: is that a meaning of integrity?  that we allow God to integrate our lives totally
 
01:29:37 Rachel: Thank you Father and all!
 
01:29:48 Ann Grimak: Thank you so much Father
 
01:29:52 maureencunningham: Thank You
 
01:30:10 Mark Cummings: thank you, father!
 
01:30:59 Rachel: Thank you, I am in California

 

The Evergetinos - Vol. I, Hypothesis XII, Part II

The Evergetinos - Vol. I, Hypothesis XII, Part II

October 12, 2021

Thank you to all who participated in the group tonight!

To say that this was the most beautiful reading that we have considered in the Evergetinos would be an understatement. We continued our reflection on Hypothesis 12 on the importance of parents instilling in their children the love of virtue and the willingness to risk all for it. 

Tonight we read one single story: from the life of Saint Clement of Ancyra, martyr. The story centers on Clement’s mother who is a widow and so became for her son - father, teacher, and mother. Above all things she sought to teach her son the inestimable value of giving his life over to Christ. She taught him from the earliest age that, despite the fact that his earthly father had died before he knew him, Clement had gained God as his true Father. “Christ reared you in the strength of the Spirit”, she taught him. Above all, she did not want her son to lose sight of the fact that the love of Christ alone has true value and endures. He is our salvation - the One who has come to raise us up and to make us children of God. 

With the most beautiful exhortation she encourages Clement to ready himself for the trials to come. The depth of her faith gave her prophetic vision; she saw not only her own impending death but also the trial and martyrdom her son was to endure. Therefore, she would prepare him in every way throughout his tender years to seek “the one thing necessary”. 

In the story we also catch a glimpse of what parenthood looks like when transformed by faith and understood in light of the communion of saints. This mother understood that despite leaving her son in this world they are bound together. His heroic faith and coming martyrdom is something that she would share in intimately; the rewards and joy that will belong to Clement will be hers as well and together they will boldly worship before the throne of Christ. 

Clement, so nourished by his mother, endured the greatest tortures for Christ and then made the ultimate gift of his life to his Savior.

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Text of chat during the group:

00:31:42 John Clark: Everyone is Catholic in the Strip on Friday’s during lent..
 
00:51:47 Rachel (30): This is perfect
 
01:07:35 Rachel (30): Identity in Christ, teaching them that their true identity and union will be in Christ.
 
01:07:48 Rachel (30): Actually, that would be great marriage prep
 
01:09:24 Rachel (30): Thank you Fr. Abernathy and all
 
01:09:33 Rachel (30): lol
 
01:09:35 D Fraley: This was good. Thank you Father.
Letters of Spiritual Direction to a Young Soul - Letter Sixty-Five, Part III and Letter Sixty-Six, Part I

Letters of Spiritual Direction to a Young Soul - Letter Sixty-Five, Part III and Letter Sixty-Six, Part I

October 7, 2021

Tonight we concluded Letter 65 wherein St. Theophan quotes St. Poemen on the nature of the God-pleasing life. Theophan emphasize here the importance of being unyielding in dealing with our thoughts. We must give them no room for growth and not nourish thoughts that are contrary to God‘s will and to the life of virtue. Closely tied to this struggle with the thoughts is the cultivation of virtue. He tells us that one must at the same time do good and cultivate every sort of virtue within oneself in order that both of these things will bring about the purification of the heart. Theophan concludes the letter with multiple quotes from Saint Poemen on the fundamental virtues to be cultivated. We find in the Fathers a surprising consistency in their thought. What we must desire above all is to foster an enthusiasm for the Spirit of God. The hotter that this flame burns the less sinful thoughts have any access to the human heart. 

In turning to Letter 66, we find Theophan speaking with Anastasia about making a pilgrimage to the monastery of Saint Sergius. Theophan is obviously very pleased with this decision. However, he wants Anastasia to understand that this will not simply be a pleasant stroll or satisfy her curiosity. It is a spiritual pilgrimage and she will find in it great labor of mind and body. This is part of what she offers to God and to the particular saint whose intercession she seeks. There will be great fruit, he tells her, that comes from this - both perceptible and imperceptible. God gives the Saints the ability to see what believers do for them and hear what they ask of them.

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Text of chat during the group:

 
00:23:00 Carole DiClaudio: What page are we on?
 
00:23:13 Carol Nypaver: 259
 
00:23:22 Carole DiClaudio: Thank you :)
 
01:00:59 renwitter: Probably a boyfriend - taking her on one of those monastery road trips you are always suggesting to couples ;-) He came along to impress Elder Theophan :-D
 
01:02:24 Carol Nypaver: About 33 miles
 
01:02:56 renwitter: hahahaahahahha
 
01:03:13 Carol Nypaver: lol
 
01:21:58 Carol Nypaver: Thank you!  It was a wonderful interview.  Good job, Father!
 
 
01:23:17 Ashley Kaschl: Thanks, Father!
 
01:24:10 Carole DiClaudio: Thanks Father!!

 

The Evergetinos - Vol. I, Hypothesis XI, Part II and Hypothesis XII, Part I

The Evergetinos - Vol. I, Hypothesis XI, Part II and Hypothesis XII, Part I

October 5, 2021

Thank you everyone who participated in the Evergetinos study group:

Such beautiful readings tonight!  I know this is an oft repeated observation that I make, but there was something in the readings this evening that struck deep to the heart. The conclusion of Hypothesis 11 spoke to us about the deep union enjoyed by individuals who shared a common love of the kingdom and pursuit of love and faith in this world. The deeper our purity of heart, we were told, the more clearly will we see the brightness of God’s glory and participate in it. All of this should spur us on to seek God above all things.

In beginning hypothesis 12, we discussed the formation of children in the life of faith. There is a deep need, from the earliest of years of life, to form a child in their desire to please God and in their love for virtue. Parents should rejoice in those trials of their children that are endured for the sake of Christ. This in turn calls parents to pursue the saintly life themselves. How can they encourage their children to long for the kingdom unless they have a similar yearning within their own hearts?  We were given the most beautiful story of the tender love of a mother for a son who was martyred. Her joy over her son’s participation in the glory of her Lord and her solidarity in the sufferings of her son was nothing short of extraordinary. She was no passive participant in the formation of her child; nor was she apassive participant in his suffering and thus deserving a share in the promised of glory.  Such stories reshape our understanding of existence and what it is that we value and cherish the most.

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Text of chat during the group:

00:33:44 Eric Williams: Nerdy Thomist? Is there any other kind? ;)
 
00:34:04 Ashley Kaschl: 😂😂
 
01:07:19 Daniel Allen: Wow
 
01:22:12 Carol Nypaver: Thank you, Father!

 

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