When do Tourists become Pilgrims?

Here is a very insightful article/interview on monastery tourists versus true pilgrims. Though coming from a European perspective, the principles for welcoming the curious and showing them the warmth and welcome of Christ’s love are especially applicable to American monasteries.

 

When do Tourists become Pilgrims?

Pravoslavie, October 31, 2017:

There is nothing bad about cameras, provided somebody wants to take pictures of holy sites so that he and his descendants could hold on to memories of that visit. That is very good, but one should remember one important thing.

A pilgrimage is not a mere visit to a geographic location; it is a spiritual exercise which involves physical strain, prayer, meditation, repentance for sins, taking Holy Communion and being with the Lord alone.

Igumen Daniel (Irbits), Abbot of the Monastery of St. George in Götschendorf (Germany), analyzes the characteristics of Christian pilgrimage, and when it has a good effect and when a harmful effect on the human soul.

Abbot Daniel, Burgomaster of Milmersdorf, and Prince Eduard von Anhalt.

—Fr. Daniel, is there such a problem as “spiritual tourism”? If it does exist, then how, in your opinion, does it manifest itself? What are its negative effects on both “spiritual tourists” and monasteries?

—I will speak on the basis of our local experience in Germany, still a modest experience of our small monastery in Götschendorf.

At our St. George’s Monastery we are faced with the phenomenon of “spiritual tourism”, as you call it.

Our monastery is often visited by groups of Germans. These are local Evangelicals and Roman Catholics, representatives of federal and regional authorities of Germany, and public figures. Among our visitors was Eduard, Prince von Anhalt, head of the Ducal House of Saxony. I cannot call all these visits “pilgrimages”. But thanks to encounters like these Germans can know the Russian Orthodox Church and our Russian culture better. And that is of great importance for us, for through such meetings we can bring the light of our faith to the German society and elsewhere.

Let me be quite frank: in many cases people after their acquaintance with Orthodox Christianity in the German lands, German have with time embraced the Orthodox faith. For example, last year the first baptism was performed at our monastery—a young German woman was received into the Orthodox Church.

We live in a non-Orthodox country; to be more precise, we live in the state of Brandenburg—in its predominantly Protestant area—and for native residents (Protestants and atheists alike) the very presence of a Russian Orthodox monastery in the region is something extraordinary; and believe me, it evokes great interest. In my opinion, it is very important that we answer to their interest not with pharisaical arrogance but with our benevolence and willingness to help them get to know Christ.

Continue reading “When do Tourists become Pilgrims?”

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New Gallery Posted! Holy Archangel Michael & All Angels Skete

I’ve just uploaded the new gallery of almost two-dozen photographs from my recent stay at Holy Archangel Michael & All Angels Skete in northwest Missouri. Included are some excerpts from the skete’s website, and additional links and information.

Proceed to the new Gallery…

I’m finally getting caught up on photo editing after three weeks of continuous travel, and plan to post more galleries in the days ahead, so stay tuned!

As always, thank you for your support and prayers!

 

Watch for new Photo Galleries coming soon!

Thank you for your patience during my recent travels! I had an inspiring two week journey to Holy Archangel Michael and All Angels Skete in northwest Missouri, followed by a parish presentation at Holy Trinity Orthodox Church in Overland Park KS (outside Kansas City), and went immediately from there to St Paul Skete about an hour east of Memphis TN.

Entrance to St John Damascene Chapel during Matins, St Paul Skete, Grand Jct TN; © Ralph (Zosimas) Sidway

Having photographed the 40th anniversary services at St Symeon Orthodox Church in Birmingham AL this past weekend, I am heading up to Cleveland for the Midwest Diocese Assembly (OCA) tomorrow and Thursday, and plan to schedule further monastery visits while in transit.

I have been editing photos from these inspiring journeys since last Friday, and look forward to sharing many of the images with you as soon as possible.

As always, I deeply appreciate your support and prayers!

 

August Monastery Travels scheduled for Georgia and Florida

Summer travel and photography continues for the North American Thebaid Project with my first visit to the Monastery of the Glorious Ascension (ROCOR) in northwest Georgia, and pilgrimages to two of Elder Ephraim’s monasteries in Florida: Panagia Vlahernon and Holy Annunciation (GOA).

Each of these have informative and attractive websites (see links below) where you can learn about their way of life and how to schedule a pilgrimage. I am most eager to be back on the road and in the holy confines and sacred grounds with the monks and nuns.

In addition, I will be giving a presentation at St Mary of Egypt Church (ROCOR) in Roswell GA on Sunday, September 17, during coffee hour following the Divine Liturgy. If you are in the Greater Atlanta and Marietta area, please join us!

And, looking ahead to October, I am planning on attending the OCA Diocese of the Midwest Annual Assembly as an exhibitor, with a full display for the Thebaid Project including a continuous digital slide show, handouts, and more. I hope to see some of you there; please stop by my display so we can get acquainted!

Below is my schedule so far, with embedded links. Subject to change. You can also view the entire proposed Itinerary for the North American Thebaid.

Asking your prayers for safe travel, and your support for the Thebaid Project!

Panagia Vlahernon Monastery Church

Monastery of the Glorious Ascension, Resaca GA
August 25-27, 2017

Panagia Vlahernon Monastery, Williston FL
August 28-31

Holy Annunciation Monastery, Reddick FL
August 30, 2017

Parish Presentation: St Mary of Egypt Orthodox Church, Roswell GA
September 17, 2017 at 9:40 am – 2:00 pm
Hours/Liturgy begin at 9:40am ET; Presentation during coffee hour.

Midwest Diocesan Assembly (OCA)
October 11 & 12, 2017
Archangel Michael Orthodox Church, Broadview Heights, OH

 

Children and Monasticism: Ideas for Summer reading (and pilgrimages!)

Children love pilgrimages to Orthodox Christian monasteries, as any Orthodox parent who has taken their kids to one can tell you. These books help reveal why.

Maybe it’s the total simplicity, beauty and peacefulness of the surroundings, or perhaps it is because the nuns or monks themselves have a child-like quality about them which allows children to relate to them with ease. Or maybe it’s because being at a monastery is like being at church, but even more!

Whatever the reasons, children love monasteries!

I was reminded of this by a mailing I received this week from Nancy Colakovic at Ancient Faith Publishing, recommending books for children. The first title really caught my eye: In the Candle’s Glow. Writes Nancy:

The first is In the Candle’s Glow, by Elizabeth Crispina Johnson, illustrated by Amandine Wanert. Our 8-year-old granddaughter loves this book. She’s read it over and over, and even took it to church with her. I especially like that this book teaches us where the candles in church come from, the emphasis placed on the Jesus Prayer as well as the Lord’s Prayer and the prayer for family and friends, and even that it helps us remember to bless the bees, and ask God to care for them.

I immediately looked up the book, which is getting great reviews on Amazon both for its story and for the illustrations. Here is one of the more descriptive 5-star reviews:

Continue reading “Children and Monasticism: Ideas for Summer reading (and pilgrimages!)”

Alaska’s annual St. Herman Pilgrimage includes Liturgy on Spruce Island

Alaska. St Herman. Pilgrimage. How I yearn for this!

Here is a great video of a recent St Herman Pilgrimage. Scroll down for the news announcement from the OCA website.

Alaska’s 47th annual St. Herman Pilgrimage to be held August 7-9

OCA.org, June 22, 2017:

Hundreds of faithful are expected to participate in the 47th annual Saint Herman Pilgrimage to Spruce Island, home of North America’s first saint, August 7-9, 2017.

Continue reading “Alaska’s annual St. Herman Pilgrimage includes Liturgy on Spruce Island”

‘Atlas of American Orthodox Monasteries’ now available in digital format for free

I have been using this outstanding book as a resource in planning my travels for the North American Thebaid Photographic Pilgrimage since the Atlas’s publication at the start of 2016, and downloaded this digital edition onto my iPad immediately after it was announced. The linked table of contents makes navigation a delight, and the ability to search the text likewise makes this an even more powerful tool than the already excellent print edition. Once you download the PDF file, you can easily import it into your Kindle or iBooks library, or most other ebook readers.

I have always felt the timing of the Atlas to be uncanny, as I had begun planning the NA Thebaid Project almost a full year before Krindatch’s Atlas was published. Now this digital edition comes out just as I am resuming travel and photography after a brief hiatus.

Our twin efforts clearly herald a growing vibrancy in and awareness of Orthodox Christian monasticism in the USA and Canada, and my hope is that the Atlas, the North American Thebaid Project (and the finished Thebaid book, due in Autumn 2018), and similar future efforts, will help inspire Orthodox monastic vocations, as well as draw spiritual seekers to the Orthodox Church, inviting them to “come and see” the ancient and timeless Christian Faith, which was “once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).

Atlas of American Orthodox Monasteries Electronic Edition is Now Available

Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the USA, June 12, 2017:

The electronic version of the widely popular Atlas of American Orthodox Christian Monasteries has been released by the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the USA and made available free of charge to everyone. The PDF file with the Atlas can be downloaded free of charge here. The hard copy of the Atlas can be purchased directly from the publisher, Holy Cross Orthodox Press.

Drawing on extensive research, as well as fascinating stories and insider information, the Atlas offers readers:

  • A scholarly introduction into traditions of Eastern Christian monasticism and a history of Orthodox monasteries in America
  • A full and comprehensive directory of 80 American Orthodox Christian monasteries
  • An enticing travel guide for those seeking to visit American monasteries and to “sample” monastic life.

In addition, twenty-two featured monasteries share their personal stories and offer a glimpse into the surprising spiritual appeal of monastic life in 21st century America.

Edited by Alexei Krindatch. 150 pages of text are accompanied by four sets of color maps and more than one hundred photographs depicting everyday life in US Orthodox monasteries. The full table of contents is provided below. Continue reading “‘Atlas of American Orthodox Monasteries’ now available in digital format for free”

Upcoming Monastery Visits

The North American Thebaid Pilgrimage continues, with visits confirmed at Hermitage of the Holy Cross (ROCOR) in Wayne WV, Holy Myrrhbearers Monastery (OCA) in Otego NY, and Holy Trinity Monastery (ROCOR) in Jordanville NY. A brief return visit to the Orthodox Monastery of the Transfiguration in Ellwood City PA is also planned.

I’m busy with continued scheduling for monasteries, and for parish presentations, so watch for more news soon.

You can see the upcoming dates in the right hand panel here at Thebaid.org. I would appreciate your prayers both for safe travel and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

As a special treat, here is the outstanding film on Orthodox Monasticism produced by the Hermitage of the Holy Cross several years ago, From the Little Mountain:

 

To view more videos on Orthodox Monasticism in North America and around the globe, visit the Thebaid Video page…

 

First Photo Gallery: St. Tikhon of Zadonsk Monastery

The first gallery of photographs from the North American Thebaid Project is online, featuring some four dozen images taken at St Tikhon’s Monastery in South Canaan PA.

img_0095Captions to follow, but you can get nearly a virtual tour of the monastery, and a real inside look at monastic life, including the divine services, veneration of icons and relics of saints, the monks living quarters and dining room (trapeza) and more.

Also featured are links to learn more about St Tikhon’s Monastery, including videos and helpful instructions for visitors.

Proceed to the St Tikhon’s Gallery, and watch for posting soon of my photographs from Holy Transfiguration in Ellwood City PA, as well as upcoming itinerary…

First Monastery Photographs

My first two monastery visits went very well, with moments of quiet and wonder, and some good photographs to begin the North American Thebaid collection.

Apologies for the lapse in postings, but my internet access has been greatly limited while traveling, and I am only now set up wth my new home-base wifi solution in Cincinnati.

I’m including some select images with this post, but promise to have actual galleries up very soon as I finish some initial editing and uploading.

Heartfelt thanks for all the prayers and support. Watch for more updates tomorrow and forward…

St Tikhon of Zadonsk Monastery, South Canaan PA

Version 2

Version 2

Continue reading “First Monastery Photographs”