Archive for October, 2008

living with service dogs

A fellow Orthodox Christian blogger writes about service dogs and her life with the one she recently acquired. Here is her page on service dogs. Click on:

Service Dogs « Turtle Rock

And here is her blog which describes her life with a service dog:

Living With the Woof

Many of the saints interacted with animals in mutually supportive ways. At times God directed animals to serve saints, such as bringing food to them. Here is a post on another blog by an Orthodox Christian on the subject, with a list of references at the end:

SAFCEI: Saints and animals

Here is a brief description of one of the references from

Dormition Skete Orthodox Books & Items Online

Animals & Man: A State of Blessedness by Joanne Stefanatos D.V. M. A collection of delightful accounts of saints who interacted with animals. (See the Lives of the Saints Collection section on the website for this listing)

Finally here is another post about service dogs:

Seven Amazing Famous Service Dogs – Associated Content

Picture from City of Chesapeake, Virginia – Official homepage


Who is my neighbor?

from the Orthodox Church in America’s Resource Handbook: Parish Development – Volume II, 1996, by Maureen Juhas and Barbara Matusiak

“. . .we noticed a group of eight or nine adults, most with Downs Syndrome, coming into the church. Our greeters welcomed them and were told by their chaperone that they lived three houses down from the church.  . . .

For the full story,

reprinted from October 2007

from St. Maximus the Confessor

. . . we are clothed in the body of humiliation

and likewise we are subject

to the manifold evils that arise from it

because if its inherent weakness;

and rather than magnify ourselves over others

in view of the inequality all around us,

we should by prudent consideration

even out the disparity of our nature,

which in its own right is equal in honor,

by filling others’ deficiencies

with our own abundances.

(from Ambiguum 8: On How the Creator Brings Order out of the Chaos of Bodily Existence, p. 76St. Maximus the Confessor‘s understanding of St. Gregory the Theologian‘s teachings, in On the Cosmic Mystery of Jesus Christ, translated by Paul M. Blowers and Robert Louis Wilken, St. Vladimir Press Crestwood, NY, 2003.)

To learn more about St. Maximus the Confessor, click on:

***… ***

Every once in awhile I make an effort to grapple with St. Maximus’ writings; they’re deep. And I thought this one definitely applied to our subject at hand.

Of course St. Paul wrote something similar:

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich. . . . .

I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened; but by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may supply their lack, that their abundance also may supply your lack– that there may be equality.

As it is written, ‘He who gathered much had nothing left over and he who gathered little had no lack.’ [Exodus 16:18]

– Second Letter to the Corinthians chapter 8, verses 9 & 13-15

Clergy retreat focuses on youth & parishioners with special needs

The Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese Clergy retreat on September 24-26, 2008 at Antiochian Village in Ligonier, PA, addressed two issues: the spiritual development of youth and ministering to parishioners with special needs. Click on the enlarged phrase below for a summary of the proceedings:

* * * Brotherhood of St. Joseph of Damascus Clergy Retreat + Sep. 24-26 * * *

Fr. Anthony Yazge shared some of his own personal experiences as Antiochian Village’s pastor (the Special Olympics camp takes place there every summer) and as a father, with persons with disability. The spiritual fathers in attendance also were reminded of St. Paui’s admonition, “On the contrary, the parts of the body which seem to be weaker are indispensable.” (I Cor 12:22)

May the Lord bless this seed, planted in good soil, that it may bear good fruit.

This article also shares a brief account of the Holy New Martyr St. Joseph of Damascus– well worth reading.

Russian Orphanages

(from the ROOF website- the Russian Orphan Opportunity Fund)

An Overview of the Russian Orphanage System

It is difficult to imagine a complex system of different types of institutions operating in the West to take care of hundreds of thousands of unwanted children, where emphasis is on an the individual approach and on cushioning and solving personal tragedy. But we in the west are also very lucky that the general population of most or our home countries is wealthy enough to absorb the social shock that the system receives when children are left without anyone to care for them. In Russia, this is far from being true; at the moment there is simply no alternative to institutional care for the majority of orphaned children. In the long term, ROOF’s main goal is, of course, to work ourselves out of existence. Optimistically, this could take 30 or 40 years-even with an economic upturn. Some older orphanage personnel are now working with their third generation of institutionalised children — social problems run in the family and die hard. But many teachers and directors are completely dedicated to these children who are not their own. And many orphanage directors and staff think that adoption and foster care would be far preferable to institutionalisation. Negative and unhelpful attitudes among staff seem to arise more from feelings of desperation in front of an impossibly difficult situation than from a real belief that this enormous institutional child care system should continue to exist because ‘it’s better for the children.’ For more, click on this:|orphanage%20life

ROOF seeks to work at seven of the many Russian orphanages; two are funded through the end of the year, but five of the efforts had to be discontinued. The orphanage described below is one of these five:

The orphanage in Belskoye-Ustye is a psycho-neurological internat. 120 children live in the internat, which is in the village of Belskoye-Ustye about 20 km from Porkhov, in Pskovskaya Oblast’. ROOF has been working in Belskoye Ustye since 2001. (Click on date for info)

Pictured below: 40 children from Belskoye Ustye Psycho-Neurological Orphanage after the Liturgy, Dec 24, 2006, at St. Nicholas Church, Porkhov, Pskov Province, Russia.On the very left: Fr Sergei Timoshenko, spiritual father and responsible for the Sunday School at the orphanage.

Why is ROOF working in Belskoye-Ustye?

  • The orphanage in Belskoye-Ustye is very poor and the premises are in terrible need of brightening. There is barely enough money to purchase food for the children and they live in cold rooms with bare walls.
  • The children have very little contact with people from the outside world. The orphanage is in a small village that must not have more than about 200 people and is 20 km from Porkhov, which is the closest small town.
  • There are no materials for classes, therefore the children are not working on things that would come easily to them and be good for their development (crafts such as sewing, knitting, carpentry, etc.)
  • The planned fate of these children is fairly grim. Coming out of this type of institution young adults are basically sentenced to a life of nothing more than existence: at the age of 18 they are sent to a psycho-neurological home for adults, many of whom are much worse off mentally and/or physically than the children from Belskoye-Ustye. The internat for adults is also a home for the elderly.
  • Historically, the local population has not treated the children of the orphanage with care and respect. Many of the locals use the children as labour in their gardens and on their farm plots and pay the children for their work in alcohol and cigarettes.

To read the whole story:|orphanages|belskoye%20ustye From any of these pages one can explore the entire ROOF website. I believe it is a fact that the majority of Orthodox Christians in our world are Russian Orthodox. This is the situation for most children with disabilities in their country. The kind of resources listed on the left are not available to them. But there is ROOF, and some others listed in the RESOURCES. But not nearly enough for the need.Perhaps it was not responsible of me to post Grisha’s story first, in light of the great majority who can’t get to where he is because of lack of funds.

But in Christ there is hope, and Grisha’s story demonstrates that lives can be changed and become part of the solution. ( see the previous post:

reprinted from September 2007

practical suggestions for Parish ministry

(from the Orthodox Church in America’s Resource Handbook for Lay Ministry)

Some Practical Suggestions for Parish Ministry to Persons with Special Needs,

by Fr. Stephen Plumlee, 1985. Click below to access: 

This is a very detailed, parish-based, team-oriented plan with the following subtitles:

I. Introduction

II. Find people with special needs.

III. Help the parish be aware.

IV. Administer the program to those with special needs.

V. Conclusion.

Fr. Stephen has laid a good foundation here; let us build on it.

reflecting upon our attitudes toward the disabled

This is another article, this time from 1986, from the Orthodox Church of America’s Resource page by Albert Rossi, Gay Rossi and Stewart Armour, entilted, “No Small Change.” Click below to access:

The authors speak of how persons with disability are mirrors for us, of our woundedness, as well as sacraments and icons of God.

They also address how we all need to acknowledge and face our fears, including our fear of persons with disabilities, with prayer and, practically speaking

quite simply, finding the power to do the thing we are afraid of doing. Usually this is done in small, gradual steps, but means facing fears head on. In the realm of dealing with disabled persons, this means first reflecting upon and identifying our fears. Disabled persons often say that they can clearly sense the high fear level of many “able-bodied” persons, especially religious persons. Some of us “able-bodied” persons, may be afraid of initiating a conversation with a blind parishioner at coffee hour, or offering to have lunch with a cerebral palsied colleague, or volunteering for an occasional trip to the local home for the aged.

The authors finishes the article with suggestions on how to do this.


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