Archive for December, 2009

God has chosen the foolish things of the world . . . to bring to nothing the things that are

Wolf Wolfensberger, in The Theological Voice of Wolf Wolfensberger, writes, “Mentally retarded people play a uniquely prophetic role in this age.” Wolfensberger pioneered normalization and social role valorization in the field of mental retardation. He feels this age has made an idol of technology, and that it is not only out of control, but now has the potential to destroy the human race in numerous ways. He writes, “The systems we are creating escape the human capacity of management.” He sees it as another version of the Tower of Babel, one “God is about to confront.” God will do this through the simplicity and gentleness of mentally retarded people, whose lives are the very antithesis of the idol of progress. He tells some astonishing stories which he sees as prophetic, such as the very severely retarded man, who, beyond his level of capability, said, “This is my body.” “God has chosen the foolish things of the world [. . .] to bring to nothing the things that are” (1 Cor. 1:27-28). (from St John Chrysostom and the Socialization of Persons with Developmental Disability: Patristic Inspiration for Contemporary Application” by William Gall)

MORE OF WOLFENSBERGER’S INSIGHTS ON THE PROPHETIC MESSAGE GIVEN BY PERSONS WITH COGNITIVE DISABILITIES , from “Disabled Christianity” a blog by Jeff McNair, Special Ed professor at Cal Baptist University (Aug. 23, 2005):

So I asked myself, what are the prophetic signs which appear to be unique or very special to our day, which are very different from what they have been at other times. . . Where and how is the Spirit active today in a way that is different from the way it may have been in other eras?
As I posed these questions to myself over the past few years, I began to read both the signs of dysfunctionality and of prophecy in a different and clearer fashion, and I read one very, very powerful prophetic message, coming from mentally retarded people. For instance, I considered that it should not be unexpected if divine messages about the present patterning of offenses should come from people who, in their roles and identities, are exactly the opposite of what our era idolotrates. Who and what is the opposite? The opposite is a person who is not intellectual, not scientific, not technological, and not academic; who does simple instead of complex things; who cannot cope with complexity, and technology which passes him by; and who, possibly, is despised for lack of modernity and intellectuality. Is that not the retarded persons of our age?
But if it is, is there any evidence that God has thrust retarded people into a prophetic role? I submit to you that there is indeed . . .

The article goes on to list 10 signs to substantiate the possibility that persons with cognitive disability are indeed carrying a prophetic message.

-Mentally Retarded Persons are Becoming Much More Public and Visible
-Retarded People are Becoming Internationally Known
-Non-Handicapped and Handicapped Persons are Sharing Their Lives, Often Living Together
-Retarded Persons are Gentling Others
-The Prophetic Manifestation of the Presence of God via Retarded People
-Retarded People Speaking in Tongues
-Retarded People may Withstand Their Culture
-Retarded People May Be Parodying Intellectualism
-The Dance of Spiritual Joy
-Retarded People Are Beginning to Be Persecuted and Martyred

(The “speaking in tongues” refers to instances when persons with cognitive disability who usually speak very little and even then very unclearly say something very clearly that is profound, such as “This is my Body.” The martyrdom referred to is the high percentage of unborn children found to have disabilities that are aborted. Some of these prophetic signs remain unclear to me. A more thorough re-reading Wolf Wolfensberger would probably help clear some of them up.)

From my prior reading of the book I do remember that many of these impressions Wolf received that people with developmental disability are prophetic to our age came from experiences with L’Arche community gatherings. L’Arche is a worldwide community, Roman Catholic in origin but now encompassing many other kinds of Christians (including a few Orthodox Christians) in which people without developmental disabilities share their lives with those with developmental disabilities- living together.

This is not an Orthodox mission, and there are no Orthodox missions like it that I know of , though in the monastic vision of St. Basil the Great, which included service to needy people, there would be a place for something like it. Until it happens, in the meantime, the challenge remains to incorporate the gifts of people with disabilites- prophetic or otherwise- into our parish families.

The Theological Voice of Wolf Wolfensberger, by William C. Gaventa & David L. Coulter:

and for confirmation of these insights, read the story in this previous post:

reprinted from 2007 & 2008


The Mighty One put on insecurity



St. Ephrem

Christ is born. Glorify Him!

Another blog, Amo Ergo Sum, (created by Franklin Tait) has posted my favorite Nativity verses from my patron saint St. Ephrem the Syrian, one of the Church’s all-time greatest poets. For more on St. Ephrem the Syrian at the website where I found the icon, and for three stanzas of St. Ephrem’s Hymn on the Nativity, respectively, see the two website addresses listed below: &

Here’s the stanza from the verses:

The Mighty One entered, and put on insecurity
from her womb; the Provisioner of all entered
– and experienced hunger; He who gives drink to all entered
– and experienced thirst: naked and stripped
there came forth from her He who clothes all.

 St. Ephrem the Syrian, pray for us.

Nativity Icon








Today the Virgin gives birth to the Transcendent One,
And the earth offers a cave to the Unapproachable One!
Angels with shepherds glorify Him!
The wise men journey with a star!
Since for our sake the Eternal God was born as a Little Child!

St. Ephrem is commemorated on Jan.28 with St. Isaac the Syrian, who also has a good word for Christmas:

This Christmas night, peace was bestowed upon the whole world;
so let no one threaten.
This is the night of the Most Gentle One;
let no one be cruel.
This is the night of the Most Humble One;
let no one be proud.
Now is the day of joy;
let us not seek revenge.
Now is the day of goodwill;
let us not be mean.
In this day of peace let us not be conquered by anger.

(This quote was shared with me and all those on the Orthodox Peace Fellowship conversation list by Alex Patico.)

“Abilities:” Al-Kafaat

His Eminence Metropolitan Philip, at the 2007 Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese Convention in Montreal, Canada, spoke of a ministry in the country of Lebanon- one that he is the most personally committed to supporting: Al-Kafaat. Al-Kafaat is the Arabic word for “abilities.” This ministry is a multi-dimensional support system for persons with disabilities. It is listed on the blogroll to the right. Here is the web address:

The group was founded by Nadeem H. Shwayri and his wife Lily. Here’s the story from their website:

In 1957, a young MBA-graduate while at this early beginnings in active life and enjoying a good position at a financial company, decides to renounce the stardom of businesses and stock exchanges, to devote his life and fortune to serving the poor and destitute. Born himself into a wealthy family, from a father who since age 14 forced into exile to the New world, thrived to fame and fortune in a story-telling epic of an “American-Dream”, and a mother, linguist and religious, proud and charismatic, whose presence bore unto the family a cast of strength and humility.

The young Nadeem Shwayri aged 21 and the same year his father passed away, declined his lucrative work involvement, and started, by himself, a small-time leather factory in one of the ill-serviced slums of Beirut. For companions, he chose among the “rejects” of the Society a blind, a crippled and a deaf, a triumvirate who by 1972 will develop into a large working family of 170, all with disabilities, delivering quality leather goods to 10 American and European destinations. The action undertaken will receive that same year, the highest of distinctions from the president of the Republic (Order of the Cedar).


Proof was made that any person with disabilities of any sort, if given the appropriate training and an adapted environment, can be productive and foster economic wealth to society. “Potentials, not Handicaps” became the mission statement of Al-Kafaàt (read “Abilities” in Arabic).

Since, Al-Kafaàt developed into a Foundation having earned the quasi-totality of the fortunes cumulated from the inheritances of both the founder and his wife. Most of the centers of the Foundation (6 of 7) have been erected on estates beheld from past family fortunes.

In 50 years, Al-Kafaàt has served over 25,000 persons with disabilities and social disadvantages, and brings, to our day, social, medical and educational rehabilitation, and fosters integration, to some 4.500 daily beneficiaries from all communities and walks of life.

Reprinted from August 2008

from ora et labora: Blessed Matrona of Moscow

Blessed Matrona

Blind, paralyzed … a prophetess and healer. Blessed Matrona pray for us!

For her story: The anonymous blogger refers to The Synaxarion: The Lives of the Saints concerning her. Excerpts:

blind from birth, her eyes lacking pupils, she bore this infirmity with humility and patience, and God, in his turn, made her an elect vessel of grace. At the moment of her baptism, the priest saw a light cloud above the child, which shed forth a sweet fragrance as a sign of divine favor. From the age of six or seven, she exhibited an extraordinary gift of insight, discerning sicknesses of soul and body in the many people who visited her, revealing to them their secret sins and their problems, and healing them through prayer and wise counsel. . . . .

When she reached the age of seventeen, she was seized with paralysis and was unable to walk from then on. Knowing that this was God’s will, she never bemoaned her state but thanked the Lord. . . . .

One day when some visitors commiserated with her about her disablement, she replied: “A day came on which God opened my eyes, and I saw the light of the sun, the stars and all that exists in the world: the rivers, the forests, the sea and the whole of creation.” . . . .

Saint Matrona led the ascetic life on her bed of pain. She fasted constantly, slept little, her head resting on her chest, and her forehead was dented by the innumerable signs of the Cross that she made. Not only the Muscovites but also people from afar, of all ages and conditions, thronged around her to ask her advice and her prayers. In this way she truly became the support of the afflicted people, especially during the Second World War.

Before falling asleep in peace on 2 May/19 April 1952, she cried out: “Come close, all of you, and tell me of your troubles as though I were alive! I’ll see you, I’ll hear you, and I’ll come to your aid.” Miracles were multiplied at her tomb . . . .

See also: Mystagogy: St. Matrona the blind of Moscow + 1952

Image from

St. Nicholas rejoices

For those who don’t know this, St. Nicholas was a real person, a fourth century bishop from Myra in Lycia (Asia Minor, modern day Turkey). He was especially known for being extraordinarily generous.

My favorite story about him:

A desperately poor father feels forced to take a drastic and horrific step- selling his two daughters, who cannot afford doweries to get married,  into slavery (this tragedy still happens in third world countries). St. Nicholas digs into his personal resources. In the middle of the night, he quietly approaches the house of this man and his daughters and throws two bags of gold through the window into the house and quickly slips away to escape notice. So now the daughters can afford doweries; they will not be sold into slavery.

I will not speculate as to how this story became known.

This is how I remember the story; here’s a web page that corrects me. It was 3 daughters. Read the whole story:

Khorea Donna Farley shares a story she feels would rejoice St. Nicholas’ heart, a year ago, about a disabled man who built a boat with ice cream sticks, and sailed it:

Check out a picture of the Viking Ship: 


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