Archive for June, 2011

St. Meriadoc †688

(also known as Meriadec, Meriasek) 

St. Meriadoc is counted is an intercessor for the deaf. His Feast Day is June 7.

“Poverty is a remover of cares and the mother of holiness.” – Saint Meriadoc.

Meriadoc, though venerated especially in Cornwall and Brittany, was probably a Welshman who lived in the 5th or 6th century. He came toCornwall and founded several churches, one of which at Camborne was once dedicated to him. He became renowned in these parts and a miracle play in Cornish still survives, recounting his legendary exploits.

He then crossed over into Brittany, where his memory is still strong. In the 16th-century church at Plougasnou is a reliquary containing what may well be part of Meriadoc’s skull. At Stival is preserved what is believed to be his bell. Placed on the heads of the deaf and those suffering migraine, it is said to heal them. Some documents state that Meriadoc even became bishop of Vannes at a time when it was one of the most important cities of Brittany.

Meriadoc had been a rich man. Before becoming a hermit he gave all his money to poor clerics, distributing his lands to the needy. So great became his reputation for sanctity that he feared he would become vain and retired even further from the world. Instead of the silks and purple that he once wore, Meriadoc new dressed in rags, eating simple food, living in complete poverty.

When his relatives tried to make him leave his new life and return to the world, he told the viscount of Rohan who had come with these relatives that he would be better engaged extirpating the thieves and robbers of the neighbourhood. The viscount took the saint at his word, and a great evil was removed from Brittany.

Although Meriadoc was unanimously elected bishop of Vannes, he took the bishopric reluctantly. After his consecration he continued a life of abstinence and love for the poor. He died kissing his brethren and crying, “Into your hands, Lord, I commend my Spirit” (Bentley).

from [celt-saints] 7 June

Other Online Sources for St. Meriodoc

The Onion Dome: June 7th – Daniel of Scetis and Meriadoc of Vannes

The 7th Day of the Month of June 

Troparion of St. Meriadoc Tone 4

O Meriadoc holy hermit,/ through thy simplicity thou didst draw many souls to God./ Near the church of the Mother of God in Camborne/ thou didst cause a healing well to rise./ We glorify God Who has glorified thee.

Merrys Cloister: Pray for us St. Meriadoc (a blog named after the Saint, that both author and reader may rise to the challenge of waiting and listening) 



Receiving the Gift of Friendship, by Hans S. Reinders

Dr. Hans Reinders

Receiving the Gift of Friendship: Profound Disability, Theological Anthropology, and Ethics, by Hans S. Reinders. (2009) Though he is not an Orthodox Christian, he incorporates the writings of His Eminence John Zizoulas into his work as one of the keys to the aim of his work, along with a quote from St. Symeon the New Theologian.

Briefly (the book is 379 pages), his acquaintance with a person with profound intellectual disabilities- Kelly,  stimulated Dr. Reinders to explore the basis by which we may assert with confidence that Kelly is indeed human. Not that this basis is a human perspective- he carefully lays a theological foundation to show that her humanity has a Divine basis.

His quest finds resonance with these words by His All Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew:

Just as Plato sought the perfect society by looking at the condition of the human person “writ large,” so we must discover in the human person the very qualities that will enable us to transcend division and achieve not mere unions of cooperation but the fundamental unity that links every person to one another.

In “Religious Communities in the European Union, (Brussels, 09/04/2008)” Chapter 4, “Church and World: Global Perspectives,” P. 163, In the World, Yet Not Of the World: Social and Global Initiatives of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, and John Chryssavgis, ed., Fordham University Press, NY: 2010.

Reinders’  book is a challenging read. The philosophers and theologians discussed in the book (along with their views on personhood) include Aristotle, St. Iranaeus, Augustine, Aquinas, Kant, Barth, as well as a contemporary writers who have also explored aspects of the subject.

In the first two parts, Reinders struggles against all arguments with implications that humanity is based on functionality. Ultimately it is the love of God and His gift of human life that form the basis for personhood. It isn’t achieved, not in the initiation nor in the consummation- the “telos” of our life on this earth. Those who have accomplished nothing are still human persons.

His Eminence John Zizoulas’ writings on Trinitarian and ecstatic being and on ecclesial and relational personhood are discussed in detail. Reinders takes issue with certain phrases in his work, chiefly in regard to how

“man can henceforth . . . affirm his existence as personal not on the basis of the immutable laws of nature, but on the basis of a relationship with God which is identified with what Christ in freedom and love possesses as the Son of Good with the Father.” (Being as Communion, P. 56, italics added) from Receiving the Gift of Friendship, P.269

For Reinders, this very movement to affirm one’s existence leaves out persons who are profoundly disabled.

But for the Orthodox Christian, man, even fallen man in the utter weakness of the bondage to and fear of death, retains free will. A relationship with God involves synergy, cooperation, faith working through love, in Christ.

For to everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask more. (St. Luke 12:48)

And would not the corollary be that to him who has been given little or nothing (case in point- a person with profoundly disability), little or nothing will be required  of him? Elder Paisios of Mt. Athos, of blessed memory (†1994), says of persons with developmental disability, that

their souls are already saved [. . .] without making any efforts [they] have earned Paradise. (3 Ageloglou, Priestmonk Christodoulos, Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain (Mt. Athos, Greece: Holy Mountain, 1998) 138)

Ultimately, though, its not what we do, but what we are that will be decisive. We will, though, be judged for our works, (2 Corinthians 5:10) though ultimately the inner motivation for these works will be decisive. (“out of the heart proceeds . . . St. Matthew 15:18-20) But one might reasonably infer that since to “every one to whom much is given, of him much is required,” (St. Luke 12:48) to those to whom little is given, little will be required.

Many Protestant Christians believe in monergy, in which God alone acts in conferring grace. We Orthodox hold that this compromises the human free will. As our Lord Jesus Christ says,

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. (Revelations 3:20)

Reinders, though, never uses the word “monergy.” He emphasizes that in our relationships, with God and others, including persons with profound disability, receiving is the key, rather than giving.

But then what of “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35)?

St. James does write, “let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak . . . (St. James 1:19a) This places the priority on receiving.  And again,

Elder Paisios stressed that our acts are worthwhile only if they are done out of a grateful predisposition. He always urged us not to struggle out of self interest, but rather out of responsive gratefulness. Even our faith in God should be based on our gratefulness.

from Responsive Gratefulness in the Spiritual Life in

For Reinders, as I read him, the social contribution of persons with profound disability, realized for those who are in a relationship of friendship with them, is a personal lesson in the reality that “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights …” (St. James 1:18, and and also in the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysosotom) All we have is from God, all we know is what we’ve learned from others. Every moment of our existence, everything we have, is from God. Trust is the key; we trust Him, and in others, too, for the expertise we lack in so many of the things we take for granted. As Jesus says,

Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. -St. Matthew 18:2

And does this not mean childlike trust, a total dependence upon our heavenly Father’s continual sustenance? This is how I understand Reinders’ meaning. And is this not in accord with how we worship and how we believe?

And this is but one way- one we can understand- that the profoundly disabled contribute. In the great mystery of God’s economy this may be but the tip of the iceberg.

Reinders also brings forward the ministry of L’Arche, a worldwide Roman Catholic- based ministry in which persons who commit themselves to relationships with persons with intellectual disabilities find themselves- from their own testimonies- that  if they “stick it out” through the inner struggle that such a commitment entails- they experience illumination through their realization of their own brokenness, and of the Healer of their brokenness.

The winner of the 2009 North American Antiochian Orthodox Christian oratorical contest, Joel Schaefer, shared a similar experience he had in his week at the Special Olympics Camp at Antiochian Village. Its about three quarters of the way down the page, though the whole thing is inspirational, and puts the experience in context:

Reinders’ affirms the Holy Spirit as “the transforming Friend.” (P. 310, from James Houston, The Transforming Friendship, p. 118) Reinders writes, “Why this transformation must be extrinsically [from outside, or above] grounded is brought out clearly in a saying that has been attributed to an ancient voice, Symeon the New Theologian:

When the three-personed Diety dwells within the saints and is known and felt to be present, it is not the fulfillment of desire, but the cause and the beginning of a much greater and more fervent desire. (from Hymns of Divine Love, tr. George A. Mahoney {NJ: Dimension Books})

As Orthodox Christians we can affirm that all good is from above, without subscribing to monergy. The glorious truth of man’s creation in God’s image- a gift of Grace in itself- is incompatible with the view of fallen man as totally depraved and ultimately unable to respond to God at all. Our being made in God’s image is irrevocable; its who we are, from the least to the greatest.  But it is also only through the Holy Spirit’s agency, by which we abide in Christ, according to the great love of the Father, that our responses (or even our unavoidable lack of responses, as in the case of persons with profound disability)  become building blocks toward the fulfillment of our “telos,” (goal and destiny): likeness to God, the realization of the   “image.” And we realize this not as individuals, but together; together we are being built as a holy temple in the Lord. (St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians chapter 2)

I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. -St. John 15:3

Persons with profound disability are fully human, but it is not normative humanity, and all of us, fallen as we are, share this predicament with them. Only in our Lord Jesus is normative humanity; He is the authentic human Person. (And He is God from all eternity- fully human, fully God, one Person. Glory to Him!) In the Son, “the express image” of the Father, (Heb. 1:3) we may have likeness to God. And how we come to this telos through Christ differs for each person, according to what each of us has been given. Our Lord Jesus Christ is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” (St. John 14:6)

Ordering information for the book:

Dr. Hans S. Reinders is the chairman of the European Society for the Study of Theology and Disability

How Divine Liturgy Changes Us

Symbolism, Ritual and Revelation

In this post His Grace Archbishop Lazar Puhalo explores how regular participation in the Divine Liturgy changes us- how, literally, it brings about changes- for the good- in our brain function.

His Grace’s purpose for this post is to address efforts at liturgical reform which would reduce repetition and “simplify” the Orthodox Christian Divine Liturgy. He opposes these efforts.

In the summoning of the various realities which address this aim, His Grace mentions the therapies by means of which persons with learning disabilities or brain damage retrain their brains.

 The Arrowsmith School in Toronto specializes in teaching people to “rewire” their brains in order to overcome learning disabilities.  . . .

It is through repetition of actions, phrases and words, particularly in fixed symbolic contexts, that this restructuring takes place. It is known that neurons and synapses in the brain can be strengthened by repetition, by repeated engagement of the neurons and neuro-communication.

Both the Jesus Prayer, which Orthodox Christians repeat toward obedience to the exhortation by St. Paul that we “pray constantly,” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) and Orthodox Christian liturgical services provide contexts through which repetitious actions can rewire and transform us toward conformity to the Divine Likeness.

This rewiring has implications for us all- including persons with cognitive disabilities.

ROCOR Orthodox Christian Mission in Haiti


Haiti: the children of the Orthodox Christian School

 A July 25, 2009 interview with the Father Gregoire Lagoute, from whom we learn that the mission includes centers for children with disabilities:

The Mission’s Website:

The Photo Page from the Website:

The News Page: 

Here’s a letter written Jan 27/Feb 9, 2010 after the earthquake in Haiti describing the damage that the mission incurred. Many of their buildings were seriously damaged, and became unusable, including the Home of Love in Haiti for children with handicaps and developmental disability. There is a plea for financial assistance:

Fund for Assistance: Haiti (the most up-to-date news is on this page) 

The ROCOR Mission Weblog Haiti Page:

photo from Schole’

A Parish accessible for both visual and auditory impairments in Moscow

In September 2009 I shared a post from Incendiary: a daily living reproach which they have before their eyes, entitled Icons for the Blind:

This was in regard to an Iconostasis with 3-D icons (which people with visual impairment may touch) in a Parish Church in Lipetsk, Russia.

There is also a Parish Church in Moscow, Russia with both 3-D icons for the blind and sign language for the deaf: the Tikhvin Icon of our Lady Temple. Read and view (by means of a 2 minute long video) the story on RT: Sign Language of the Cross:

toward better accessibility for visually impaired persons

Recently Khorea Frederica Matthewes-Green, wife of Archpriest Gregory Matthewes-Green, the spiritual Father and Pastor of the parish of Holy Cross Antiochian Orthodox Church in Linthicum, Maryland, interviewed Tim Mehok of Saints Peter & Paul OCA Church in Lorain, Ohio. Tim has visual impairments, and he has some insights as to how parishes can improve their service to people with visual impairments. This is a 21 minute audio interview from Ancient Faith Radio from March 10, 2011:

Tim mentions a lot of practical issues, such as the fact that people with visual impairments need help with transportation, since they can’t drive. He also mentions how helpful bells on the censers are.

There was also discussion concerning the value of 3-D icons which have a tactile element. There are parishes in Russia which are addressing this, but of course the need is everywhere. Here are the Russian ones: & 

Khorea Frederica suggested an Orthodox Christian business which could meet this need in the USA, Figula and Daughters: 

Tim also mentioned some online resources which could make websites accessible to persons with visual impairment: 

GW Micro 

Freedom Scientific 

Toward accessible Orthodox Christian parishes

The Accessible Church

by the Very Reverend Father John Matusiak  –Rector of St. Joseph Church, Wheaton, IL; managing editor of the publication “The Orthodox Church;” and secretary of the Orthodox Church of America’s Diocese of the Midwest.> (at the time this article was written)

 The rights of people with handicapping conditions first received the support of federal law with the enactment of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Title V, Section 504, prohibits discrimination against qualified persons with handicapping conditions in federally-assisted programs or activities solely on the basis of disability.During the years immediately following enactment, administrators and advocates learned that non-discrimination is more difficult to practice with the disabled than in cases of racial or sexual discrimination. The reason is that people with disabilities may need different treatment than others for equal access to public life. That realization prompted demonstrations at Health, Education, and Welfare offices across the country and led to the development of the Section 504 regulation in 1977.For the most part, churches have ignored the needs of the disabled, and many church buildings are virtually inaccessible. Steps, pew placement, inaccessible washroom facilities, and insensitivity to the needs of the disabled in general have posed problems for decades. Yet as we consider the means by which the Orthodox Church in America can effectively evangelize, grow, and reach out to everyone — including the disabled — we should consider accessibility one of our top priorities, as every parish can expect that one out of four of its members will be handicapped at some point in life. A major attitudinal barrier to overcome is the idea that people with disabilities are people in need. As Orthodox Christians we should strive to see people as having abilities instead of disabilities, capable of offering leadership and a host of other talents to the Church and community. The parish which truly seeks to evangelize as Christ commanded will welcome all people, as Christ Himself did.

Building Language


Let’s consider a few facts.

The disabled persons are not necessarily handicapped. A handicap exists when the disabled person cannot overcome a barrier. Therefore the responsibility for accessibility is in those who create barriers or who should remove such barriers once their presence is recognized.

Buildings send messages in what might be termed “building language.” The message that church buildings need to say is “welcome.” A church building or parish hall with countless steps, inadequate sound systems, or inaccessible facilities surely does not extend a warm invitation to the disabled.

We may fool ourselves that proposed structural changes are planned only for the permanently disabled people. Not so. At any moment many able-bodied parishioners are recovering from illness or are temporarily in casts or on crutches. Further, every parishioner is growing older. These are all conditions which benefit from “barrier-free” access to our church facilities.

One of the purposes of the Church is the maintenance of Christian fellowship. We assume that it is a person’s desire to continue active involvement in worship and in fellowship as long as life will allow. On the other hand, every parish has its list of homebound parishioners who are no longer active. The decision to be homebound is theirs. They perceive that, given their disability, to leave home and enter the church building or hall is too difficult. If every church building could be barrier free, the greater part of the perceived difficulty will have been removed.

Assessing Needs

An Accessibility Audit is one of the easiest ways of discovering architectural barriers, and considering the different ways in which these barriers can be removed is usually quite simple.

Determining costs, procedures, and the time involved in removing physical barriers is more difficult. But with such information in hand, decisions, plans, and implementation take place at whatever pace a particular parish accepts.

Awareness-building might proceed more quickly if able-bodied parishioners used a wheelchair or crutches to tour their parish facilities in order to experience first hand some of the problems faced by disabled persons.

It is also essential to recognize the fact that we are long past that time when the need for accessibility developed. The long list of those now considered shut-in makes that self-evident. We need also to remember that removing existing architectural barriers will not, of itself, return to active parish life those who are comfortably established in their home-bound lifestyle. Those for whom we are becoming barrier free are, primarily, those who are presently active and those becoming active as time goes on, the one out of four who will become disabled at some point in their lives. Our goal should be to extend their time of active participation for as long as possible.

What Is An Accessible Church?

An accessible church is one that has overcome:

The physical or architectural barriers that make it difficult for people with handicaps to enter or to participate fully;

The attitudinal barriers that keep them from feeling welcome. Of the two, the attitudinal barrier is the most difficult to overcome. Once awareness, sensitivity, and understanding are achieved, the removal of physical barriers becomes an easy task.

 Attitudinal barriers might be more easily overcome if we kept the following points in mind:

People with disabilities also have many gifts and talents given to them by God. We are all called to be stewards of our own gifts and to encourage others to share theirs as well.

Disabled people should be included in parish leadership roles. When planning programs, learn firsthand the needs of the whole parish.

Parishioners may have relatives with handicapping conditions who are anticipating or experiencing attitudinal or physical barriers. Listen to their fears or anger and involve them in the process of change.

To assure that people with visual disabilities can fully participate in liturgical services, contact your local society for the blind. For little or no cost they will gladly assist you in producing prayer books and other religious literature in Braille or large-type.

Christianity has a long and unfortunate history of excluding hearing-impaired persons. St. Augustine, an early Christian writer, declared that deaf persons could not be Christians because they could not “hear the Word.” Past mistakes do not justify continued insensitivity. Since it is generally impossible to offer services with sign language interpretations, consider better sound amplification, which can be accomplished by installing a “loop” system in the pews. Your local society for the hearing-impaired will provide information about mechanical means of access.

Non-sighted persons will want to move around parish facilities independently. Ushers or greeters can express their welcome by orienting them immediately to steps, doors, and corridors.

Several modifications may need to be made for equal access by those in wheelchairs. Can they move freely around the church? Are some pews shorter than others thereby allowing persons in wheelchairs to be part of a row rather than an appendage of the worshipping congregation?

When your parish has learned to integrate people with handicapping conditions into its life of service, you may want to explore new opportunities for outreach and evangelization by noting in parish publications, phone directory listings, and advertisements that the church building is accessible to the disabled. It is a proven fact that the disabled will more readily join churches which are accessible.

Because of its history of barring those with disabilities, the Church is challenged to seek out people with handicapping conditions and invite their participation in a common ministry. Elimination of architectural barriers, as vital as it is, is not enough. An on-going ministry to the disabled should be an integral part of every progressive parish.

From the Orthodox Church of America’s online Resource Handbook for Lay Ministries’ Parish Development Page, , by Permission


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