Archive for September, 2014

A online community for the mutual support for Orthodox Families with exceptional family members

733779_278401358958954_148307697_nThe Webpage: Facebook: Koinonia for Exceptional Orthodox Families community

Of course one has to have a Facebook Page to be a part of this community. One also had to join. But one will find a wonderful mix of resources and stories on the site. 

Here’s two stories that have been shared this summer:

Dominic Gondreau’s Special Vocation: To Show People How To Love

Taking Away My Daughter’s Smile

Recommended dinner companions

“But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” (St. Luke 14:13-14)

St. John Chrysostom †407

St. John Chrysostom †407

St. John Chrysostom’s first sermon on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Colossians sets forth a choice; would you rather take part in a rich banquet on fine dinnerware with dignitaries, or share a simple meal with poor, the blind, the lame, and the maimed? Access the sermon here: 


St. John Chrysostom, as you might imagine, chooses the latter option, and argues for it.

JoAnne Misail, host of Embracing Access and the official SCOBA document “Disability and Communion”

Chapter 25 in the book Amazing Gifts: Stories of Faith Disability and Inclusion, by Mark I. Pinsky is about a Greek Orthodox woman. Her story is the first story of Part 2, which relates the stories of Ministries by People with Disabilities. Here are some excerpts from that story, provided by Google Books

JoAnn Misail: Thrust into Untried Territory

The Annunication of the Virgin Mary

A summary of the story: JoAnne, in her middle years, contracted multiple sclerosis. Her first impulse was to withdraw. She contacted the Multiple Sclerosis Society, and through this contact gained a very close friend named Irene, and they would go out with their husbands to concerts and other public events, and would smile at people who stared at them. At her Church, the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation in Boston, Massachusetts, a new priest asked JoAnn to host an informal coffee for other parishioners in her neighborhood. This opened up for JoAnn her sense that she still could make opportunites to serve. 

She enrolled in the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese’ 3 year St. Stephen’s Program. Each year the Program requires a directed study project, and in her final year she organized an event. Here is the bulletin announcement for the event:

Embracing the whole body of Christ Divine Liturgy On Saturday June 10, 2006 the Taxiarchae Parish of Watertown will host a Pan Orthodox Divine Liturgy for both those with special needs and those who want to learn more about special needs. The forum will include personal and professional people who have special needs or have worked in the filed of special needsSt. Demetrios Church, Weston, MA Church Bulletin June 4, 2006 

Source of Icon: OrthodoxWord

In the aftermath of this Divine Liturgy, she formed a group in her home, named Embracing Access, for people with disabilities and their family members.

Another thing I learned from this chapter is that I gave incorrect information a while back as to the author of the SCOBA (Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas) document Disability and Communion. I mistakenly assumed that it was the late Metropolitan Philip of Blessed Memory who was behind this document, as his favorite charity was an ability ministry in the country of Lebanon, Al Kafaat. JoAnn Misail’s story reveals the true author of the document: JoAnn Misail herself, with the editorial help of Father  Deacon. John Chryssavgis. Sorry about that, JoAnn! Thank you for this marvelous declaration!

Here is this official episcopal statement, from the Orthodox Church in America website: Disability and Communion


Experiencing the Mysteries

Even if persons with developmental disability lack the potential to ever reason abstractly, their experience of the Mysteries (the Sacraments) can be just as rich as those who can reach that stage. For the Mysteries have Divine depth, and always beckon one forward to greater participation and fuller comprehension of their import. For the experience ultimately transcends conceptualization.

Fr. John Breck, in the chapter “Down Syndrome at Pascha,” in his book God With Us: Critical Issues In Christian Life And Faith, in the chapter “Down Syndrome at Pascha,” describes such an experience:

Shroud of Christ, was adorned with flowers and venerated by the faithful on Holy Friday


Marie, a woman with Down Syndrome, at the Holy Friday service: (pp. 66-67)

She was entirely dressed in black. Her face was streaked with tears, her head was bowed, and her arms hung down at her sides. As she approached the shroud, she slowly made the sign of the cross three times, prostrated herself before it, and for a moment kept her head to the floor. Then she rose, kissed the face and then the feet of Christ, and finally venerated the Bible and the Cross. “


The Brotherhood of St. Anastasia


a boy from Dom Miloserdia, St. Petersburg, Russia

This Orthodox Christian brotherhood (and sisterhood) cares for the elderly, prisoners, those who are sick, the homeless, and disadvantaged children, through the Dom Miloserdia childrenТs shelter. They also run a youth club.  

Here is their webpage:  The Orthodox Brotherhood of St Anastasia 

The picture is from a webblog authored by Anastasia Ciano entitled Love is the Key. In this post she recounts her experiences at the Dom Miloserdia Orphanage in her post Life, Love, Grace, or Carefree?  She recounts the changes she saw at this orphanage from her stay there (2001- 2002) until her recent internship (2013) in Then and NowTo see more of her pictures, access her Facebook page My Journey

Here is a young lady named Katya’s account of her experience at Dom Miloserdia Working at Dom Miloserdia 

St. Anastasia †304

St. Anastasia the Roman

“Pharmakolyria (Gk): Deliverer from Potions”

(See the website “Mystagogy” below for information and stories on St. Anastasia as a healer of those with mental illness. Most of the stories occurred after she went to be with the Lord, at the Church in Constantinople named after her.)

After the death of her husband Publius, St. Anastasia began to distribute her wealth to the poor. Dressed as a beggar, she would secretly visit Christian prisoners. Through her medical skills and her intercessions many were healed from the effects of poisons and potions.

Arrested in Illyricia, she was brought before the pagan priest Ulpian in Rome. Asked to choose between instruments of torture and gold, jewelry, and fine clothing, she chose the instruments of torture.

Charmed by her beauty, Ulpias sought to defile her, and was struck with blindness and a severe headache. On the way to his pagan temple to appeal to his idols, he perished.

Anastasia was set free, and continued to visit Christian prisoners. But she was again captured and sentenced to death by starvation. St. Theodota the Martyr, whom she had assisted in prison, appeared to her to strengthen her. After remaining unharmed sixty days without food, she was sentenced to die with 120 other prisoners.

On the open sea, the sailors bored holes in the boat and escaped in a galley. But St. Theodota guided to boat safely to shore. 120 men saw this, and believed and were baptized. They were all captured and martyred for Christ.

Stretched between four pillars. St. Anastasia was burned alive. Her body, unharmed by the fire, was buried by a  pious woman, Apollinaria, in the garden by her house. Her relics were later translated to a church that was built and dedicated to her in Constantinople. Some time after this, her head and one hand were transferred to the Monastery of St. Anastasia on Mt. Athos. Anastasia the Deliverer fro Potions:

Kontakion in the Second Tone

When they that are found in trials and adversities flee unto thy church O Anastasia, they receive the august and wondrous gifts of divine grace which doth abide in thee; for at all times, O Saint of God, thou pourest forth streams of healings for the world.

Those in temptations and afflictions hasten to your temple and are restored by the grace that dwells in you, for you ever pour forth healings for all the world,O great Martyr Anastasia!

Troparion in the Fourth Tone

Your lamb Anastasia, calls out to You, O Jesus, in a loud voice: “I love You, my Bridegroom, and in seeking You I endure suffering. In baptism I was crucified so that I might reign in You, and I died so that I might live with You. Accept me as a pure sacrifice, for I have offered myself in love.” Through her prayers save our souls, since You are merciful.

Troparion in the Fifth Tone

As a martyr you emulated the deeds of the martyrs, to whom you ministered, and, striving valiantly, you overcame the enemy. You are an abundant and overflowing source of grace for all who come to you, O godly-minded Anastasia!

Other Sources: St. Anastasia, the Deliverer from Potions

Mystagogy: Why is Saint Anastasia Known as the “Deliverer From Potions” (Pharmakolytria)? Western Saints Icon Project (Source of Icon)


Dr. John Boojamra ☦1999: on Orthodox Christian Socialization

“art, music, vestments, color, and tastes”

In his book “Foundations for Orthodox Christian Education” Dr. John Boojamra of blessed memory lays out the key means by which persons are socialized. This, of course, includes persons with disabilities.

Addressing the personal development of persons with disability, including those with intellectual disabilities, proceeds on the same basic foundation that applies to everybody else. They, too, are made in the image of God. Yes, adjustments must be made, but not by putting them in another category. The word “special” must not be taken as “different.” It should mean that they are to be recipients of greater honor, as both  St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 12:24  and St. James in St. James 1:9 affirm.

Consider these statements from the book:

The family and the Church, in that order, are the matrix of socialization. (P. 10)

Orthodox Christian socialization is, in general terms, the process of human growth toward the uniting of oneself and others to Christ and His Church.

Those who have not, (or perhaps never will) reach the stage of abstract reasoning learn by experience, by watching- it is therefore imperative to include them in Church events. (pp 42-43)

Prayer by rote is one of the steps to sharing in the adult world. (P. 50)

Self-worth develops through accomplishment, acceptance, and a sense of belonging to both family and Church . . . the Church’s symbols and their constancy are assimilated; later, concepts [may] grow. The growth beyond egocentrism is facilitated by the shared experience of [these] symbolic structures, [whose] Divine depth invite eternal growth and discovery of the image of God inherent in every person.

The sensual- art, music, vestments, color, and tastes, experienced in the Liturgy- is the way (p. 53) Christ became flesh; touch is essential. Liturgy, fasting, prayer, and service, at Church and at home, socialize a person into [active citizenship] in the Kingdom. (p. 55)

Two key ingredients for socialization in the family: 1. the father’s commitment to the Faith and to love; 2. a loving relationship between the husband and wife (p. 80)

The Church and the lateral relationships it provides undergirds its families. (PP. 91-93)

Parish-based family-centered catechesis, balancing cognitive and affective elements, and addressing family efforts to worship, play, learn, and serve together, are a priority for the liturgy after the Liturgy if the parish is to be healthy, cohesive, and growing. (pp. 95-97)

The Church could be a clearinghouse for family support specialists; workshops by such specialists would be helpful. (P. 170)

The Book: Google Books: Foundations of Christian Education 

A Memorial:  John Boojamra ☦1999 

Image from


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