Archive for January, 2016

A Letter to the Church

This is a letter from a woman named Monica, an autist. It is a challenge, a plea, to the Orthodox Church to take responsibility for people with autism, mental illness, and developmental disabilities. She writes,

. . . . Church is inclusive in that there are no statements made regarding salvation of people with brain differences, people with mental problems, people whose IQ scores do not reach triple digits etc. Quite the opposite, it is frequently stated that the Church believes that Gods mercy most certainly extends to people such as us, and He’ll know what to do with us.

I fully agree, He certainly will. Yet by stating that God will know what to do with us, you make it abundantly clear that you do not. By stating that because of a disorder, there’s no responsibility for our salvation on our part, and God will know what to do, you basically absolve yourself of responsibility as well.

God will know, we can be sure of that and freely depend on His mercy. Yet what are you doing in the meantime? . . .

She continues:

. . . . We want to grow closer to God, . . .  we just don’t always do well with the available tools, and need a hand finding those that do work. We want to be a part of the Church, and part of our churches. We need your help.

Please read the entire letter; it’s not long. Really, it sums up everything Arms Open Wide is about- developing our Orthodox Christian understanding of how to serve and involve in our Church life, our Divine-human life, the life which is life indeed, both those among us as well as those out there who may well come to be among us who are different, and those who are disabled.

To access:

A Letter to the Church


Victoria M. Kattouf, Visionary – ☦2011

My wife and I visited Victoria Kattouf’s parish, St. George Church in Altoona, Pennsylvania, a  number of years ago to hear a guest speaker, and we met her and her son, Subdeacon Gregory, who has Down Syndrome. We had a conversation with both of them; they seemed to us to be very devoted people. Victoria Kattouf died four years ago today, at the age of 91. The three webpages below consist of two obituaries, both of which refer to her zealous advocacy for people with disabilities. The second webpage has a picture of her and her son. The third relates the story of Gregory’s elevation to the subdiaconate. 

Victoria Kattouf remembered as visionary in regard to creating opportunities for people with disabilities 

Victoria M. Kattouf

Subdeacon Gregory Kattouf

January 24: The Feast of St. Xenia of St. Petersburg ☦1798

St. Xenia of Petersburg

  The following webpage describes the celebration of the feast of St. Xenia of Petersburg at the St. Elizabeth Convent in Minsk, Russia. St. Xenia is the Convent’s patron saint. First, there is the Divine Liturgy. First things first. Then there is a dinner, where many loving thoughts and feelings are shared:

Day of St Xenia of Petersburg, Our Patron Saint

 St. Xenia is known to be an effective intercessor for those without a home or a job, or with an illness of some sort. She also has been recommended as an intercessor for those with mental illness.  Her feast day is January 24, New Calendar, February 4, Old Calendar.
 St. Xenia Orthodox Church in Methuen, MA (USA) devotes a troparion and a story of her life to their webpage: 
Here is the Orthodox Church of America’s page devoted to St. Xenia: 
Here is another life of St. Xenia by Nun Nectaria McLees, as well as an Orthodox Christian ballad by Kathleen Patitsas with introductions byArchimandrite Nektarios Serfes on his website: 

A life of St. Xenia of Petersburg with two troparions and a kontakion on the webpage of Holy Protection Russian Orthodox Church, 2049 Argyle Ave. Los Angeles, California 90068: 

Another life of St. Xenia,  with two excellent holy icons of her, from St. Xenia Cathedral in Kanata, Ontario, Canada:

Icon from Orthodoxy in NWA:

Saint Cadoc of Llancarvan †580

 St. Cadoc is commemorated by the Orthodox Church on January 24.

He is counted in the West to be an intercessor for persons with hearing problems and deafness, as well as scrofula and glandular disorders. He was from Wales. 

A monastic, he spread the faith of Christ in both Wales and Brittany (Northern France), establishing Churches in these places. In addition to the monastery at Llancarvan in Wales, he built a stone monastery in Scotland.  He also lived with St. Gildas as a hermit on a small island off the coast of Brittany for a time. 

Sources Venerable Cadoc, Abbot of Llancasrfan in Wales 

The Wikipedia entry on St. Cadoc  associates him with King Arthur. There is also mention of the locale in Brittany where “he is called upon to cure the deaf:” 

Source of Icon: Orthodox Outlet for Dogmatic Enquiries:

Disabled unborn children: “Caring is always better than killing.”

The New York Times published an article a while back entitled “My Abortion at 23 weeks.” The author’s unborn son was diagnosed with a herniated diaphragm, which would require the unborn son, if he survived, to receive immediate surgery; and he would spend a long time on life support afterward. The parents dreaded “the thought of hearing him gasp for air,” and chose to have him aborted.  “He died in a warm and loving place, inside me,” she writes.

What does one say to this? An article by Paul Stark was published on the website of which asks a question that seems, unfortunately, to be a settled matter for many in American society.

To Access:

Is Abortion Justified When the Unborn Baby is Disabled?

For Orthodox Christians the answer is certainly not a settled “yes.”  Is it a settled “no?” Here are some sources which address this matter: 

Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America: Orthodox pro-life resources

Some of the sources on this list:

Orthodox Christians for Life

One of the Books: Real Choices, by Frederica Mathewes-Green

Two Ministries: the Treehouse Zoe for Life 

The question “Is it a settled ‘no?‘” is directly addressed in this resource:

Abortion, Oikonomia, and the hard cases  by Valarie H. Protopapas 

Picture from A. J. MacDonald, Jr.

from the Website “Catherine’s Pascha:” Disability In Children’s Books

The post Disability in Children’s Books appeared first on Catherine’s Pascha.

It can be really hard to find children’s books that feature characters with disabilities.

Illustration of Paschal procession from Catherine's Pascha showing Catherine walking beside Elizabeth, who is using a wheelchair.In Catherine’s Pascha, Elizabeth uses a wheelchair or crutches, depending on the situation. But it’s not likely that a teenager heading for a con would want to dress up as Elizabeth.

When Megan Quibell was getting ready to go to a con, she didn’t want to dress up as Professor Xavier from X-Men. But the fact is, he’s the only instantly recognizeable character in any young adult literature that she could come up with who uses a wheelchair. And if not Professor Xavier, who could she be? Where do you find normal characters, in normal situations, who just happen to use wheelchairs or canes or other assistive devices? Where do you find disability in children’s books?

With some serious brainstorming and a bit of research (including this list of characters with disabilities), she came up with, not one, not two, but FIVE characters in wheelchairs. And then she went on to say:

I think we need more. We need characters in books who are in wheelchairs or who use a cane or are missing a limb or have some kind of condition or something. But I don’t want “problem” books. I don’t want it to be all about how hard it is being in a wheelchair. I want something normal. For me, of course, normal tends to include dragons and witches – but you see my point… Well, other than the fact that my idea of normal is seriously bizarre… I just want something fun for me to read that has someone in a wheelchair as one of the main characters. I really don’t think it’s too much to ask.

I don’t think it’s too much to ask, either. Read her essay at The Guardian. And then read her follow-up essay, written just this month.

If you’re looking for a book that is disability-inclusive, the first place to look is the Schneider Family Book Awards. This award is given annually for “an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences.” Every year, there are awards given for children’s, middle grade, and teen books.

You can also check out the books about ability and disability at Books Matter. There are a lot of titles here I hadn’t seen before.

If you’re open to books in languages other than English, look at this list.

If you’re looking for disability resources in the Orthodox Church, be sure to look at William Gall’s blog, Arms Open Wide.  St. Servulus of Rome is a sixth-century saint who is considered an intercessor for people with disabilities. 

And when you go to the library or your favorite local bookstore, ask the person behind the counter for one of these books. Tell them you want to see children’s books that include characters with disabilities. There might not be much there yet. But if you ask, and keep asking, you may find that more books appear on the shelves.

The post Disability in Children’s Books appeared first on Catherine’s Pascha.

St. Antony the Great, the Father of Monasticism †356


St. Antony the Great 

St. Antony the Great  is counted as an intercessor for persons with epilepsy and also for those who have suffered an amputation. St. Antony left the world for the desert of Egypt in order to demonstrate the victory of Christ in his own inner being, devoting himself, alone in a cave, to silence and prayer. He suffered ferociously fierce attacks by the evil one for twenty years, but in Christ prevailed, and became a guide to many seeking the life in Christ through total renunciation of the world, prayer, courage, and love. He pioneered, in Christ, the way of life of those we know as the Desert Fathers.

Here are some informative websites concerning his blessed and holy life:

Orthodox Word: St. Antony the Great Synaxarion: the life of St. Antony the Great, the Anchorite of Egypt, and The Father of All Monks 

The Thirty-Eight Sayings of St Anthony the Great The Life of St. Antony the Great, by St. Athanasius the Great (30 pp.)

Icon from Dover beach 


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