Archive for September, 2016

Children with disabilities: the Russian situation

An article  from  “Orthodoxy and the World“: a Russian Orthodox Church Website:

Do We Need Sick Children?

translated into English from Russian by Anastasia, May 3, 2007 – A Report on the issue of adequate socialization and adaptation of disabled children. 

This title is shocking; perhaps it is just a matter of the choice of words in translation; it would seem from the article itself that what Anastasia means by “sick children” really should be translated “children with chronic disabilities.”  Nevertheless, Anastasia goes on to demonstrate that in Russia many of the authorities who could be making a difference in the lives of these children simply write them off, simply because “they will always be this way.” This is truly a tragic mentality for a country known for its rich Orthodox Christian heritage. 

A Russian Institution

She reports that (as of 2007) most chidren with disabilities live on “reservations,” institutions which are generally in remote rural areas, away from where most people live, which makes it difficult for families to visit.

Two more web pages which describe the situation (the first is brief, the second more scholarly):

Russia’s lost children waiting to be found & A Socio-Spacial Analysis of the Mentally Disabled Population in Russia

Anastasia contends that help must first be given to the entire family of the child with disability, as the stress of trying to care for this child in such a generally unsupportive environment is very heavy and wearing, especially for the mothers.

Anastasia goes on to speak of the situations of individual children with disabilities, Max and Sophia, and quotes a twelve year old’s diary. The positive efforts of ministries such as Our Sunny World (Solnechny Mir) are cited, but are said to be far and few between in Russia

Also brought forth are Elder Paisios of Mt. Athos’ supportive words in regard to the worth of persons with disability, as well as the potent words of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will say to the faithful on the Day of Judgement: “I was sick you visited me.” These are the words we want to hear on that Day, and not the other, dreadful words to the contrary  which will speak to the dreadful reality of separation from Divine life to those who will hear them.

As St. Paul the Apostle says, in his first letter to the Corinthians 12: 19-22,

If all were a single organ, where would the body be?  As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body which seem to be weaker are indispensable … 

1 Cor.12:19-22 quoted fromBible Study Tools: 1 Corinthians
Picture from “Why would you want a defective child?”

from Pravmir: Mercy as a Way of Life

The Sisters of Mercy: Some History

“… One of the most famous followers of this movement in Russia was the Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna, who in 1909 founded the Martha and Mary Convent of Mercy, which resembled a monastic house in its rule of life. A hospital, an outpatient clinic, a pharmacy, a home for orphaned girls, a Sunday school, a library, and a soup kitchen were all constructed in the convent. The Grand Duchess herself, along with her pupils, spent sleepless nights as a nurse at the beds of the seriously ill, assisted at operations, and visited Moscow slums. The sisters lived in the religious community itself, where they followed a monastic way of life without themselves being nuns. They gave temporary vows (for one, three, or six years, and only later for life) and had the option of leaving the convent to get married or of being tonsured directly to the small schema.

The noble work of the sisters of the Convent of Martha and Mary and the martyrdom of its superior served as the ideological impetus for the emergence of a multitude of such communities of mercy in the late 1980s and early 1990s throughout all of historical Russia.

The Sisterhood of Mercy dedicated to the Grand Duchess Elizabeth and the Nun Barbara opened in Kiev in 1998, founded by Fr. Roman Baranovsky, rector of the hospital church dedicated to St. Michael, first Metropolitan of Kiev. Now 145 sisters carry out their obediences at this church. …”

To access the site:

Read more 

(Lots of wonderful pictures)

From the online article

To access: Mercy as a way of life 

by Anastasia Pika, November 12, 2012, published in

picture from Monks and Mermaids (A Benedictine Blog) Sunday, 25 November 2012

Presbytera Clare’s Masters Thesis on Spiritual Therapy and Disability

This thesis is a great resource in regard to mental health; Presybtera Clare has personal experience relating to people with mental health issues. Even if you think you are mentally sound, this thesis is worth reading, for by applying what Presybtera Clare has written you will lead to even better mental health!

137 pages. If that sound like too much, the table of contents is on pages 5 & 6, and you may choose a section of interest to you.


by Presbytera Clare Cagnoni

To access:

image from 

. . . “Three signs of perfect soundness” . . .



To access:

 This Perfect Soundness: Acts 3:11-16, especially vs. 16

“Yes, the faith which comes through [Christ] has given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all.” A few years ago, a paramedic sustained severe spinal injuries while caring for a patient being transported by ambulance. When the ambulance was forced off the road by a dump truck, he was thrown violently around inside the vehicle. During the yearlong battle that followed, his faith, hope, and love as an Orthodox Christian illumined all around him: fellow parishioners, professional colleagues, hospital workers, and many others.

Despite many prayers, this servant of God did not survive his injuries. However, the Lord He loved and trusted gave him a more “perfect soundness.” Like the account of the lame man in today’s epistle, his experience challenges us to consider the very highest form of healing.

Drawing from both stories, we may note three signs of perfect soundness. First, we must hold firmly to apostolic truth. Second, we are to draw strength from God in weakness. Lastly, we must believe steadfastly in the name of Jesus Christ.

When the lame beggar is healed, two reactions occur instantaneously.  As “the lame man . . . held on to Peter and John, all the people ran together to them in the porch which is called Solomon’s, greatly amazed” (vs. 11). The beggar is cured of serious physical disability, but more importantly, his heart is healed.

We read in verses 1-8 how the lame man springs to his feet and enters the Temple with the apostles, “walking, leaping, and praising God” (vs. 8). Now, this sequel passage adds that he “held on” to Peter and John. Touched by the power of the name of the Lord Jesus, he clings fiercely to the apostles from whom he has gained knowledge of the highest, most perfect healing.

The same was true of the injured paramedic: even as his bodily strength drained away, he held firmly to the apostolic truth. As a result, a life-giving message radiated from him to everyone he met, for we are always drawn to those whose lives are filled with truth.

At various points during the paramedic’s battle for life, his physical condition declined to the point that no one expected him to make it. Yet time after time he rallied, and sometimes even progressed. At one point he even left acute care, moved into rehabilitation, and from there was admitted to a small hospital in his home town.

During his ordeal, he displayed remarkable inner strength and a mighty resolve to recover, inspired by a determination to provide for his wife and three children. In his spiritual fortitude, he was much like the lame man in today’s account from Acts. Everyone knew that Christ Jesus was the source of his strength.

God gave both the paramedic and the lame man at the Temple gate unwavering faith in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Saint Peter emphasizes that the lame man’s healing comes from the Lord: “And His name, through faith in His name, has made this man strong” (vs. 16).

St. Peter

The name of the Lord represents His sovereign power and authority. Our Lord has the capacity to pour His strength into our weakness, to make us strong in heart, soul, and even body: “Make firm myknees, and my bones likewise” (post-communion prayer of Saint Simeon the Translator).

However, as Saint Peter points out, we must bow down to the dominion of God with corresponding trust (vs. 16). God is seeking to heal us – let us never let Him go! When we pray for healing in the name of Christ, we are assured of receiving His perfect soundness.

O Christ my God, strengthen my weak soul and body and heal me by Thy grace.

icons from Precepts & A Reader’s Guide to Orthodox Icons 

Service dogs inside the Church?


  Someone from my Parish asked me some time ago why the Orthodox Church doesn’t allow service dogs in our Churches. In this weblog an Orthodox Christian who has a service dog weighs in on the issue. It’s not a precise and full answer, but it is an  answer that brings a sense of resolution in that it comes from someone who has a stake in the matter.  

For this answer, see the comments (the sixth one, by turtlemom3): 

Here’s the part of the comment which addresses the situation in the Orthodox Church (which is only part of her response to a person from another Christian group who has a personal issue in regard to the use of service dogs in their church:

… I know in the Orthodox Christian Church, there is a pretty hard and fast rule about dogs being inside the Church – because of certain sacramental and canonical considerations. While they don’t make a lot of sense to those of us who have service dogs, I respect their stand, and don’t bring Emmy with me when we go to Church – I don’t want to banish her to the Narthex.

I’m publishing this quote because Turtlemom’s experiences in these matters are a valuable resource in regard to persons with disability in the Orthodox Church.

It is a sign of Christian maturity that she can say what she does without understanding the whys and wherefores of the policy.  

Orthodox Christians do not need to “master” situations with their minds to be at peace with their Church. Life in Christ is in so many ways such a wondrous mystery that we can, as St. Paul says, “give thanks in all circumstances,” even those contrary to our wills, for we know, ultimately, that God has given us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  

Update- (12/23/12) A clarifying response to a query by me from Turtlemom: 

I deeply regret being so late responding to your comment on my post, and coming here to comment on some of your posts.
You mentioned the Canon forbidding dogs from Orthodox Churches. This was decided when dogs were not clean, not well thought of, There were Old Testament Biblical proscriptions about dogs, and Revelation says dogs will be prohibited from Heaven.
Yet, dogs are a creation of God, just as bears (St. Sergius of Radonezh and St. Seraphim of Sarov), and ravens (St. Elijah). Just as hinds (St. Basil the Elder and St. Macrina), and lions (Saint Mammes); otters (St. Cuthbert); stag (St. Eustathios); leopards (Abune Gebre Menfes Kiddus); snakes (Abba Aregawi). There are numerous other examples.
As far as dogs and saints, there is Paul the Hermit who was accompanied by a wolf.
A blog by a woman who has researched the Orthodox Church and animals: – especially the post: 

In our parish, a blind woman brings her guide dog to services. There is no scandal as the dog leads her up to receive Holy Communion.
Much about dogs in church depend upon the individual priest and bishop. [Italics not original to the quote.]
Anyway, that’s what I’ve gleaned. I have not taken my service dog to church because I am physically unable to attend services. But, should I become able to attend, I will take Emmy. She is the soul of discretion and good behavior – as are most service dogs. 

This clarification might seem to contradict the former statement, but the fact is, the Orthodox Church is not primarily about law, but grace. The canons of the Church are meant to provide the people of God with a structure that will lead them to salvation, avoiding harmful practices. But they are not rigid rules. Our hierarchs exercise what is called economia in regard to them, interpreting them for each person and situation so as to further spiritual growth for the people involved.  

Just as our Lord Jesus, as recorded in St. John’s Gospel, chapter 8,  dealt mercifully with the woman caught in the act of adultery (the people seeking to stone her to death pointed out to him that they were simply about to do what the Law says), so our holy Bishops seek the salvation of the persons under their charge in their interpretation of the Church’s canons.

ExpertBeacon: Advice for choosing care providers for kids with special needs

“Care provider” refers to therapists and medical specialists. Detailed guidelines are provided to help parents navigate a complicated and confusing system in which effective professional care is not guaranteed. This veritable maze can often add an extra burden to the very difficult mission of seeing one’s child with a disability through childhood to a satisfying adult life.

The article is written by Sarah C. Wayland, Ph.D., Special Needs Care Navigator // RDI Consultant:

ExpertBeacon: Advice for choosing care providers for kids with special needs 

Dr. Wayland also has a website of her own: Guiding Exceptional Parents. The website has pages which list more articles and resources on this subject, and she also serves as a professional RDI™ consultant in the Baltimore-Washington DC area. RDI™ stands for Relationship Development Intervention.

image from Catherine Cerisey – Le Blog




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