One of the first – if not the first – steps that we should take in building an Orthodox culture in any country, is the implementation and growth of Orthodox education. If we lose this battle, we lose the future stability of our parishes. The universities in America (and in many other western nations) are geared against us and have many sophisticated arguments against the Christian worldview.
To create Orthodox schools is not only for our children to carry on and battle the world, but for the nation’s Orthodox ethos in general. Orthodox education produces both culture and community! Secular education does the same, and so it is crucial for us to enter this battle with vigilance.
The Fathers of the Church teach us that falling away from God is as simple as forgetting God. When we are no longer able to carry the momentum of God’s energy and take every thought captive to Christ, we drift. How much drifting does it take to end up in a place that is inescapable? Is it possible that we might one day wake up realizing that we are completely surrounded by a hostile environment that demands either complete submission or withdrawal? Perhaps this has already begun to happen and we Christians are in a state of contemplation, wondering and debating on how to get out of the current social conundrum.
It’s not completely clear how this all began happening — how we lost traditional community and culture within America. There are theories of how it has all culminated, everything from serious error in our historical founding to the uncontrollable flux of immigration. But within the many theories is one underlying element of how humanity has always operated as a community, which many of us will agree that we need to correct: Education
We live in the most convoluted culture of all history, with radical amounts of information being pitched to us on a daily basis. When we turn on the TV we are being educated. When we read our Facebook feed we are being educated. When we get trained by our company we are being educated. Even when we listen to the radio or Pandora, we are being educated.
It is key for an Orthodox Christian in a secular society to shape our lives so as to hear more Orthodox perspectives, and fewer secular/agnostic perspectives. This requires a disciplined and perhaps ‘out-of-the-ordinary’ way of life. We will look at this in the later part of this article.
Russia’s Educational Holocaust in the 19th Century
America, from the beginning, established her education through her Church. But as secular influences grew, schools were given up to secular organizations. When Christian education began to disappear from America, no second revolution needed to happen, simply because Revolutionary America never intended to maintain a Christian culture. Russia, on the other hand, is a different story.
During the times of the catacombs in Holy Russia, the Soviets would often pick Christians out of various families and groups to send them off to the gulags or simply execute them as an alternative. These Orthodox Christians had to make daily choices as to what they would be bold about and what they would keep quiet about. Hardship and death were at stake every day for these people.
In America today, as in 20th century Russia, we are surrounded by people who hate our Faith. We, like the Russians, are often very careful of what we say. But so far, a lot less is usually at stake. For the most part, we are not yet being imprisoned for defending the Truth, and we are not yet being executed in the streets.
But the Russian Orthodox people did not just wake up one day to an Atheist takeover. What was gradually happening back in the 19th century, was a steady infiltration in schools by secular intellectuals from the West. Many atheistic and cultic philosophies were being taught by professors in the universities, and many of the priests were beginning to buckle to these teachings. The universities, rather than the Church, became the centers for worldview and community.
Education had previously been an extension of the Church, but this was an early step towards the secular modernization of Russia. Other political and industrial factors preceded. But when the universities changed, so did the minds and hearts of the people.
Had the Church been able to retain the ministry of education, perhaps there would have been a different outcome of Russia entering WWI and the Bolshevik Revolution. How can we learn from this?
Heaven and Earth
A hallmark of the Orthodox faith is that it is holistic. Our faith, unlike any other spin-off group of the Church, embraces every aspect of life. Nature is not our enemy. In Western Christianity, nature is suspect. The material world is considered “fallen” and unredeemable in many aspects. This is why Gnosticism thrives in those groups. Orthodoxy is much different, because we understand the Incarnation of Christ to be a supernatural agent within the material world.
Because this world is so mystical, because we are surrounded by so many spiritual and physical variables within life, the Orthodox Church has created distinctions, but not so many distinctions so as to confuse ourselves. One historically important distinction is that of symphonia. This is such an important aspect of our Faith. Symphonia (symphony, in English) occurs when secular powers and ecclesiastical powers cooperate. Symphonia is the Church and the State working together. This is what the double-headed eagle represents: one eagle for the secular power and the other for the ecclesial power.
The secular power of society is not evil in and of itself. But it does gravitate toward evil (unlike the baptized soul, which gravitates toward heaven). Secularism, however, is evil.Secularism has to do with limiting or barring the Church’s influence, creating an existential environment that has historically led to disastrous societies.
When the secular society gives birth to an idea, it must be compatible with the symphonia of our Christian community. If it is not compatible, then it must simply be rejected! Thankfully, as we will see below, many secular subjects are within the bounds of the Church’s symphonia.
Orthodox Symphonia Requires Cooperation
Orthodox education, unlike secular education, revolves around a particular view of mankind: How we are created and what our purpose is in life. Without an Orthodox Christian view of mankind, intellectual subjects become stripped of their true purpose and meaning, training our minds to think in secular rather than spiritual terms. To think in secular terms is to adopt the historical and medieval philosophy of Scholasticism, which lends to a worldview of hardened logic and moral construct.
Orthodox Christians are called to think in mystical terms, because we live in a mystical world. Formulating life — to the extent of systematizing everything we do — goes completely against the energies of God. Nature is relatively unpredictable, and like the Psalmist says, God’s energy and Spirit moves like the wind. St. Paul says that God “works all things together” for the benefit of God’s people. This is a cornerstone for Orthodox theology and worldview, allowing us to explore this world without the fear, legalism, and overly complex systems that the Old Covenant people of God had to wrestle with for so many generations, eventually opposing Christianity (the Truth) when it was presented by Christ.
If we take out the mystical value of education, we will cease to think in mystical terms. Even Hollywood understand this. There are a number of problematic science fiction movies now, demonstrating how we submit ourselves to overly systematic environments where no true love and joy can exist. A prime example might be the movie The Giver, with Jeff Bridges.
St. Theophan the Recluse
Secular Paths Lead to a Final Secular Community
Every single subject in life needs to be embraced through the Orthodox Christian Faith. If it is not, each unattended subject will give birth to a new hybrid of thought, a new secular path to travel away from the faith and into what St. John the Apostle calls “the mark of the beast,” where no man can even “buy or sell” without it. The secular paths all lead to this “replacement community” — this final entrapment of the Church — where all people trapped within will have sealed their eternal destiny, estranged from God’s gift of eternal life. As a well-known Orthodox Saint has pointed out:
“It should be placed as an unfailing law that every kind of learning which is taught to a Christian should be penetrated with Christian principles and, more precisely, Orthodox ones.”
– St. Theophan the Recluse
Orthodox Symphonia with Contemporary Subjects
Math – This is an absolute necessity, even if there are some people who don’t happen to like it much. Is there such thing as secular math? Indeed there is! A secularized subject is stripped of its application, so as to become an intellectual pursuit of its own (raw data with no application), or else it is used as a catalyst for non-Orthodox worldviews. Intellectualizing any subject is a pursuit of pride and often a complete mental burnout for many people. Math can be, at a very high level, a strict intellectual pursuit for those who want to be mathematicians. But for most of us, math is an applied subject that is a tool for greater things in life. Let us build great hospitals, schools, rehab centers, and temples — with the help of mathematics — but let us not put math in a cage and send our young people in to this cage for burnout, nor cultivate within them a mind that operates merely scientifically rather than spiritually.
Technology – Technological advancements that protect nature, including mankind itself, can be encouraged. Perhaps we can steer away from the pursuit of artificial intelligence. This just an example, and there is room for debate. But that is what makes Christian education so exciting! There are discussions that needs to take place . . . often.
Engineering – Building structures that give glory to God was a common practice in both Eastern and Western Europe. Domes, arches, and iconography have influenced the world throughout the ages. There are even sectors within America that have been positively influenced.
History – How could history be properly taught aside from a Christian worldview? The first civilized society was the Orthodox (Byzantine) Empire. St. Justinian the Emperorimplemented law based on the Christian faith, and all civilized societies in the modern era owe much to this great work. For centuries, nations were led by the Church, or by an offshoot of the Church. To secularize history is downright dishonest, and is a complete misrepresentation of historical truth.
Philosophy – For instance, St. John Chrysostom was a great Christian philosopher. Chrysostom, in Greek, means “golden mouth.” Many of the Church Fathers and ascetics are greater sources of wisdom than any pagan philosopher could ever be. Many of the Fathers, including St. Paul the Apostle, challenged Pagan philosophers and converted them over to Christian philosophy. When we study ancient philosophy, whether it happens to be Christian or not, it should be studied in light of its spiritual context — how it was being influenced by the Church and how it was challenging the Church.
Medicine – St. Luke, one of our Holy Apostles, was a doctor. There were a number of doctors throughout the Byzantine Empire, and in fact, the Orthodox Church invented the hospital itself. Proper and ethical medical care within the environment of priests and deacons is absolutely necessary for an Orthodox worldview. We do not have the holy mystery of healing just so we can have an extra prayer service. We have it to actually heal people. The hospital is ours, and we should begin taking them back and building more of our own. Abortions, transgender surgeries, pharmaceutical and insurance companies dictating procedures . . . all of this must be eradicated!
Criminal Justice & Law – This is an easy one! There is no law without spiritual input. The question is: Which spiritual source shall we choose? Certainly, we can choose secular spiritualism, which amounts to radical ecumenism and moral relativism. Where is the order or peace in that? To say that all religions can mesh and cohabit peacefully is a most ignorant thing to say. They can cooperate with each other, but only if they each have the freedom to build their own communities to cooperate within.
Art – Take a trip to St. Petersburg, Russia, or to Greece, and you will see the Christian meaning of art. It’s everywhere. As the Russian Orthodox author Fyodor Dostoyevskysaid, “beauty will save the world.” Iconography (Orthodox Christian art) is a sacred art which gives a proper foundation for all art. Not everything must be painted as an icon, though. In fact, it must not be! Iconography is sacred and set aside for the communication of the Gospel. But all other art should glean from it and become its own form of Christian beauty. This can extend to anything from home décor to entertainment. Also, Christian art is modest! Pornography and other forms of crudeness are simply not Christian.
Food – The Orthodox calendar includes many fasting guidelines on certain days of the year. Orthodox countries have thousands of recipes that presuppose the fasts.
Theology – Most importantly, the study of God and his people must be embraced via the Orthodox Christian Faith. Without proper theology we can know very little about how man and community, in general, operates effectively. Our theology helps us strive between creation and eternity, and understand how the two operate and create harmony with each other.
A community that treats Christ as one of many gods, is a community that is destined to fail. We have seen this throughout all history. Pluralism is a recipe for cultural collapse.
If American leadership does not want a community that recognizes Christ alone as the cornerstone, then let us build sub-communities that will. Let us abandon the false ecumenism of the secular state, so as to overcome the enemy and uphold the true Faith!
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Travel agents experiencing increase in bookings since Covid-19 restrictions eased
Travel agents are experiencing an increase in inquires and bookings since the government announced the relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions on Friday.
Pat Dawson, CEO of the Irish Travel Agents Association, says there has been a “phenomenal” turn around in bookings, and travel agents are busy getting back to inquiries.
“We are looking at a healthy summer season, it’s the first time I’ve been positive in two years.”
He advised people to book their holidays early to avoid disappointment. “The longer you leave it, the dearer it will get. Mid-term break in February and Easter are almost full.”
Mr Dawson believes there is a pent-up demand. “There are some people who have money they haven’t spent, a big chunk of that will be spent on foreign holidays.”
John Spollen, director of Cassidy Travel in Dublin, says he has seen an increase in bookings over the weekend.
Popular destinations include Spain and Portugal, which have been Irish favourites for many years now, says Mr Spollen. There are also some bookings for the US, Jersey, Madeira and the Greek islands.
People should avoid peak travel times from mid June to the end of August and consider booking mid-week, early or late flights to get the best value, according to Mr Spollen.
“In May, September and October, the weather will be similar to summer weather.”
Mr Spollen added people should take out travel insurance and ensure their passport and driver’s licence are in date.
Michael Doorley of Shandon Travel in Cork said they have seen a huge increase in inquiries.
“We are not back to 2019 levels yet… the EU is a big destination. We have had a lot of inquires about mobile home holiday parks. Italy would be the most popular destination for this type of holiday, but Croatia is becoming almost as popular.”
There are also bookings for America coming in, as well as some couples celebrating their honeymoons belatedly, according to Mr Doorley.
It is important that people understand the restrictions in the country they are travelling to, he added, and they should check the Department of Foreign Affairs website regularly.
Aoife O’Donoghue is just one of the many Irish people who have not been on a holiday abroad in two years, and she is excited to be going to Barcelona at the end of March.
“A friend is moving over there in February, so myself and two other girls are going to visit her. It’s actually all our birthdays that weekend too,” she says.
The friends used to live together in Galway, and Ms O’Donoghue says it’s fantastic to have something to look forward to again.
The last time she went abroad was to Switzerland in January 2020. “Just as we were coming back there was news of the big Covid outbreak in Italy, so felt lucky to have gotten a holiday in before it all kicked off.”
Property group clashes with council over Dundrum residential development
The owners of Dundrum Town Centre have clashed with Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown council over demands for more large apartments as they advance fast-track plans for a major residential development in the south Dublin village.
Property group Hammerson and insurer Allianz, which operate the new shopping complex in the area, have been in talks with An Bord Pleanála to build up to 889 apartments on the site of the old Dundrum shopping centre.
Their company, Dundrum Retail Ltd Partnership, has told the council it should scrap new requirements for “a minimum of three-plus bedroom units” in large apartment blocks that are included among proposed amendments to its draft county development plan.
In a submission last week to the council, the company said the new guidelines were in conflict with official rules that said there should be no minimum requirement for apartments with three or more bedrooms.
According to the company, the justification for the guidelines was based on fast-track strategic housing development permissions in the council area and “evidence” from certain boroughs in London.
“[Dundrum Retail Ltd Partnership] submit that the logic underpinning the policy is flawed and is not a basis for imposing prescriptive unit mix ratios on a countywide basis,” it said.
“The draft development plan needs to be amended to remove the very prescriptive requirement for apartments with three or more bedrooms and to allow applicants to make the case for a particular unit mix based on the particular attributes of local areas where a different mix might be appropriate.”
The company also told the council that proposed amendments to the development plan presented “contradictory or ambiguous objectives” in relation to proposals for a community, cultural and civic centre in the area.
Such objections were included among 106 submissions on the draft plan in a public consultation which closed last week. Numerous other developers and the Irish Home Builders Association lobby group also opposed the measures, some saying they would delay or prevent the delivery of new homes.
Asked about the submissions, the council said the response to any issues raised would be set out in a report by its chief executive to elected members which would be published. “It will be a decision of the elected members to adopt the plan and it is anticipated that this will take place in early March 2022. The plan will then come into effect six weeks later,” the council said.
In its submission, the Irish Home Builders Association said its members were concerned that the introduction of “further onerous standards” would increase the cost of delivering new homes and their price.
“This at a time when construction costs are already under huge inflationary pressure and affordability is a major issues for most home buyers,” said James Benson, director of the association.
“A key concern of the home-building sector in respect of the new plan is a lack of consistency with national planning guidelines/standards, which may be considered to be contrary to recent Government policy which sought to bring a greater extent of standardisation to national planning standards.”
The submission added: “The key concerns relate to the locational restriction and unit mix requirements for [build-to-rent] schemes, other standards for apartment developments which are more onerous/restrictive than the Government’s… guidelines, and the requirement for early delivery of childcare facilities in residential developments, all of which have the potential to impact adversely on the viability and affordability of housing in the county.”
Another builder, Park Developments, said in a submission the draft sought “more onerous policies, objectives and standards” that would have a direct effect on housing supply. “We are already seeing the impact of the chronic shortage in the supply of housing on the affordability of rental accommodation and homeownership.”
Castlethorn Construction said the blanket imposition of three-bedroom requirements “can only serve to militate against development of apartments” in the council area. It said the cost of delivering three-bed apartments was “very significant”, adding that demand was “not evident by reference to market sentiment, estate agents’ advice” and national policy imperatives.
Developer Hines, which has major interests in the Cherrywood strategic development zone, said in its submission that the logic underpinning requirements for more three-bedroom units was flawed.
“While making the case that recent development has been weighted towards one- and two-bed units, it fails to recognise that three-bed semi-detached and detached houses remain the predominant typology within [Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown] and that the [strategic housing development] permissions provide a much-needed mix of housing types within the county to redress this balance within the county.”
Laicisation of Catholic priest in Tipperary causes disappointment and anger in parish
Today, Geoghegan is no longer a priest, following the Vatican’s decision to issue a laicisation order, with the history of the story up to that point a subject of disagreement.
The former parish priest at Ballyneale and past curate at St Nicholas Parish in Carrick-On-Suir announced on Twitter last week that he had been officially “dismissed by Rome” on January 7th.
“My Bishop was happy to dispense me. I’m a good man. And he talks about the shortage of vocations,” said Geoghegan, who entered the seminary in 1987 aged just 19, and he was ordained six years later.
Geoghegan had petitioned Pope Francis for laicisation last March and it was granted on December 15th, said the bishop: “I wish to acknowledge and thank Richard for his pastoral ministry over the years and wish him well for the future.”
Geoghegan came under fire from conservative Catholics following an appearance on hotelier Francis Brennan’s RTÉ show Grand Tour of Vietnam in 2017, wherein he performed in drag as singer Shirley Bassey, wearing a blonde wig and lipstick.
The TV appearance might not have done him any favours, Hearn accepts. “He is only human at the end of the day. He is well loved here in town. We’d love to have him back. I’d have nothing but deep respect for him,” she says.
“He is a real people’s person. Some older priests could be aloof. You couldn’t meet a nicer, more down to earth man. I think he has been pretty hard done by the Pope and the bishop.”
Hearn is not alone in her feelings, with many members of the tight-knit Catholic churchgoing community in Carrick-On-Suir and surrounding districts still shocked and disappointed by the turn of events.
Despite the bishop’s declaration that Geoghegan had himself applied to be laicised, the Association of Catholic Priests’ Tim Hazelwood describes his treatment as “inappropriate, unreasonable and unacceptable”.
In 2020, Hazelwood accompanied Geoghegan to a meeting with Bishop Cullinan, and his secretary.
“It was obvious from the meeting that he wanted Richard to apply for laicisation,” Hazelwood says. “That’s when Richard said he would have liked to be a curate…Richard found it difficult being on his own in a parish. He needed support,” Hazelwood adds.
“Obviously, the bishop had made up his mind,” says Hazelwood, “I was shocked, really because the majority of bishops would be supportive, but what I was hearing was really a put down.”
Geoghegan declined to comment when contacted.
Former parishioner, John Nolan said, “The Church is crying out for priests and is leaving a good man go. He was friends with everyone, an absolute gentleman. Anyone having a wedding here would look for him. I think it is all down to Bishop Phonsie. ”
Describing him as “a fantastic priest”, Carrick-on-Suir butcher Morris Whelan says was a great man. “He knew everyone by name. You’d meet him once and he knew your name forever. He was involved in the parish in every part of it.”
Local Sinn Féin councillor David Dunne remembers Geoghegan’s kindnesses during his mother’s illness.
“Everyone recognised him for the programme he did with Francis Brennan…It was fairly flamboyant and wasn’t in keeping with the Church, but it was typical of Fr Richard,” said Cllr Dunne, “He was always friendly, outgoing and is well-regarded. It is a major loss.”
Describing the former priest’s ability to engage, Luke Foran says: “One of my favourite memories of him is my brother’s Communion where he had all the kids gathered around and Richard’s phone rang, and who was on the phone only ‘Jesus’.
“You should have seen the kids’ faces drop. It was brilliant and he enthralled and captivated the whole place. He was ahead of his time. Richard humanised the priesthood and was a breath of fresh air,” he said.
Besides the memories, there is anger, too. Ashling Ní Fháthaigh said: “When he was saying mass the church was a lot fuller with a younger congregation. (He) was liked by so many and was punished for that.”
Believing that the church’s hierarchy has questions to answers, Margaret Croke says: “A church without compassion and understanding who can so readily dismiss a person who was so dedicated for so many years to its flock and to God really needs to change.”
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