Can one be Roman Catholic and Orthodox? I would like to share with you a brief letter that was published some time ago in an Italian Orthodox parish newsletter. Its author, Archpriest Gregorio Cognetti, is the Dean of the Italian parishes under the Moscow Patriarchate. This letter was generally liked by the Italian Orthodox converts, and also received a high degree of appreciation among some cradle-born Orthodox (it was, for instance, translated into Romanian); I hope it may be prove an interesting reading and a source of inspiration for all of you.
Chapel Hill (U.S.), March 1982
Even though you never asked it directly, I feel from your words that you do not yet understand why I left the Roman Church to become Orthodox.
You were even a member of one of the least latinized Byzantine parishes, you seem to say, why, then?…
I guess I owe you an explanation, since, a long time ago, when we were both members of the Latin church, we shared the same feelings. These same feelings brought both of us to a Byzantine rite parish, and then myself to Orthodoxy. You could not have forgotten the criticisms that we moved to the Romans: the continual insertion of new traditions in place of the old ones, Scholasticism, the legalistic approach to spiritual life, the dogma of papal infallibility. At the same time we both reckoned the legitimacy and correctness of the Orthodox Church. A Uniate parish seemed the optimal solution. I Continue reading “Letter To A Roman Catholic Friend – Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA”
The Handbook of the Orthodox Church has been published in France, providing comprehensive information and practical information about Orthodox life in France. It presents a detailed map showing the location of all Orthodox parishes, monasteries, and dioceses in France by region, and provides information about Orthodox bishops (members of the Association of Orthodox Bishops), priests, and deacons, and also about clergy who have reposed in recent years. The new publication also contains information on icon workshops, Orthodox choirs, Orthodox periodicals, documentaries and art publications, candle and bookstores, and Orthodox movements in France, reports Sedmitza.
Tim Flinders will graduate from Grand Valley State University next month. Raised Lutheran, he also explored fundamentalist Baptism, Roman Catholicism and even Messianic Judaism before converting to Orthodox Christianity this year.
“Orthodoxy has completely transformed me already,” he said. “I feel like the first time in my life I’m growing spiritually.”
Flinders, 22, like many other young people converting to Eastern Orthodoxy, was looking for authenticity and historical accuracy in his Christian faith.
“I had so many different questions that needed to be answered,” said Flinders, who added he wrestled with the many divisions of the Christian church over the years.
He became Eastern Orthodox Christian at St. George Orthodox Church in Grand Rapids.
Recently he attended the second annual Encountering Orthodoxy Conference at Hope College.
The Rev. Deacon Nicholas Belcher, dean of students at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Boston, gave the opening keynote address, using the themes of holy week to introduce Orthodoxy to the more than 50 who attended.
Eastern Orthodox Easter, Pascha in Greek — the language favored by Orthodox everywhere — fell on the same day as Western Easter this year.
Belcher described the nailing of Jesus to the cross as “one of the most cruel things human beings have ever thought of to do to other human beings.”
Eastern Orthodox Christians, he explained, experience the crucifixion and resurrection in the now during liturgy.
“There is no sense that we are just talking about something that happened a long time ago. It is today,” he said.
Dustin Miller, a Hope senior, attended the conference for extra credit in his history of Christianity class, but said,
“I’ve always been curious about Orthodoxy.”
He, too, said he was looking for the apostolic, historical roots of the Christian church. Miller considers himself non-denominational and said he didn’t know the Hope campus had Orthodox students.
“I’ve been trying to figure it out, trying to find what best fits me,” Miller said.
The Orthodox Christian Fellowship campus club, which sponsored this month’s conference, meets Thursday nights for Small Compline (a short Psalm and evening prayer service). Then the handful of Orthodox students, one seminary student and Fr. Steven VanBronkhorst discuss topics such as biblical foundations for Orthodox worship.
He would like to see more inquirers at the OCF meetings and more students at the second annual Encountering Orthodoxy Conference.
VanBronkhorst was a Reformed Church of America minister for almost two decades before coming to the Orthodox church 14 years ago. Still, VanBronkhorst said, he sees many more today looking for the historical church than when he was doing his own searching.
“I always felt that ideally there should be just one church,” he said. “The Orthodox church is by far the most historically faithful body. … Who is going to deny that the greater part of the evangelical world has the faith? They have faith. What they don’t have is the worship.”
Tyler Dykstra of Holland became Orthodox Christian this month.
He grew up Christian Reformed, but says he “wanted more.”
“Over time I started to realize there was so much history I had not known about even though I had gone to Christian schools all my life,” Dykstra, 24, said.
My family of origin is Roman Catholic, the faith I practiced until I was 18. My love of God was deep and personal. There was never a time in my life when God was not present, even in my earliest memories. Yet, when someone witnessed to me and asked,
“Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior? If you haven’t, you’re going to hell”
my reaction was one of panic. I turned away from my childhood church to a non-denominational fundamentalist church to allay my fear of damnation. There I met my first husband. After our marriage, we became involved in a Southern Baptist church where we both were baptized by immersion.
Sfântul Nou Mucenic Jose (Iosif) Muñoz-Cortez din Chile –
Romano-Catolic convertit la Ortodoxie,
profesor universitar la Universitatea din Montreal și Canada,
mucenicit în Atena, Grecia la data de 31 octombrie, 1997
Sfântul Nou Mucenic Iosif s-a născut în Chile (America de Nord) la anul 1950, într-o familie catolică practicantă.
La vârsta de 12 ani îl cunoaște pe episcopul ortodox Leontie din Chile, fapt care îl impulsionează să se boteze ortodox doi ani mai târziu.
Era profund impresionat de viața monahală, și cu toate că locuia în oraș, se străduia să urmeze felul de viață al monahilor:cu post, rugăciune și privegheri.
Mai apoi s-a mutat în Canada, unde a lucrat ca profesor de pictură la Universitatea din Montreal, străduindu-se în paralel să învețe pictura bizantină.
În anul 1882 a vizitat Sfântul Munte și a studiat cu atenție mulțimea icoanelor bizantine de acolo. L-a impresionat o copie a icoanei Maicii Domnului – Portaitissa, care se afla într-unul dintre schituri.
A vrut să cumpere icoana, dar s-a întristat când a aflat ca nu este de vânzare. Maica Domnului, i-a pus în minte egumenului să îi dăruiască icoană . Jose s-a bucurat nespus și i-a mulțumit Stăpânei pentru ca făcuse acea minune cu el.
Ajuns acasă, citea în fiecare seară Acatistul Buneivestiri în fața icoanei. După câteva săptămâni toată casa s-a umplut de o bună mireasmă, și a văzut cu surprindere ca din mâna Maicii Domnului izvorăște mir. Cincisprezece ani la rând a continuat această minune.
José a cutreierat întreaga lume, arătându-le oamenilor minunea ce se petrecea, pentru a se slăvi astfel numele Maicii Domnului.
În anul 1997, la data de 31 octombrie, în timp ce se afla în Atena, a fost omorât cu brutalitate de un grup de sataniști, care, mai întâi, l-au chinuit fără milă în camera hotelului unde se afla.
Vrăjmașii credinței nu au răbdat să vadă cum se slăvește în toată lumea numele lui Hristos și al Maicii Sale, dar Dumnezeu i-a pregătit un loc luminat în ceata mucenicilor.
Pentru rugăciunile Sfântului Noului Mucenic Iosif, Doamne Iisuse Hristoase, miluiește-ne pe noi. Amin.
A former Pentecostal minister and Independent Old Catholic Priest’s conversion story to the Orthodox faith
Sherie Mercier, Michigan, USA
Where do I begin? I was born and raised in St. Joseph, Michigan, on the shores of SW Lake Michigan – across the lake from Chicago, 61 years ago. My parents were not very religious, in fact, they attended a Methodist church in my hometown. The pastor was a medical doctor and eventually left the active ministry and set up shop as a General Family practitioner. My parents stopped attending church and after that I never remember them ever stepping into a church at all, even to this day. My mother is deceased but my father is still alive and I have never seen him enter a church.
So, eventually, around the age of 7 or so, I went to a Baptist church with my neighbors and continued to do so until my teenage years. I then set out to check different denominations, usually joining them, then leaving because something didn’t “feel right”. Of course, our home town had a huge Roman Catholic following, plus my maternal grandmother had been Roman Catholic herself.
I remember seeing statues of Mary and crucifixes. Our public school in that day followed the Roman Catholic system of meatless Fridays, usually fish sticks or mac and cheese. So, I became interested in the Roman Catholic faith. But it was not to be at all until years later.
I graduated high school, enlisted in the US Army, did a short stint and then married my first husband in Scotland. We settled back in Michigan but only for the summer of 1974, then moved to Arizona. I again, searched and wanted to be Roman Catholic, but my husband was adamant against it. So, I chose the next best thing, the Episcopal church, back then it wasn’t as liberal as it is now. It was the Liturgy that always attracted me to these types of churches. Protestant churches lack any “real” liturgy, rather their services are typified by an opening song(s), prayer, more songs, another prayer, offering and finally – “drum roll please” – the sermon, the main stay.
Of course, we are to learn and be taught but these churches continue to make the “sermon” the most important part of the service each Sunday. Yet, to keep the peace, I did exactly that, attending one Protestant church after another. I was lacking though on the inside, my heart longed for the proper worship to be given to God. Another caveat to all of this is that I am a musician, I play multiple instruments and sing, so churches would ask me to help lead music on Sundays.
After jumping from church to church, I would sneak occasionally during the week to the local Roman Catholic parish near where we lived. My husband was at work and didn’t know. I longed to be Roman Catholic and felt one day this would happen.
In 1983, after the birth of my youngest child, I was attending an Assembly of God church in Phoenix. I loved the people there and the worship was good. One Sunday, the regular pianist was not in attendance and I knew the piece the choir was going to “perform”, so I stepped in and led at the piano. The church eventually asked me to do the music regularly. Then one Sunday, I was supposed to do a special number for the evening service but was pulled aside by the music director and told in no uncertain terms that if I didn’t graduate from the AG college in Springfield, Missouri, I couldn’t even sing on a Sunday evening. My feelings were greatly hurt and I said that’s it. I left that church, then started sneaking to Mass on Sunday mornings behind my husband’s back for a while. Then one day I found a position working at a Bible Christian church, playing the piano again. I loved this church also and the people but disappointment struck in that the pastor left his wife and 3 children for another woman.
That did it!! I called a parish that was on my way to work (by this time, I was working full time) and spoke to the associate priest there. We met once a week for 5 months and at Easter in 1986, I was received into the Roman Catholic church. Again, because of musical background, I was soon cantoring at the parish weekly. I loved the liturgy and asked to help different parishes in the diocese. At one point, I was asked to assist with a Byzantine Uniate parish. This was it! The beauty of the Divine Liturgy had captured me. It was totally different than what I was seeing in the Western Rite. But things did not let me stay there as I ended up with other obligations at other parishes in the diocese.
In 1989, after 15 years of marriage, my ex-husband left the country and moved back to Scotland with our 2 sons and I was left to raise my 3 girls. I remained a Roman Catholic and continued to work in several parishes over the years. Then in 1997, while my husband, Mark (a cradle Catholic) and I were at a parish, I made an abrupt decision after something a priest had said. I left the RC church for the next 9 years. I began studying and eventually became a licensed Pentecostal Church of God out of Joplin, Missouri minister. I left that denomination as the rules were too stringent and it cost too much money. Besides your regular tithes and offerings to the church, you also had to “pay” for your credentials, which became costly. I applied for independent credentials from a non-denominational ministry and became a pastor for a small local congregation. After a few years, I was called back to the Roman Catholic church, but not for long. Yet, it was when I was called back to the RC church, I began to truly study the early Church Fathers, the Eucharist and other “Catholic” teachings.
I would discover the “Independent Old Catholic Movement” in 2008. The beauty of Roman Catholicism without having to answer to Rome. In fact, one of the things that drew me to this movement was that a lot of them ordained women. I always had felt a calling on my life and thought I had fulfilled it in being a Pentecostal/non-denominational minister. In 2009, I joined a group called, O.SS.T. – the Order of the most Holy Mother Theotokos. I had never really heard Mary addressed as the Theotokos except in the council of Ephesus when this was declared. Eventually the archbishop of the group asked me to take seminary studies and in August of 2011, I was ordained a deacon and on June 1, 2012, ordained a priest.
In my studies, I had to write a paper on the differences and similarities between the Anglican, Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Old Catholic Churches. Our liturgies did not follow the RC but rather were a mixture of all 4 of the above. When I was ordained, someone gave me a beautiful icon of the Theotokos, which I still have. I also had purchased a couple of icons and a pocket icon of Christ the Pantocrator and Our Lady of Kazan. I still have those also after all these years. One of the people who helped concelebrate my ordination gave me a book on the Grand Duchess Elizabeth of Russia, New Martyr of the Communist Yoke. I read the book and then put it aside for a long time.
Over the next several years, I served on and off as a supply priest, tried to have a local parish to work at but with no success. In hindsight, I know I should have never been a priest and that is probably why I failed to fulfill my calling. At one point, I was working as supply priest for an Episcopal congregation in Northern Arizona but then the proverbial “rug” was pulled out from underneath me. I know why, I wasn’t “liberal” enough for them and that’s all good and well. I made some very nice friends there and stay in touch with them.
Fast forward to July 2016 and I am at a crossroad. I was doing some cleaning and came across the book I mentioned above regarding St. Elizabeth the New Martyr. I was led to read it and I had “liked” several Facebook pages on the Orthodox faith and teachings. One I tuned into was from St. Michael’s Orthodox Church in Geneva, New York and a man named Steve Tobey. He does a daily video called, “The Gospel Minute” and I was hooked. I had looked up several Orthodox parishes and one was in Prescott – St. George’s – but I could not get a response.
I need to digress here for a moment, due to some medical issues, I lost my foot and ankle back in 2011 and wear a prosthesis. The problem is that they tear up your pants and skirts terribly. So, I was looking to see if it would be okay if I attended Great Vespers or Divine Liturgy in slacks – I always wear black and dress very modestly.
I kept trying St. George’s to no avail and then in August, someone gave me the email address to Fr. Thomas Frisby from Exaltation of the Holy Cross parish in Phoenix, Arizona. I contacted him and then we set up a dinner with him and his wife, Laurel with my husband and me. We did so and I gave Father Thomas some background of above and asked plenty of questions. Due to my schedule at the time, it was several more weeks before I began to attend Divine Liturgy. My first service was on Sunday, September 25, 2016 and all I can say was, “This is where God wants me to be for the rest of my life.” At the end of coffee hour and a wonderful book study, “On the Incarnation” by St. Athanasius, I asked Fr. Thomas if I could become a catechumen. He did not hesitate and so I did the following Sunday before Divine Liturgy. BTW, my birthday is the feast day of St. Athanasius (May 2).
I also told all my friends via Facebook that this was what I was doing. Some were shocked, I told them if they wanted to, they could unfriend me. I had a lot of Protestant friends at the time and wasn’t sure how they would react. Some have stayed my friend, some haven’t.
Finally, in November, Fr. Thomas said I would be received into the Church on the forefeast of the Theophany, January 5, 2017. My husband Mark came with me and I can’t say how moved I was to be brought into the Orthodox faith. I wrote of my experience in four blogs that were published to Facebook also. Even though my husband for now has no desire to convert, he supports me in being Orthodox and he does attend Divine Liturgy with me on occasion. My parish family is very welcoming to him as well as they were to and still are to me.
A side note – as a veteran, I currently belong to the American Legion, a veteran’s service organization. I was considered for Department Commander for the 2017-2018 year. I was handed a month ago, the schedule I would have to adhere to for that year. What I discovered was that I would be gone too many Sundays, away from Divine Liturgy and the Eucharist. This was an easy choice as there was no way I would miss intentionally almost 1/3 of the year to be the commander. I posted on Facebook as well as an email went out to all the posts in the Department (over 130) and the reason why I would not be running. The overwhelming responses (all positive) that I was taking a stand for my Faith proves to me that this is where God wanted me to be.
It also has been a witnessing tool to the Orthodox Faith and people are now asking me about what we believe and there is even interest in some of them coming to my parish.
For those of you women who think that you have a calling on your life to be a minister, priest, or other clergy, it isn’t necessary. I wish I would have found the Orthodox Faith – the TRUE faith – years ago. I probably would have never been a minister or priest. Do I miss what I did? No! I am fulfilled as a woman in the Orthodox faith. We have a place in the Church that is rich and Christ truly loves each of us.
I am writing this just days before the start of Great Lent and praying that I will continue to draw closer to Jesus Christ in the time. My journey is continuing and I thank God for the Orthodox Church and for my parish, Exaltation of the Holy Cross as well as Fr. Thomas and Laurel Frisby.