Forum Posts

Lynne Wardach
Chief ByziMom
Jul 29, 2021
In Parents Page
In mid-September, Rev. Hezekias Carnazzo, Director of the Eparchy’s Office and Educational Services, and Chair of the Eparchial Directors of Religious Education (for the Eastern Catholics in the United States), held a roundtable discussion on “Catechesis in the Pandemic.” (At the end of this article, you’ll find all the links you’ll need!) The roundtable sparked a renewed interest in the Domestic Church and homeschooling. No Substitutes for the Domestic Church Long before the virus, the lockdowns, and online teaching, clergy and catechists came to a sad conclusion: one hour of instruction after the Divine Liturgy on Sunday is not a substitute for raising children in the Domestic Church. Please do not take offense at this observation! The issue isn’t our clergy, catechists, or parishes. The problem is that our children spend one single hour in Religious Education Class of the 120 (or so) hours that children are active during the week — a mere 0.8% of their time. Children spend more time doing practically any other activity! (In the pandemic age, they probably spend more time washing their hands each week than attending Sunday school!) One hour each week is simply not enough time to truly convey our Faith to our children, but not all families have this 0.8% problem. These are the families that have made their home a Domestic Church. What is the Domestic Church, you may ask? Simply put, the Domestic Church is an authentically Christian home. It is the smallest unit of Christian community, faith and practice. “Religious life” is not just the calling of monastics, but for us all. It is in our homes that we live out our Melkite Faith most deeply. As St. Benedict said of his monastery, the Christian home is to be “a school for the Lord’s service.” This is the answer to the 0.8% problem! We must live and breathe catechesis in the Domestic Church. Every home and every family is unique, but every family has the ability to make itself into a Domestic Church. While each home has its own personality, strengths, and weaknesses, homes that have become a Domestic Church will have a few points in common. First, the design and decor of the home reflect our faith. There will be an icon corner, religious books and stories, as well as a cross or icon by the door. Not only do you see an icon corner, but it is used and the Bibles are not dusty! The Domestic Church prays together at home and in the parish. They participate in the Holy Mysteries faithfully and center their lives around the rhythm of the Liturgical Year. Feasting and fasting are regular occurrences, with the children included in these spiritual practices. Fellowship and hospitality are primary virtues in these homes. With an open heart for the poor and needy, they share all that they have with others. The Domestic Church is a home that knows and lives by the Good News of the Gospel. Some parents believe you don’t have to do “all this” in order to nurture children in the faith. Here is a simple test: Ask your children what they think is most important to you. Their answers might surprise you. While we think we are putting God first, it may be just that, only our own thoughts. Children see our actions and measure our priorities by what they see us do. Imagine how much time you spend on your children’s homework, sports, recitals, and other competitions. Do we give an equal or greater amount of time to preparing their souls for Heaven? Conveying our faith requires effort and sacrifice. It must be reflected in more than just good intentions. Home Schooling When faced with the reality of how little time we have with our children for faith instruction after a traditional school day, many families are turning to homeschooling. This allows them to focus their time and energies back on Christ, while at the same time providing a quality education to their children. Making the decision to homeschool requires discernment and cooperation from both parents. Factors to consider are the ages and needs of your children, who will be the primary instructor, and what space you have within the home to store and complete the schoolwork. You also need to ascertain your preferences for learning style as well as your access to recreational, musical and athletic activities. Each state has different guiding laws and regulations that govern homeschooling, so it is important to start with your own local Department of Education to find out what paperwork to complete and steps to take. There is also legal support available through organizations such as the Homeschool Legal Defense Association. The beauty of homeschooling is that within these local guidelines, there is a great deal of freedom to school as your family sees fit. This is the key benefit to combining the Domestic Church and homeschooling. Time is easily made for morning and evening prayers, feast days, and to study our Melkite faith alongside the basics like math and reading. Discussion can easily happen about the saints or the meaning of an icon over lunch and afternoon breaks. Once the decision is made for the family, the next step is to find a curriculum. Thankfully, there are an unbelievable number of options available. Parents do not have to re-invent the wheel, but have literally hundreds of well-developed, wellrounded, scripted curriculums available to them for every subject under the sun — the problem is too many options as opposed to too few! Homeschooling allows you to follow your children’s areas of interest more deeply with more time for research and discussion with local experts. This could include aspects of our faith, such as taking a field trip to a local monastery or holy site. The Solution to the Socialization Problem Many outside the homeschool world imagine that children who learn at home are cut off from the rest of society and are not seeing enough of their peers. Homeschool moms can assure you that our problem is often that we have too many social engagements, not too few! A support network or co-op is key to the success of the homeschool model of the Domestic Church. However, these social engagements have largely remained outside of our parishes. One benefit of homeschooling is being able to select more carefully the children and ideas to which your own children are exposed. How much better if the support network you create is also full of faithful, practicing Melkite brothers and sisters in Christ? How wonderful would it be if the Eastern Catholic parishes of a given city got together to form a Byzantine homeschooling co-op? This is where the parish can help! At Holy Transfiguration Parish in McLean, Virginia, there are two homeschool groups. One group, that is strictly virtual in these days, provides additional catechesis, particularly through iconography. This group works in conjunction with the Religious Education office and is available to anyone in the parish. The second group is an in-person co-op for homeschoolers. As the name implies, the co-op calls on the strong suits of the parents of the children involved to teach a variety of topics. Meeting once a week for four hours, the time together is truly the highlight of the week! Fr Mark Melone presents a class about a particular facet of Melkite tradition once a month. The students learn drama, participate in a book club, physical education, French (taught by a hired teacher), crafts, and go on the occasional field trip. There are opportunities for community outreach, and best of all, it has become an evangelistic tool through which several families have come to the Church! As with many great ideas, the concept is very simple: on a regular basis, homeschooling parents and students meet at one location and break into age groups (for now, that conform to the relevant social-distancing rules). For the presentation, a parent can teach their own expertise to all the children, or a subject-matter expert is invited. This is often a teacher of a foreign language or other academic specialty such as highlevel science demonstrations. A co-op provides an excellent opportunity to invite clergy to give presentations to the students and introduce them to the fullness of our traditions. The model also reduces isolation for both the parents and students and becomes a special day to look forward to. Parents, grandparents, godparents, catechists, clergy and others concerned about transmitting the faith to the next generation may find homeschooling a creative and flexible means of providing instruction. Here are the issues to consider: • How would it look in your parish? • In what ways could your Religious Education program encourage homeschooling parents who are trying to “live” the Domestic Church in their home? • How can fellow parishioners become “energized” to become involved in the task of faith education in their own homes? • What resources can we share? (Many are already coming together! See the list below!) Not every family is called to homeschool, but each of us is absolutely called to live out our Melkite faith and convey that faith to future generations. Let this serve as a call to action to truly create a Domestic Church in every Melkite home in our Eparchy. Eparchial Resources The Eparchy website is https://melkite.org/ and provides a great deal of useful information: Online issues of Sophia Journal ( click on “Sophia Journal” in the website’s menu bar). Contact information for Eparchy leaders (click on “Eparchy” then “Chancery”) Ordering information for the “Guide for the Domestic Church” (click on “Publications” and then “Guide for the Domestic Church”) Resources for the Domestic Church and Homeschooling (click on “Links” and then scroll down to “Domestic Church”) Linked here, you will find the pan-Byzantine Catholic magazine for children, ByziKids, which provides fun, engaging enrichment activities whether or not you homeschool. Shammassy Jocelyn’s videos with content for the Domestic Church are also linked there under “Melkite Momma.” Eastern Catholic Resources The ECED website is https://godwithusonline.org/ where you can find information about: “Upcoming Events” for learning opportunities Past events in the “Event Library” In particular: https://godwithusonline.org/events/catechesisin-the-pandemic/ “Catechetical Resources” available by jurisdiction — hint: go to https://godwithusonline.org/catechetical-resources/melkite/ All catechists in the Eparchy should be on the ECED mailing list! Please go to https://godwithusonline.org/contact/ and complete the sign-up form. Thanks to the generosity of its benefactors, all resources and events are free of charge. You are encouraged to become a benefactor (just click “Donate”). Home-schooling Resources Neither the Eparchy nor the ECED officially endorses these sites; however: home-schooling parents have reported that they contain useful information: https://responsiblehomeschooling.org/ https://www.thehomeschoolmom.com/ Homeschool Legal Defense Association - https://hslda.org Reprinted with author permission from the Spring 2021 issue of SOPHIA:The Journal of the Melkite Catholic Eparchy
The 0.8% Problem: Building the Domestic Church: Home Schooling and the Parish content media
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Lynne Wardach
Chief ByziMom
Jul 09, 2021
In Parents Page
The blazing sun beat down on a man as he dug in the aired soil. He was planting a grove of trees. But not just any grove. He was planting an olive grove. An olive grove that he would give to his children as their inheritance — a source of wealth, pleasure and joy they could keep and leave to their children. Beads of sweat rolled down his forehead as he thought of the beautiful, delicious and nutritious olives that would some day garnish the table. A single olive tree could provide up to 100 pounds of fruit every year. That is a lot of fruit to eat, sell or even crush into oil for light, medicine or countless other uses. Even the wood is valuable. But olive trees take time to grow — sometimes up to 20 years before a tree pops out its first olive! That is why this father was not planting the grove for himself. As he worked, he smiled knowing that he was leaving a happy future for his children and grandchildren even if he never harvested a single olive from his grove. Fr. Marc Mallick is a Melkite Priest in Dallas, TX, who is nurturing a brand new mission church — a spiritual olive grove of sorts. Just like the farmer working in the hot sun, Fr. Marc knows he is planting something of great value that will take time to grow. “We are just itty-bitty shoots. A baby plant and need lots of care and protection so that we can take root,” he said. It is a vulnerable time for this little congregation as they carefully learn the troparia and gather consistently. It may not look like much but this spiritual grove is a rich Byzantine inheritance for the next generation. “Children need the Eastern expression of faith,” Fr. Marc said. “They need the small community. They need the colors of the Icons, the smell of the incense and the brightness of the gold. This is how they learn. It appeals to their humanity.” Like the farmer, who smiles while thinking about the fruit of his work, Fr. Marc knows the fruit will come in time. “Children are little contemplatives. They stand before mystery and let the mystery reveal itself to them.” Fr. Marc is of Lebanese lineage but grew up in California. Despite hearing his Grandmother say once that her father was Melkite, he assumed his family had been Maronite. It was not until he was in Rome studying to become a Roman Catholic priest that a canon lawyer recognized his family name “Maloof'' and knew instantly that Fr. Marc had a Melkite inheritance left to him from his fathers long before. It turned out that he was right and Fr. Marc would actually need permission to be ordained in the Roman Catholic Church because of his Melkite heritage. Permission came but with a big asterisk attached: “You are permitted to be ordained according to the Roman rite while remaining Melkite,” it said. This meant he was automatically a bi-ritual priest. Shortly after receiving Holy Ordination in the Roman Catholic rite, Fr. Marc became discouraged by his encounter with “legalism, scholasticism and rationalism” which he found to be a poison in the Western church. He began to study and learn more about the history of the Liturgy and this led him to learn more about his liturgical inheritance in Eastern Christianity. “My eyes were opened and I realized that everything we wanted in the Liturgy was already in the Eastern Church,” he said. Fr. Marc quickly realized that his heart longed for the faith of his fathers. “I am an Eastern Christian at heart. I am Melkite and I wanted to come home.” In 2019, Fr. Marc traveled to Lebanon for the first time. His heart soured as his eyes saw the mountains of Lebanon and thought, “Somewhere out there is where my family came from.” In his homeland, he found a whole culture of people “who looked and behaved just like [his] family,” he said. The people in Lebanon showed Fr. Marc the warmth, hospitality and kindness so common in their culture. But the real joy came when he spent Pascha with the Melkite community. Fr. Marc experienced Liturgical worship as never before: The church was packed. Everyone sang loudly. Everyone knew the hymns. Everyone was so kind. Fr. Marc had discovered the olive grove his fathers had planted and cultivated for his inheritance. He found more than just an ethnic belonging but a spiritual one as well. “I am a Melkite,” He said. “I’m not going back.” Returning to Dallas, TX, he immediately began the process to officially transfer his holy orders to be fully Melkite. “The minute I got word that the transfer was official, I gathered people and we met for the first time.” He was determined to leave an inheritance as his fathers had left to him. Their first meeting was Nov. 15, 2020. The Lord keeps opening doors and blessing their efforts. A Ruthenian priest invited the little congregation to worship in their building. A skilled Melkite chanter and a Deacon also joined them. About 15 families gather consistently. Most have never experienced a Melkite Liturgy before but they are all studying and laboring to plant this new mission so their children will inherit the richness of the Eastern faith. Fr. Marc’s new-found love for Eastern Christianity is mixed with perplexed sadness as he wonders why there has been no Melkite church in Texas for all these years. So many Eastern Christian families are dispersed in the United States separated from their liturgical inheritance. “You can sit there and lament or everybody can start talking” he said, encouraging Eastern Christians who are far from a perish to start local congregations wherever they are. They can gather and pray Orthros without a priest. Families can begin planting spiritual olive groves wherever they are. “Your children will see how important it is. Don’t wait for a priest.” The little congregation in Dallas, TX has a long-term vision for their mission knowing their children will harvest the richest fruits from what they are planting. After all, the Apostle Paul reminded us that one plants a seed, another waters, but God makes it grow. (I Cor. 3:6-8). Written by Judith Jolma, Reporter and Contributing Editor, ByziKids Magazine
Planting Olive Trees content media
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Lynne Wardach
Chief ByziMom
May 18, 2021
In Parents Page
As congregations grow smaller and smaller, many parishes also notice that children and young adults are those who are missing. Why is this happening? What can we do about it? ByziKids Contributor, Judith Jolma has written an interesting article on the subject. Take a look, and let us know what you think! Holy Trinity’s Missing Children? There is a church where babies do not cry during Divine Liturgy. Children do not leave the nave for bathroom breaks, and curious little people never ask questions during Father’s homily. The children in this church are not unusually well behaved. They are absent. And the congregation misses them. Once alive with the commotion of families and many children, Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Tulsa, Okla. treasured its community. “Generally, we had a lot of kids at Liturgy and sometimes they made noise or cried, but that is a pleasant sound,” Said Fr. George Gartelos. “I like to hear kids in church.” Six years ago, the congregation met in a much smaller building. Having so many families, they had outgrown the space and needed to renovate. Given a choice to either expand the narthex and nave or build a spacious community hall, the parish council gladly voted for a larger community hall. They imagined bustling coffee hours alive with conversation. They didn’t even mind the thought of spilled birthday cake and children running in-doors. They welcomed multi-generational, though sometimes messy, fellowship. The renovation cost $2 million and gifted the congregation with a large fellowship hall, kitchen, and professional gymnasium. They also added a cozy and welcoming toy room carefully stocked with beautiful and new toys — all hand picked for the littlest children to love and enjoy. There were dolls and farm animals, toys to ride on, and toys to build with, dinosaurs and puzzles. Everything was safe. Everything was beautiful. Everything was perfect. It was their gift to the children whom they loved and they named it the “Sophia Room.” At first, it was all they hoped for. The gym thundered with the sound of bouncing balls and laughing kids getting out their energy after Liturgy. “People started staying longer,” Fr. George recalls. Kids and adults were shooting baskets. Others sipped coffee and enjoyed conversation in the hall, tots contentedly played with dolls and plastic bulldozers in the Sophia Room. They had game nights, an Agape picnic, a youth group and Sunday school. Suddenly in the spring of 2020, everything changed. News of a deadly pandemic frighted families world wide. Governments closed schools, shut down churches and imposed a strict quarantine. Fear of getting sick or dying overwhelmed millions. Wanting to keep everyone safe, the families at Holy Trinity decided it was best to stay home. Many families care for elderly grandparents or have vulnerable members. They believe it is the wise and responsible thing to stay away from others. But as the virus waned and restrictions eased, families are slow to return. “I think it is the same everywhere,” Said Fr. George, who sees some families starting to return. A whole year after the first news of Covid, fewer than a dozen adults sip coffee in the fellowship hall that once rang with the din of 110 families.. The lights in the gym are dark. Outside the Sophia Room, neatly pressed myrrh-bearer dresses hang on a rack. Will little girls wear them again? Toys remain unbroken and unloved. Fr. George misses the children and says that the body of Christ needs their presence, their natural questioning, their sweetness and faith. “No child should be expected to sit quietly for an hour in order to come. Bring the children.” There is an idea that children need to be in church in order to grow up well formed. But the experience at Holy Trinity and other parishes shows us that adults need children in church to teach the adults how to properly pray. Children teach adults to sing loudly without embarrassment. They show us how to ask questions about icons without being ashamed of the unknown. They bring laughter, tears, simplicity and the opportunity to serve. They are a true example of humility. They cause adults to consider their own example and force them to explain the faith when children ask questions. The body of Christ is incomplete without the noise and commotion of children. Who will teach us to simply love Jesus without pretense if the children disappear? How will the Sunday school teachers learn their faith if the children are not there? Who will represent all the women on Great and Holy Pascha if the little myrrh-bearers stay home? Children are vital to the life of the church and a congregation can not live without them any better than a person can live without a heart or liver. “Your presence is important. We miss you,” Fr. George says to the children. “Jesus loves you and so do I.”
Where Have All the Children Gone? content media
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