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Teaching a Sunday School class of monastic vocation


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#1 Trudy

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Posted 06 December 2006 - 02:54 AM

Dear Monastic Members of our Community,

God has blessed me with the privilege and joy of teaching the children of our church, Holy Trinity Orthodox Church. Ages range from approximately 7 to 13 years. Due to lack of teachers, I hold a "one room school-house" and am the sole teacher those dear children get stuck with! :o) Lord have mercy!

Our course material (OCA) is on vocations. In the early weeks of January we will be discussing God's leading to the priesthood. Our Rector, Rev. Fr. Timothy Hasenecz, will be attending class to answer questions provided by the kids. In the following weeks, we will be discussing God's leading to monasticism.

With Fr. Tim's permission, I extend this request for help from those monks and nuns in our Monachos community: Would any of you be comfortable and be be willing to answer some of the children's questions they have come up with? Those answers do not need to be posted to this thread. If you wish, I would be happy to provide my personal email account or receive private email messages via Monachos.

All of the kids have not submitted their questions as of yet. We are in preparation for our Christmas Play thus we are forgoing "formal" class lessons, for rehearsals. (And I use that term very loosely!) But a sampling of some that I have received are along the lines of (now remember, all but 2 of the children know absolutely nothing about monks/nuns, nor have they ever met one!):

a) Are you allowed to talk? One of the students heard somewhere that Greatschema monks are not permitted to talk at all.

b) What things are you allowed or not allowed to do? Can you read books, go to the movies, watch TV, eat potatoe chips? This from a 9 year old.

c) What do you wear? Does it mean anything? Symbolism of your robes and that of a Greatschema monk.

I will research this forum as I see Fr. Averky (+Memory Eternal!) posted some good information. Our very own Fr. Seraphim has provided some excellent pictures to share with the kids. But I appreciate any help you are willing to offer.

Humbly in Christ,
Athanasia

#2 Fr Seraphim (Black)

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Posted 06 December 2006 - 05:49 AM

Children have such a wonderful simplicity and way of seeing into the ways of God.

Possible responses to:

a) in Romanian Orthodoxy, there is a tradition for those upon taking the Greatschema that they are permitted only seven words per day.

Neverthelesss, I have been present on occasion where this tradition has not been strictly observed. (Names and places will not be supplied to protect the innocent.)

- if this Romanian tradition were to be imposed on Mt. Athos, the Greek monks who are so talented and gifted with speech, and according to them, have always been so - I have reason to believe the Romanian tradition would be strongly opposed!

b) No televison, whatsoever - though I did witness the September 9th, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Centre on television, and as I was in Constantinople, this was courtesy of Patriarch Bartholomew I;

- books that relate to the life of Orthodox monasticism are in abundance

- Athonite monks love french fries - does that count?

- I must confess that due to my love of Tolkein, I went to see one of the parts of the Triology - the children said, in amazement to their parents - 'look, there is Gandalff!'

c) Good question, in fact, people in Canada are 'surprised' to see me hanging things up to dry - old habits die hard. On Athos, at least in my time, we did not have electricity - thus, no washing machines or dryers. As for the symbolism of the Greatschema, yes, this is very relevant and an extremely important question to answer.

I shall be more than happy to help in anyway that I can.

#3 Rebecca Gabl

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Posted 06 December 2006 - 08:47 PM

I spent some time in a monastery living and working with the nuns, so I'll tell you a little about that.

a) Are you allowed to talk? One of the students heard somewhere that Greatschema monks are not permitted to talk at all.

We didn't have any Greatschema nuns at my monastery. Everyone talked. Some were quite chatty. Talking was discouraged (but not absolutely forbidden) during stricter times, such as the day before Communion and the first week of Great Lent. It's a tradition in a lot of monasteries that no one talks during meals, except one person who reads from the Lives of Saints.

b) What things are you allowed or not allowed to do? Can you read books, go to the movies, watch TV, eat potatoe chips? This from a 9 year old.

Books were highly recommended. Not just spiritual books, but a variety of other books as well, as long as they weren't offensive. That's how I got into classic literature, actually. We never went to movies, but we occasionally watched inoffensive videos (such as Cinderella). We had potato chips occasionally.

As for the clothes, I think someone else can give a more complete answer.

#4 Father David Moser

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Posted 07 December 2006 - 01:24 AM

a) Are you allowed to talk? One of the students heard somewhere that Greatschema monks are not permitted to talk at all.

b) What things are you allowed or not allowed to do? Can you read books, go to the movies, watch TV, eat potatoe chips? This from a 9 year old.
...
I will research this forum as I see Fr. Averky (+Memory Eternal!) posted some good information.


Since Fr Averky isn't with us to answer, perhaps I can answer for him in a way by providing some of my remembrances.

a) Fr Averky loved to talk, he was a great story teller and he was one of the best joke tellers I know. I remember one day in particular when we were riding in a car together to go somewhere and I almost passed out from laughing so hard because of Fr Averky's jokes. Fr Averky had the gift of being able to talk to anyone. He would walk up to people and just strike up a conversation out of the blue. He was very courageous that way. One evening, the bishop had given a blessing for us to go out for dinner and so we jumped in the car and went downtown looking for a Chinese restaurant. We didn't really know where to go so Fr stopped the car at a Chinese grocery store and went in and had a whole conversation with the owner about where the real Chinese restaurants were - you know the ones that the Chinese people went to.

b) books - Fr Averky was an avid reader. I recall once when visiting him at the monastery, he had just finished reading the life of Tsu Hsi, a Chinese empress (and remember he was a jokester so he pronounced her name "sue hissy") We had the responsiblity that night of sitting with Fr Archimandrite K who was in a coma but still cared for by the monks. So while watching Fr K, Fr Averky filled the time telling about the life of Tsu Hsi. Fr Averky didn't watch TV at the monastery of course (life there is much too full for there to be time for TV) but when he would visit us, he would watch the evening news without fail. I don't think he went to movies, but he did rent them and watch them on VHS or DVD at home with us. The last movie I remember watching with him was Les Miserables. Potato chips - Fr Averky loved to eat, and he loved to watch others eat. He was a great cook and could make all kinds of things. Once when visiting our parish, he made a meal in memory of his mother (who had just died) and invited everyone to come and share with him. When he was visiting a small monastery for a couple of months, he was the cook and the monks there gained weight because of his cooking. The only thing monks can't eat is meat so potato chips are fair game (but beef jerky is out). Father did a mean battered and fried fish that was to die for.

On a similar note - not Fr Averky, but another monk I know (Archimandrite Th) was so impressed by a miniseries done in Russia of Dostoevsky's "The Idiot" that he bought a whole bunch of copies and gave them away to every one he knew. He came to our parish and gave a talk about the spiritual importance of this book and used scenes from the miniseries to dramatize his points.

Fr David Moser

#5 Olga

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Posted 07 December 2006 - 03:26 AM

I know of an abbot who runs "his" monastery along strict, traditional lines (wood heating, little electricity, except when absolutely necessary, and for the visitors' quarters), yet he had a great way with young people, and was known to take groups of youngsters to the beach where they would all go surfing .... And I would agree with Fr David, many monastics are ferociously good cooks!

#6 Trudy

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Posted 07 December 2006 - 12:37 PM

Thank you all for these excellent contributions! Please keep them coming!

I will get the rest of the questions this weekend and post them.

Love, Athanasia

#7 Trudy

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Posted 10 December 2006 - 08:27 PM

Dear Ones,

Again thank you for your contributions so far. I told the children that we've already gotten some responses and they were clamouring to know what they were! I told them they had to wait till we got all answers in so as to keep them drawn in! Very exciting!!!

Here are the questions the children came up with:
1) What things can you do or not do?
2) Do you remember all the services/prayers without a book?
3) What exactly is a monk / nun?
4) Do you talk? Do Schema monks/nuns talk? (This was already answered but others wish to elaborate, that would be fine. Perhaps explain the reasoning behind the silence?)
5) What thing do you do in a day besides prayers? Do you have chores? If so, what kinds of chores? Do you have to make your bed?
6) Do you get time to yourself (not in a church building)? (I think the children think monks/nuns live in the church building all the time. It may be helpful to describe where you live.)
7) What is the significance of your clothing and that of a schema?
8) Is a nun permitted to serve in the Altar? Or clean the Altar area? If so, why or why not? (There was some dispute amongst the children as to whether nuns were permitted to do any of this.)

Today we played Jeopardy! as a review of the first few months of Church school where we discussed baptism, service to God, the Tabernacle and the parable of the Sower and the Seeds. The girls DUSTED the boys! It was tragic. But a TON of fun!!!

And, one of my girls has memorized the ranks of the priesthood and is working her way through the prayers in her prayer book. Fr. Seraphim, she was very, very interested in the photos you shared with me.

I covet your prayers as I lead these children. It is an awesome responsibility; one which causes fear and trembling.

Much love in Christ,
Athanasia

#8 Rebecca Gabl

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Posted 11 December 2006 - 04:19 PM

1) What things can you do or not do?

Can: Read books, listen to music (within good taste), drink wine (special occasions), drink soda (if you pay for it yourself), eat candy (pilgrims love to bring nuns chocolate!), converse within moderation, visit family occasionally

Not: leave monastery grounds without a blessing, eat meat, converse excessively with the opposite sex, pick and choose which chores they want to do

2) Do you remember all the services/prayers without a book?

No. We still use a lot of books. But being at a monastery where there are daily services makes a person surprisingly familiar with the psalter, Gospel, and services. You begin to love and appreciate the services as you never thought you would.

3) What exactly is a monk / nun?

I think someone else can give a more complete answer.

5) What thing do you do in a day besides prayers? Do you have chores? If so, what kinds of chores? Do you have to make your bed?

Yes, many chores, called obediences. These include cleaning the house and church, cooking, doing laundry, sewing, helping pilgrims with their accomodations, serving meals and cleaning up afterwards...singing, reading, and serving in church are obediences, but could hardly be called chores!

The sisters at my monastery weren't required to make their beds. The sisters don't generally go into each other's cells; that's their own personal space. Still, it's spiritually beneficial to live in a clean, well-ordered cell, especially because you pray in there, and it's distracting to pray in a messy room.

6) Do you get time to yourself (not in a church building)? (I think the children think monks/nuns live in the church building all the time. It may be helpful to describe where you live.)

Yes, besides church and chores, the sisters always had at least a little time alone. They would rest, read, write letters, make their beds :), or go for a walk.


8) Is a nun permitted to serve in the Altar? Or clean the Altar area? If so, why or why not? (There was some dispute amongst the children as to whether nuns were permitted to do any of this.)

Where I was, there was one nun besides the abbess who was allowed in the altar. She'd clean the altar and help prepare stuff for the services. Other sisters would serve kind of like altar boys (holding the candle for the Gospel, taking prosforas to and from the altar, etc.), but without actually going into the altar. I believe (and correct me if I'm wrong) that at every monastery, the abbess is allowed to go into the altar (of her own monastery). It is also interesting to note that people approach the abbess for a blessing they way they'd approach a priest. Only, when giving a blessing, she holds her hand the way we do when we make the sign of the cross, not the way a priest or bishop does when giving a blessing. The abbess is also commemorated in litanies, after the commemoration of the local hierarchs.

I'm sure the real monastics still have a lot to add!




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