|The following essays come from the hearts of real people. Some of them were baptized in the Byzantine Rite, and have never thought of leaving it. Others have become Byzantine Catholics because of what the Byzantine Rite of the Catholic Church offered them. If you are a Byzantine Catholic, you too are invited to share your thoughts on our web site - send them to Sts. Cyril and Methodius with your name, parish and city and they will be added here.|
I was very fortunate to have been born into the Byzantine rite. My family was very involved in the Byzantine right. Msgr Nick was like a part of our family as was the whole congregation. When I was seventeen, my father was killed in a car accident. It happened shortly before the most holy Easter season. I remember being in chuch on Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday and the grief and sorrow filled my soul. It was such a beautiful service but yet, My family and I were still grieving.
Not long after that I too lost both of my paternal Grandparents. I grew into a young adult, I still had my faith, but I chose not to practice it anywhere but within my own four walls. As I grew older and had a family, I began to attend church. I had my children baptized in an Episcopal Catholic church. We attended services on Sundays. The church was not in the same community that we lived, and I always felt that I did not belong. I threw myself into that church, by attending Bible studies and family functions thinking that the more time I spent there, the better I would fit in.
I must tell you that as a young adult I sampled many religions. After doing a year of soul- searching and building my relationship with God I found that it was not the location of the church, it was not the members of the church, what I found was that it was not MY church. I had been out of touch with St. Pius Byzantine Catholic Church for almost twenty years, and in those twenty years I was missing a big part of my being.
In the past twenty years, I have several times over the years wanted to return to St. Pius X, but I was so afraid. I was afraid of the sorrowful memories of my last attendance there. I knew when I returned there I would be an emotional wreck. I have been thinking a lot about St. Pius lately and decided that my family and I would attend this upcoming Easter service there.
I picked up the phone last night and dialed St. Pius' number. Expecting to get the answering machine I was pleasantly surprised when Msgr. Nicholas Smiciklas picked up the phone. A tunnel of emotions whirled through my head, I can't even explain what I was feeling but it was magical. We spoke for a while, and before we even hung up the telephone, I knew that the missing puzzle piece in my life for all those years had been found.
When my husband came home we talked about how I was feeling. The best way I could describe it to him was that "I was in this awful dream for twenty years. A dream where I was lost and could not find my way home. I traveled down many streets and avenues. They were all warm and inviting but I knew they were dead ends, they were not the way home. I started to forget was home was like, but I had memories of home, but I still could not find it. One day I heard a familiar voice, it was like the voice of an angel, when I heard that voice, I knew then that I was home. I went to bed and said my prayers with my children like we always do, I had a feeling that I have not yet experienced during this night time tradition with my children, I felt utterly at peace, I felt whole as we said our prayers.
I woke up this morning, and as usual my husband said, "How are you this morning?" I said, "I am at peace, I am calm, I am so happy". It's not that I ever felt unhappy or not at peace but you don't realize that it is not there until you have it back. I wrote Msgr. Nick a letter last night, telling him how I have felt these past years, I then explained it to my children (15, 8 & 5). They were asking me all sorts of questions about my church and my religion.
My father donated our church's bell tower back in the 1970's and was Byzantine Catholic Man of the Year. I am very proud of my father and will finally get a chance to show my children the dedication to him on that bell tower. It will be a very emotional homecoming for all of us. I can't wait to go home.
Why I am
attending Saints Cyril and Methodius sounds simple - one evening after Vespers,
Father Michael said, "It's time for you to come home". So I did! A member of the
church would tell me every time I visited, "it does my heart so much good to see
you here again". Many others let me know they were glad to see me, asked if I
was planning to join the church. My many questions were answered by Father. I
watched the people, were they real? Everyone was certainly real. They are
family, they love each other, care for each other, they bump into each other at
times, they believe in God. They are a praying family, with room in their hearts
for more family. They accepted my husband as part of the church family, even
though he is not Catholic. We were both invited to participate in the church.
It's impossible to fully explain why I am a Byzantine Catholic in a few short paragraphs. To start, I'll need to share 2 seemingly insignificant childhood memories. One memory of my Dad, was of my kneeling next to him in the Roman Catholic Church, peeking over to see him pray, the look on his face was peace and love all wrapped up in one. I felt warm and secure. Whenever I pray I still know that same peace, warmth and security. This is where my faith began.
The other was our occasional visits to Pennsylvania and Granddad's. Church was a focal point. With the stories of how he came from the old country, freedom to practice your faith was instilled witin me. I pictured him literally putting each and every brick in place in the church we went to. Granddad always seemed to disappear as we entered church. During the service, when I heard the response boom throughout the church, this child thought it was God Himself answering the priest. Later, I learned Granddad sang from the choir loft! But I knew in my heart it was also God singing through him. God was in the middle of "My Church". It was warm, peaceful, secure, where I was baptized and confirmed.
Twenty-five years ago I left the Roman Catholic Church due to a misconception on my part, however, I never left my faith. Five years later I spoke to a priest about instructing my sons in the Catholiic faith and that misconception was cleared up. We were attending a Protestant church at this time. When we moved to the Fort Pierce area, we became active members in one of the Roman Catholic churches. My sons would tell me how Catholic I was - my response was always, I am a Christian choosing to practice my faith as a Catholic.
Today, the singing, your name said withn the communion prayer, the prayers, the rosary, even confession have renewed my child-like faith. My heart burns with the desire to please God. "Now and forever and forever more", "Christ is among us, indeed He is and always will be", "Let us worthily thank the Lord", "Bow your heads before God", "Listen, be attentive", may only be words to some - for me, they are God speaking directly to me, putting me on alert, letting me know that God is very much alive within "My Church". His love is bountiful here, that is part of being proud to say I am a Byzantine Catholic, a member of the true church.
Charlotte M. George,
(The Charlotte George Memorial Prayer Gazebo to the Unborn will be erected and dedicated Easter 2002)
First of all, I was born into
this beautiful Rite, baptized and married over sixty years ago and wouldn't
change it for the world.
There is quite a comparison from the Roman Rite (Latin) from ours which goes back way before the Latin Rite.
The Byzantine Liturgy is longer than the Latin Rite Masses but you feel like you were to church, especially participating and singing along with our melodies. Our priests wear beautiful colorful garments or vestments and so do our altar servers.
We also have magnificent Holy Icons in which the eyes pull you towards them as if to speak to you. Then we have a good communication between the priests and fellow parishioners which are very heart-warming during the Liturgy and coffee socials.
I could go on and on but a person would have to actually visit and participate in our Liturgy in order to feel the warmth of a loving Byzantne Catholic Church.
I am a Byzantine Catholic born
into the faith. I lived the Ruthenian life actively and faithfully for as long
as I can remember. I continue to look favorably on the teachings of our faith
through our Pastor's will and guidance which give me spiritual strength. I make
a sincere effort to attend all services offered, and consider it a gift from God
who has given me the strength, especially at this, the winter of my life.
I cannot imagine how I could survive without the spiritual guidance and the celebration of our beautiful services and the Holy Liturgies.
I am thankful to God the Father, His divine Son ahd the Holy Spirit for all the blessings bestowed upon me and my family. For these reasons, I love my Byzantine Catholic Church and all of our devoted faithful.
parents and both maternal and paternal grandparents were of the Byzantine faith
so I was born into it and practiced it all of my life. Like most things we have
all the time and are used to, we tend to take it for granted. However, I never
realized until my adult years how precious the Byzantine Catholic faith is and
how beautiful the Divine Liturgy is.
As an ex-flight attendant and presently a traveling nurse, my jobs past and now present have taken me to many parts of the states and I did not have the opportunity to go to a Byzantine Catholic church, so I went to the Roman Catholic church and, although the Mass is lovely, I always felt something lacking now at this present time. I find it even more so because of the many changes now occuring in the Roman Catholic church.
One change that bothers me very much is that the tabernacle has been moved, either to the side of the altar or in a separate room, instead of in the middle of the altar, where it should be the focal point. After all, is this not the house of "God" where we are going to worship and praise "Him".
So when I go to my Byzantine Catholic church, I see the tabernacle right there in front of me, I take a deep breath and say to myself, now I am home in God's house.
Our Divine Liturgy is so beautiful that certain parts of it always bring tears to my eyes because of its beauty.
There is reverence in our church for God, people respond with enthusiasm and one can feel that you are in a holy place, in the presence of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Also, our other worship services are filled with words of such beauty that are offered to God. Also, our traditions are very precious to me and of great importance to me in my spiritual life, not to mention our beautiful music, eppecially sung by a choir.
Yes, I love my faith and my church and I am proud to be a part of it first through inheritance and now by choice.
It is no surprise to me that our ancestors in Europe, whose Byzantine Catholic churches were taken from them and destroyed, still gathered in fields and private homes to celebrate the Divine Liturgy.
I was brought up in the Lutheran faith until I met my dear Victor in 1968. I started going with him to the St. John the Baptist Eastern Rite Byzantine Catholic Church in Detroit, mostly, I think, to please his family and him, of course. First, I was awed by the beauty of the altar and church, just like home (Germany). I thought that was the outside of me thinking, then I met Father Mike and the members of the church and, all of a sudden, I was one of them. Then we moved to Fort Pierce, Florida. New church, new priest, new people. But soon we were part of the church and everyone in it and I became a Catholic not only in my mind, but in my heart, too.
My husband and I are both
Roman Catholics. I am a product of the Roman Catholic school systems. While I
was growing up in Scotland, which is a predominantly Presbyterian country, I was
used to defending my religion, which in turn probably made me more Catholic than
the average American Catholic. I really believed everything that I was taught.
For example, Latin was the only language the Mass could be said in and that we
could never, ever touch the Eucharist. As far as meat on Friday, well, my
friends always knew to provide me with some form of fish.
In the sixties after the first Vatican Council, I felt as though everything I knew was gradually disappearing. I no longer felt happy going to church. The Mystery of the Mass had lost its Mystery and most of the spirituality I loved.
In 1970 my husband and I met a wonderful Byzantine priest and we were married in the Byzantine Catholic Church. Our two daughters were raised in it. The Byzantine Liturgy leaves me feeling full of joy. We lift up our hearts and sing the entire Mass. The congregations within the Byzantine Rite are usually smaller than the Roman Catholic ones and so you can easily get to know your neighbor and your priest.
For ten years we lived in an area that did not have a Byzantine Church. We went to church but always felt that slight emptiness. Now that we are once again able to attend a Byzantine Catholic Church we feel that we are now complete spiritually.
Finally, I wish that every Catholic could attend an Easter liturgy in the Byzantine Catholic Church. Once you have done that you will understand how my husband and I feel about this Rite and how easy it was for us to change.
Rose Mary Peters
Most of the
people in our church were born into the Byzantine family. I was not. In fact, I
can't remember ever hearing of the Byzantine Church until the summer of 1949.
That summer I met a youong man, Mike Druga - we started dating. After a while, he asked me to go to his church with him on Sunday.
At this first Liturgy I was completely lost. However, in spite of that, the icons and singing got to me. Have you ever noticed how the eyes of the icons follow you all over the church?
A few weeks later I noticed that Father Belock's voice really held you captive. You couldn't help but sit up and listen with both ears. I learned a lot in that first year.
I think it is the singing that makes the Liturgy so beautiful. Father Belock would often tell his people "that God doesn't expect a lot of opera stars at church. Sing out, be heard, for when you sing, you pray twice." Being a novice, I would try to sing. I could not catch the tones at first. Mike would laugh, but he would never try to stop me, even when I tried to sing in Slovak. Boy, did I, and do I chop up the words. I am doing much better now and am enjoying every minute of my time in church. I come out of church feeling in my heart closer to God.
If I had not met Mike Druga, I would most likely still be a Roman Catholic, and still would not have heard of the Byzantine Church. So I thank God for sending Mike to me, and me to the Byzantine Church.
Born in Long
Beach, California, in 1964, to a Russian Orthodox father and a Roman Catholic
mother. Both were non-practicing, but had both my younger brother and me
baptized Russian Orthodox. My parents separated when I was four and my mother
brought my brother and me back to Pennsylvania where she lived with her parents
until I was six and married a non-practicing Protestant.
From that time we lived in Herminie, Pennsylvania, growing up in a step-family feeling misplaced and not very loved. Always looking for a place to call our own where we would be sincerely loved, my brother and I turned to different types of spirituality. We visited the Methodist church down the street, the Roman Catholic church over the hill, but they were large institutions that weren't interested in fostering the faith of a couple of kids whose parents weren't going to be financial benefactors of any sort.
Then when I was fourteen curiosity got the best of us and we had to find out about the church down the street that everyone in town called the Greek Catholic church. I had always been reluctant to go to that church because it seemed so foreign to me. Besides, I didn't even know anyone who attended that church. The crucifix on the sign was different and it said "St. Mary's Greek Catholic Church, Byzantine-rite". I didn't understand what it meant. So I researched it a little, and that's what I found, very little. Everywhere I looked, in the town and school libraries, bore very little information. What I did gather, from all my searchings, was that it was somewhat of a combination of Orthodox and Catholic traditions. This interested me very much. Remembering that I had been baptized Russian Orthodox and that my mother was Roman Catholic, it seemed to me the obvious place for us to be.
Still I was reluctant - that little church seemed too mysterious to me.Then my brother had told me he had visited the church and begged me to go with him on the next Sunday. The next Sunday came and we walked together to the church as my brother was telling me how wonderful it was, but I was still afraid, as if I were expecting some sort of epiphany, but not sure I wanted to face it. I entered with my heart in my throat, but kept telling myself "we're just a couple of dumb kids. We'll just sit through the liturgy, and run home when it's over, and everything will be okay."
What a glorious Sunday it was! The liturgy was in Slavonic and I couldn't understand a thing that was said, but it felt like heaven on earth. The incense filled my senses as the priest celebrated with such passion. Thick fragrant smoke and sparks poured from the censor as he censed the entire church. Then he came before the church, facing the altar, and began to spin the the censor over his head for a time then brought it into his vestments and held it inside as the smoke rose from him as if he were going to burst into flames. Then throwing his hands into the air as the censer streaming smoke and sparks hit him in the back with a sparky crash and a huge cloud of smoke rose into the air. I thank God every day that I was able to witness the passion of this beautiful priest of Christ.
Oh God, give blessed repose to the soul of Father William "Bill" Kozar.
When Father Bill gave his sermon, he didn't give it from a pulpit or lectern, he came close to the people, first blessing the children sitting in the front and pulling candy from his cincture and reminding them not to eat it until the liturgy was over. Then blessing other various members of his parish and shaking hands with others. As the sermon began in earnest you could feel the whole of the parish hanging on to every word. Sometimes only speaking above a whisper and other times roaring like thunder, every soul got his message.
I visited a few more times,
going again instead to the English liturgy, and learning what was being said. I
decided to make my presence known to the pastor one day and got the aid of a
Roman Catholic friend to go with me to see the priest as now my brother was too
afraid to meet him. We knocked on the door and he took us in and explained to us
what the Church was about and was impressed with my research. I later brought my
brother down to meet him and he set us up with catechism classes and prayer
books. Thank God, I have found my home.
Later we had become altar boys and took our First Holy Communion. The following year the confusion of adolescense began to take its toll on my brother and we began to grow apart as he began smoking and drinking with new friends and not attending church. I, on the other hand found peace from my turbulent family life in the Church. Father Bill became my hero and I wanted to be just like him. I would attend church as much as possible and even skip school to go to church. I wished I could be an altar boy my whole life, or maybe even a priest.
My senior year of school came and realizing I didn't have the academic aptitude to become a priest, I joined the Marines. Thinking it would give me the discipline and money I needed to go to school. With all its temptations, I was soon drawn to the sinful side of military life and had completely lost my way.
Eighteen years later, in Mission Viejo, California, eight in the Marines and ten working in an oil refinery, and two failed marriages under my belt. I was trying to figure out, in my sinful life, had I ever been happy? My God, yes! When I was in the church! I looked on the internet yellow pages and found Annunciation Byzantine Catholic Church in Anahiem. I had found my way back home! Praised be Jesus Christ!
Working shift work in an oil refinery, it is impossible to make it to church every Sunday but I make it up on the weekdays, when I can. I have never been happier. The pastor, Father George, has told me about the Holy Resurrection Monastery in Newberry Springs, California. I had a glorious weekend visit and plan another three weeks in the summer. The dream of a vocation is still alive.
My days are now filled with prayer and love of worship for our Savior Jesus Christ!
The humble servant of Jesus Christ,