I'll Come Speak

    I write and speak on all sorts of topics: ancient Christian spirituality and the Eastern Orthodox faith, the Jesus Prayer, marriage and family, the pro-life cause, cultural issues, and more. You can contact Cynthia Damaskos of the Orthodox Speakers Bureau if you’d like to bring me to an event. This Calendar will let you know when I’m in your neighborhood.


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How to Revive a "Dead" Church

Here’s something I hear from time to time: “I’d like to join the Orthodox Church, but I visited a local church and it just felt dead.”

When I hear this it’s about Orthodox churches, but that needn’t be the case. It could be any church or denomination; it might sound good on paper, but the local church on Sunday morning feels empty and drained.

It’s tempting to say, “That shouldn’t make any difference. Focus on your own prayer life.” But, actually, I know what these people mean. Sometimes, when you visit a church, something just feels “off.” It makes you really eager to get out of there.


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Why It's Hard to Accept God's Forgiveness

My daughter-in-law, Khouria Jocelyn Mathewes, has a good column today on repentance, as we head into Great Lent. She makes a point about accepting forgiveness for past sins (not the ones that continue in the present, but completed deeds in the past.) She reminds us that we must accept forgiveness and move on, and not keep revisiting them and “beating yourself up.”

I think that, when we continue to be distraught over a forgiven sin in the past, it’s linked to our pride. It’s that we can’t believe we would ever do such a thing. It doesn’t fit our sense of the “kind of person” we are. So we can never quite assimilate it; we keep being startled by it, and regard it as strange and appalling. We think of it as something inexplicable that “happened,” rather than something we did.

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We Call Ourselves "Pro-Life"

Here is why abortion is the most important justice issue of our time.

1. It is wrong to discriminate, and worse to persecute, still worse to imprison, even worse to torture, and worst of all to kill.

Abortion kills.

2. It is wrong to kill violent adults, if they can be stopped any other way. It is worse to kill non-violent adults. It is even worse to kill children.

Abortion kills children.

3. In 2011, there were 908 child fatalities from car accidents. There weere 1620 child fatalities from abuse and neglect. And there were 1,058,490 child fatalities from abortion.

Abortion kills children in overwhelming numbers.

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The Unborn Person

In the Roe v Wade decision, Justice Harry Blackmun wrote that, if the fetus is a person, the right to abortion collapses. (Roe v. Wade 410 U.S. 113 [1973] Section IX.)

How can we tell whether it is a person or not?

Here’s what science shows. From the beginning, the unborn is:

1. Alive. It is living and growing, always increasing in size and complexity.

2. Human. Its body is composed entirely of human cells.

3. Individual. It has unique DNA. If a cell from the mother, the father, and the unborn child were examined side by side, it would reveal that they came from three different people.

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Old Age and Illness

[January 24, 2017]

I was just writing to a friend who’s had a hard diagnosis:
When I was young I noticed how all older people have something physical to complain about, sometimes something very serious. Each one had a body part that was failing faster than the rest. A part that had been set, like a clock, to be the first to give way. And we don’t know what they are, when we’re younger. We carry them around unknowing, while the clock steadily circles around to the time they are set to bloom forth—“booby traps” that we don’t know about and can’t anticipate, but every day get closer to being activated.
George Gilder had a memorable line in “Men and Marriage,” about how a young man who has pursued only pleasure begins to realize that he is aging: “His body, which once measured out his few advantages over females, is beginning to intimate its terrible plan to become as weak as an older woman’s.”
It is so easy, when we’re young, to think, “Of course he / she is sick, feeble, deaf, dying—he / she is old.” As if that made it reasonable. It is never reasonable, when it’s us.
It seems God deliberately saves up a lot of suffering for the end of life—loss of health, loss of strength, loss of loved ones, loss of mind. For some people, these wounds are no doubt God’s final attempt to get their attention.
All we can do is pray. And commiserate; however weak we become, we can still give each other the gift of listening. Old age and illness teach us new lessons we would not otherwise learn. Flannery O’Connor wrote:
“In a sense sickness is a place, more instructive than a long trip to Europe, and it’s always a place where there’s no company, where nobody can follow. Sickness before death is a very appropriate thing, and I think those who don’t have it miss one of God’s mercies.”
These lessons are surely planned by God to teach exactly what we need to learn. They arrive when we don’t have much time to use the wisdom we might gain. Surely tWe can at least be watchful, to quickly recognize the lessons that are being sent to us, and put them into practice. Instead falling into panic or despair, we can recognize the the beginning of a process of stripping-away that will sooner or later strip away everything, including breath. And replace it with life.


A Litany to St. Michael

Chief Captain of the Angels,

pray for us

Angel of fiery appearance,

pray for us

Angel of miraculous beauty,

pray for us

First-formed star of the world,

pray for us

Traverser of Creation,

pray for us

Fulfiller of the Creator’s commands,

pray for us

Mighty and powerful,

pray for us

Minister, spirit, and flaming fire,

pray for us

Leader of the thrice-holy hymn,

pray for us

Greatest of Archangels,

pray for us

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He asked "Am I autistic?"

A young man sent me an email saying that he was wondering whether he was autistic, and wether he should get himself evaluated by a doctor. I asked an autistic young man I knew to reply.


I’m a thirty-year-old man, Orthodox since infancy, diagnosed with Aspergers before age ten.  I’ve been married for four years, and have a young child.  I haven’t been all that professionally successful myself, for various reasons which can be summarized as “grew up lazy and got a useless degree.”  I should note that I have a very mild form of Asperger’s (I can pass for an extrovert), and every case is different anyway, so not everything I say will necessarily apply.

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Dr. Denis Mukwege is a doctor in Congo, where there is an epidemic of, a craze for, rape. All ages, all across the culture, there is a war of males against females. Dr. Mukwege tries to repair the damage done to little girls. Think twice before reading the article, because it’s heartbreaking.


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A Litany drawn from the Paraklesis Hymn

Roman Catholics have a beautiful litany to the Virgin Mary, and I thought I would create a similar one based on the many ways the Theotokos is addressed in Orthodox hymns. I soon found that there is far too much for only one litany! Here is the first, then, drawn entirely from the Paraklesis Hymn (also called the Little Supplicatory Canon) to the Theotokos. Hopefully there will be other litanies in time, drawn from other hymns. If you’d like to create some, send them to me at fmg@frederica.com.

You’ll find a more attractively-formatted version here. My idea was that you could print this out as a bookmark; it’s only 2” wide. (Admittedly a long bookmark at almost 10”.) I printed mine and then stuck the two columns back to back, and placed it in one of those “Self-sealing Laminating Pouches” you can buy at any office supply store.

A wink: the font I chose is called “Sitka.”

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Annual Dormition Fast Prayer Vigil to End Abortion


O most merciful, all gracious and compassionate Lord Jesus Christ our Savior, Son of God: we entreat Thee, most gracious Master: look with compassion upon Thy children who have been condemned to death by the unjust judgment of men. And as Thou hast promised to bestow the heavenly kingdom on those born of water and the Spirit, and those who, in blamelessness of life, have been translated unto Thee; and Who said, “Suffer the little children to come unto me, for of such is the kingdom of heaven”—we humbly pray, according to Thy unfailing promise: Grant the inheritance of Thy kingdom to the multitude of spotless infants who have been cruelly murdered in the abortuaries of this land; for Thou art the resurrection and the life and the repose of all Thy servants and of these innocents, O Christ our God.

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