Big Family, Special Needs

F: Of course, you have an unusual family, and people notice that right away. You have ten children, and six are your own… M: They’re all my own! F: Oh, God bless you, that’s true, they’re all your own. Six are biological children, four are adopted children. You put the words to it, tell me about your children. M: We like to say that our six biological kids are the ones we made all by ourselves—our “homemade” ones—and the other four we picked out of the catalog. [laughing] Our four adopted ones have special needs, although our oldest one has resolved most of his special needs.

Why I Abandoned “Choice”

I was the first feminist in my dorm. It was 1970, and there wasn’t a lot of feminism in South Carolina, noteven at the state university. I was proud to be one of the pioneers. One of our goals was to repeal the laws against abortion. I had a bumpersticker on my car: “Don’t labor under a misconception: Legalize abortion.” A couple of my friends who had unplanned pregnancies went to New York for an abortion, at the time the closest place where it was legal. I cheered them on. Abortion was to me proof of feminist commitment, evidence that you would lay your body on the line for the cause of liberation.

Lent–Why Bother?

Lent is a time of year to remember that God has seen fit to make us, not airy spirits, but embodied human beings living in a beautiful, material world. The soul fills the body the way fire fills a lump of coal, and what the body learns, the soul absorbs as well. Spiritual disciplines, like fasting, are analogous to the weight-lifting machines at a health club. One who uses them in a disciplined way will be stronger, not just when he’s lifting weights, but for every situation that he meets.

Father George Calciu [Introduction]

[Holy Cross Orthodox Church; November 22, 2009] This weekend we are remembering the repose of Fr. George Calciu, who died on November 21, 2006, just two days before 81st birthday. He died of pancreatic cancer, a fast-moving and painful cancer, and had barely survived long enough to complete one last trip to his homeland, Romania. The news reached us on a Sunday evening that he had taken a turn for the worse. Father Gregory and I were hosting a gathering for Orthodox young people at our home that night, but I left our guests and went with Chris Vladimir to the hospital.

Surviving the Economy

[Ancient Faith Radio; January 7, 2009] FMG: Well, I’m at home, of all things. Occasionally I am at home. It’s Sunday morning at Holy Cross Antiochian Orthodox Church in Linthicum, Maryland, just south of Baltimore. If you’ve ever been to Baltimore Washington International Airport, BWI, we’re just two miles from BWI. And it’s coffee hour, and I’m sitting in the basement in the parish hall, and I’m talking with somebody who’s travelled to be here with us. I’m not the one travelling this week. Deacon Tom Braun, from, is it St. Barnabas Church in San Demas? Dn. Tom Braun: It’s St. Barnabas in Huntington Beach, California.

Prayers for Our Nation

[The City; November 2008] All the articles surrounding this one are hot off the keyboard, written in the days since the election. This one goes back a ways. When editor Ben Domenech asked me to contribute to this forum, I told him that I was utterly unqualified. I try not to follow politics. That probably sounds unpatriotic, as well as irresponsible, for someone who is grateful to have been born an American citizen. But I find that the verbal sparring in print and on line, the “yelling shows” on TV, aren’t healthy for me.

The Hypnotic Mall

[Again Magazine; December 2008] The first thing we saw was a blinking sign warning us not to park on the interstate, and then a helicopter circling overhead. As we took the exit, signs assured us that all lanes led to parking, and every block or so a guy in security uniform was windmilling his arms, coaxing the herd of cars to creep forward. All the parking lots were full, their entrances blocked off by police cars. We followed the herd off the road to a vast field of gravel and hardened mud, and finally shut off the engine. Far in the distance we could see it, glowing like the Emerald City of Oz: Arundel Mills Mall.

The Voice Beneath the Altar

[from A Faith and Culture Devotional, Zondervan, 2008] When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne; they cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before thou wilt judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell upon the earth?”( Revelation 6:9-10) During the first centuries of Christianity, the church was battered within and without. Pseudo-Christians distorted the faith and misled the faithful, while the powerful Roman Empire persecuted Christians with torture and death. When local church members were able to gather the remains of their fellow-believers (often, this was forbidden), they lovingly interred these broken bodies beneath their altars, a reminder that the blessed departed are invisibly present to join us in worship. St. John writes that, in his vision, he heard the voice of the martyrs crying out from under the altar.

Growing a Parish

[Ancient Faith Radio; December 3, 2008] FMG: Today I am at St. Justin Martyr OCA Church in Jacksonville, Florida, just south of Jacksonville, in the area of Mandarin. My family has owned a small farm here since 1880 or so; it’s been in the family, or with the in-laws of the family, since then. I came down to visit my sister, Dorothy, who’s a member of this church, and to visit my mother, who’s in a nursing home here, and now I’m talking to one of my favorite priests, Fr. Ted Pisarchuk. “Ball of fire” is what they call him behind his back, because he’s always up to something. You especially have a love of missions. Were you the founding pastor of St. Justin Martyr?

The Saints and Me

[Orthodox Outlook; Fall 2008] I wrote my most recent book, “The Lost Gospel of Mary: The Mother of Jesus in Three Ancient Texts,” about the Theotokos, and the main reason was that I felt like I didn’t understand her very well. I recognized that other Christians feel very warmly toward her, but I always felt kind of scared of her. She looked so fierce, in her icons. (I underwent some teasing in an all-girl school when I was young, and maybe that had something to do with it.) I could look at the icon of Christ and see that he looked equally tough, and yet I could understand why, and knew that he loved me. I wasn’t sure that the Virgin Mary did. I hoped that by looking into the way that the earliest Christians saw the Virgin, I would myself learn a healthier perspective.