Wednesday, October 12, 2011

OPF Conference Reflections II

It was an honor for my wife, Teresa, and I to act as host to the OPF Conference in Madison, Wisconsin. It was a very good conference that almost doubled as a retreat. The topics, speakers and movies were not just thought provoking, but emotional experiences and inspirational opportunities. I doubt anyone who attended conference, left the conference with the same ideas of forgiveness they came with. If not radical change, then an evolution of the very notion of forgiveness.

Working as a night chaplain the Sunday night after the intense and full conference on forgiveness, I sat to write down a few thoughts and ended up writing a prayer.

Pray for me.
Fr John Brian

A Psalm of Forgiveness
A Reflective Prayer on the Topics Raised at the 2011 OPF-NA Conference
by Fr. John Brian Paprock, September 18, 2011

Lord, release the heavy burdens of the past. They are nearly too much for me to bear.

Lord, unlatch the belted, unlock the chained and loosen the double-tied knots.

At one time, or one moment, long ago, it seemed important for me hang on to an event or two - but now there are too many, taking energy from the present, taking joy from good times ahead of me, robbing me of strength to persevere.

Before, I thought I could bear the world upon my shoulders, endure every hardship, and overcome any obstacle

Now, I am crying with fear and exhaustion: my heart, my back, my legs, even my neck is strained with the weight of wounded moments and haunting intimidations.

Now, I am crying with despair and anxiety that Your forgiveness and Your healing of my body mind and soul may only be temporary and I will always bear this heaviness - and that even Your Holy Angels cannot protect me from further injury, injustice, infirmity; that the enemies of my soul will prevail and I will be lost.

Lord, release the pain of my childhood, the heartache of my youth, the despair of middle-age. Lord, so often I have failed in relations, failed in projects, failed in ministry to others, failed in the practice that could bring me closer to perfection. I have let the injury and wounds of others bind me. I have allowed their callous disregard to justify my shortcomings; their intentional back-biting and gossip to encourage my fear and anxiety, exacerbating the pain of sensitive scarring from deep wounds of the past.

Lord, release me from the trivial and the intense bound to me by heavy chains and by light fiber strings. Help me to feel Your healing breath upon my soul, Your single and simple breath can bring my whole being to refreshment and the aches of my bones and of my heart shall melt away.

The burdens I have taken and the burdens that have been given shall be released with the subtle whisper of Your lovingkindness. My fears and anxieties will be crushed under the wings of Your mercy.

And in my mind and in my heart, I know I am wholly Yours - everything is from You and nothing could exist without your allowance. You have given me the free exercise of mind and body and will. I have felt Your tears as You have waited for me to ask for Your divine assistance; as You waited for my surrender to the eternal springs where I will never thirst; to reach for that which You have graciously and freely given for me to truly partake of the eternal bread so that I will be sustained - forever.

You have waited, O Lord, but You do not need to wait any longer.

Please, Lord, come to my aid and help me. Send Your angels to have charge over my life so that everything I may do may be for the glory of Your Holy Name. Heal me O Lord so that I may have strength to continue the course of the journey You have set before me. Fill my mind and my heart with Your love, so that Your ministry may be received by Your servant and that Your will may be fulfilled.

Lord, give me a forgiving heart and help me to be forward looking, letting the past bury the past. Help me to keep my eyes on the gates of Your kingdom so that every step I take moves me in the proper direction.


  • Holy Transfiguration Publications: books by Fr John Brian
  • OPF Conference Reflections I

    From a participant (Judith Toy) in the Orthodox Peace Fellowship Conference in Madison - September 16-18, 2011 - forwarded with permission
    Dear Friends,

    It was I who remarked that our conference seemed to constitute a "think tank" on the topic of forgiveness. What an extraordinary convergence of those dedicating their lives to peace and reconciliation. I felt deeply honored to have been a small part of the OPF gathering. And indeed, I learned how Orthodoxy closely relates to Buddhism. Perhaps the particular practitioners of the Orthodox Church who belong to OPF may relate more closely than others of Orthodoxy to our engaged Buddhist practice in the tradition of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh. (I have often heard my teacher speak of his friend Jim Forest.)

    This is also to thank Father John-Brian and his Ethiopian-American parishioners for the wonderful Ethiopian lunch feast and coffee ceremony on Friday. What a privilege to sit with that radiant family and break bread. I felt so welcomed to Madison and to the Conference. Father John, if you will, please forward their address.

    Yet I admit to coming away with a heavy heart. Not until Saturday evening had I seen the film about Kim. Sitting next to Do while viewing on a large screen the unspeakable tragedy of children burned to death and maimed by napalm was wrenching. I could hear behind me the sobs of a young Iraqi vet.

    Do took my hand. I was sick afterwards. I could only say to Do (literally having born witness to his suffering) "I am sorry. I am so sorry."

    What strikes me this morning as I think about forgiveness, is that the very word conjures up a separation between the forgiver and the forgiven. What I learned through experience with the murders of my own family was: not until I felt absolutely intertwined with the perpetrator was forgiveness possible.

    The Native Americans call this walking a mile in the moccasins of the enemy.

    The Buddhists call this experience the emptiness which contains all things.

    Not until the edges between myself and the other are blurred can we be truly reconciled.

    We can only walk in the shoes of the other. We can only bear witness. We can only raise money, dig wells. We can only minister to the sick. We can only attend the dying, visit the imprisoned. We can only throw straw on the mud.

    We can only forgive the perpetrators. We can only continue to "lavish our love" on the many who continue to cause suffering, endure suffering. In that regard, I thank you for bearing witness to my own suffering, the degradation of having three people murdered in my family--something I share with Do, although we did not discuss it.

    Home in Black Mountain, in these beautiful Southern Appalachian mountains, I want to cultivate joy and encourage gratitude for the opportunity to live simply and sanely, that God may make use of me in the world. Every moment is precious. There is work to be done. You have modeled this for me. You are an inspiration!

    Let us please stay in touch. And thank you.

    Rev. Judith Toy, Order of Interbeing
    Cloud Cottage Community of Mindful Living
    Mindfulness practice in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh
    PO Box 652, Black Mountain, NC 28711

  • Holy Transfiguration Publications: books by Fr John Brian
  • Mission Hospitality for the Orthodox Peace Fellowship

    Orthodox women of Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Mission welcomed the Orthodox Peace Fellowship to Madison, Wisconsin with a traditional lunch and coffee ceremony on Friday, September 16, 2011. A representative group of OPF staff, members and conference speakers had a warm and relaxing welcome.

    Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Mission women, Wieni Tesfamichael and Suset Monat, helped with a wonderful welcoming to Orthodox Peace Fellowship conferees who arrived early for lunch before the actual conference began in th evening of September 16, 2011.  The lunch was traditional Ethiopian fare, cooked by Wieni and other women of the mission. with Suset making the traditional coffee ceremony.  Fr. John-Brian gave a blessing for the food and the gathering.  Alex Patico, the Secretary for the Orthodox Peace Fellowship - North America and conference organizer (pictured upper right) was especially appreciative.

    Both Fr John Brian and Teresa participated in the program along with Lynn Siewert and Christopher and other friends of our mission who were attending due to mission outreach to them.  Fr. John Brian led an opening prayer and introduced the International Forgiveness Instiute founder, Dr. Robert Enright, who was the keynote speaker. Teresa introduced Milwaukee attorney Erin Manian, who spoke on "The Armenian Genocide and Forgiveness." Fr John Brian also introduced the Saturday morning speaker Very Rev. Fr. George Morrelli of the Antiochian Archdiocese.  The entire conference program was a mix of secular and religious views of forgiveness.  Teresa wrote an article about the conference for the Orthodox Peace Fellowship internationla newsletter. Christopher (and his friends) recorded most of the speaker sessions.

    Stayed tuned in here for updates about those audio and video recordings.

    On Sunday,  a few of our mission families joined many conferees in visiting Assumption Greek Orthodox Church in Madison.  
    It was an honor for our small community to be involved in such a spiritually and socially significant event as the Orthodox Peace Conference annual North American conference.

    Let us all pray for peace and forgiveness for ourselves and each other. 

  • Holy Transfiguration Publications: books by Fr John Brian
  • Tuesday, October 04, 2011

    blessed beginnings

    In early September, we welcomed a new baby, gave blessings for a new school year and prayed for succes of overseas trips! 

    May the Lord bless and increase all good things for these blessed ones and keep them safe from all harm. +

  • Holy Transfiguration Publications: books by Fr John Brian