A quiet story in a holy place

6a00c22524135a549d00d414376ccb685e 500piI think this post will break some kind of record for the oldest story ever featured on this weblog, and this news clip is not even from the famous tmatt GetReligion Guilt folder.

Some will believe I am calling attention to it because it is about some Eastern Orthodox monks and, I guess, there is a bit of truth to that.

But here is why I want you to check out this story from San Antonio. The story itself, by Express-News religion writer J. Michael Parker, is good and has some nice details about a monastery in the quiet Texas Hill Country. The story has to deal with a tough issue or two, like the following material very close to the top:

Founded in 1996, Holy Archangels is less known these days than the 25-year-old Christ of the Hills monastery 5 miles southwest of Blanco.

Christ of the Hills has courted frequent publicity, with a “weeping” icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary that attracted thousands of visitors for years and with … charges of sexual assault against several of its monks.

The Blanco monks’ only affiliation with any recognized ecclesiastical jurisdiction — the New York-based Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia — lasted from 1991 to 1999. A church spokesman said its recognition was revoked because the Blanco monks refused to abide by church discipline.

You think? Not a nice thing to have to bring up.

But that is not the real story. What this is all about is some spiritual fish who are now in a totally new and very foreign pond, only we get to see it from the other side because the foreign pond is contemporary America — Protestant Texas, even. The “normal” world, for these monks, is a place that most Americans would consider as natural an environment as, well, Jupiter or Mars.

The eight monks of Holy Archangels are veterans of monastic life on Mount Athos in Greece. They left the “holy mountain” to join other pioneers in establishing Greek Orthodox monasticism across the United States. …

In parts of the United States with large Orthodox populations, the monks are readily recognized by non-Orthodox neighbors, said Father Ephraim, 36, a Galveston-born priest-monk at Holy Archangels. “But there aren’t many monasteries in the Texas Hill Country.”

OK, so why bring this up?

This story (hat tip to Rod “friend of this blog” Dreher for finding this) has a nice little multi-platform journalism feature with it. That is journalism education jargon for a click-on feature that blends some photograph — nice photography — with some very basic and simply beautiful audio into a feature that, in a story like this one, lifts you totally off the printed page and takes you somewhere else far, far away. It’s all about the sound, isn’t it?

You have to know to actually click right on the photo feature to activate the sound. So I think this will work — click here.

The emerging digital journalism era has, so far, offered lots of bells and whistles that, to me, rarely deliver. This is one case where a little bit of multimedia goes a long, long way. Enjoy.

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • Jerry

    I was waiting for a few quiet moments to go on that journey ‘far, far away’. It’s a blessing to take a few moments for quiet reflection away from the whirlwind in which we’re all living. Thanks for finding this story.

  • http://www.buhlaland.blogspot.com Linda Buhl

    Thank you so much – we live a few hundred miles north of this place and while our worship is vastly different, it is beautiful to see such attention to the details of a place of worship. Beautiful photography and good audio clips showing respectful reverence, reason and a touch of humor. Good reporting to this NON journalist.

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  • Geo

    Not bad, however, for monks who have apparently gained training in monasticism and priesthood on Mount Athos, they should know better than not belonging to a religious jurisdiction. One might say that religious jurisdictions are not the essence of the orthodox church but spirituality is. I agree, spirituality, piety, oneness with god, good deeds and the practice of the Holy Sacraments are the essences of Orthodoxy. Humility is a very important trait for a monk. I pose this question to you. How does one have hunility and piety when they beleive they are above their superiors? These monks should respect the lineage of their ordination and repent. The thoughts of a humble beleiver.

  • Katherine

    A nice video and a nice place; unfortunately the “humble believer” Geo is mistaken. Who said that these monks are not part of a jurisdiction and believe they are above their superiors? I do not hear that mentioned anywhere, probably because it is not true. It sounds as if someone else needs to repent for judging and spreading untruths!

  • Geo

    Katherine,

    I beleive that you should read the text before watching the clip.

    “The Blanco monks’ only affiliation with any recognized ecclesiastical jurisdiction — the New York-based Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (Who are a breakaway church)— lasted from 1991 to 1999. A church spokesman said its recognition was revoked because the Blanco monks refused to abide by church discipline.”
    You see my comments were not a figment of my imagination.

    I merely made the comments based on the above text segment taken from the original story from Express-News prior to watching the clip.
    I suggest you pay more attention to the actual story prior to posting comments of such a nature.

  • Katherine

    Forgive me, it sounded like you were blaming the other monastery.

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    Right. There are two different groups of monks.

    The story focuses on the monks that are mainstream Orthodox believers. The brief mention of the old, former, outcast ROCOR monks should not confuse the issue.

  • http://jkotinek.blogspot.com Jon K

    Geo,

    Katherine was right to correct you. The article doesn’t indicate that the monks at Christ of the Hills monastery were from Mt. Athos…and I don’t believe they were. The founder, Samuel Greene, was previously a car salesman in San Antonio.

    JK

  • Geo

    JK,

    Why does the article state the below?
    I make comments based on what I read.

    “The eight monks of Holy Archangels are veterans of monastic life on Mount Athos in Greece. They left the “holy mountain” to join other pioneers in establishing Greek Orthodox monasticism across the United States. . . . “


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