Tag Archives: icons

Saint Maria of Paris

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“Each person is the very icon of God incarnate in the world. The way to God lies through love of people. At the Last Judgment I shall not be asked whether I was successful in my ascetic exercises, nor how many bows and prostrations I made. Instead I shall be asked: Did I feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and visit the sick and the prisoners?

That is all I shall be asked.”

- St. Maria of Paris

Mother Maria was sent to the Ravensbrück concentration camp. On Holy Saturday, 1945, she took the place of a Jewish woman who was going to be sent to the Gas Chamber, and died in her place. It was her simple life of almsgiving that gave her the courage to do that. It was the next logical step. One does not step up to give one’s life if one has not been willing to give one’s stuff.

Less than spectacular start

What can I say? Our rent party and kick off to our Virtual Rent Party was somewhat less than fantastic. We are grateful for those who came and a few generous souls who gave, but it is not enough. We raised a net of $525. We needed to raise about $4,000. The mortgage company will not take partial payment. We received the notice of foreclosure from their attorney today. People ask us what we are doing about our situation.

Bethann has been looking for work for over a year since the bank let her go. She went through training for a dental assistant. They did not tell her that she would need to be certified as an X-ray tech. to get a job and that they were not offering that course for another year. It’s amazing to us how people just play free and loose with other people’s lives. She is now going to school for medical office administration. It is a year long course. It is pretty intense.

Over the last four years, I have had some pretty intense health challenges. It started in October 2009 with what we thought was MRSA on my neck. It had to be lanced and treated with antibiotics. I had bad reactions to some of those. It was the first Thanksgiving I missed with the family.

On Tuesday morning, October 19, 2010, I landed in the ER with inexplicable pain in my back and 103 fever. They took vials of blood and lots of X-rays and sent me home at 2am on Valium and Percocet. Later on Wednesday, I went back for a complete MRI of my spine. It took over an hour. Thursday, a Dr. called and told me to stop the Valium, because he thought I had cancer and I had to be Valium free for 10 days for them to take a biopsy. I found someone to cover for me for that night for the city. The Percocet did not cut it. I was literally screaming with pain. They had found what they thought was a tumor the size of a large plum attached to my spine at T-11, T-12, L-1. That Saturday morning the hospital called me and told me they looked at it again and considered my history and thought it was more likely an infection. Come to the ER right away. They started me on IV Vancomycin. They also put me on a morphine drip and a Fentanyl patch. I spent a week in the hospital, then left to continue the IV treatments at home. I ended up back in the hospital, because my PICC line got infected. I had to have it removed and a new one installed in the other arm. They sent me home again after a few days. Then I started to react to the antibiotic. So I went back to the hospital. I was a real puzzle for Dr. Jonathon Cohen, since I was now allergic to six classes of antibiotics. They decided to give me a brand new one.

It was my first day there and Dr. Jerry Burke was just stopping by to visit. He is my good friend, not my doctor. He looked at the monitors and saw that I was crashing, He grabbed my bed and started to undo things and called the nurse and said, “This man is moving to ICU!” She asked if he had doctor’s orders for that. He replied that he would get that in good time. Meanwhile they were moving me. This was the second time Jerry saved my life. I spent nearly a week in intensive care with kidney failure. I also had respiratory problems while in there. They were afraid I was going into Steven Johnson Syndrome, so they put me on Prednisone. I was sent home the weekend before Thanksgiving with a much simpler IV that did not require a machine. I missed another Thanksgiving with the family. I was still reacting to drugs well into December. The Prednisone put my blood sugar all out of whack. That was a long road back with an adjusted diet. Everything finally seemed fine, then I broke out in hives from head to toe in the middle of January for no known reason.

When I came out of the hospital I had a clamshell body brace and a walker. I used the walker to walk around the block. My neighbor, John Haggerty, had moved all of my tools into his shop to make my icons to keep my business alive. He did not know the shipping and billing end of it though. So we had missed an entire Christmas season. I was trying to catch up on orders and to catch up on bills.

We had been waiting for the money to be released from the church to finish the barn. It finally was, so John and I went forward to get the permits and buy the materials and planned to get it done that summer. Then the weekend before my birthday, I had a terrific migraine that lasted for three days with visual effects lasting all through it. I went to the Dr. and she sent me over to the hospital for an MRI on my birthday, June 14, 2011. The next day, I got the results that I had had three little strokes and that I was to report to the hospital. I spent a week on the telemetry unit having every imaginable heart test, scan, image, with contrast, without, etc. The debilitating migraines continued all summer long, for days, sometimes weeks at a time, with no more than 8 days without from June 11 to Sept. 11. I was hospitalized two more times with a 3 or 4 trips to the ER besides, that summer. I had 12 documented strokes. At HUP, we discovered that the migraines caused the strokes. So that was a whole summer shot in the head. We still don’t know what causes the migraines. Since then we have adjusted my medication and vitamins and minerals several times to try to prevent them. I have had an estimated 30 to 50 little strokes with some permanent damage. So we didn’t get most of the work done on the barn that we had planned.

So we try to pick up the pieces of the business again and work on a new drug and vitamin regime, with regular visits to the doctor and the neurologist. The migraines continue with more strokes. At times, I can’t work for a week at a time. 2012 was taken up with the lawsuit against Mayor Nutter and the City of Phila. and that whole mess. I cried the whole months of June and July, because of that. I went through the trial with no support whatsoever from my priest. I had an MRI on my birthday again, because I thought the infection on my spine had come back, because of the exquisite pain. That’s when I learned that the infection had eaten into my spine and I have significant arthritis. The migraines continued. I started 2013 with a bad case of bronchitis that laid me low for three weeks. So I was behind on orders. Then I was in pain. The migraines started again. Then the main iconographer whose work I carried withdrew his work from my site, notifying me by email. By July, it became apparent that with all of my illnesses and the reduced collection, the business was no longer viable, so I closed it.

This summer, my spine started hurting continually. I am in constant pain. My eyes are almost always involuntarily tearing. I cannot take enough painkiller for it, nor do I dare to. I take a lot of turmeric and ginger. Most nights I have to take a Percocet to sleep a couple of hours.

We kept plugging away, serving more meals. The population on the street has gone up. We are serving more than 200 meals each week. Plus we are helping several men transition off of the street. If we can survive economically until disability kicks in, in a couple of months; and until the new insurance exchange kicks in on Jan. 1, we will be in a much better situation to handle things. Once Bethann finds a job in a physician’s office, we will be OK. It would be a shame to lose everything after coming so close.

Right now, we are paying $1450/month for mortgage plus escrow and $1100 for Cobra insurance per month. I write all of this to answer the questions. We have been serving the poor, the homeless and the imprisoned since 1984. Anyone who really knows how we live knows that this house is a base of operations for service and a place of hospitality and respite for any in need.

I did not write this to be a downer. It is not too late. Please help us save our home and the base of operations for this ministry. The King’s Jubilee is in its 25th year. Please don’t let it go down for lack of an adequate safety net. This ministry is needed now, more than ever. I cannot believe it would be God’s will for it to fold now.

Please pray and consider what you can do for an emergency gift now, and then for a sustaining pledge monthly. God bless you as you bless the poor and homeless in Jesus’ Name.

Is this how it ends?

It is becoming apparent to me that this ministry is really not valued by the church. There are a few who are involved and are faithful, but not enough to sustain it and make it effective to really meet the needs that need to be met.

Soon I will be homeless. That will end the Thursday night meals. No one else has bothered to get the food prep certification. There has not been real organizational cohesion. People want to piggy back on what I have done and the battles I have fought over the years to do their own thing, but don’t embrace the over-arching vision for the ministry.

I have been trying for over a month to write some sort of article that would move people to give. I did write the article about when the money runs out. Then I wrote about Poverty Porn. We received a lot of likes, but no donations. We have been promoting the golf tournament, but no one has registered. I have occasionally wondered how I would know it would be time to stop this ministry. I have given others the advice from Scripture that it is “accepted according to what one has and not according to what he does not have.” (2 Cor. 8:12) One cannot and should not give what one does not have. It doesn’t make sense to me that it should be now that we should stop. We won the court battle. We have an opportunity to really make a difference and possibly end homelessness in Philadelphia. But clearly the resources have run dry. I receive no support either pastoral or budgeted from our church or any encouragement from the leadership, quite the contrary. I get only discouragement there. I finally make the move to rebuild the icon business into a modern shopping cart and it totally tanks, so I closed it. Bethann has been trying to get a job for a year to no avail, even though she got additional training, so insurance costs are through the roof.

Very few people have embraced the vision of this ministry. We are not just there on Thursday nights occasionally to assuage our middle class guilt or to provide an opportunity for our kids to do their required community service hours. We are there to meet Christ and perhaps to be surprised by grace. There is more going on than just Thursday nights. There are the furniture and Operation: Clean Start deliveries, the midnight phone calls, the emergency food deliveries, the counselling of people in crisis, the help with rent and phones and prescriptions. Then there is the cooking of the soup and the beans and rice, the coordinating of volunteers, writing the blog and the newsletter, trying to raise support. Suing the city just to continue serving with the meetings that that involves, networking with other ministries and organizations. Developing a long range plan to end homelessness. Trying to work with Mount Moriah Cemetery, but lacking volunteer support to do so.

People have said, why don’t you work with FOCUS, as if the money would magically appear from somewhere else, if we did that. We tried to do that, several years ago. They said we did not meet their criteria. We have been serving for 24 years. We have people involved from all different Orthodox jurisdictions. They didn’t like that we were located outside the city and travelling in. I pointed out that almost all of the members of the city churches, and many of the priests, were in that same category. This is part of our mission, to get resources from the suburbs into the city. Philadelphia is a region. We did not fit their cookie cutter, so they are exploring something that fits their cookie cutter view rather than helping strengthen a going concern.

Thanks to the GOP sequester, Bethann’s unemployment compensation has been delayed and reduced twice (which is a breach of the social contract, since that is an insurance that employees pay for). It is not even enough to pay for health insurance. It may  barely cover utilities. Now contributions have stagnated, even though I put out a mailing to thousands of customers and church members. I am told to be positive. I am sorry. I just don’t see how. I have been thinking for weeks trying to see how. And just seeing our state and federal governments doing one nasty thing after another to hurt the poor and the middle class to benefit the super rich and big corporations; I don’t see how me speaking out will hurt things any more than they already have been. Why should I just quietly become homeless, without at least trying to make some people understand that what is happening in our state and in our country is mean-spirited and hurts real people.

We have been working hard to try to make things work. We get criticized for the decisions we made. I felt wrong for keeping extra money that was given generously to help. I used it, I thought, in a synergistic way to hire a brother, whom the church was neglecting, who was on the verge of homelessness, to help modernize my business, not knowing that the rug was going to be pulled out from under me by my former best friend, in an email.

At this juncture, I am looking for some type of full time employment. I don’t know if I can handle it with my health and the migraines and the strokes. We can’t live on nothing. The King’s Jubilee receives enough in monthly support to keep the tank filled with gas, insure the TKJ-mobile, and to buy the paper products, iced tea and produce, etc., for Thursday nights. If I get a job, I will have to close down the ministry. It’s as simple as that. I can’t do both. This is extremely painful for me, literally.

Once again, we are three months behind on our mortgage, but this time there are no orders at comeandseeicons.com Somebody came to our rescue and paid our insurance for June, We squeaked by for July and nothing for any of our other bills. We can’t let coverage lapse with Bethann’s pacemaker and my history of strokes. And, no, there is no government safety net.

The right wing lie was the government should get out of the business of helping people because it was getting in the way of the church. Well, it’s out of the way now. I don’t see the church anywhere. The need has multiplied. We should be out there. But it’s just the same token service on our terms.

I am sorry that I have failed so miserably. I am not attractive and upbeat. I am not a sports or TV star. I am apparently not charismatic or persuasive. So the homeless will continue to suffer on my account. The 30 to 50 strokes have made me even more dark and intense about things. Sorry. On the bright side, we may be losing our home and our internet connection soon and this website will come down and you won’t have to hear from me any more.

We looked for the church for 25 years so we wouldn’t have to stand alone in ministry. We thought we had found it. Yet, when we and this ministry were facing the worst trials we had ever seen, we stood utterly alone, with no pastoral support or encouragement. And now the money is gone and I am just so tired of the criticisms and of having to beg and of people telling me they won’t give to help the poor, because of this or that or the other of my personal decisions or statements. What does it matter what I say?

“Come and See” Icons, Books & Art is closed

I think it is apparent that I need to close up shop. I have experienced a number of illnesses which caused me to be a poor businessman. This meant I was not able to deliver icons in a timely fashion or pay my bills in a timely fashion either, with added medical expenses and downtime. This alienated one of my major iconographers, who had been my best friend, withdrew his collection, just as I was streamlining the site to make it more efficient as a shopping cart. He did this by email and has refused to answer any phone calls.
At this point, it is costing me more to continue, so I just need to stop. I am finishing the last orders that have been placed and that is it.
Thank you.

I don’t know how I will make a living. I was hoping to be full time serving with The King’s Jubilee. There is plenty of work to be done, but it seems the church does not want to support ministry among the poor or really want to end homelessness in Philadelphia. At this point I don’t know if we can even continue the ministry at all or even if we will end up joining the ranks of the homeless ourselves. I’m sorry. I have been told to be positive. I guess, on the positive side, that was the longest I have ever had one job. I was really quite frustrated and bored with it. Perhaps now that I am not distracted with trying to make the business succeed, I can just directly fund-raise and work on ministry, and more quickly get to our goal of ending homelessness in Philadelphia.

Please give. We need your support. Mail a check or use the Paypal button. May God bless you as you join in this work of serving the poor in Jesus’ Name.

St. Nicholas’ Cross

December 6 is St. Nicholas Day. Every year, on whatever day we serve that is closest to St. Nicholas Day, we commemorate it by giving the folks three $1 coins in Jesus’ Name, and sharing a little bit about the life and work of this wonderful Saint.

A week from Thursday is December 6. So, this year, we are serving on St. Nicholas Day! Lately, we have been serving between 150 and 200 men and women. So we will be giving away about $600 that night. It will be great fun! The old heads know to expect this. They don’t spread it around though, hoping for leftovers. Every year, there are several who are just amazed!

But, you know, this is really not that big a deal. Adam Bruckner of Philly Restart stands there every Monday afternoon and writes several hundreds of dollars worth of checks for people to get their IDs or driver’s licenses. So once a year, we get to help people buy a couple bus tokens, or a couple loads of laundry or even a beer.

If you want to help us spread some cheer and sing the praise of St.Nicholas to the glory of Jesus Christ, you can use the Paypal button on the right or mail a check to:

The King’s Jubilee
27 North Front Street
Souderton, PA 18964

Thank you. May God bless you.

Troparion (Tone 4)
Your works of justice showed you to your congregation a canon of faith, the likeness of humility, a teacher of abstinence, O Father, Bishop Nicholas. Wherefore, by humility you achieved exaltation, and by meekness, richness. Intercede, therefore, with Christ to save our souls.

 

Memory Eternal!

St. Myron of Crete
This icon of St. Myron of Crete was donated to St. Philip’s in honor of Myron Starinshak.

I just learned via Facebook that our dear friend, long time supporter and brother in Christ, Myron Starinshak, passed away this weekend. Before he had his strokes a few years ago, he served faithfully, riding shotgun in the TKJ-mobile with me, to serve on the streets of Philadelphia. For many years he was a true, steady bass in the choir. He helped me at a couple of icon festivals. He used to do dozens of odd jobs around church. As soon as we know funeral arrangements, I will post them.

He was faithful to the end. He will be missed. May his memory be eternal!

Intercession for Our Lawsuit

St. John the Almsgiver
St. John the Almsgiver by the hand of Niko Chocheli
St. Justin Martyr
St. Justin Martyr by the hand of Nick Papas 

We ask you to join us in asking for the intercessions of our patron St. John the Almsgiver and St. Justin Martyr for our lawsuit today and tomorrow in federal court. May the Kingdom of God prevail!

How many precepts you ignore, since your ears are plugged with avarice! How much gratitude you ought to have shown to your Benefactor, how joyful and radiant you ought to have been that you are not one of those who crowd in at others doors, but rather others are knocking at your door. But now you lower your eyes and quicken your step, muttering hasty responses, lest anyone pry some small coin from your grasp. You know how to say only one thing: “I do not have, I cannot give, I myself am poor.” You are poor indeed and bereft of all goodness: poor in love, poor in kindness, poor in faith towards God, poor in eternal hope. Make your brothers and sisters sharers of your grain; give to the needy today what rots away tomorrow. Truly, this is the worst kind of avarice: not even to share perishable goods with those in need. (Saint Basil, “On Social Justice”, p.68-69)

Saint Basil the Great

How many precepts you ignore, since your ears are plugged with avarice! How much gratitude you ought to have shown to your Benefactor, how joyful and radiant you ought to have been that you are not one of those who crowd in at others doors, but rather others are knocking at your door. But now you lower your eyes and quicken your step, muttering hasty responses, lest anyone pry some small coin from your grasp. You know how to say only one thing: “I do not have, I cannot give, I myself am poor.” You are poor indeed and bereft of all goodness: poor in love, poor in kindness, poor in faith towards God, poor in eternal hope. Make your brothers and sisters sharers of your grain; give to the needy today what rots away tomorrow. Truly, this is the worst kind of avarice: not even to share perishable goods with those in need. (Saint Basil, “On Social Justice”, p.68-69)

How many precepts you ignore, since your ears are plugged with avarice! How much gratitude you ought to have shown to your Benefactor, how joyful and radiant you ought to have been that you are not one of those who crowd in at others doors, but rather others are knocking at your door. But now you lower your eyes and quicken your step, muttering hasty responses, lest anyone pry some small coin from your grasp. You know how to say only one thing: “I do not have, I cannot give, I myself am poor.” You are poor indeed and bereft of all goodness: poor in love, poor in kindness, poor in faith towards God, poor in eternal hope. Make your brothers and sisters sharers of your grain; give to the needy today what rots away tomorrow. Truly, this is the worst kind of avarice: not even to share perishable goods with those in need. (Saint Basil, “On Social Justice”, p.68-69)