Who We Are

Vestiges of Christianity is a news blog maintained under the direction of Bishop Bryan D. Ouellette, Ph.D., SOSM. Our goal is to reconcile ancient Christian theology with contemporary orthodox Christian practices and understandings. Our praxis carries with it a strong eastern liturgical focus while maintaining a freedom of spirituality that is true to ancient Christian ideology. We welcome anyone who desires to discover gnosis through the expression of early Christianity. We use the word "gnosis" with the intention to reflect its original meaning of soteriological knowledge, mystical wisdom and spiritual realization. While we encourage a working philosophical comprehension of Classical Gnosticism from antiquity, we are not a Gnostic or reconstructionist church. Our theology is orthodox, our approach, furthermore, is mystically liberating.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Merry Christmas!

The Holy Nicholean Catholic and Holy Imperial Russian Orthodox Churches, along with the Holy Monastic Order En Deus wish you all the grace, blessings, and peace of Christ in this Christmas Season.

May Christ rest upon your hearts always.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Patriarch Nicholas III on Sabbatical

Hello my Dear Friends,

In the interest of preparing for some massive coming world changes, I have decided to go on a sabbatical effective immediately. Now that I have completed my immediate tasks as a Bishop in ordaining our Michael Thorne to the diaconate, I will be using the next three to four months to write a book that will help the world prepare itself for these coming difficult transitions. This book will be life changing. It will identify key problems at work within the spiritual systems of this contemporary era and provide solutions that have the ability to resolve such problems.

I will not be available during this time except to host for Man, Myth & the Occult and some potential EYE of the SEER specials, or to conduct a few preliminary Authentic Soul Seminars. I do not expect to spend much time on Facebook, answering emails, and responding to comments while this work is being completed. I will be sure to post updates as time allows and I ask you to please be patient with me while I am away and subsequently, difficult to reach.

Thank you for your understanding and I greatly look forward to returning when the book is completed.

All of my blessings,

Patriarch Nicholas III in mundo +Bryan D. Ouellette, Ph.D.

Holy Imperial Russian Orthodox Church

Holy Nicholean Catholic Church

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Help Us Help Others

The Holy Nicholean Catholic Church is aggressively developing secular and spiritual non-profit programs to work with disadvantaged children as well as a bereavement program for parents who have lost a child. We also hope to be able to expand these programs into a system that will help all needy populations across the world. Our ultimate goal is to have the foundation necessary to assess the needs of a disadvantaged community and provide for them whatever those essential needs might be, regardless of their religious affiliation.

We will never proselytize or attempt to convert the people we help to a particular way of thinking. We simply wish to see all people living as happy and complete a life as possible, but in order to accomplish this goal, we need to establish the necessary infrastructure. Our current projections indicate that we need to raise a minimum of $1,000,000 to begin relief efforts in places like northern Japan, Haiti, and other localities where recent efforts have not met the most basic needs of such communities. Even right here, within the United States, so many children go to bed hungry each and every night.

We are asking you to give of yourself and help our church make a remarkable difference. Please help us to help them by offering us your generous donation.

To give via Paypal, please go to www.nicholean.org and click on the donation button in the right hand column. For sums greater than Paypal will allow, please email us your pledge at office@nicholean.org.

Thank you and may the blessing of Christ be upon you.

The Age of "Prosperity"

Our financial wealth is not ours. It may feel like ours because we earned it or in some cases were given it, but however wealth comes to us, wealth is a communal resource, not something to be horded away, but rather to be used for those less fortunate.

In the Gospel according to Luke we read, “…From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more (12:48).” Traditionally, the Church has interpreted this verse to refer to those teaching the Christian faith, but as I found myself meditating on this verse over this past week, I could not help but acknowledge that this application refers to all of God’s gifts. Not only are we who carry the wealth of the Christian mysteries expected to give much of ourselves, but also those who have been blessed with the ability to secure material wealth as well.

There is much condemnation of wealthy people in the Bible and this has led to many unfortunate misunderstandings. While it may be true that “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God (Matthew 19:24), it is not by virtue of such wealth that this judgment is passed. Material acquisition is a neutral process which only becomes contaminated when it is distributed unequally, or worse, retained for selfish purposes. For such individuals, Jesus is quite clear, salvation will become a far more severe commodity than any financial gain such a person might currently possess. It is for this reason so many honest spiritual seekers have taken the Vow of Poverty, not because poverty is preferable, but rather, because poverty renders far less temptation to fail the attainment of salvation.

In a world, such as ours, ruled almost exclusively by greed and disparity through corporations, political parties, and the people that support and represent them, I find it terribly distressing that two-thousand years later, Jesus’ words still hold true. Is the human race so incapable of spiritual development that it still commits the most ancient of crimes? Despite His warning, it would seem few heed such words. I am faced every day in my work and in my ministry with unthinkable needs and profound misfortune. Every day I seek out a means, any means, to generate relief funds for those in the world who are suffering at the hand of oppression and every day, I come up emptier than before. No one gives. No one cares. Your life is okay and that’s what matters, right?

Living the ethical life is more than being honest. Being a moral person requires more than keeping the Ten Commandants. We must give entirely of ourselves, all the way to the point of exhaustion, and then still give even more! Christ gave us such an example on the Cross. There was far more than the redemption of sin taking place in that event. The Cross was a road map to the Divine life demonstrating, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. (Luke 9:23)”. Nobody is off the hook. I don’t even care if you don’t believe in the Christian message, this still applies to you. By virtue of your humanity, this applies to you!

Sometimes, and quite often it seems, man’s greatest sin is not what wrongs he commits, but rather what good he fails to do.

Begging God's mercy,

Patriarch Nicholas III in mundo +Bryan D. Ouellette, Ph.D.
Holy Nicholean Catholic Church
Holy Imperial Russian Orthodox Church

Monday, September 5, 2011

How Important are Ministerial Credentials?

Imagine if we lived in a world where anyone could declare himself a doctor? Imagine if we lived in a world where anyone could declare himself a lawyer, or a teacher, or even a "certified" home repair man? Imagine if there were no standards upon which to measure the skill or knowledge of the professional, having rather to take them at their word? Yet, in our modern world, there is no shortage of such individuals in the field of religion. Anyone without any theological/ministerial education, experience, and/or verified skill may declare himself or herself a minister, a priest, or a spiritual authority, etc. Many of these individuals validate their credentials on the basis of personal revelations, inspirations, or mystical experiences. They seek no means of professional certification and they often condemn those who have received such credentials.

In our traditions, receiving ministerial license in the Holy Nicholean Catholic and Holy Imperial Russian Orthodox Churches involves a careful screening process (including criminal background check) along with an extensive mentorship-based evaluation and training. Additionally, Apostolic Succession provides the authority to perform a ministerial role validly, assuring that our ministers have the Grace to continue the work properly through their commitment of obedience to the community.

Be careful in your spiritual exploration, being sure to protect yourself against the manipulation of those who teach a spiritual "freedom" that is so abundantly free, there remains no protection against self-delusion.

Patriarch Nicholas III in mundo +Bryan D. Ouellette, Ph.D.
Holy Nicholean Catholic Church
Holy Imperial Russian Orthodox Church

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Death of Tradition?

We are now living in such a time when it is believed by the vast majority that internal, subjective, individualistic, “free-lance” spirituality has made obsolete the more traditional forms of church community and tradition. In fact, to many in our contemporary world, the word ‘tradition’ invokes a nebulous, irrational fear. In keeping with this fad, incidentally, countless people are falling away from “traditional religion”, calling it a “disease” and a “toxin” inflicted upon mankind by “malevolent” religious dictatorships like that of the Papacy, as if the function of the Pope is to personally make each and every person in the world as miserable and as unhappy as possible. Observing all of this as a religious authority myself, I cannot help but ponder the questions: has traditional religion become ineffectual? Are the Sacramental Graces contained within sacred operations like Baptism and Eucharist no longer applicable? Does this world even deserve them anymore?

The name chosen for this blog [Vestiges of Christianity] was carefully selected and, I believe, appropriately reflects the type of ministries performed at the two churches under my care. It is then ironic to consider that in light of our contemporary spiritual climate, I too may be in the process of becoming another vestige of Christianity. It would be highly deceptive of me not to suggest that the Office of Patriarch carries with it the unusual aura of a museum curator. The primary, fundamental purpose of our ministries is to serve, but how does one serve those who don’t think they need what we possess?

It is unquestionable that 1,700 years of Roman Catholic authoritarian domination of the western world combined with at least 500 years of reactionary theology is to blame for much of what we are seeing today. Crusades and inquisitions have become synonymous with priesthood, sacraments, and honest ministry. Additionally, media-manipulated church-related sexual scandals haven’t helped matters any. I see it every day that I step out into public dressed in ministerial uniform. The white collar is like a neon sign sending a [not-so] subliminal message to great numbers whispering things like, “beware, fear, distrust, avoid, run!” In fact, the uniform has become such a barrier to connecting with people, I now only use it when representing the Church in a public function or when serving a participating member of our small community.

And yes, the numbers of those who still, despite everything else, wish to be served by the Sacramental Graces are existent, but small. The donations are even smaller, particularly in churches the size of ours. People are sometimes willing to give something of their time, but financial support is often “asking too much”. It has reached a point where people expect churches to manufacture their own capital, and much of this is due, I believe, to the depreciating market value of spiritual intercession. Why go to a priest when you can ask God yourself? It’s like asking, why go to a doctor when you can let your immune system handle the infection? Well, sometimes it can’t! However, it is interesting that when someone is physically sick or dying, suddenly the priest is temporarily elevated from village idiot to modestly relevant, although once the services are performed, the prayers are said, and the grief runs its natural course, the priest returns once more to the outer limits of obscurity.

So what is to be done? How do we, as clergy, help people who will not listen to us to come to understand that personal spirituality is no replacement for the Sacramental Graces of the Church?

My answer may surprise my readers.

It is my contention that this fad must run its course before its damage can be reversed. It should be noted that I am hardly arguing against personal spirituality, but rather affirming that personal Christian spirituality without the Sacraments of the Church is horribly incomplete. Regardless, the climate of ministry has changed and we must adapt to those changes by applying strategic solutions. The Holy Nicholean Catholic and the Holy Imperial Russian Orthodox Churches were founded as a countermeasure to many of the problems I have listed in this article. The first strategy we implemented was to establish an infrastructure to preserve the sacred ancient traditions of Christianity. For those of you who are familiar with and appreciate George Lucas’ Star Wars, what we are doing is not unlike Yoda training Luke Skywalker to become a Jedi decades after the Empire’s near-successful attempt at eradicating all Jedi Knights. My apologizes for the pop-culture reference, but in light of these topics, I find it strangely accordant with the current mentality.

Our second strategy has been to consolidate our efforts to work only with select groups in relatively small numbers. While it is the strong desire of some of our ministers to operate large parishes and conduct extensive active ministries, the perpetual lack of financial support our ministries receive prevents us from doing the things we really want to be doing, like feeding the poor, clothing the naked, etc. The sad and unfortunate result is that most of our ministers must work secular jobs and invest their own monies into any and all of the works they perform. This is neither efficient nor constructive, but is rather the reality of ministry today in a small church established in a culture that does not think it needs us.

Finally, our third strategy, yet to be implemented [and hopefully will not be], is to reserve the possibility that if conditions remain as they are, to convert the Churches into an exclusively contemplative monastic community. It is no secret to those who have studied the mysteries of the Church that its sacred rites were once reserved for only the priestly class. Perhaps, then, it is fitting that it is to the priestly class that they shall return? Most requests our churches receive from the public are from individuals seeking ordination. Almost none are from those seeking to become members of its laity. This result alone justifies the need to consider this third strategy.

Salvation and spiritual development is everyone’s problem. In the shadow of inevitable death, something we all must face sooner or later, one would think it would be of primary importance to nearly everybody, yet our life in the modern world has removed the stench of death to such a degree, the majority behave as though they shall live forever. The acquisition of wealth replaces the need for God as often a fat wallet provides far more temporal security. Yet as unwholesome as things currently are, I remain hopeful that this work that we are doing will continue for posterity. I trust in the process and expect that one day in the future, the world will need us again and will find it within their hearts to support the ministerial institution so that the corporal works of mercy may resume and be distributed to the masses. Until then, however, we shall exist not unlike the Jedi Knights, resisting annihilation by defending, protecting, and preserving the traditions the world would rather forget it requires.

Blessings to all in Christ,

Patriarch Nicholas III in mundo +Bryan D. Ouellette, Ph.D.

Holy Nicholean Catholic Church

Holy Imperial Russian Orthodox Church

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Call From God

The Holy Nicholean Catholic Church has slightly revised and updated its vocational process. Please read the update below:

A vocation to clerical life is a very special calling from God into a life of service. Understanding this call to service is necessary for proper discernment, especially when one is seeking priesthood. It occurs when God reaches out directly to touch us with absolute purpose and intention. When we accept this contact and reach back to him, humanity becomes a complete instrument of God. Priests (and to a certain extent, those in the lessor ministries) are invited to participate in the very action of God's cosmic work. In a very real sense, they become deliberate functions of divine force and presence. Unfortunately, we have seen how the Independent Sacramental Movement (ISM) is riddled with ministers who have acquired ordination for personal reasons, power seeking, and/or for private initiations into some esoteric/occult modality. The Holy Nicholean Catholic Church, however, rejects such intentions and labels them as false callings. We hope to correct this phenomenon and increase the quality and integrity of the ISM. It is for this reason that we are very careful with our discernment process. Anyone is invited to apply to become a cleric in the church, but acceptance into our seminary/mentorship program is dependent upon several factors. Not the least of which are:

1. Candidates for the clerical ministry may be single or married. Although it is not a definitive rule, we prefer candidates interested in Major Orders to be married beforehand.

2. Candidates must be of the highest moral and ethical character. This does not mean that they cannot be human too; thus, it simply affirms that interested candidates for ministry have a regular practice of self-reflection, being present and mindful to their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

3. Candidates should have an overwhelming internal drive to serve others.

4. Candidates should be prepared and willing to engage the reality of God without pretense or constructed illusion. One must have the patient endurance to see beyond one's conventions and beliefs, as such elements often distort the actuality of God and will interfere with the minister's ability to function effectively.

5. While the HNCC rejects the idea of seeking ordination for private and/or personal reasons, it does suggest that any candidate for Major Sacramental Orders understands that each level (i.e., deacon, priest, and bishop) is every bit an initiation into the most profound corners of the esoteric world. Candidates should be warned never to take their vocations lightly. The Sacrament of Holy Orders is perhaps the most wonderful and frightening mystical experience available to humankind.

The first step on the path to priesthood and/or ministry is discernment. This begins by carefully filling out the application and meeting regularly (on the phone if necessary) with your assigned vocation director. His job is to assist you with the discernment process by offering you spiritual direction and instruction.

The second part of the process is to speak with the Bishop assigned to your locality. If after this evaluation everyone is agreed that a vocation to ministry exists, the next stage is an invitation to enter the Seminary/Mentorship program.

The HNCC does not utilize a formal seminary program at this time, rather it prefers to work with its vocational candidates in much the same way as the early Church. This involves ascertaining the individual educational needs of each candidate and assisting the candidate with meeting those needs. The vocation director and Bishop closely work together with each candidate on a personal level. When all requirements are met, the candidate is invited to receive the level of ministry that is appropriate to their current level of completion. This translates into the simple fact that ordination tends to occur faster than it would in the more conventional traditions of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, but it also means that it is less dependent upon academic milestones and far more on spiritual maturity. While we see this as an advantage in our tradition, we strongly desire that our candidates for priesthood have at least a four-year college degree.

The HNCC offers three levels of ministry:

Lay Ministry: Candidates for this Office may be involved in running parish events, administratively assisting priests and deacons, cantoring, teaching child and adult religious education, etc.

Minor Orders: Involve four specific Offices.

Acolyte: the primary assistant at the altar.
Exorcist: will assist at Baptisms and also assists the Rector with grave spiritual crises.
Ostarius: assists in directing the liturgy, making announcements, and ensuring order in the congregation.
Lector: reads the scriptures of the day other than the Gospel.

Major Orders: Involve four specific Offices.

Subdeacon/Subdeaconess: As the first level of the Major Orders (according to the traditions of the west), the subdeacon or subdeaconess serves as an assistant to those functioning within the sacramental Office of Deacons. In our traditions, the Order of Subdeacon/Subdeaconess may hold the title of Reverend and perform limited ministerial duties afforded that of a ministerial license in our churches.

Sacramental Major Orders:

Deacon/Deaconess: The first level of the Sacrament of Holy Orders confers upon the candidate the sacramental authority to perform baptisms, weddings, funerals, last rites, exorcisms, lead narthex groups, communion services outside of Mass, read the Gospel at Mass, offer pastoral counseling, and offer sermons. The Diaconate may exist under the form of a Permanent Diaconate (one remains a Deacon for life) or under the form of the Transitional Diaconate (as a initiatory step toward the reception of Priesthood). In keeping with the ancient traditions of the Church, this Office is open to both males and females.
Priesthood: The second level of Holy Orders confers upon the deacon the ability to offer the Sacrifice of the Mass, hear confessions in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, provide Sacramental Blessings, lead parishes, and (if a Pastor with delegated authority) perform Confirmations. The HNCC does not feel it has the authority to open priesthood up to women until an ecumenical counsel declares such a practice valid. We do, however, stand by the position that a female priesthood has the potential to enhance the richness of the Church.
Bishopric: The third and final level of the Sacrament of Holy Orders confers upon the priest the fullness of the Sacrament. By virtue of this Office, he becomes a true successor to the Apostles under Apostolic Succession. He holds the special and exclusive task of leading a diocese as well as performing Confirmations and Ordinations. He also serves as the only minister who may consecrate another bishop.
In both the Nicholean and Russian Orthodox traditions, candidates for consecration to Bishop are selected only from among solemnly professed monastics.

A final word about Ordinations, Consecrations, and Apostolic Succession:

The Independent Sacrament Movement is prone to a wide variety of Sacramental forms. When considering what constitutes a valid priestly Ordination or episcopal Consecration, an Independent Bishop MUST consider that validity is just as much dependent upon the Sacramental form as it is on the validity of his own Apostolic Succession. Despite what many might believe about this controversial subject, valid Apostolic Succession does NOT confer on Bishops the authority to ordain a deacon, priest or consecrate a bishop using just any arbitrary rite. The rite that is used must contain a validly recognized form that has been approved by a synod of Bishops, or preferably, by an Ecumenical Counsel. With this in mind, all of the ministers of the Holy Nicholean Catholic Church or the Holy Imperial Russian Orthodox Church have been ordained under the same rites used by that of the Roman Catholic Church or of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Mass Offered for the Repose of the Soul of Jack Layton

Today on the Feast of the Apostle Saint Bartholomew, Patriarch Nicholas III offered a Mass at the Hermitage of the Holy Innocents for the repose of the soul of Canadian politician Jack Layton at the request of Rev. Michael Thorn. We continue to hold the Canadian people in our prayers as they suffer with such a great loss.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Mass offered for Mother Caroline

Today, on the Feast of the Queenship of the Virgin Mary, a Mass was offered by Patriarch Nicholas III for the health and protection of Mother Caroline. We ask you to please continue to pray for her in your own daily prayers and ask the Holy Theotokos and Ever Virgin Mary to watch over and intercede for her and her family.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Major Event of the HIROC to be Announced Soon!

We are now able to report that Patriarch Nicholas III in mundo +Bryan D. Ouellette, Ph.D. was approached several months ago by an Orthodox Metropolitan whose desire is, along with that of his own bishops, priests, and congregations, to come into full communion with the The Holy Imperial Russian Orthodox Church. Efforts are now currently underway to expedite the process and conditions are such that it is extremely likely we will soon become One Church with theirs. We will make the full announcement as soon as all primary administrative responsibilities are finalized. The complete report will appear on this blog.


Holy Imperial Russian Orthodox Church