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.

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

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Affiliation Process of the Holy Nicholean Catholic Church and the Holy Imperial Russian Orthodox Church

The Holy Nicholean Catholic Church processes all affiliations for itself and for the Holy Imperial Russian Orthodox Church. One of the paramount missions of the Holy Nicholean Catholic Church (HNCC) along with the Holy Imperial Russian Orthodox Church (HIROC) is to bring all Christian Churches together and to promote a spirit of religious tolerance (through love and acceptance) toward all religions. Part of this goal is realized through our affiliate program. Having one of the only authentic historical patriarchates in the Independent Sacrament Movement places us in a unique position to be at service to any small independent congregations or solitary independent priests and/or bishops. We welcome any church or cleric to apply to become a congregation of the Holy Nicholean Catholic Church or the Holy Imperial Russian Orthodox Church and thus enjoy the benefits of coming into union with our patriarchate. If you lead an independent church or find yourself to be a disenfranchised clergyman with no establishment in which to be of service, we invite you to apply for affiliation.

We consider the Holy Nicholean Catholic Church to be a non-dogmatic protector of sacred traditions. While the primary expression of Nicholean Catholicism materializes as high, liturgical, apostolic Christianity (nearly identical in form to Roman Catholicism with some eastern Orthodox influences) we strongly recognize that Christianity is a diversified and dynamic theological entity. Through this recognition, we understand that Christian unity requires an ecumenical approach that supports and encourages philosophical variation. Each unique tradition that affiliates with our patriarchate will NOT be assimilated into our existing rites, but rather, will be preserved according to the customs of the population it serves. The only exception to this involves a few certain universal and uncompromising doctrines of Christian sacramental theology that valid Apostolic Succession requires of any minister, ministry, or church. Please note that these requirements are only applicable to ministers, ministries, or churches that hold or desire to hold Apostolic Succession with us. Ministers, ministries, or churches that maintain a tradition that does not require Apostolic Succession, but wish to affiliate with us through a spirit of Christian unity, may disregard any requirements that are not applicable to their own specific tradition (numbers 1 through 23). These are as follows:

  1. Sacramental Christian Baptism must be conferred “in name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” while either pouring (affusion) actual water over the head of the recipient or through full immersion (our preferred method) in order to be considered valid.
  2. Valid Sacramental Baptism is only to be conferred once in a recipient’s lifetime.
  3. Sacramental Confirmation must be conferred by a bishop or a priest with delegated authority by his bishop using the laying on of hands, a proper invocation of the Holy Spirit, and the anointing of the recipient’s body with validly consecrated holy oils.
  4. Holy Eucharist may only include the elements of bread (leavened or unleavened) made from pure wheat flower and water. The wine must be made from only the grape and be fermented. Kosher wine for Passover or specifically designated sacramental wines may be used.
  5. Holy Eucharist may only be consecrated by a validly ordained priest or bishop using valid rites of liturgy (along with correct use of the associated rubric) approved by the Patriarch directly. Currently our Patriarch Nicholas III has approved the following liturgies: The Novus Ordo (the official Mass of Nicholean Catholicism), The Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, The Liturgy of St Basil, The Divine Liturgy of St. Mark, The Liturgy of Sts. Adaeus and Maris, The Liturgy of St. James, The Tridentine Mass, The Sarum Mass, The Liturgy of St. Tikhon, The Liturgy of St. Gregory, The Ambrosian Mass.
  6. Modifications to any approved liturgy may only be done with the written consent of the Patriarch. Affiliates must make note of what modifications they feel their tradition requires and receive approval for the change by the Patriarch prior to affiliation.
  7. While the doctrine of transubstantiation is not required of our affiliates, acceptance of the True Presence of Jesus Christ within the Eucharistic elements is unavoidably mandatory.
  8. The Sacrament of Reconciliation may only be conferred by a validly ordained priest or bishop.
  9. The words “I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” along with the appropriate gesture of blessing must be used.
  10. The confessor is bound to a strict protocol of secrecy when hearing confessions. He must never reveal, under any circumstances and to anyone (even to his own confessor, bishop, or wife), what is revealed to him through the natural course of this Sacrament.
  11. The Sacrament of the Sick may be only conferred by a validly ordained deacon, priest or bishop. Deacons should only be commissioned to confer this Sacrament in the case of extreme emergency.
  12. Only validly consecrated Oils of the Sick are to be used.
  13. The Sacrament can be conferred on anyone who may need it, not only just upon the terminally ill or dying.
  14. The Sacrament of Matrimony may be conferred by any validly ordained deacon, priest, or bishop.
  15. At the present time and for reasons discussed in the ‘Our Convictions’ section of this website , no affiliate minister, ministry, or church may validly confer this Sacrament upon members of the same gender.
  16. All ministers must also abide by the jurisdictional laws under which they reside.
  17. The Sacrament of Holy Orders may only be conferred by a validly consecrated Bishop with valid Apostolic Succession.
  18. At the present time and for reasons discussed in the ‘Our Convictions’ section of the website, the priesthood and the episcopacy may only be validly conferred upon men.
  19. Affiliate bishops may, however, ordain females to the diaconate with full ministerial powers of that rank.
  20. Affiliate bishops may confer this Sacrament upon a homosexual recipient provided that the recipient takes a vow of chastity (see ‘Our Convictions' for more information).
  21. Affiliate bishops may also confer Holy Orders upon either a single person (provided the recipient is chaste) or upon a married individual.
  22. Validly ordained affiliate single priests and bishops may marry after Holy Orders is conferred.
  23. All ordination rites used must include a validly recognized form in order to confer the powers of Apostolic Succession.
  24. Outside of the sacramental theological requirements, our affiliates must publish their affiliation with us on their website and/or primary source material, indicating that they are an affiliate of the Holy Nicholean Catholic Church or Holy Imperial Russian Orthodox Church.
  25. Failure to maintain these rules of affiliation may result in discontinuation of affiliation. Any objections to these points should be discussed during the affiliation process. If a particular tradition requires a certain exception to a rule, Patriarch Nicholas III is usually more than accommodating, often finding any way possible to reconcile incompatible doctrines.
  26. The prospective affiliate should understand that these requirements exist to protect the integrity of Apostolic Succession, which is, in effect, a tradition in its own right that deserves to be protected and defended against abuses.
Those interested in affiliating with our patriarchate may do so by applying here: http://nicholean.webs.com/affiliation.htm