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, 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