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.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Homeless and the Church

Dear Friends,

As most of you are aware, the Holy Nicholean Catholic Church, the Holy Imperial Russian Orthodox Church, and the Holy Monastic Order En Deus ceased all formal operations late last year as it became impossible to administrate an international network of churches without vital and consistent levels of financial support. During this crisis, we had to leave the central hermitage and essentially nullified all ministerial certifications issued. Additionally, I attempted to step down from the Office of the Patriarchate and return to secular life for the good of my family and health. Neither course of action, however, was very successful. My request to resign was rejected by the governing body and despite reducing the activity of the Churches down to one liturgy a week in the private chapel at my place of residence, the Churches continue to attract a great deal of attention. Some of these individuals are looking for what we have seen in the past. Many desire justification of their egos through the accumulation of titles or the authority of ordination without the slightest desire to commit to the lifetime responsibility of serving the churches that acknowledged their vocations. In fact, my attempt to step away from the Episcopacy was in direct response to my inability to trust the intentions of so many of my candidates. Again, without the resources to run extensive international background checks and require long-term discernment programs, our Churches were left at the mercy of far too many self-serving charlatans. In the end, the doors had to be closed in an effort to stop this reprehensible cycle.

In the interest of hope, I did permit the Church websites to remain active as long as they contained minimal content and explained that we would no longer be taking applications for the priesthood. I wanted this last point to be unmistakably clear. No matter what the future of these Churches would be, I wanted it known that I would not allow these Churches to become religious institutions with miles of clergy and no congregations to serve.

Many months have past in that time and while I am no longer burdened with stacks of worthless applications for the priesthood, I have noticed that there are still genuine people reaching out, looking for some of what we used to offer. It is my wish that I could continue to serve them. This is why, after all, I accepted Holy Orders in the first place. Yet, the funding issue looms over these Churches like a bad stench that never goes away. I simply cannot return to financing most of these operations out of my own pocket. If my health were better, I would perhaps feel differently, but as it stands now, I know I am making the only decision that can be made. One would think such a realization would be sufficient, however the Will of God often manifests itself against our expectations and as Bishops, we have little choice in the matter but to respond to His call. Never has this been more evident than last night when I took my wife out to celebrate our eleventh anniversary.

We went to a fine restaurant downtown. We drank a 13 year old Amarone that had been sitting in our cellar for over half that time. We dined on suckling pig and roasted lamb, cooked to perfection over an open wood-burning fire pit. The dinner was prepared in four courses. We gave the maƮtre d' a taste of our very special wine and he reciprocated by sharing several tastings of an equally special wine on the house. In fact, much of this meal was "on the house" as we are members of a VIP dining club that sends us gift cards from time to time. Everything was absolutely perfect. At least until we walked outside to collect our car from the valet.

Immediately upon existing the restaurant, we were met with numerous requests for money by Atlanta’s shameful and excessive homeless population. I explained to them that I did not have any cash on me (I often do not carry money) and proceeded to walk away. Another man pleaded with me, literally begging for something to eat, explaining that he hasn’t eaten in days and that he was hungry. As I reflected upon myself, feeling my own stomach filled with some of the finest food and wine on this planet, I could not help but take pity on such a disgraceful display of desperation. It was disgraceful, not to the extent that this poor man had to beg me for something to eat, but a disgrace that a city like Atlanta, with so much internal wealth, does so little to help these souls. It did not take me long to realize what must be done. I told the man to gather his friends and to meet me at the gas station across the street. I then proceeded to liquidate the remaining funds in the Church bank accounts and purchased as many quality food items that I could with those monies. When I gave them the food I purchased for them, it was like a frenzy of birds, pushing each other out of the way to get that next bite of bread. In this moment, man was reduced to animal and it was sad.

By and through this experience, I am changing the Church dynamic. We still receive donations (albeit very small and infrequent) into the Church accounts for prayer requests and Masses said for special intentions. I am no longer going to hold this money for some undetermined point in the future when the Churches resume ordinary operation. I am, therefore, going to take this money, and place the sum total of it toward feeding the homeless. I will visit downtown Atlanta as many times as it takes to give away everything I can buy and will personally hand out what I can to the people I can find on the street. In light of this, I am asking you, all of you, to please consider donating regularly to the Church as this is now its new mission and will remain so from this point forward. It’s easy to give, just visit nicholean.org and click on the donation button on the menu bar.

Church is about service, not the glories of an acquired priesthood. It’s about time my Churches actually do something of value. Perhaps this is a start.

Sincerely in Christ,

+Bryan D. Ouellette, Ph.D.
Patriarch Nicholas III
Holy Nicholean Catholic Church
Holy Imperial Russian Orthodox Church
Holy Monastic Order En Deus