St. Paul assured his flock that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God (Acts 14:22). And like so many others in these trying times, we have had our share of tribulations in the preceding months.
Not long after our previous newsletter, during the last week of July, COVID finally came to the monastery, and the highly contagious Delta variant spread rapidly through the brotherhood. Those who were most vulnerable stayed in strict isolation, and were thankfully spared contracting the virus. However, 20 of our 26 community members fell ill. Three of them—Fr. Seraphim, Fr. Damascene, and Fr. Benedict—eventually had to be hospitalized for roughly one week, in order to receive necessary oxygen and overcome the virus. No one’s illness ever reached a critical point, and no one had to be intubated. But many of the monks who got sick, even those who were not hospitalized, had a long and slow recovery after what was indeed a very serious illness.
Naturally, it was a token of God’s providence that this trial befell the monastery in the lead-up to the feast of our beloved patron, the holy Greatmartyr and Healer Panteleimon. It was a big disappointment to have to cancel what was to be our first major public feast day since the start of the pandemic; and yet it was a comfort to know that the grace of St. Panteleimon’s intercessions were so close to us in that hour of need. By his prayers and God’s great mercy, the monastery brotherhood was spared any deaths from the coronavirus. We thank all of our friends and benefactors for your prayers and support through that difficult time.
We know, of course, that our life is given us for repentance, and that monastic life is supposed to be a life of repentance par excellence. So though we remain grateful when God delivers us from a heavy temptation, we expect others to follow in their wake sooner or later. And we do not faint at this reality, since genuine spiritual life is a regular alternation of trials and graces. We cannot have one without the other.
It is with this spiritual law in mind that we reflect on our beloved Abbot’s recent health crisis. As many of you doubtless know, Fr. Seraphim developed a fever during a pre-op appointment for his much-needed cardiac ablation, a procedure that corrects arrythmias of the heart. He was taken to the ER, where it was discovered that he had gone into septic shock as a result of a kidney infection. The situation became very grim indeed, and some of the monastery hieromonks went to administer Holy Unction for his healing.
After several critical days, Fr. Seraphim began to recover and slowly fight off the infection. He was greatly strengthened in this through the almost daily reception of Holy Communion. Two weeks after he was taken to the hospital, Fr. Seraphim was able to come home at last. Later the same week, the cardiac ablation was finally performed, and it was overall a great success. For now, Fr. Seraphim remains at home, getting the rest he needs for the long recovery from this latest bout of illness. Please continue to keep him in your prayers.
It is not always easy to count it all joy when [we] fall into divers temptations, as the Apostle James says (Jm. 1:2). But we take it as a sign of God’s favor that he sees fit to prove our faith. Especially with the undertaking of such a major endeavor as the building of our new church, it comes as no surprise that these and countless other lesser temptations have visited our community in the previous months. But we take courage in the prayers of the Mother of God, of our heavenly patron St. Panteleimon, and also in the prayers we know all of you offer in our behalf. And we trust that the mercy of God will continue to strengthen us and see us through the trials and tribulations that are doubtless yet to come.