Terry Mattingly: The Life and Legacy of a Young Priest

By Terry Mattingly

Source: pravoslavie.ru

Fr. Matthew Baker

Fr. Matthew Baker

As a high school dropout, Matthew Baker worked the graveyard shift at a gas station because he wanted time to read.

So he read for seven years, digging into philosophy, literature, history and poetry. This helped steer him away from his teenaged atheism and eventually toward Orthodox Christianity and the priesthood. He never graduated from college.

But there was marriage and a large family to love. Then a seminary accepted Baker, and then another, leading to a Master of Divinity from St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Seminary in Pennsylvania and a Master of Arts from Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Massachusetts. This led to Fordham University doctoral work in theology, history and philosophy, and a dissertation that was nearly done – allowing him to finally be ordained in 2014 and, this January, to move to his first parish.

Then the 37-year-old Baker died March 1, when the family minivan crashed off a snowy road after evening prayers at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Norwich, Connecticut. His six children – ages 2 to 12 – were not seriously injured. His wife, Katherine, was home, still recovering from a recent miscarriage.

“This isn’t just a tragic story. It’s several tragic stories,” said Father Andrew Stephen Damick of St. Paul Orthodox Church in Emmaus, Pennsylvania, whose family shared a backyard with the Bakers in seminary. “You can write so many headlines on this story and they’re all true.”

There’s the story of a father who dies after years in near poverty, leaving behind a grieving wife and young family.

There’s the missing priest and his new parish, left mourning a lost future. There’s the loss of a unique intellectual whose works were already being translated into other languages.

After the funeral, a friend read comments by Metropolitan John Zizioulas, a world-famous Orthodox theologian at the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul. Baker’s work, he said, had “forced me to answer new questions which I had not thought of before. … We had the one, and we lost him.”

Seraphim Danckaert of the Orthodox Christian Network in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, quickly opened a GoFundMe.com drive to support Baker’s family. Early this week, the total topped $600,000, including gifts from New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, Princeton Theological Seminary scholar George Hunsinger and Pittsburgh Steelers star Troy Polamalu, an Eastern Orthodox convert. Hunsinger worked with Baker on annual conferences about early Christianity and once hailed him as the “most brilliant theologian of his generation I have ever met.”

Baker was “our next great voice,” stressed Danckaert. “We expected to rely on his counsel for years, for our children to be taught by him, to read his books and for his mature voice to be one which transcended our own tradition. … The unexpectedly large outpouring of love in the wake of his death is proof that he was already doing that. But so much more has been lost.”

Truth is, this man’s approach to life was truly radical in this age of narrow academia niches, stressed Father Eugen Pentiuc of Holy Cross seminary, who knew Baker as a student and as a research colleague.

“Matthew was crazy about theology, a total idealist about studying theology. … But he wanted to learn history and philosophy and art and everything else,” Pentiuc said. “I don’t know anyone else who read so much and absorbed so much, so soon. It was going to take him 10 or 15 years to fully synthesize what he knew and to find his mature voice.”

Friends joked that they could say “Go!” and challenge Baker to connect random subjects – such as rock band Duran Duran, genetics term “GMOs,” and 4th century heresy Apollinarianism – and “he would come up with authentically deep links between them,” said Damick.

“This is how Father Matthew will now be introduced to the world,” said Damick. “Yes, people will read his books. … But rather than a brilliant 50-year academic career, people will hear about him as a Christian, a husband, a father and a priest. His legacy will be all of us who loved him and are determined to keep his legacy alive.”

You can help Fr. Matthew’s family here:

Click to donate


  1. Gail Sheppard says

    What a loss on so many levels. I know there is a fund to help this family. Seems a lot of people are doing what they can.

    Father Seraphim, I would recommend that on the anniversary of his passing, you ask us to help again and again the following year. . . I’m sure we would continue to do what we can, as we understand the financial needs of a family is not a one time thing.

    Father Matthew, was by all accounts, an extraordinary man. Father, pray for us. May your memory be eternal.

    • Patrick Henry Reardon says

      Gail Sheppard suggests, “I would recommend that on the anniversary of his passing, you ask us to help again and again the following year.”

      Amen, Terry, if you would do us that further kindness, please.

  2. (Please do not interpret what I’m about to say as implying anything negative about the tragedy of this death, nor to diminish the grief of Fr Matthew’s family and friends)

    As tragic as this is, and support and prayers are very deserving in this time, I do have some concerns about the response to the death of Fr Matthew.

    It seems, and I emphasize that word , seems, that there is an almost quasi-celebrity status being given to Fr Matthew. I’ve never heard of him, I’ve asked around, no one else I know heard of him before his passing. What exactly did he do that was so tremendous to the Chuch that we all felt his impact? Did he have a podcast? I looked around on AFR, didn’t see any indications of that. I and a friend of mine looked up on the internet to see if he had any writings or books or anything outside of any necessary papers he had to do for his seminary degree, again, nothing. I’ve seen so many posts on FB for Fr Matthew. I asked some of the people I know posting about Fr Matthew’s death if they knew him personally, they said no.

    With Fr Thomas Hopko currently on his deathbed, I would think the kind of response to Fr Matthew would be more appropriate for someone like Fr Thomas. His ministry reached beyond the confines of his parish. I’m not sure we can say the same for Fr Matthew.

    Again, this is absolutely not a criticism of Fr Matthew nor is what I am saying an attempt to pass judgment on Fr Matthew or what kind of a person he was or that anything he did is not as important as what say, Fr Tom did. I’m talking about the odd response to Fr Matthew that doesn’t seem to be “porportionate” to Fr Matthew, if that makes sense. Am I missing something?

    • I believe that care of widows and children is a high priority for many in the church, perhaps with a special emphasis on those who lived in poverty during a long process of seeking the priesthood while also pursuing gifts as a scholar.

    • Tim R. Mortiss says

      But comparisons are beside the point. One simply doesn’t relate to the other.

      I only learned about Fr. Matthew Baker because he was a close friend of our parish priest, who spoke to him quite frequently. Fr. Matthew had just been appointed to his first parish. Obviously, Fr. Matthew had made a lot of friends for good reasons.

      I think it is not complicated. Anytime we see a young person of great promise, with a large young family, suddenly killed, there is a great sense of loss. More so as to one who had just entered upon the calling he had sought for so long. It is the simplest human nature to be strongly moved by this.

      The big difference of course is the modern communication by internet, which quickly transmits an incident like this everywhere, thus gaining attention that would not formerly have happened. But that’s how it now is.

    • Hyperbole says

      I knew him. He attended or lived at St Tikhon’s, St Vlad’s AND Holy Cross seminaries, so his path crossed with many people, in addition to the people at Fordham. He was undoubtedly brilliant, and was just beginning his real work, hence the reaction: he knew a lot of people who are now in positions to publish articles, who were familiar with his work and recognize the loss of potential his death caused. The viral nature of the response is probably not so much due to his academic work as it was to the fact that he has such a large family suddenly left fatherless.

    • You may already know that he was praised publicly by Met. John Zizioulas for his work, even before his repose.

      Fr. Matthew was in the notorious predicament of the young scholar as ABD (“all but dissertation”) which is why the reaction to his sudden death seems disproportionate to his theological and academic output. He really was *just* getting started. Therein lies the tragedy and magnitude of loss not only to Orthodoxy but to Christians of any stripe (much of his work covers Florovsky’s dealings with the early ecumenical movement). Good news is that it seems a draft of his dissertation was recovered from the wreck, so we may yet be hearing more from Fr. Matthew.

    • Patrick Henry Reardon says

      Annnoyed asks, “I’m talking about the odd response to Fr Matthew that doesn’t seem to be “porportionate” to Fr Matthew, if that makes sense. Am I missing something?”

      You mean, besides a sense of propriety?

    • What you’re missing, I think, is that its a completely unnecessary thought process to begin with. Why make the comparison at all? We have a widow with six children that is in need and that’s what matters. How do you put a dollar amount on a human being’s life anyways?

    • Michael Bauman says

      annoyed, I do know people who knew Father Matthew personally. With their testimony and the sincere outpouring of so many others, Fr. Matthew had the gift of touching people with love and care. He seems to have had a genuine charisma that was founded on something in addition to academic credentials or output.

      On top of that, it is easier to have empathy with the grief of a young family left without a husband and a father by a cruel accident than it is for someone whose death seems normal and natural; more in line with what we expect.

      That is a defect of the human soul perhaps.

      • Tim R. Mortiss says

        This is hard for me to think of as a defect. Life is good; thus long life is good. Certainly in worldly terms, death in old age after fulfillment in family and professional life is not especially sad. Exactly the opposite is true with the untimely death of the young.

        Though it appears that some few do not agree, my experience is that this is a well-nigh universal and, indeed, unremarkable feeling. So much so, that it seems to me that the one or two that have expressed wonder at it are being disingenuous.

        And if it happens in a particular case that a large number of people are very moved by a particular event, what does it even mean to suggest that they “should” be so moved by a different event? I can never figure out some of the non-sequiturs folks sometimes serve up.

  3. ChristineFevronia says

    Tmatt, thank you for such a moving and inspiring tribute. I had just heard of his passing and am thankful for your lovingly-written article. Memory eternal to Fr. Matthew Baker.

  4. I have to wonder, if Fr Matthew died peacefully in his sleep with everyone seeing it coming rather than by a more dramatic, sudden, unexpected way, like a car accident, would the response be the same?

  5. Tim R. Mortiss says

    A terrible loss. Perhaps the older one gets, the more deeply one feels these sorts of losses (leaving apart those which affect one directly). I’m a 67-year-old man with a large family, I have children who are family men and women of Father Matthew’s generation, I have been blessed to have had many more years with family than he had, and can only give humble thanks, and pray for him and his family, and for my own.

    Our priest, Father Seraphim Majmudar, was a close personal friend of Fr. Matthew. He attended the funeral, at which 50 priests and several bishops were present. Fr. Seraphim spoke very movingly about Fr. Matthew and his family after Liturgy this past Sunday. For him the loss is very personal, and I pray for him, too.

    May the memory of Father Matthew Baker be eternal!

  6. Tony Dimopolous says

    Protopresbyter Thomas Hopko Reposes in the Lord

    Protopresbyter Thomas Hopko, 76, dean emeritus of St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, Crestwood, New York, and noted Orthodox Christian priest, theologian, preacher, and speaker, fell asleep in the Lord at Good Samaritan Hospice of Concordia, Wexford, PA, today March 18, 2015, around 4 p.m.

    Father Thomas was the beloved husband of Matushka Anne [Schmemann] Hopko. They were married on June 9, 1963. Together, Fr. Thomas and Anne are the parents of five children, sixteen grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.

    The Very Reverend Dr. John Behr, current Dean of St. Vladimir’s, noted the influence that Fr. Thomas has had on his own life, saying, “Fr. Tom quite literally changed my life, bringing me to St. Vladimir’s Seminary, and thereafter inspiring me with a love of Scripture and the Gospel.

    “His reach and touch has been immeasurable for so many, and not least upon the seminary,” he continued. “He will be sorely missed, but his touch and influence remain. May he rest in peace and rise in glory!”

    Thomas John Hopko was born in Endicott, NY, on March 28, 1939, the third child and only son of John J. Hopko and Anna [Zapotocky] Hopko. He was baptized and raised in St. Mary’s Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Greek-Catholic Church, and educated in Endicott public schools, graduating from Union-Endicott High School in 1956.

    Father Thomas graduated from Fordham University in 1960 with a bachelor’s degree in Russian studies. He graduated with a theological degree from St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in 1963, from Duquesne University with a master’s degree in philosophy in 1969, and he earned his doctorate degree in theology from Fordham University in 1982.

    Ordained to the Holy Priesthood in August 1963, Fr. Thomas served the following parishes as pastor: Saint John the Baptist Church, Warren, OH (1963–1968); Saint Gregory the Theologian Church, Wappingers Falls, NY (1968–1978); and Saint Nicholas Church, Jamaica Estates, NY (1978–1983). Father Thomas was honored with the clerical rank of Archpriest in 1970 and the rank of Protopresbyter in 1995.

    Beginning in 1968, Fr. Thomas began his long service to St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary. Over the years, Fr. Thomas held the following positions: Lecturer in Doctrine and Pastoral Theology, 1968–1972; Assistant Professor of Dogmatic Theology, 1972–1983; Associate Professor of Dogmatic Theology, 1983–1991; Professor of Dogmatic Theology, 1991–1992; Dean, Rector of Three Hierarchs Chapel, and Professor of Dogmatic Theology, 1992–2002.

    “Father Tom’s deanship was unique in two notable ways,” remarked Theodore Bazil, senior advisor to Advancement at the seminary. “He was the first non-European, U.S.-born Dean of St. Vladimir’s, and he also steered the seminary through one of the most successful capital campaigns ever.”

    During his years of priestly ministry, Fr. Thomas authored numerous books and articles. Most well known of these publications is The Orthodox Faith: An Elementary Handbook on the Orthodox Church. A prolific speaker and preacher, he spoke at conferences, retreats, public lectures, and Church gatherings of all kinds, many of which were recorded. Father Thomas performed countless duties on behalf of the Orthodox Church in America, including representing the Church at intra-Orthodox gatherings and ecumenical meetings.

    “My first contact with Fr. Tom was through his writings prior to my conversion to Orthodoxy,” remembered the Very Reverend Dr. Chad Hatfield, seminary chancellor/CEO. “He was a powerful influence then, and the wisdom found in his popular podcasts on Ancient Faith Radio will continue to achieve his goal of ‘Speaking the Truth in Love’ (to borrow a title from one of his books). He stood as a true ‘Protopresbyter’ in the ranks of the clergy of the OCA.”

    Upon retirement, Fr. Thomas and Anne moved to Ellwood City, PA, where they lived near the Orthodox Monastery of the Transfiguration, and Fr. Thomas began a new ministry: internet-based Orthodox Christian radio talks. Since 2008, Fr. Thomas has produced well over 400 podcasts for Ancient Faith Radio.

    Father Thomas exercised untiring and loving pastoral care on behalf many who sought him out for spiritual guidance. His greatest desire was that every person would respond to these words of Jesus Christ: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

    Father Thomas is survived by his wife, Matushka Anne, and their five children: Archpriest John Hopko and his wife Macrina, of Terryville, CT; Juliana and husband Gregory Thetford, of Ellwood City, PA; Catherine and husband Raymond Mandell, of Clearfield, PA; Mary and husband Archpriest Nicholas Solak, of East Stroudsburg, PA; and Alexandra and husband Joseph Sedor, of Ellicott City, MD. He is also survived by two sisters, Mary Ann Macko, of Endwell, NY, and Barbara McPherson, of Sayre, PA, and Frostproof, FL. Additionally, Fr. Thomas is survived by sixteen grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, as well as many, many other dear relatives, colleagues, and friends.

    Details of funeral arrangements will follow.

    Father Thomas’s family wishes to thank all those who ministered to him so lovingly during his long final illness. Special thanks are extended to Mother Christophora, Abbess, and the entire sisterhood of The Orthodox Monastery of the Transfiguration for their constant support and help, the Very Reverend Fr. Michael and Matushka Susanne Senyo, Protodeacon Michael Wusylko, M.D., and Good Samaritan Hospice.

    In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be given to St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, Crestwood, NY; The Orthodox Monastery of the Transfiguration, Ellwood City, PA; Ancient Faith Radio, and Good Samaritan Hospice of Concordia, Wexford, PA.

    Memory Eternal!

    • Tim R. Mortiss says

      Memory eternal to Fr. Thomas. I would not be surprised if George devotes a column to him in the near future.

      • Heracleides says

        George should – paying particular attention to Fr. Hopko’s act of throwing Met. Jonah under the bus. I am certain Fr. Hopko is now giving an account of that despicable action before our Lord. Not memory eternal but rather mercy eternal to Fr. Hopko.

        • Perhaps you could go back and read the account in Genesis 9:18-10:1, which was the reading for the day this past Wednesday, and ponder its implications for your comment here. . . ?

          I shudder to think what will happen upon my passing if anyone chooses in that moment to remember what they perceive were my many sins and faults, rather than to remember me in Christ’s love.

        • Fr. David Wooten says

          Heracleides — do not reduce such a life to one action, no matter how you might feel about Metr. Jonah. Fr. Thomas’ work within the Church at large deserves our overwhelming gratitude and respect. Your comment is highly inappropriate, given Fr. Thomas’ recent departure, and the fact that you are not his judge. I would suggest discussing these feelings you have with your father confessor, and soon.

          • Heracleides says

            Slap lipstick on this pig of a statement as much as you want but the fact remains that Fr. Hopko’s actions were “highly inappropriate” so deal with it (or not – such is the OCA way). Per Mrs. Stokoe-Brown:

            A Letter On The First Day of Great Lent, 2011

            by Fr. Thomas Hopko, PA

            (Editor’s note: Fr. Hopko specifically requested I post his letter today. )

            Dear fathers, brothers and sisters in Christ,

            Asking your forgiveness on this first day of Great Lent, I beg you to trust, honor and support the Synod of Bishops of our Orthodox Church in America, together with the Metropolitan Council and Chancery staff, in their unanimous efforts to fulfill their duties responsibly, which now most sadly include insisting upon and providing for proper counsel and care for our gravely troubled Metropolitan Jonah.

            I also ask you to trust, honor and support Mark Stokoe’s continued efforts through OCANews to report, question, criticize and comment on the words and deeds of our Orthodox Church leaders for the sake of securing their best possible conduct of their God-given duties.

            And, while respecting his right to speak and act as he sees fit, I also ask you not to trust, honor or support Fr. Joseph Fester’s opinions and views since his record hardly demonstrates worthiness of serious consideration.

            May the Lord forgive our sins and failures. And may He guide and protect us in every way.

            Protopresbyter Thomas Hopko
            Dean Emeritus
            St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary

            (Source: http://www.ocanews.org/news/Hopko3.7.11.html )

            • Paul Stasi says

              Dear Heracleides, When Cain killed Abel even God showed mercy on the unrepentant Cain. Who could argue that Cain did not deserve to lose his life for his sin against God, his brother, his parents and society? God was merciful because he even loved Cain. Cain knew that others would want to kill him out of vengeance, but God protected him with a mark. This mark said to all who met him “I alone judge this man, he is mine, I have seen his sin and I alone chastise him. It is sufficient”.

              • Heracleides says

                What an absolutely apt comparison of the individual in question! Mind if I borrow it for a lampoon?

                • Paul Stasi says

                  Heracleides, Do as your conscience compels you is God pleasing. I did not intend to compare Fr. Thomas to Cain. I regret that you and possibly others understand it otherwise.

            • M. Stankovich says

              Fr. Hopko’s words may have been “highly inappropriate,” but they were hardly wrong.

              Protopresbyter Thomas John Hopko was the instructor, confessor, mentor, confident, and friend of countless of our Orthodox Clergy in every jurisdiction, nationality, and faith that passed through St. Vladimir’s Seminary from 1968 until his retirement in 2002. Imagine! How many priests owe, in part, their education in Dogmatic Theology to him? And unlike the “academic” clergy at SVS, he was also a beloved full-time parish rector while he taught at SVS, bringing his pastoral experience to the dynamic of his theological instruction and pastoral guidance as a confessor of seminarians. Further, he, more than anyone, had a special interest in the families of seminarians – future priest wives & children – preparing them for the scrutiny, the difficulties, & responsibilities that faced them in their new role. And heaven only knows the number of individuals who “know” him, who were moved on a spiritual path, who perhaps directly came to the Orthodox Church via something he wrote, by a talk he gave, or by a podcast he recorded. And regardless of what he spoke, on his lips were the words of the Holy Scripture – his recall was astonishing – and as the Fathers tell us, this is not from the memory, but from the heart. And his heart was warm, gentle, kind, assuring, re-assuring, and non-judgemental; and he was, in fact, the only person who called me “Mike,” that I did not bother to correct because it simply was endearing.

              It is for these reasons that it is impossible to rightfully speak of his memory in the same breath as a footnote in the history of the Church; along with one who willfully and voluntarily abandoned his pastoral commitment, and violated his own word. It is ironic that Fr. Thomas ended his life living adjacent to and participating in the life of a humble monastery – in fact, directly overlooking the monastic cemetery where he will be buried on Monday – while those who would judge his “sin” sponsor a life of magnanimity in a home and neighborhood unaffordable to even the “typical wealthy” for the “monk” he “threw under the bus.” Pictures speak louder than words.

              δίδου σοφῷ ἀφορμήν, καὶ σοφώτερος ἔσται· γνώριζε δικαίῳ, καὶ προσθήσει τοῦ δέχεσθαι.

              Memory Eternal, Protopresbyter Thomas Hopko, and may your soul live with the righteous! I will never forget you.

              • Heracleides says

                Typical Stankovich – speak no ill of the dead whilst dragging those living through the mud.

                • Bishop Tikhon Fitzgerald says

                  Heracleides Pompikos, that’s known as morality–de mortuis nihil nisi bonum! I think Mr Stankovich’s posting was entirely factual. Father Thomas faces, as must we al,l the Judge. It’s not for you or me to try and forestall anyone’s just judgment.

                  • M. Stankovich says

                    Vladyka Tikhon,

                    εὐλόγειte ὁ κύριος! Have you checked your gmail recently? I sent you some things.

          • Fr. David, per my comment below, I don’t want to stir anything against the newly-departed.

            However, I think it’s important to tell you now that Fr. Hopko’s role in the tragedy was more than the single act of publishing that letter.

            With that said, I really hope everyone will let it lie for now. Forty days. That’s all I ask. May God grant His servant, the Protopresbyter Thomas, forgiveness of his sins, and give him rest with the saints.

        • Here is what Metropolitan Jonah posted on his Facebook page about Fr. Thomas Hopko’s death:

          Memory eternal! May his soul dwell with the blessed!

          Many thanks to him for all that he taught, all the people he inspired and all that he strove to do. I give thanks to God for him, his life and his ministry.

          Whatever sins he may have committed, may they be forgiven and swept away, and may he stand uncondemned at the fearful Judgement Seat of our Lord Jesus Christ.

          Fr Tom, we will miss you!

          Whether or not Fr. Thomas Hopko ever realized his sin against Metropolitan Jonah, or repented of his actions, we should pray for God’s mercy for him.

          Please, let’s hold off public discussion of his errors until the forty days have passed, and simply pray for his soul.

        • Fr. George Washburn says

          Memory Eternal to Fr. Thomas. Poison temporal from the pseudonymous coward. What a contrast!

          • Heracleides says

            This from the ‘hero’ of the Ben Lomond Massacre. As with Fr. Hopko, so with you Fr. Washburn – there are those of us who do not forget the buffoonery of our vaunted clergy.

            • Fr. George Washburn says

              Poison. Anonymity. Cowardice. Again.

              It is this simplistic and bitter grinding (and regrinding) of old (Met. Jonah, Met. Philip) axes that has made Heracleides more and more a caricature of himself …. among other things. Sometimes a wickedly funny commentator, to be sure, but just wicked at other times, and seemingly less and less ability to tell when he is being the one and not the other.

              • Bishop Tikhon Fitzgerald says

                Fr George, we can’t be sure this entity called Heracleides Pompikos is a “he” at all! His or her “wickedly funny” days are long gone and we’re left with some kind of spinsterish bitterness. We know him/her by his/her fruits only.

              • Heracleides says

                Now, now Fr. Washburn, let’s untwist your knickers.

                Your labor here is complete. Truly. Consider me duly castigated, chastised, reprimanded, admonished, reproved, rebuked, upbraided, scolded, berated, lambasted, tongue-lashed and generally put in my place as the rather despicable laymen that I am.

                Rest easy, hero priest of Ben Lomond; spew a few “Memory Eternals” for appearance sake, and kindly spare a thought or two for this lowly worm as the whitewash dries.

                • Fr. George Washburn says

                  The subject under discussion is not me, but whether or not Heracleides is a cheap shot artist … in both senses of the word…this time when dumping on Fr. Thomas so quickly the coroner may not have even gone home.

                  Let’s also notice some of the typical tactics of the troll here.

                  1. Red herring…Ben Lomond, which has nothing to do with whether or not H should be trashing Fr. Tom on the net while his widow and grandchildren are still crying.

                  2. Insult (the reference to knickers) combined with lack of substance.

                  3. Ad hominem – the reference to a supposed “hero.”

                  4. Insincerity – the contrived reference to his supposed despicability.

                  5. Irrelevance. Laypersonhood has nothing to do with cowardice or venom.

                  The scriptures say you can grind a fool with mortar and pestle and his folly will not depart from him. He can also grind himself with his own posts, as H is doing here.

                  • Heracleides says

                    Silly man. I am only going to respond by offering thanks to God that I do not have to suffer your spiritual guidance drivel on a weekly basis, especially at this time of the year. You may now have the last word, hero priest.

                  • Daniel E Fall says

                    It is good to see a clergyman stand up to the nastiness rather than cheer it on.

                    The letter from Fr Hopko should have been written to Jonah.

                    • That letter should never have been written at all.

                    • Bishop Tikhon Fitzgerald says

                      Daniel Fall, that letter WAS written to Metropolitan Jonah and every other member of the Church, and its author always assumed he had Universal Jurisdiction over Faith and Morals.
                      And the nonentity calling itself “Helga” is correct: the letter should never have been written!

                    • Daniel E Fall says

                      Helga-don’t you think Jonah seemed a tad paranoid? It seemed pretty clear to this way outsider.

                    • Daniel E Fall says

                      Well, who should have told Jonah he was a bit off then? Or should we all just accept any actions from bishops?

                      I don’t think the letter belonged in public forum. I wondered then what gravely troubled meant.

                      I like boats – am I gravely troubled?

                      Someone needs to tell leaders when they are wrong. Sometimes it can be publicly done. Didn’t think this was that.

                      But who tells a leader when he is off? The lavender mafia?

                    • Bishop Tikhon Fitzgerald says

                      No Patriarch, Metropolitan, Archbishop, Bishop, or HOLY SYNOD, and no Priest, Deacon, nor other Member of the Church of Christ should have or ever has written a general epistle to the whole Church identifying ANYONE BY NAME as untrustworthy or ANYONE ELSE as a trustworthy ORACLE. Such a letter is a CRIME
                      What gave the letter an additional demonic note was its having been posted within 24 hours of the office of FORGIVENESS, on the first day of the great and holy FAST.
                      Mr Fall is in error, recommending such a letter be written and published about ANYONE!
                      In my opinion, the letter was self-defilement. One assumes that Almighty God is merciful.

                    • Daniel E Fall says

                      For a point of clarity, I said the letter should have been a personal one. It was inappropriate publicly.

                      However, I also said a bishop is not above rebuke. If he thinks so, then at some pointpublic rebuke is the only option if the Synod sits idle.

                      In the matter of Hopko-Jonah- please reread my posts-I said the letter should have been personal and private. And who better than Hopko to write?

                      …but publicly? No

                    • Bishop Tikhon Fitzgerald says

                      Thanks, Daniel, for reminding us of a Bishop’s responsibility. The Bishop in this case, and the whole Synod, sat on their hands and did nothing when that clergyman interfered in the affairs of another diocese and published his Universal Encyclical.
                      And, of course, such an “urbi et orbi” epistle would be grossly overweening in ANY season: releasing it on the first day of the Great Fast, was gratuitously immoral, a naked display of narcissistic aggrandisement.
                      NOTE: Remember that STINKBOMB letter? Perhaps those who wrote it picked up their sense of propriety and ethics while at seminary in that professor’s classroom? “See what I can do, class?”
                      And a blessed Willow Sunday to all Orthodox Christians!

                • You forgot excoriated.

              • Mike Myers says

                Wickedly funny? When? Z.b., bitte.

                Almost always cheap and shallow, to me, and putrid, like so many political porn whores these days, who affect “spirituality” or “religion” mainly as cover for their resentments and malice. Of any non-demonic spirituality, or charity, seldom a trace.

        • didn’t jesus teach to take the speck out of your own eye, before taking the log out of mine. Only GOD can judge a mans worthiness, not you.

        • Patrick Henry Reardon says

          Heracleides proclaims, “I am certain Fr. Hopko is now giving an account of that despicable action before our Lord.”

          Heracleides is certain of this?

          • Bishop Tikhon Fitzgerald says

            We should not comment when anyone is being bushwhacked by those Toll Houses he ridiculed, right?

            • Estonian Slovak says

              Master, Bless! WHO ridiculed the toll houses, Fr. Hopko or Heracleides?

              • It wouldn’t surprise me in the least to learn that Fr Hopko at some point in his long life of speaking and writing ridiculed the idea of tollhouses, but this would seem to indicate that at least at one moment in time, Fr. Hopko’s view of the toll houses was well-considered, healthy, and one that I doubt Fr. Seraphim (Rose) would have disagreed with.

              • Heracleides says

                St. Hopko of course.

        • This whole line in this thread is an example of something that never should have seen the light of day (and I find many such threads in this blog which is why I hadn’t even visited for a couple of years before now–lead me not into temptation, indeed!). The initial comment that started it should certainly never have seen the light of day. I consider this a failure of the moderator as well as of my own for feeding the troll. Forgive me.

          • Tim R. Mortiss says

            I sympathize with this comment, especially as respects this thread, but not limited to it.

            I do like many aspects of George’s blog, but I often wonder what the “moderating” actually is. There must be some seriously bad posts that we never see, maybe.

            Lately the mean-spiritedness and “ad hominemism” in some threads seems to have reached a new level, or at least one it hadn’t seen in quite awhile. It all seems so inconsistent with the ultimate subject matter of this place.

            This isn’t personal to me, because I’ve never received any significant abuse here myself. But it gets pretty appalling.

  7. Hieromonk Joshua says

    May Father Thomas` memory be eternal! Memory eternal! Memory eternal!

    I thanked Father Thomas long ago for writing his four part catechism. There was a Lieutenant onboard our ship in 1980 (seems so long ago) who was the Catholic Layleader on our ship the USS Nashville LPD 13. While underway this Navy Lieutenant struck-up a conversation with me and gave me Father Thomas` catechism. I asked why the Catholic Layleader was handing out to other Catholics a Orthodox Christian catechism? The Layleader immediately responded that it was the only catechism he had ever read that expressed what he and his family actually believed!

    With this in mind, I couldn’t put this catechism down as a young sailor! I, too, said that this was the first catechism that ever truly expressed what I believed and the Fathers that I had read had, indeed, confirmed. For some reason, there were a couple big boxes of this four part catechism and the Catholic Layleader asked me to distribute them to interested enlisted men and he would distribute them to interested officers. Well, Mormons got them, Athiests got them, a Buddest friend of mine got one and after reading these four catechisms of Father Thomas with a diligence and intensity I had never seen before he came and talked to me and wanted me to help him become Orthodox! So I did help him get on the pilgrimage path to Holy Orthodoxy when we got back to homeport in the US.

    Such a simple humble catechism has touched so many immortal souls with the truth of Holy Orthodoxy. I have nothing dramatic or profound to say. I had met Father Thomas only once and it was then that I thanked him for this catechism. As a “Fisher of men” I say Father Thomas made some good effective bait through that catechism of his. May all the “fish” Father Thomas caught by living, witnessing to and utilizing the Orthodox Christian truth for Christ and the liberation and freedom of immortal souls in the Holy Orthodox Church be accredited to him befor the “fearsome Judgment Seat of Christ!”

    Memory eternal! Memory eternal! May Father Tom’s memory be eternal!

  8. “I believe that care of widows and children is a high priority for many in the church, perhaps with a special emphasis on those who lived in poverty during a long process of seeking the priesthood while also pursuing gifts as a scholar.”

    I think I was very clear in my comment that I in no way object to anyone being cared for, nor do I object to the care for the widow and children of Fr Matthew.

    My issue is that it seems Fr Matthew is being put on a pedestal that would be more appropriate for someone like Fr Thomas Hopko, may his memory be eternal.

    I and many other Orthodox people I know never heard of Fr Matthew but the response seems to be more appropriate for someone like Fr Tom, who’s ministry reached beyond the confines of his parish, not that there’s anything wrong with your ministry staying within the confines of one’s parish.

    As for the internet, my issue isn’t the speed of which the news spread, but the type of response.

    I just hope that all members of the body of Christ gets the same kind of care given to Fr Matthew’s family, not just because one’s death was more dramatic, or that a certain person who is well known in Orthodox circles shares the news of someone’s death, and because this person is well known, everyone reacts and responds because the person giving the news is well known.

  9. I said more than once that I am in in way objecting to his widow and children being cared for, but I guess no one paid any attention to that.

  10. Tim R. Mortiss says

    The very evening of Fr. Thomas Hopko’s death, our priest, who as I said had been the personal friend of Fr. Matthew, commemorated Fr. Thomas after the Presanctified and we sang Memory Eternal for him.

    These comparisons are simply meaningless.

    • Patrick Henry Reardon says

      At All Saints in Chicago we served the Trisagion for Father Tom right after the Presanctified Liturgy on the day of reposing. He is much remembered and admired here.

  11. “Fr. Matthew was in the notorious predicament of the young scholar as ABD (“all but dissertation”) which is why the reaction to his sudden death seems disproportionate to his theological and academic output. He really was *just* getting started. Therein lies the tragedy and magnitude of loss not only to Orthodoxy but to Christians of any stripe (much of his work covers Florovsky’s dealings with the early ecumenical movement). Good news is that it seems a draft of his dissertation was recovered from the wreck, so we may yet be hearing more from Fr. Matthew.”

    Ok, but every death is a tragedy. What about other’s who lost their husbands and are left behind with children, why don’t we see multiple postings of them on FB and blogs? Are you implying that some how Fr Matthew’s death is more tragic because some people think he was on the cusp of some great academic acheivement? Any one of us could be the “next big one”. So what? A true theologian is one who prays, and one who prays is a true theologian”. It would be good to remember the troparion of Pentecost too. “Blessed art Thou O Christ our God, who has revealed the fishermen (illiterate, uneducated fishermen) as most wise by sending down upon them the Holy Spirit, through them, Thou didst draw the world into Thy net, O Lover of mankind, glory to Thee.” I doubt it that on the last day we’re going to say to Christ, “but I read all the right books!”

    Please, please, please keep in mind everything I’ve written has absolutely nothing to do with Fr Matthew himself as a priest or as a person, nor I’m I saying his family is less deserving of help and care.

    I still think the response (not the care and the help) is odd.

    • Once again, I think that the key here is that you see a focus on Father Matthew rather than on his widow and six young children — plus the poignant detail that she was home recovering from delivering a stillborn child (and thus was not in the car at the time of the crash).

      Also, the sacrifices that this particular priest had made and his links to multiple seminaries also formed bonds with a high number of your priests and their families in a specific generation. Thus, we are seeing an especially strong network of people in the wake of his death.

      However, “annoyed,” if you have links to reports about some widows of priests who, with their young children, have been abandoned by the Orthodox masses, that would be truly tragic. That would certainly be a wrong worth addressing and protesting. Please point us to those cases, if you can. That would be a tragic, but worthy, public service.

    • Mr. Mattingly echoes what I said earlier- Fr. Matthew knew a lot of people, thus there was a wider network of people to share the news and spread the fundraising initiative.

      For what it’s worth, I have seen other fundraisers for people in need spread pretty far as well- for example, one benefitting a priest’s family who watched their house burn down next door to the church as their husband and father was serving liturgy. The fundraisers for Fr Matthew simply were spread a little more efficiently a) because of his established network of friends, classmates, colleagues, etc and b) because it really is heartbreaking to hear about a family with six kids suddenly bereft of their father, especially right after losing the seventh child.

  12. Michael Bauman says

    One year since the repose of Met. Philip. Memory eternal.

    And contrary to what some stated at the time, the Antiochians have yet to implode.

    Many years to Met. Joseph.

    • Aaron Little says

      How’s that financial audit coming along?

      • Michael Bauman says

        Aaron, unlike some other jurisdictions I have no reason to mistrust my bishops.
        They are men of honor. The finances were thoroughly reviewed at the time Met. Philip reposed.
        My parish is well managed.

        I have many other things that deserve my attention.

    • M. Stankovich says

      Amen, Michael Bauman, on both counts.

  13. Mike Myers says

    Just e-mailed by Dean Langis to the parishioners (and inquirers) of St. Paul’s Greek Orthodox Church, Irvine CA. I hope you too enjoy this wonderful excerpt from “Unsaintly Saints,” more often translated “Everyday Saints and Other Stories,” by Archimandrite Tikhon (Shevkunov), of the Sretensky Monastery (1397).


    Archimandrite Seraphim

    Father Seraphim for me was one of the most mysterious people in the Pskov Caves Monastery. He was descended from a long lineage of East Prussian barons. In the 1930s he had come to the monastery and given himself in obedience to the great elder and monk Father Simeon.

    Father Seraphim had little contact with people. He lived in a dwelling carved out of a cave that was both damp and dark. He would stand through the services totally engrossed in prayer, with his head bent down every once in a while, with light grace and reverence making the sign of the cross. Father Seraphim would also walk across the monastery completely focused on his own thoughts. To us novices, it seemed a crime to distract him. Of course, now and then he himself would briefly deign to speak to us. For example, returning to his cell from services, he would always give leftover Communion bread calledprosphora to the monk on duty in the main square of the monastery. Once there was one novice whose name was Sasha Shvetsov who was seriously thinking about leaving the monastery but hadn’t said anything. Father Seraphim suddenly walked up to him and, stamping his feet, shouted to everyone’s amazement: “The road out of this monastery is closed to you!”
    He himself had lived in the monastery for sixty years and had never once left its precincts. And he used to say: “I never once left this community, not even in my thoughts!” Well, actually there was one time—it was 1945, and Red Army soldiers were leading him as an ethnic German out to be shot by a firing squad. But then they changed their minds for some reason and didn’t shoot him.

    Yet in general, despite his reserve and severe demeanor, Father Sera­phim was a remarkably kind, loving man. Everyone in the monastery respected and loved him, although we novices were also afraid of him— or rather, we were in awe of him, seeing as he was a man who lived on this earth entirely with God, just like a living saint.

    I remember my impression of those years. At the time I was a subdeacon[i] serving under the monastery’s abbot, Archimandrite Father Gabriel. I noticed that whenever Father Seraphim would walk into the altar area, the monastery’s abbot would quickly climb up towards him from his place as Father Superior and would greet him with particular respect. There was no one else to whom the abbot was so particularly deferent.

    Winter, summer, spring, and fall, at exactly four o’clock in the morn­ing, Father Seraphim would leave his cave in which he kept his cell and would quickly inspect the monastery to make sure that everything was in order. Only after this task was completed did he return to his cave and heat the stove, which as a result of the dank and damp conditions of the cave needed to be heated virtually all year round. It seems to me that Father Seraphim considered himself a particular guardian of the Pskov Caves community. And perhaps that was indeed his assignment. In any case, the singular voice of that former German baron, now a great ascetic monk and one of our sagacious leaders, was always definitive in deciding the most complicated questions faced by the brotherhood of our monastery.

    Father Seraphim rarely had any particular words to say to those
    who approached him. In the entrance to his severe monastic cave dwelling he hung up pages with quotations from the works of St. Tikhon of Zadonsk. And anyone who would come to visit him would often have to be satisfied with these quotations, or else with a blunt phrase from Father Seraphim: “Read St. Tikhon of Zadonsk as often as possible.”

    Through all his years of monastery life, Father Seraphim made do with the very least—and not only with food or clothing, but even in his interactions with people. For example, he would never wash himself in the shower but instead would make do with two or three small buckets of water. Asked by the novices why he didn’t bother to use the water, since there was more than enough water in the shower to wash oneself thoroughly, he would scoff that to take a shower was just as bad as to eat chocolate.

    Once in 1983, I had the good fortune to be in Diveyevo Monastery in Nizhny Novgorod Province. That was much harder to do back then—a classified military factory was located nearby. The old nuns gave me a piece of a rock on which St. Seraphim of Sarov himself had prayed. When I got back to Pechory, I decided to go see Father Seraphim and give him the gift of this holy relic connected to his spiritual protector. Having received this unexpected gift, Father Seraphim stood silently for a long time and then asked: “What can I do for you in return?”

    I was rather shocked by this. “Nothing, thanks . . .”

    But then I let slip my dearest desire: “Please pray that I will become a monk!”

    I remember how intently Father Seraphim stared at me then.
    “For that the main thing you need,” he said softly, “is just your own free will.”

    Later, under different circum­stances, he talked to me again about the will for monasticism. At that time I was already serving in Mos­cow as a novice under Archbishop Pitirim. But Father Seraphim was living out his very last year of life on this earth and was already almost unable to get up. When I got back to Pechory Monastery, I went to see the ailing elder in his cave. And suddenly he himself began the conversation about the monastery and about the state of monasticism in our days. This was very unusual for him and made the moment all the more valuable. I remember a few key ideas from that conversation.

    First of all, Father Seraphim spoke about the monastery with immense inexpressible love, as of the greatest treasure there was: “You cannot even conceive of how precious a treasure the monastery is! It is a pearl, it is uniquely valuable in our world! Only later will you really understand and value it.”
    Then he addressed himself to the main problem of those who wish to become monks nowadays. “The misfortune of monasteries nowadays is that people come here with weak wills.”
    More and more nowadays I understand how profound this remark by Father Seraphim was. The self-sacrificing renunciation and decisiveness needed for true monastic asceticism is ever more lacking among us. It was about this more than anything that the heart of Father Seraphim grieved as he observed the young inhabitants of our monastery.

    Finally he pronounced an extremely important concept for me. “The time of the big monasteries has passed. More fruit now must be harvested from modest communities in which a Father Superior will more easily be able to take care of the spiritual life of each monk. Remember this. If ever you will be the abbot of a monastery, do not accept many brothers.” That was our last conversation, in 1989. At the time I was just a simple novice. I wasn’t even a monk.

    The clairvoyance of Father Seraphim was never doubted either by me or by my friends in the monastery. Father Seraphim himself was rather calm and even slightly skeptical when it came to conversations about miracles and clairvoyance. I remember once he said: “Everyone likes to say that Father Simeon was a miracle worker and could predict the future. But for all the years that I lived in his company I never noticed anything of the kind. He was just a good monk.”

    But I myself several times experienced the full force of the gifts of Father Seraphim. Once during the summer of 1986 I was passing by the elder’s cave cell, and I noticed that he was about to change the bulb in the light on his front porch. I brought him a small footstool and helped him. Father Seraphim thanked me and said: “A bishop took a novice to Moscow for further tasks. Everyone thought it would not be for long, but he ended up staying there.”

    “And?” I asked.

    “And that was it!” Father Seraphim said. Then he turned around and went back to his cave. Not understanding, I went back on my own way. What novice? What bishop?

    Three days later I was summoned by Archimandrite Gabriel, Father Superior of the monastery. He told me that Archbishop Pitirim of Volokolamsk, chairman of the publishing department of the Moscow Patriarchate, had just called him from the capital. Archbishop Pitirim had learned that in the Monastery of the Pskov Caves there was a novice with an advanced degree in cinematic studies, and therefore asked the abbot of our monastery to please send this novice to him in Moscow. It seems they were in urgent need of specialists to prepare a film and television program devoted to the anniversary of the millennium of Russia’s adoption of Christianity. The commemorations would be within two years, and much needed to be done.

    The novice of whom they were speaking was me. I don’t remember a more frightful day in my entire life. I begged Father Gabriel not to send me to Moscow, but he had already made his decision. “I’m not going to get into an argument with Archbishop Pitirim because of you,” was all he said in answer to my pleas.

    Only later I found out that my return to Moscow had also been a longtime request of my mother, who was very much hoping to talk me out of becoming a monk. Father Gabriel sympathized with her and had been waiting to find some excuse to send me back to my inconsolable parent. Besides, such curt and even gruff commands were very much in his style.

    Of course I immediately remembered my last conversation with Father Seraphim about the novice, and the bishop, and about Moscow, and I ran to see him and his cave.
    “It is God’s will! Do not grieve! All this is for the best. You will see this for yourself, and one day you will understand,” the elder said to me ten­derly.

    How difficult it was, especially in the beginning, for me to be living once more in Moscow! It was particularly difficult because, as I would wake in the middle of the night, I would realize that this amazing world of the monastery, so incomparable with anything else, blessed with its Fathers Seraphim, John, Nathaniel, Theophan, Alexander . . . all these dear men were now many hundreds of kilometers away. And here I was, far off in Moscow, where there was nobody and nothing who could compare with them.

    [i] *A subdeacon is an assistant to the clergy serving in the altar.