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Author Topic: Christ of the Hills Monastery  (Read 4475 times) Average Rating: 0
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dantxny
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« on: May 31, 2005, 08:45:29 PM »

I know that Christ of the Hills Monastery was previously accused of having sex offenders among other crimes in the nineties.  However, after running a search on it, I haven't been able to find any new infomration on it and I was curious if anyone knows the status of the little monastery in Blanco, Texas (the one with the weeping Theotokos).  I had visited it last year and it seemed very Orthodox, but the sex scandels were still in the back of my mind.  So does anyone, perhaps, have new information about it?  Also, does anyone know what jurisidiction it is in? 

Daniel
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« Reply #1 on: May 31, 2005, 08:57:45 PM »

It's not in a jurisdiction. They're vagante in the purest sense of the word. In their liturgy, they commemorate "all Orthodox bishops", which is the functional equivalent of "to whom it may concern."
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« Reply #2 on: May 31, 2005, 09:20:15 PM »

http://www.pokrov.org/controversial/blanconews.html
http://www.pokrov.org/controversial/blancorocor.html
http://www.pokrov.org/Abusers/pgreene.html
http://www.pokrov.org/news/041119_tampatrib.html
http://www.pokrov.org/Articles/behinddoors.htm

http://www.thelinkup.org/crimes99b2.html#tex

Last I heard they were "Kievian Patriarchate" but this site would differ:
http://www.concentric.net/~Cosmas/ind_cath_dir_tx.htm

And this is the closest thing I can find to an offficial site:
http://www.geocities.com/mabeherec/shrine.html
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« Reply #3 on: May 31, 2005, 09:36:31 PM »

I highly recomend Pokrov as a completely unbiased and wonderful source of information (right after OCL of course). 
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« Reply #4 on: May 31, 2005, 09:52:47 PM »

Quote
I highly recomend Pokrov as a completely unbiased and wonderful source of information.

Yes, but in this case they're right for once.
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« Reply #5 on: June 01, 2005, 12:12:58 AM »

Many of the Fathers who left COTH wound up fleeing (in the middle of the night!) to Holy Archangels' Greek Orthodox Monastery in Kendalia (which is about 30 min. away).

A truly sad story, especially since, before these scandals broke, the monastery was (according to a reader in my parish) booming.  Been there just to see it--veeeerrrry quiet--but a surprisingly full bookstore.  My guess is that's their primary "lifeline," because they don't have that many pilgrims anymore.
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« Reply #6 on: June 01, 2005, 06:16:59 AM »


Last I heard they were "Kievian Patriarchate" but this site would differ:
http://www.concentric.net/~Cosmas/ind_cath_dir_tx.htm

Nikolai,

It cites them as belonging to the Greek Orthodox (Arch)Diocese of Vasilopoulous; hasn't that particular paragon of ecclesiastical serenity folded its tents?  (Not that an affiliation between the two wouldn't have made sense, in a sick sort of way)

Many years,

Neil
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« Reply #7 on: June 01, 2005, 11:26:01 PM »

I talked to a Priest (OCA) who told me about Christ of the Hills Monastery.  He said that they had tried to come under the wings of the OCA, but he (Fr. Dimitri) investigated the monastery and wrote a forty page report.  The OCA, on recommendation from Fr. Dimitri, chose not to take Christ of the Hills in.  Fr. Dimitri told me that ROCOR took them in.

I remember when the scandal broke out.  I live in San Antonio, so the monastery is quite close.  I remember it being one of the first times I had ever heard about the Orthodox Faith.  I know it was a sad intro, but it didn't shape my opinion.  I was a huge thing here.  The press covered it for days.  Many in San Antonio were worried and talk was all about it and the sex scandal.  It was a really crazy time.  I didn't think the monastery survived until Fr. Dimitri told me about it.
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« Reply #8 on: June 02, 2005, 09:53:21 AM »

Christ is Risen!

Christ of the Hills Monastery is an active monastery still. With its original spiritual director Father Benedict and one of its Hieromonks Father Jerimiah convicted by a Texas Court of Law of Indencency with a Minor, the monastery has had to reorganize the brotherhood under the leadership Abbott Vasili. I have had the pleasure of visiting the monastery both before and after the incident. I believe when one visits it, your will find that it has greatly changed under the leadership of Father Vasili. The services are served with great dignity and on a regular schedule. Hierodeacon Pangratios does an excellent job assuring that the canons of the church are followed in their services. The small brotherhood of about 10 monastics work hard and pray even harder. The brotherhood at the monastery have had to struggle under the cloud that has come over them but their main focus even in this time of trouble has been on the worship of the Holy Trinity.

The history of the monastery is one of searching for canonical orthodoxy. Originally a Roman catholic Monastery, upon leaving the Roman Catholic Church, they incorpaorated as a "Nonprofit corporation" under Texas Law and modeled themselves after the ecumenical monastery "Taize" in France. After further studying of the Orthodox Church, the brotherhood entered into the non-canonical branch of Orthodoxy noted in the website above. After several years of education and interaction with the canonical Orthodox parishes in Austin, Dallas, and San Antonio, they were eventually directed to seek the protection of the omophorion of ROCOR. Upon entrance into ROCOR, an unusal thing happened, ROCOR allowed the Monastery to remain an incorporated non-profit corporation rather than follow the usual pattern of deeding everything to the Synod of Bishops. They remained in ROCOR for many years, however when the scandal arose about the monastery several years ago, ROCOR sent a delegation to review the Monastery. At the advice of their criminal Lawyers, the brotherhood were told to not allow the ROCOR committe to review everything they requested (financial and property issues) as this could later be used in any settlement against the monastery in a civil court. The ROCOR hierarchy justifiably saw this as disobedience and disciplined the clergy of the monastery and withdrew their omophorion from the monastery. (Note, while their declining of the synod's request was legal under Texas State Law due to their legal incorporation, this was probably a bad decision and it was disobedience to their hierarchal synod0. ROCOR offered to place any members of the monastery who wished transfer to other ROCOR Monasteries, no one took up the offer. Several monks left the monastery but new ones came to take their places and the monastery has continued to exist, all-be-it in a questionable canonical Status. The monks of the monastery were placed under the omophorion of Archbishop LAZAR Puhalo , then of the non-canonical Kievian Patriachate (now he is an Archbishop in OCA with the status of a retired hierarch),Thus they are listed as under the Patriarchate of Kiev on various more current websites that the ones noted above. Several years after being accepted under Archbishop Lazar's omophorion, the Patriarch of Kiev started the Texas Kievian Mission and I note that the monastery is not in that Mission. What its current status is I am uncertain.

Over the past five years, the brotherhood of the monastery continues to exist and struggle in its spiritual life. I know the monks feel a tie to the monastery that goes very deep. They are custodians of the shrine of the Weeping Virgin, which I have seen and can verify after many visits is genuine---I have seen the tears. I have met monks who left the monastery and never found one who did not believe the weeping icon was anything but a true weeping icon. I have attended funerals of Laity, monastics and a ROCOR Hierarch at the monastery and know that one of the great fears of the monastery is the full disestablishment of the monastic institutution and the abandonment of the sacred space of the monastery cemetary with its faithful. Will Christ of the Hills Monastery ever be canonical again? I can not answer, that will be up to the canonocal Orthodox jursidictions, who at present seem unwilling to even discuss the posibility of admission into their jurisdictions for fear of its past scandal. In the mean time, the monastics of Christ of the Hills Monastery continue to do what they feel they have been called to do ---pray and serve God as best they can.

May the Holy Trinity have mercy upon them.

In Christ,
Thomas

Of interest to note is that Elder Ephriam of the Holy Mountain visited the monastery and as a result of his visit came the desire to establish one of his monasteries in the area. The two monasteries had cordial relationships until the scandal and still maintain limited friendly contact.


edited for grammar and syntax.
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« Reply #9 on: June 02, 2005, 06:09:46 PM »

Thanks for the info, Thomas; good to know.

[shameless plug of own blog]Here are some pics of COTH monastery[/shameless plug]
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« Reply #10 on: June 03, 2005, 12:19:27 AM »

Well, I had attended once previously while passing in the area, but it was only for half an hour.  I do remember being skeptical about the large gift shop and the scandals from previous events.  However, I do also remember a general serenity.  It reminds me of a degree of Greece.  I'll be going there and the GOA monastery though this Monday, so I'll try to report back anything interesting.  BTW, is Fr. Benedict in prison currently?

Christ is Risen


Daniel
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« Reply #11 on: June 03, 2005, 05:47:00 PM »

Christ is Risen!

Father Benedict was the original founding and spiritual father of the Christ of the Hills Monastery near Blanco. He received 10 years deferred adjudication -- the equivalent of probation [He is now over 5 years into the sentence]. Under other terms of the plea agreement, Father Benedict, now 60 and due to very poor health is confined to his home. He had to pay a $10,000 fine, register as a sex offender and cannot have contact with children younger than 18. For those people unaware of Texas Law, deferred adjudication states that if the probation period is completed, the court record is expunged and the person is seen as having no conviction. This was done in view of the questionable case On Father Benedict and his extremely poor health (he must be on oxygen constantly and have attendants to assist him with all activities of daily living). For the state of Texas it was less expensive to let him plea bargain and the state not have to pay his high medical costs.

He remains in a hermitage at the monastery with no outside contact, praying the Jesus prayer. He has no influence on the running of the monastery but continues as a monk in prayer, repenting of his sins. May God Grant him mercy and forgiveness!

In Christ,
Thomas
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« Reply #12 on: June 11, 2005, 06:34:13 PM »

Christ is Risen!

Brother in Christ, Daniel,

Just wondering how your trip last weekend went. How are the monasteries doing---how was your own spiritual journey.

In Christ,
Thomas
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« Reply #13 on: June 17, 2005, 12:10:56 AM »

Sorry, in getting a delay back so late.  I did not get to attend the GOA monastery unfortunally, as we spent so much time at the one in Blanco that by the time we would have gotten dinner and headed there, it would have been closing.  However, I did enjoy the Christ of the Hills monastery.  It actually seems to be growing more than I expected.  The icon was just beautiful, and I know that I got much out of the trip and it has really helped me in my spiritual direction.  I also went with a RC friend and his fiancee.  I don't know whether it planted the seeds, but I do know they're some of my closest friends and were able to be comfortable with Orthodoxy and want to learn more.  Always a good plus!

The monastery itself, it very beautiful.  Even though it was 95 that day, It was very cool on top of the hill, and with the wind blowing I kept on remembering the Sermon on the Mount, specifically, The Beatitudes.  While there, Father Deacon . .  I don't remember his name . . .gave us a history of the icon and some spiritual advice.  We then attended The Sixth Hour.  Although, I think that the monks finally discovered the ninth tone, it was very peaceful. 

All, in all, I'd reccomend the monastery (although with caution of course) for a pilgramage.  Also, for those who are wondering, you can get some heavenly Chicken Fried Steak at the Sunset Cafe, in Blanco Centre.  It in itself was proof of their being a God.

Daniel
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