Posts tagged newspapers
Recently, I’ve been working with a group of researchers to document the life of Fr. Theoclitos Triantafilides, the remarkable priest of Galveston, Texas. Fr. Theoclitos was from Greece — his father had fought in the Greek Revolution — and as a young man, Fr. Theoclitos lived on Mount Athos and later studied in Russia. He tutored the children of King George of Greece, and later the children of Tsar Alexander III (including the future Tsar Nicholas II). He was apparently quite close to Nicholas II, and when, in 1895, the Orthodox of Galveston requested a priest, the Tsar sent to them his former tutor. Fr. Theoclitos was already in his mid-60s — quite old for his era — but he served in America for a full two decades before his death in 1916.
The American ministry of Fr. Theoclitos was utterly unique. He was, as I said, an ethnic Greek, but he served under the auspices of the Russian Mission in America. His parish was composed of Greeks, Serbs, Syrians, and even Copts, and today, that parish is a part of the Serbian Church. Fr. Theoclitos was also one of the first Orthodox priests in America (and perhaps the first) to actively proselytize Americans. His parish was truly pan-Orthodox, and he was uniquely capable of ministering to the needs of such a diverse flock.
Until recently, we knew a fair number of facts about Fr. Theoclitos, but nobody, as far as I know, had found any surviving sermons or writings. Just the other day, though, the lead researcher — Mimo Milosevich, from Galveston — discovered the full text of Fr. Theoclitos’ Christmas sermon, given on January 7, 1914 and published in the next day’s issue of the Galveston Daily News.
It’s a short sermon, but it reveals much about the character and vision of the great archimandrite. According to the newspaper, Fr. Theoclitos began by recounting the story of the star, the wise men, their gifts, and King Herod. Then, said the paper, “Father Theoclitos took off his spectacles and used them to gesticulate with, as he preached a fatherly sermon on charity and its relation to happiness.”
My children: Before Jesus came into our world the earth lacked the attributes of sympathetic understanding, which we find necessary to our happiness in this era. The Lord gave us his son, Jesus, to soften us, to give us understanding of human wants, to give us a sense of forgiveness, to teach us that to forgive is our duty, and to teach us charity.
My children, be charitable, open your hearts, for only in charity is there happiness. Make life brighter for your brother and your sister and the candle you light for them will make your light brighter.
God gave us Jesus, and Jesus gave us his all, even his life. We can do no more than emulate him, and in doing that we do all.
Think today of the poor whom he loved, lighten their burdens, even as he did. Open your hearts, oh, my children, even as did Jesus of Bethlehem.
My children, when he came among us he did not ask, “Of what nationality art thou? What is thy belief?” No! He came down among us and was one of us and he ministered to us. Open thy hearts, likewise, my children, and go among the poor and succor them; all the poor, for they are thy brothers and sisters, my children, and they are his people.
My children, many of you are not native to this land and it is well to treasure memories of thine own country, but think that this is a good land, and its people are good to thy people, and you all are his people. Learn to love, be honest, tolerant, forgiving, and charitable.
I pray you Merry Christmas, my children, and many, many years of happiness.
After the sermon, Fr. Theoclitos passed a plate to collect alms for the poor. “The plate was heaped high with bills and coins,” reported the Daily News, “the merry chink-clink-chink of the contributions accenting like tiny cymbals the smooth melody of a beautiful hymn.”
Bishop Sophronios/Sophronius (Beshara) was a bishop for the Holy Eastern Orthodox Catholic and Apostolic Church of North America (HEOCACNA), an enterprise started by Bishop Aftimios. For all intents and purposes, the jurisdictional unity attempt died in 1933. Bishop Sophronius, however, was the last bishop. The date of his death has been given as 1934 by Archimandrite Seraphim (Surrency) in his book The Quest for Orthodox Unity in America. Others have often followed that. Yet, his grave marker states 1940, a date noted here as well:
This begs the question of which is correct and if 1940 is correct, what was he doing during those intervening years?
Well, 1940 is correct and what he was doing was ordaining people to his American Orthodox Catholic Church (an alternative name for HEOCACNA).
Here are two examples of newspaper articles referring to him ordaining men to the priesthood:
For those interested in the beginning of his episcopal career, these might be of interest:
After reading Matthew Namee’s recent post on the celebration of Christmas according to the New Calendar in Orthodox parishes and jurisdictions in America during the first half of the 20th century, I thought it appropriate to post an article that appeared in the pages of the New York Times on December 25th, 1923.
I think it’s a rather unique picture of what Orthodox life was like in this era, especially given the political overtones of the repression of the Church of Russia, which we see in the first half of the article. With their brothers and sisters in Russia experiencing the initial stages of a rather aggressive anti-religious campaign from the fledgling Bolshevik government, the North American Archdiocese were experiencing crises of their own in the wake of the Russian Revolutions of 1917.
In Russia, the Bolshevik government had instituted the national move to the Gregorian (New) Calendar on February 1/14, 1918 (February 1st became February 14th). The Church of Russia resisted this change, and in discussions of the All-Russian Sobor of 1917-8 (in session as the calendar switch went into effect), determined to retain the Old Calendar.
By 1923, however, this would be tested by the rise to power of the Living Church, a reformist movement that had coalesced out of several radical factions within the Russian Church over the previous two decades. Backed by the Bolshevik government, the Renovationists attempted to force the implementation of the New Calendar, and over time, the calendar issue became a distinct point of differentiation between the so-called “Renovationist” and “Tikhonite” factions within the Church of Russia.
In America, this differentiation, apparently, also resulted in a distinct rejection of the New Calendar within the North American Archdiocese. In December of 1923, the Archdiocese was in the throes of its legal battles with the Living Church-backed John Kedrovsky, who had returned to America in October claiming to be the Archbishop of North America and the Aleutian Islands. With confusing accounts coming out of Russia regarding the status of Patriarch Tikhon, reports of bizarre and troubling attacks against the Church and religious life by the Soviet government, and very real threats of the loss of St. Nicholas Cathedral and other church properties in American courts, the Archdiocese chose to reject the recent decision of the Pan-Orthodox Congress to institute the use of the Revised Julian (or New) Calendar.
Plainly, for many Orthodox Christians in America of Russian descent in this era, the New Calendar was not primarily associated with a Pan-Orthodox Congress, but with Bolshevism and the repression of the beloved Patriarch Tikhon, who was obviously revered in all corners of Orthodox America.
The allowance for the use of the New Calendar within what would become known as the Metropolia would not come until the 13th All-American Sobor in 1967. While some corners of the OCA have almost universally moved to the Revised Julian Calendar, there are yet still many parishes throughout the United States and Canada that will be celebrating the Nativity of Christ two weeks from now. As Matthew outlined the other day, there is similar plurality across the other jurisdictions in America. Yet regardless of when we observe this important day, it is with the same spirit of joy in the birth of Christ.
The following remarkable story appeared in the New York Times on May 1, 1908. If anyone can provide more information, please email me at mfnamee [at] gmail [dot] com.
BABY LEFT IN CHURCH; SOCIETY TO ADOPT IT
Advent of the Little Stranger Caused Flurry Among Women of the Ladies’ Aid
LEFT IN JANITOR’S BED
The Infant Is Sent Temporarily to Bellevue, but the Women Say They Want to Bring It Up.
The day before yesterday, and theretofore, the basement door of the Greek Orthodox Church, Holy Trinity, at Seventy-second Street and Lexington Avenue, could be opened without the slightest sound. It always stood unlocked.
But yesterday there was a shrill bell attached to the door, which rang sharply whenever the door was opened. Moreover, whenever the door did open or the bell rang there was a quick movement on the part of the janitor and of those members of the Ladies’ Aid Society who happened to be present to see who entered.
For on the previous day some one, taking advantage of the fact that the door latch was always out, had slipped into the janitor’s room in the basement and left in his bed a two weeks’ old boy baby. The janitor and l adies are glad that the baby came to the church, but do not wish, nevertheless, to establish such a precedent. Hence the new bell.
It was quite dark and the Ladies’ Aid Society had finished its meeting in the rear room of the basement when there came a squeak from the janitor’s room. The members of the society acted variously. The unmarried members got on chairs.
“It’s a mouse,” they said.
The married members listened attentively.
“It’s a baby,” they asserted.
Leaving the unmarried members still on their chairs, the married members hurried to the janitor’s room. On the bed was a little white bundle. As they drew near the little squeak was repeated.
One of the women more bold than her sisters went to the bed and threw back a blanket. A baby blinked up at her.
The question arose what was to be done with the infant.
“Notify the police,” said the janitor.
But word went about the room:
“It’s a Greek Church baby, and the Greek Church should take care of its own.”
So the police were not notified. Instead, one of the members of the society took the baby home. Yesterday the society was about to meet to discuss what was to be the ultimate disposition of the baby when a policeman arrived. The janitor, possibly not relishing the idea of a church baby, had telephoned to the East Sixty-seventh Street Station.
The baby was taken to Bellevue.
“But we want it here,” said the members of the Ladies’ Aid Society.
“You can claim it at Bellevue,” the policeman told them.
So the members of the society haven’t given up the idea of adopting the church baby. To-day there will be a special meeting of the society, when steps looking to its adoption will be taken.
If you’re anything like me, you want to know the rest of this story — what happened to the baby? Did one of the Greek women adopt him? How did his life turn out? I haven’t yet found any other articles on this story, but beyond the newspapers, an obvious place to look is in the baptismal records of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church (now Cathedral). Presumably, if the baby was adopted by one of the parishioners, he would have been baptized sometime between this May 1, 1908 newspaper article and the end of 1908. As I said earlier, if any of our readers can help solve this mystery, email me at mfnamee [at] gmail [dot] com.
I’ve written more words about Fr. Ingram Nathaniel Irvine than about any other historical figure. Irvine was an Episcopal priest who converted to Orthodoxy in 1905, was ordained by St. Tikhon, and played a major role in American Orthodoxy until his death in January 1921. He was a trusted assistant to St. Raphael Hawaweeny, and he was the chief advocate of the use of English in Orthodox worship. Irvine’s significance to American Orthodox history is difficult to overstate.
I’m now working on a book about Irvine. No specifics yet, but I plan to finish it by the time I graduate from law school in a year. I’ve slowly begun to review my sources on Irvine, and I stumbled onto a really, really strange bit of information.
Irvine died in Brooklyn on January 23, 1921. The first obituary was published the next day, in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. This obituary seems to have been the main source for the obituaries that appeared in numerous other papers in the following days. Here’s the weird part:
The Rev. Dr. Ingram N.W. Irvine, 71 years old, in charge of the English division of the Eastern Holy Orthodox Catholic Church of America, died on Sunday, of heart trouble, at his residence, 677 Sterling pl. The funeral services will be held tomorrow morning at 11 o’clock, at Dr. Irvine’s late home, the Rev. A.L. Charles, rector of St. Mark’s P.E. Church, officiating, and the internment will follow in Greenwood Cemetery. Dr. Irvine is survived by his wife, Mrs. Emmalena Wilson Irvine, and a daughter, Mrs. Annie Chapin.
There’s not really any question that Irvine remained Orthodox to the end of his life. Even this obituary speaks of him as being the head of the “English division” up to his death. And if you know anything about Irvine, you know that he was a stubborn mule who wouldn’t just cut and run from a church at the first hint of discomfort. I’m 99.9% certain that Irvine did not revert to Episcopalianism in the month before he died.
So why was Irvine’s funeral in his home and not in a church — and why did an Episcopal priest officiate? Apart from the almost impossible prospect of a deathbed apostasy, here are the most likely scenarios I can come up with (with help from Aram Sarkisian and Fr. Oliver Herbel):
1. Irvine’s widow and/or daughter arranged for an Episcopalian funeral. This, in my view, is the most likely scenario. We don’t know much of anything about Emmalena, Irvine’s wife. Yes, she helped Irvine with his teaching ministry, but we don’t even know if she formally converted to Orthodoxy. For all we know, she remained Episcopalian even after her husband’s conversion. As for daughter Annie, she was a very dysfunctional person. It’s a story for another day, but suffice it to say that Annie stole from a lot of people, probably was a con artist, and left her children to be primarily raised by their grandparents (the Irvines). I doubt she’d demand an Episcopalian funeral, but her motives are difficult to follow. In any case, Emmalena and/or Annie may have asked Rev. A.L. Charles of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church to officiate.
2. Irvine himself asked for an Episcopalian funeral, but remained Orthodox. This is less crazy than it sounds. According to Aram Sarkisian’s research, Irvine’s bishop, Abp Alexander Nemolovsky, was in Canada when Irvine died. And Irvine had just been through a bad experience with a failed convert parish led by the erratic Archimandrite Patrick Mythen (who, incidentally, was probably in Canada with Abp Alexander when Irvine died). The nearest Orthodox bishop was the Syrian Bishop Aftimios Ofiesh of Brooklyn — a man Irvine hated. Irvine may have been so upset with the nearby Orthodox authorities that he preferred to be buried in a quiet ceremony officiated (perhaps) by an Episcopal priest that Irvine respected.
3. Irvine had an Orthodox funeral and an Episcopalian memorial service. This theory, suggested by Fr. Oliver, assumes that the newspapers just didn’t know about the Orthodox service. Along similar lines, Fr. Oliver points out that the Orthodox and Episcopalians may have officiated at the same funeral service. After all, in that era, it wasn’t unheard of for Orthodox and Episcopalian priests to officiate at the same marriage ceremony. I find this suggestion somewhat less likely than the possibility of dual funerals, simply because the Episcopalian funeral reported in the Eagle took place at Irvine’s home, rather than a church. Which suggests that it was something less than an “official” event. If Orthodox clergy were involved, why not do it at a church?
Anyway, at this point, we don’t know what was going on with Irvine’s funeral. But the three of us — Fr. Oliver, Aram, and I — are trying to track down what happened.
This article was written by Matthew Namee.