Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Hello All,

Where does one begin to write a fitting memorial for a friend.

A highly faulted HUMAN friend and also my consecrator.

Metropolitan Archbishop David Francis Milne DD, passed away this past Wednesday (23rd).

He was in spite of his faults a deeply spiritual man. Truly focused on his calling to Serve Christ and his Church no matter what the adversity. My first contact with +David,was in 2005. He e-mailed me that he liked my writings on a now defunct e-group. He mentioned that he and his advisers thought that I would make a good bishop...to say I was shocked,is putting it mildly. I told him I would think about it..then 3 days later e-mailed him to decline. He wrote back saying he would not give up on me but would pray.

I told him I too would pray but that I doubt my answer would change.

True to his word.. he did not give up asking me. I have to laugh now. We finally met,had a good time talking and enjoyed the visit. Then doubt,fear,and the whisperings and gossip of others drove me away for a while.. +David however,did not give up..still prayed.

I didn't know where to go..I asked episcopal protection from another bishop..but did not feel as if I belonged there. Something didn't feel right. I searched inside..compared..prayed..(a lot!) What did feel right.. was to be a part of a small growing jurisdiction and co grow it with a person who became a friend as well as my bishop.

I was finally consecrated bishop this past June 9th 2007. His hands passing on to me the age old tradition of apostolic succession...meaning that traced backwards...one can trace the laying on of hands from their consecrator back through the mother RC church to the apostles.

Little did I know that my dearest friend,would be taken so suddenly 7 months later.

+David had a severe asthma attack on the 16th of this month. He was on several inhalers. He stopped breathing in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. He was soon after proclaimed brain dead.

He died wednesday the 23rd., 51 years of age. I am 52. It gives one pause.

I will do my best to think and act with the grace of a called shepherd of the church. I have difficult shoes to fill. Pray for me.

I stop here,and as a tribute to Bp. David, I repost here a piece he wrote in remembering making a "poustinia" a type of eastern rite retreat. He did this at the Combermere Ontario retreat center where Catherine de Hueck Wrote several of her books on the subject.

+David, my friend, I will physically miss you,but you live on in your writings and in the thoughts and hearts of your friends and colleagues.

Memory Eternal,Vichnayja Pamjat, Requesicat in pace, rest in peace old friend.

*Reposted here:..... From Jan.16th 2007 From his Blog.*


Across Canada tonight, even in what was last week, the balmy section of Canada, Southern Ontario, (where I just happen to reside), "Winter" has unleashed her force right clear across the country. For the better part of the day, freezing rain has fallen in the form of either, ice pellets, sleet or ice fog, and only recently has this rain fallen as snow, making road conditions nearly unmanageable for any kind of movement. Further as night progresses, the temperature is dropping, and with the wind-chill added, Hamilton feel’s like minus eleven Celsius. (-11C)

It was then, on a night much as this, that while visiting Madonna House, in Combermere Ontario, I entered my first Poustinia, to pray in the way of the desert father’s.

I had been given a loaf of a homemade double rye bread, salt, a double thermos of tea, a box of wooden matches. Upon arrival, I was aided by the driver to get the fire going and to put enough wood into the Poustinia, and light the several lanterns. Once all was ready, the driver left me. I was alone in the woods of Northeastern Ontario, and would be picked up 36 hours from now, but after 18hrs someone would come check on me.

The furnishings were simple, in fact peasant like. A table, a chair, a rod iron army cot, a pot-belly stove, 3 oil lamps, a plain black cross upon the wall, at its cross point, an icon of the Blessed Mother. A small single votive light hanging just above the cross. On the table, a Jerusalem bible, breadboard, a knife. A single window looked out over an ice-covered lake. A small one-person kneeler rested in adoration before the cross and icon.

I was alone, in the midst of God’s creation, all was still and quiet. The light of the lamps made the snow sparkle like crystal. I rose from my chair, place another log in the fire, walked over to the kneeler and went down in prayerful adoration to the Blessed Mother as I began my vigil of silent prayer, and waited upon the Lord, for it was here in a similar type structure, hermits passed their entire life, in humble adoration and service to all who came seeking God.

I was very tired that night. I had driven most of the day in conditions much like those explained above. I had traveled against recommendation, because this would be my first journey to the desert, and I was not going to miss it. I had read over and over the experience’s of other’s. That night I was told, that if I was to tired to pray, simply ask God to give me "good dreams". Thus, at about 10pm, I rose from my prayer, but on my coat and ventured outside for a smoke. As I removed my coat, I took note of the note behind the door…Beware of Bears. I stepped out, letting the precious warm airflow from the house and lit up. I started to relax. I felt the crisp air in my lungs, and the freshness of it made my desire for sleep more intense. I looked out at the bushes, not 100ft away, and looked towards the endless starry, clear crisp night, and felt God all around. I started to sing; here I am Lord. It is I Lord. I have heard you calling in the night. Then the bushes moved. I promptly tossed the smoke into a snow bank and retreated in doors. I walked over to the table, Took the lamp to the small bedside table, slipped under the cover, leaving only the votive light glowing. I turned out the lamp, and quietly prayer to the Blessed Mother, asking her help, and begging her to make sure it was not a bear outside.

I woke up at almost noon.

I had slept nearly 14 hours.

I woke to see the last flickers of the votive dance before the Icon.

I was alone.

I was with God and Mary in the midst of creation.

I listened to the silence.

After my meager meal of tea and bread, and again a quick step outside for my morning smoke, watching those bush’s ever so closely, I decide to wander around and see what, if anything was about.

About 100ft out from the door I found myself waist deep in snow, but found a small wooden shrine resting on a Pine tree. I dusted off the snow, and took out my rosary, and offered a set of beads for my family and friends. As I finished I heard the truck coming and made my way back. Fr. Michael had come out with fresh tea, and some butter and a couple of sweet rolls. While there, I took the opportunity to go to confession. It was the longest confession I ever went through, but felt truly as if I was really free of all my sins. Just as Father was about to leave, came the question…"did I wish to back it in, or remain?" I told Father, that growing up in the city had really placed a desire in my heart for some silence in God’s presence. He understood. He left me a two-way radio, showed me how to work it, and he gave me his blessing and was gone.

For the balance of the day, I either slept or prayed. I ate very little, but made very sure I had enough wood in the small hut/Poustinia to keep me warm. Just as the sun began to set, the radio sparked to life. A storm was coming. They were coming to get me.

I was about 25 minutes drive time from the main house and the road, was plowed, but after almost an hour no one came. I tried the radio. No answer. I looked at my watch…they would be singing Evening Prayer. I went to pray again in the hermitage and night was upon us. I lit the lamps, added more logs for the night, went for another smoke and then the storm found me.

From inside the Poustinia I watched the snow whip around. I heard the wind howl, and the snow fall like this city boy had never seen before. Just around 11:00 p.m. the radio sparked to life. Could I hold on or did they need to come get me? I opted to stay and pray. Then a voice came over the radio; "David, this is Catherine". I was honored. She told me a few things I needed to know to survive till someone could get out there. With her Russian accent she told me that while I prayed many there at the house would be praying for me.

I kept the radio on, as instructed. Someone would be near it all night. (latter I would learn that I was the sole individual left in all of the Poustinia’s, because of the storm).

I went to say my final rosary of the night, and lit all the candles before the Icon Cross. I took my time praying that night, and I prayed aloud. I knew God heard me. I felt at peace as the storm continued to whip around me. As I finally finished, I looked at my watch, 1:30 a.m.

I went to the radio and called in. Fr. Michael answered. I told him I was going to bed. He prayed with me for several minutes. Then I put out the oil lamps, crawled into bed and fell asleep "literally" trusting all would be well.

As morning arrived, the storm had passed, and the drifts from the snow had partially blocked the window. When I ventured outside, I walked around the Poustinia and realized that with exception of the doorway and window I had been literally buried. The radio crackled to life…they were on the way.

I listened for the familiar sounds of the truck, and wondered with all this snow how the truck would make it. They sent a skidoo. The fire was left to burn out. Candles put out. Before closing the door, I knelt in the doorway and gave thanks for my first visit to the Poustinia.

Once we hit the road, the driver changed places and let me drive, but only a short distance, as all the roads were snowed under. They had hailed a service train to come get me. In the caboose was coffee and Fr. Michael. I was back at Madonna House in less then 15 minutes.

I’ve since been asked about that visit, and what had I learned. I learned only one thing. I learned first hand about the silence of the desert, and how close you are to God if you allow yourself to be present to be. I placed all I was at the time in the hands of God and with the Blessed Mother. I understand now why God called his prophets to the desert, to prepare them for His work…because there where no one is, you are alone with God, and alone with God, nothing is impossible.

If you ever have a chance, visit a Poustinia/Hermitage and spend some very quiet time with God and His Mother. I have never regretted that visit, or the winter storm. I wanted the quiet, and that storm sent by God, saw I got the quiet time to pray.



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