Archive for the ‘St. Raphael of Brooklyn’ Tag

Feast of St. Raphael of Brooklyn (February 27)   7 comments

Above:  St. Raphael of Brooklyn

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT RAPHAEL OF BROOKLYN (NOVEMBER 20, 1860-FEBRUARY 27, 1915)

Syrian-American Russian Orthodox Bishop of Brooklyn

Born Rufā īl Hawāwīnī (Raphael Hawaweeny)

St. Raphael of Brooklyn comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via The Orthodox Church in America (OCA).  The Holy Synod of the OCA canonized him in 2000.

Categories of saints exist.  St. Raphael of Brooklyn falls into the category of First–in this case, the first Eastern Orthodox bishop consecrated on American soil, in 1904.

St. Raphael came from Arabic Christian stock.  He, born in Beirut, Syria, on November 20, 1860, was, through his mother (Mariam), a grandson of a priest.  Our saint’s father was Michael Hawaweeny.  Persecution of Christians in Syria was underway in 1860; the family priest, St. Joseph of Damascus (Joseph George Haddad Firzli, 1793-1860), had become a martyr in July.  St. Raphael’s parents fled to Beirut shortly prior to his birth.  Eventually, the family returned to Damascus.

St. Raphael, a good student, was on track to become a priest in the jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Constantinople.  He, made a monk on March 28, 1879, served as the assistant of Hierotheus, the Patriarch of Antioch.  St. Raphael went to the School of Theology at Halki, via the patronage of the Patriarch Hierotheus and at the invitation of Joachim III, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople.  At Halki, on December 8, 1885, our saint became a deacon.  The following July, St. Raphael received his Certificate of Theology then went home.  Gerasimus, the new Patriarch of Antioch, favored our saint and granted him opportunities to preach and to study.  Gerasimus permitted St. Raphael to study at the Theological Academy, Kiev, with the condition that our saint return and become the Patriarch’s Russian-language secretary.

St. Raphael did well under the patronage of Patriarch Gerasimus.  Our saint, appointed to the Antiochian church in Moscow, became a priest by the hand of Sylvester, the Rector of the Academy, at the request of Gerasimus.  A month later, Ioannikii, the Metropolitan of Moscow, promoted St. Raphael to the rank of archimandrite (a senior priest one level below bishop).  Our saint also arranged for 24 Syrian students to study theology in Russia.

Then Gerasimus resigned from the See of Antioch to become the Patriarch of Jerusalem.  St. Raphael campaigned for the next Patriarch of Antioch to be a Syrian, not a foreigner, as many had been for a long time.  The next Patriarch, elected in 1891, was Spyridon, a Greek Cypriot.  Spyridon suspended St. Raphael, who also found himself on the bad sides of the Patriarch of Jerusalem (yes, Gerasimus), the Patriarch of Alexandria, and the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople.  Czar Alexander III granted their request that he forbid the publication of St. Raphael’s articles for Russian newspapers.  So our saint started writing books instead.

Eventually, St. Raphael reconciled with Spyridon, who lifted the suspension.  Our saint transferred to the Russian Orthodox Church.  He taught Arabic studies at the theological academy, Kazan, until 1895.  That year, St. Raphael accepted an invitation from the Syrian Orthodox Benevolent Society of New York to minister to the Arab Orthodox Christians there.  He arrived on November 2, 1895.

For the next nearly 20 years, St. Raphael was a missionary in America.  Our saint founded St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Cathedral, New York City, almost immediately, in 1895.  He, as the head of the Syro-Arab Orthodox Mission in North America, made missionary journeys in North America.  St. Raphael also wrote an Arabic-language service book, The Book of True Consolation in the Divine Prayers (1898).  Furthermore, our saint recruited educated laymen as candidates for ordination.  In 1898, St. Tikhon of Moscow (1865-1925) became the Bishop of the Aleutians and Alaska.  St. Tikhon’s title became Bishop of the Aleutians two years later.  St. Tikhon worked with St. Raphael, first as his bishop then as his fellow bishop.  Our saint, who refused an offer to become the Auxiliary Bishop of Beirut in 1901, also declined to become the Bishop of Zahleh (now in Lebanon) that year.  Work in New York and elsewhere in North America mattered more to St. Raphael.  Finally, in 1904, when St. Tikhon needed to share his episcopal burden, our saint became the first Bishop of Brooklyn.

Bishop St. Raphael was active, serving with St. Tikhon through 1907, when the latter returned to Russia.  Our saint founded Al-Kalimat (The Word), the official publication of the Syro-Arab Orthodox Mission, in late 1904.  St. Raphael encouraged the use of English in worship; he recommended Isabel Florence Hapgood‘s Service Book of the Holy Orthodox Catholic Apostolic (Greco-Russian) Church (1906).  He chose to remain in America in 1908, rather than become the Metropolitan of Tripoli.  St. Raphael received the diagnosis of his fatal heart condition in 1912.  The bishop traveled across North America faithfully through 1915, when he, aged 54 years, died on February 27.

Faithfulness, humility, and dedication to duty defined the life and ministry of St. Raphael of Brooklyn.

May those qualities also define our lives and work.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 3, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GEORGE KENNEDY ALLEN BELL, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF CHICHESTER

THE FEAST OF ALBERTO RAMENTO, PRIME BISHOP OF THE PHILIPPINE INDEPENDENT CHURCH

THE FEAST OF SAINT GERARD OF BROGNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF JOHN RALEIGH MOTT, U.S. METHODIST LAY EVANGELIST, AND ECUMENICAL PIONEER

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Almighty and everlasting God, we thank you for your servant Saint Raphael of Brooklyn,

whom you called to preach the Gospel to the people of Canada, Mexico, and the United States of America.

Raise up in this and every land evangelists and heralds of your kingdom,

that your Church may proclaim the unsearchable riches of our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Isaiah 52:7-10

Psalm 96 or 96:1-7

Acts 1:1-9

Luke 10:1-9

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 716

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