Chapter 14: Life in the Monastery

Throughout his time as a monastic at this monastery, Fr. Gregory sought always to be inspired and emulate the lives of the saints, particularly the monastic ones. He tried to emulate them in all their virtues. He read all the lives that he could put his hands on. He listened attentively to the Synaxarion as it was read after every vespers. And truly, by all accounts he was a model monk, never exhibiting any attachment to any passion whatsoever. Many times he would be praised for all his achievements, but he would never permit this to influence him in any way towards pride. Since the time he entered the monastery as a novice until the time he left, Fr. Gregory was given the honor of saying the Creed and the Our Father in every Liturgy.

Father
      Gregory

Father Gregory was never taught chanting, although he desired it. Father Ephraim, the senior chanter, refused to train him. The reason for his refusal was that, “If I taught Fr. Gregory how to chant, then he would be a one-man monastery,” he said, meaning that he would be competent of doing everything in the monastery. Unfortunately, Fr. Ephraim had turmoil in his soul with the passion of envy. This envy seemed only to be directed toward Fr. Gregory.

Father Gregory had greatly expanded the icon mounting business for the monastery. He had learned how to photograph icons for reproduction and then introduced the lamination process so that the production of icons greatly increased, which eliminated the need for varnishing. Money from Fr. Gregory‘s iconography purchased grinders for the incense so the incense production increased. Many other projects were developed and enhanced or started through the benefit of income coming from the iconography. Throughout the years, the iconography studio was not only a source of income, but also one of the main places to visit in the monastery. Nearly every visitor who stayed more than one night eventually made it to the icon studio where he would sit and speak to Fr. Gregory and watch him paint.

As the years passed the verbal ill-treatment of Fr. Panteleimon subsided. Some say that finally he understood his conduct did more harm than good, and others say his respect for Fr. Gregory‘s exemplary life as a monk had completely changed him. At any rate, when his yelling was heard throughout the monastery, it was directed to other quarters. As an example, the following story is related. The monastery received as a guest a middle-aged Antiochian priest who had a serious alcohol problem. After a number of months of living at the monastery, one night this priest became inebriated. He went into the backyard of the monastery and chopped down all the small trees which had been newly planted that week. He was caught because of the noise he made, and the monks brought him to the abbot, who flew into a rage when he saw him and began to lay blows upon him. The abbot had to be restrained by two monks. After a few minutes of unrelenting verbal abuse, he told him that his stay there had been intolerable and that if it was not for the fact that his room was next to Fr. Gregory‘s, he would have been asked to leave long ago, since Fr. Gregory was the only monk in the monastery who had the patience to deal with him.

Many people came to the monastery to be monks, but very few remained. Father Gregory would see many young men come to the monastery, all of them with great zeal, just like he was when he came. Some would only remain as novices and others would be tonsured, but in the end so many left. After they left the same story would be told about them by the abbot over and over again. This understandably confused Fr. Gregory. He did not judge the abbot in this respect, but this cast an incompetent light upon the director of these poor souls. Why could these souls not be inspired to endurance after spending so many years sacrificing so much for the monastic life? Why did they leave in the middle of the night? Why were they runaways? Many after three years took vows of the great schema, and then in a relatively short time, renounced those vows and went back into the world. This was very perplexing to many, since no reason other than pride was given to the brotherhood why these fathers resolutely decided to leave.

Father Gregory did not realize the secret night life of some in the monastery. The conduct in the daytime of these same people was not superlative in respect to monasticism either. When a person becomes a monastic, he should look forward, year by year, to his passions subsiding, but it seemed that there was no indication that any of this was happening with the abbot and even some of his elder disciples. The abbot, it seemed, was not getting any better, but even getting worse in his display of anger. Father Gregory, after being there for a number of years, sensed that something was not right, but because of his ignorance in things pertaining to worldly passions, his intuitions only caused confusion.

Then they were granted a large amount of money to purchase a former Roman Catholic convent which was being abandoned in Brookline on Warren Street. There the brotherhood grew to over thirty monastics. Father Gregory saw all this as truly from the Providence of God so that not only the monastery, but also the Church, would grow because St. Sergius in Russia started seventy monasteries from his little seed in Radonezh, and there was no reason to believe that the United States could not have the same fruit as what happened in Russia. Whenever skilled craftsmanship was necessary in the construction or maintenance of this very large facility, there were only three of the brotherhood who could accomplish it. They were Frs. Barnabus, Nectarios and Gregory.

However, something seemed to be lacking with the zeal for expanding monasticism and expanding the Church through the installation of monastic communities. The abbot did not want to send monastics any place to spread the Word of God through the monastic life. This puzzled Fr. Gregory. As years still passed by not only was the monastery not expanding beyond the thirty monastics, and not only was there no growth, but also monks were leaving to go back into the world. And this also was puzzling for Fr. Gregory because after each monastic left, there would be a scathing revelation of that person‘s conduct in the monastery, very unflattering, to say the least. This conduct, uncalled for and unchristian, also added to the confusion of the young monk and a sense came over him eventually, a realization that he did not completely understand the people that he was with and that there was something wrong which he did not comprehend. Through much prayer, he tried to disperse these feelings, but God seemed even more so to confirm in his heart that there was something not right in the monastery. The only thing he could do was to pray with greater and greater zeal.

At that time Bishop Constantine was transferred from Australia to the United States and he was made Bishop of Boston. His diocese was Boston and subject to and under Metropolitan Philaret. He came and lived in the monastery. To have older people in the monastery was not a small consolation for Fr. Gregory. He felt in older people a sense of stability which was lacking in the appearance that was presented by the young Fr. Panteleimon and the younger monks considered to be the elders of the monastery, given the fact that not only the abbot but the senior monks were just a few years older than Fr. Gregory.

As the brotherhood increased, the elder monks were ordained to the priesthood and diaconate. First Fr. Haralambos a priest, then Fr. Barnabas became a deacon, Fr. Isaac a priest, Fr. Andrew a deacon, Fr. Justin a priest, Fr. Luke a deacon, and so forth. Father Ephriam and Fr. Gregory were the only elder fathers that were bypassed.


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