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The Legacy of Saint Raphael

Procession with the relics of St. RaphaelProcession with the relics of St. RaphaelOn May 29, 2015, the Antiochian Archdiocese marks the fifteenth anniversary of the glorification of our beloved St. Raphael of Brooklyn. This article by Rosemary Shumski of the Department of Christian Education, was first published in the September 2000 issue of The Word magazine.

View photos of the glorification day

On Sunday, May 29, 2000, my family and I had the privilege of attending the glorification of Bishop Raphael at St. Tikhon's Monastery. Although we have lived in another part of the state for many years, my husband and I were born and raised in northeastern Pennsylvania. In the past, we had driven by St. Tikhon's many times, but had never actually visited. We had no need or desire to; we were raised Roman Catholic. But on that beautiful spring day in May, we were drawn to St. Tikhon's for this once-in-a-lifetime event. Now we were Orthodox Christians and we were about to witness the canonization of a saint.

The bells in the tower pealed at precisely three o'clock and the services began. We stood in awe as we watched the procession. Four priests carried the holy relics around the monastery church. Three metropolitans presided over the Rite of Glorification, which was concelebrated by seventeen bishops and archbishops, including His Grace Bishop Basil and His Grace Bishop Demetri. Also in attendance were many priests, a number of whom were from our own Archdiocese. Special hymns composed in honor of St. Raphael were sung. The words from his troparion, "Son of Antioch, resident of North America, and a Russian at heart," epitomized his multi-ethnic ministry.

As I reflected on the life of St. Raphael and the way he tended to his flock, the "lost sheep of North America," I wondered if he were alive today, who would be his sheep? At the turn of the century, he ministered to those who were Orthodox but had no church. Perhaps today he would minister to society at large, working to bring the true faith founded by Christ to the non-Orthodox and encouraging conversion.

At the Eastern Region Parish Life Conference, Metropolitan Paul stated that society is "decaying from the inside out," and that we must evangelize and bring Orthodoxy to the Western world. Perhaps that would be St. Raphael's mission today. Orthodoxy was not meant to be a secret club, an invisible faith, yet how many people are even aware that it exists, and understand what it is?

Even though there were many Orthodox churches in the area in which my husband and I were raised, we knew virtually nothing about the Orthodox faith. Like many other Christians in many denominations, we were dissatisfied with the direction the Catholic Church was taking, yet often felt we had nowhere else to go. It wasn't until St. John Chrysostom Antiochian Orthodox Church in York, Pennsylvania was built on the same street on which we lived, that our family began to explore Orthodoxy. Unfortunately, not everyone is blessed with an Orthodox church in their neighborhood. What a shame that the truth, beauty, and richness of our faith is not commonly known to the masses! Saint Raphael can be a wonderful example to each of us. We are all called to be missionaries and must do everything we can to bring others to Orthodoxy, not to dilute the Faith, but to strengthen it.

Rosemary Shumski is the Administrative Assistant of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese Department of Christian Education.