A recipient’s reconciliation journey with SEEDS of HOPE, Orthodox Healing & Counseling.
Looking out the window one day she saw a red cardinal bird pecking at the glass. It harkened her back to youthful days. As a child, she was told that the red bird was rarely seen in the area. If one says a prayer when infrequently spotted, that bird was Christ’s helper and would take those prayers directly to HIM. The bird is red because it represents the blood of Christ. As a child, it sounded plausible to her. Furthermore, It made a lasting impact that whenever one was spotted which was a rarity, she’d stop, cross herself and thank God.
The little red bird began to play a significant role in her life as she and others suffered silently through years of clergy abuse. The priest and others knew her secret about the red cardinal.
It was a very difficult period in her life. Exploitation of authority, clergy abuse shatters everything you thought to be true and right. She doubted her belief systems now. Although her faith remained, it was unbearable to stay in the Church. While dealing with arduous investigations, priest’s suspensions, and gossip, seeking that little red bird became her hope.
These were dark days for her. Eventually she gained strength to take walks outside. Along the way, she would keenly look for that red cardinal to send a prayer up to God. Every once and a while she would spot one, which gave her a ray of hope and a strengthening of her faith. Yet, a return back to Church wasn’t going to happen anytime soon.
At this time she sought out Orthodox licensed therapists at Seeds of Hope, OCHC and participated in counseling sessions by virtual communication because she only felt safe in her own environment. HE brought into her life some very kind laity within the Orthodox faith who guided and supported her. As she explained, this was a wise decision because the counselors had an understanding of the Church and their culture. All of us must first heal our minds. Then it becomes clear. The legal recourse the lawyers wanted her to take was no longer the first priority.
As the evidence mounted, the Metropolitan of the priest’s jurisdiction justifiably suspended the priest. A slow, but very methodical investigation by the Archdiocese was conducted in compliance with Canon Law. The spiritual court of the Holy Synod suspended the priest too. The defrocking recommendation was then sent with a representative to Constantinople for further inquiry, review and approval. The Constantinople Patriarch in compliance with Canon Law defrocked the accused priest. However, her contention remains, some in the Church hierarchies are detached from the parishes and must make necessary changes in how they handle clergy abuse, sexual misconduct, and exploitation of authority by a priest within the life of the Church.
One day on a spirited walk, near the sidewalk lay a dead red cardinal before her eyes. What was she to make of this? Was this a sign, someone sending her a signal? Because her faith was strong again, it didn’t detour the healing journey. As time passed she returned to the Church, and held her head-high. Now she recognized and reconciled what had been done to her and many others along the former priests path. Yes, she forgave herself, but the former priest is neither repentant, contrite, nor asking for forgiveness. Therefore, none is given.
The walks continue as she watches for that little ray of hope ~ the red cardinal. Every now and again, when one is spotted, she still stops, does her cross and thanks God.
Thus, the red cardinal has become a part of the Seeds of Hope, OCHC’s perpetual reminder of Hope, Faith and Reconciliation.