Category Archives: Old Catholic

A Novel Venue for Developing True Spirituality: Companions of St Silouan Athonite


Some General Information About
The Companions of St Silouan Athonite

First of all and from the outset: This is not a religious group nor a denominational outreach. It is not a cult-in-the-making.


One nagging question that I have frequently posed is this: Why do most people think of spiritual care at the last minute, when someone is at Death’s door or when you are facing the dying process of a loved one? It’s like exercising and eating a healthy diet after the heart attack, isn’t it? Why not get started now.


This is an ecumenical, interfaith, non-denominations, judgement-free community of persons who are solely interested in companioning each other on their spiritual pilgrimages.

The inspiration for forming a wider group of spiritual companions came from my association with a Russian Orthodox Monastery in Northeast New York. The monks decided to resurrect a concept of a group of lay persons who would live some of the monastic values while in the secular world. These so-called companions of the monastery would apply, be considered as aspirants and then admitted to the so-called companions. They would subscribe to a rule of life, establish for themselves a prayer discipline, support the monastery in time and treasure, and make regular pilgrimages, either to the parent monastery or to some other monastery or retreat venue. It was a great idea but poorly organized. It was open to all faiths and, while it had an insignia identifying the companions, a small stylized cross, it still had the flavor of a very distinct Christian denomination. I couldn’t imagine a Buddhist, a Jew or a Moslem wanting to become a companion and having a cross as their insignia.

My patron saint is St Silouan of Mount Athos, St Silouan Athonite for short. I chose Silouan because of his humility and simplicity, his dedication to love and forgiveness, his compassion. Although Silouan was highly advanced in monastic ascetic spirituality and reached the height of monastic hierarchy as a Staretz or elder, a schemamonk, his humility and simplicity were legendary. Silouan, a Russian Orthodox Christian elder monk, who lived on the exclusive Greek peninsula known as Hagios Oros, the “Holy Mountain”, or Mount Athos, he lived values that transcended the Christian model and are the common threads of all the great world spiritual traditions.

As a professional theologian and thanatologist, a scholar of religion and psychospiritual care, I find that the vast majority of persons who call themselves members of a particular faith or belief community don’t have a clue about what their denomination teaches. Most ministers have no clue about what’s going on in interreligious dialogue, much less about their particulars. Most institutionalized religion has been caught with their pants around their ankles when it comes to credibility.

In recent decades we have all too often heard the ambiguous and practically meaningless phrase, “I’m spiritual, not religious.” Even the “spiritual” professional literature from the healthcare, deathcare and spiritual care disciplines can’t even agree on an across-the-board commonly held definition of what spirituality is! In fact, one publication did a review of the literature and found more than 90 different “definitions” of  spirituality!

In my professional practice I deal with end-of-life, death, dying, and survivors. I know the value of religion and I know the value of spirituality; I think I know where the one stops and where the other starts. Every time I think I’m sure, a situation arises that sets me back to square one.

One thing is certain: every human being is spiritual. There’s no doubt about it. Once you can admit you recognize that there’s something greater than yourself, that transcends your understanding, you have become spiritual. Now how you use that evolutionary revelation to best advantage and how you ease into it to make meaning of difficult moments, suffering, challenges is another story. To get the most out of your spirituality, you need companioning, guidance, others willing to talk about their spirituality and to share their insights.

That’s what this group, the Companions of St Silouan Athonite, is all about.

It’s an open group meaning that anyone inclined to explore the group can freely do so. What you receive from the group and what you give to the group is purely a matter of what you have at any given time in your journey. The pilgrimmage is self-paced. The requirements are your own.

The only formal hierarchy is me, the self-styled “Principal Companion,” actually the monitor of the group and the main person doing most of the work on this site.

In the near future, once the group shows signs of stability and growth, I will offer two levels of formal membership: Aspirant and Companion. The Aspirant is a candidate who has identified a sincere calling to companion others in developing their spirituality. The Companion is the person who has achieved a certain level of competence in companioning through personal discipline and involvement.

Initially, there is no commitment other than the personal commitment you make to yourself and to those with whom you have a relationship to follow the Simple Rule of the Companions of St Silouan Athonite. As the Companion community matures, we may ask for volunteer support or offer specific products for generating funds. Those products will be subject to the Community’s approval, basically all full Companions will have a say in what is offered and what is done.

At some point in time, again as the Community grows and matures, it would be great if we could have a Companions retreat once a year at locations offering retreat accommodations and meeting facilities.

The organization will be very loosely structured: Most of the site will be public access. That means that announcements, reflections, etc. will be public access.

Anyone interested in more intense involvement will be asked to “Follow” the site by signing up with their real name and their email. This means only that the moderator, I, will see who you are and know our email. You will receive an email automatically notifying you whenever a new item is posted. You can do the same for comments.

At some time in the near future, I will post an application form on this site. If anyone wishes to become an Aspirant they will fill out the form and email it to me.

To become a full Companion, you will fill out the same form but only after 6 months of Aspirancy, include an essay about your spirituality and the importance of being a Companion, and you will document your spiritual activities, retreats, spiritual direction, etc.

A full Companion will receive a letter of good standing and a Certificate of Companionship, both of which will have only sentimental value.

Very soon I will create a suitable “habit” for Companions. The habit will be a small item identifying the wearer as a Companion. It will likely be a lapel pin or similar item. Cost will be kept low, since the value of the habit is to be kept intrinsic and the habit itself is to be kept very humble.

Since most everything will be done digitally and the material for reflections etc. will come directly from my own resources or from material I’m reviewing at the time and find suitable for the Companions, no real overheads will be generated. As for the habit, the Companion will purchase that directly from the manufacturer.

I may from time to time suggest certain devotional items such as prayer ropes and the like or items to enhance sensual aspects of the spiritual practice. If I do so, I will also provide links to suppliers of such items. I do not have any financial interest in any of these suppliers but if one were to come about, I would announce that fact publicly to the Community.

Aspirants and Companions are accountable to themselves. If you misrepresent something you do your conscience is your judge, no one else.

Finally, all I ask is if you are seriously interested in becoming a participating member of the group that you contribute to the reflections or to the feedback about reflections. The only requirements are that you remain on topic, leave egos outside, and don’t bring any personal baggage on board. No proselytizing and not judgmentalism.

In closing, I do sincerely welcome your comments, recommendations, suggestions, even criticisms of me and only me. Comments should be made using the comments form on each post; they will be moderated and then published. If you don’t want what you write to be public please email me your thoughts to st.silouan.companions@gmail.com. Your email communications will be confidential and I now notify anyone concerned that I invoke clergy privilege should any law enforcement agency request insight into the emails. When I say confidential, I mean confidential.

As always, I am available at st.silouan.companions@gmail.com should you have any questions or concerns.

To view the Simple Rule of the Companions of St Silouan click here.

Looking forward to exploring the beauty and mystery of spirituality with you,

Peace and joy!
Rev. Ch. Harold Vadney BA, [MA], MDiv.
Principal Companion

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Bigotry Abounds: Religious Censorship on Facebook


The Prime Minister of England, John Cameron, rose to the occasion of the Easter season in a beautifully crafted public address on England being a Christian nation, the good works of the Church, remembering persecuted Christians around the world at Easter. It was enormously refreshing to have heard a high statesman affirm his faith tradition without having to demean any other faith or belief system, and drawing our attention to remembering what Christianity is…or ought to be.  (Click here for a link to the video.) How very different from what we have here in the United States, where a politician can be shunned by Christians themselves for affirming his Christian Faith.

Blevin, an Antiochian Catholic cleric,
Deletes Cameron’s Easter Message!!!

I noted the term “bigotry” and “censorship” in the title to this post because I was appalled at the heavy-handed censorship exercised by one despotic moderator of a Facebook group calling itself the “Anglicans, Old Catholics, Western Orthodox, and Lutherans Discussion Group,” manhandled by one Mr Gregory Blevins, who will be very quick to correct you by informing you he’s “Father” Blevins. In our book he’s “Bigot Blevins”.

Gregory N. Blevins

Gregory N Blevins

According to his Facebook profile, Blevins claims to be a presbyter of the Antiochan Catholic Church in America— which could mean just about anything — but one thing is certain, Blevins, if you read some of his posts is a very angry old man, he’s cantankerous and not very pleasant. We have clerics like him in every denomination and they generally do more harm than good in their self-righteous pseudopiety.

One of the group members was thoughful enough to have posted Mr Cameron’s beautiful and articulate Easter message on Mr Blevins’ site but when Mr Blevins found it, he almost immediately deleted it from the site saying that it was anti-Obama, anti-US, and political; Mr Blevins doen’t want “political”  in his group. (In my experience, the Eastern rite churches are very political; burt Blevins doesn’t like your political, only Blevins’ political.) Our conclusion:  Mr Blevins’ is a hypocrite judging from his discussion group practices compared with the posts on his personal page!

You see, Blevins claims to be Ecumenical and Social Concerns Representative for the Antiochian Catholic Church in America. The ACCA is a recently founded “church” and has no roots of its own but claims to derive its authority and tradition from the ancient Syriac Orthodox Church and the Indian Orthodox Church. The truth is that it illicitly claims these authorities based on apostate or maverick lineages, and is one of those so-called churches that are founded by non-conformists, usually excommunicated or defrocked, who can’t tow the mark with a mother church. Problem is they lead a lot of faithful astray with their heterodox teachings and phony sacraments.

Back to PM Cameron, in 2013 the Daily Telegraph reported that at “[a] Q&A in August 2013, Cameron described himself as a practising Christian and an active member of the Church of England.[320] On religious faith in general he has said: “I do think that organised religion can get things wrong but the Church of England and the other churches do play a very important role in society.”[321] He says he considers the Bible “a sort of handy guide” on morality.[322] He views Britain as a “Christian country” and aims to put faith back into politics.” So where does that place Mr Blevins as the ACCA’s representative on ecumenical and social concerns. There seems to be a very serious contradiction in Mr Blevins’ actions, words, and his role in his tiny maverick church! We’d love to hear from Mr Blevins with some sort of explanation. Or from his metran, or archbishop, Victor Mar Michael Herron.

Anyone who heard Mr Cameron’s message would have been proud to hear a western leader affirm his Christianity but not Mr Blevins. Mr Blevins is more interested in playing mini-pope and acting like Goebbels’ mini-me with his censorship notions.

I wrote to Mr Blevins expressing my surprise at his heavyhandedness and his misinterpretation and misapprehension of Mr Cameron’s video. I told Mr Blevins that his censorship was not appreciated. I further mentioned that here in the US our own POTUS, Christian, Muslim whatever he claims to be today, should have such courage to make such a profound statement at Christianty’s most holy of holy seasons.

Shame on you Mr Blevins. I’m unfriending you and your group forthwith. Have a good life.

Ab illo benedicaris, in cujus honor cremaberis.
(May you be blessed [Mr Blevins] by Him in whose honor you will burn.)

Abba Silas, Heresiarch

Abba Silas, Heresiarch


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