Writing Straight With Crooked Lines

Spring/Summer 1997

In Honor of St. Innocent of Alaska

by Fr. John Shimchick

   Over the course of this year, 1997, Orthodox Christians in America have remembered the life and ministry of St. Innocent, Metropolitan of Moscow and Apostle to America on the two hundredth anniversary of his birth.  The place to begin one's study of him is Paul Garrett's excellent book,  St. Innocent - Apostle to America.  From the heading of the first chapter until the final pages one is struck by the firm belief, maintained until his final breath, that God was closely involved in everything that happened to him, salvaging and redeeming particularly the unexpected and difficult moments.  "The Lord guides a man safely in the way he should go" (Psalm 37:23), was what he came to understand about his own life and these were the words he instructed Bishop Ambrose to use as the basis for his funeral sermon.

   As a tribut to St. Innocent this belief also forms the theme for this issue of Jacob's Well.  However, while the conviction is the same the exact words we are using come from the faith experience of anothe remarkable hierarch, Joseph Cardinal Bernardin.  Shortly before his death, in examining the main issues he confronted during the final three years of his life, he wrote:  "This reflection focuses on .. how, if we let him, God can write straight with crooked lines.  To put it another way, this reflection is intended to help others understand how the good and the bad are always present in our human condition, and, that if we 'let go', if we place ourselves totally in the hands of the Lord, the good will prevail" (The Gift of Peace, pp. ix-x).

   In introducing our readers to Matushka Olga Michael from Kwethluk, Alaska, to the piano teachers - Mme. Katinka and Miss Galina, and to Uncle Martin we hope to share some examples of how it is that the good does prevail.  Helping to develop the Alaskan connection are the poems of former Alaskan poet laureate, Richard Dauenhauer.  Fr. Ted Bobosh continues his series of articles on religious education.  Our section on  "Worship and Liturgical Music" features reviews of the workshops presented by Fr. Sergei Glagolev and Mark Bailey and Fr. Glagolev's thoughts on the composition of liturgical music.  Finally,  Archbishop Peter presents a vision for establishing canonical order in America.

   In offering this theme we encourage our readers to ponder for themselves these words, presented by Bishop Ambrose at the time of St. Innocent's death:  "Our subject is to reveal the special ways of God's Providence for him, manifest over the many years of his life.  Our goal is - from his example - to learn to have faith in that great truth of the Christian life, that "the Lord guides a man safely in the way he should go," and to be unconditionally obedient to His holy will in every incident in our life..."


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