St. Porphyrios Challenge

Last year I publicly set myself the first of several poetry-writing challenges and invited others to join me. The results have been fruitful, though modest as to participation volume.

I’d like to set myself another kind of public challenge and invite the participation of others. This isn’t the kind of thing to join in out of embarrassment or guilt or undue solemness. If it resonates for you – if it offers expression of something that is in your heart as well as mine – I invite you to join me.

As an Orthodox Christian I revere the saints in general, but as a person I particularly love and follow St. Porphyrios. His gentleness and warnings against coercion and pressure guide me in my parenting. His representation of Christ as an elder brother who likewise refuses to coerce us, who doesn’t come to us with Hell in his hands, who wants to enjoy life with us, guard me against extreme asceticism or guiltmongering.

In the book Wounded By Love, St. Porphyrios tells a story about a lad whose behavior was troubling his parents. He tells his parents to stop pressuring the youth, and instead keep silence and pray between 10 and 10:15 every night for him, “and I will be with you.” The story has a good ending, although the lad makes some mistakes before turning around.

I’d like to hallow that time period, from 10 to 10:15, in honor of the mild saint. I’d like to take those words as spoken to me. Not because I believe they are; I don’t. But because it would be a gesture of faith – in God, in his saints. Not the passive faith that requires us to pretend knowledge, but the initiatory faith that lets us act like persons before the Lord, that allows us to take initiative and be creative.

Here’s what I propose. Let us all set our little electronic timers to remind us at 10pm every night, to pray for our children with St. Porphyrios, whether they are young or grown, living or deceased. Just fifteen minutes, as he instructed the parents in the story.

I don’t propose that we report to one another on our success or failures in keeping this schedule. And it may be that we can’t talk about answers to prayer without violating our children’s trust, which I don’t encourage. But let’s meet in spirit around the beloved, bringing our weakness and need and perplexity into the light of Christ. If you would like others to mention the names of your children in this prayer (or the names of those for whom you care as for a child) you may leave their first names in the comments section. Leaving those names doesn’t imply that those people are in trouble or are troubling you. It’s just an act of love. I’ll try to update this challenge every Saturday so we can proceed into the Lord’s Day with our loved ones held securely in our hearts, in the love of God.

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