The Chaplain and Pastoral Counseling Ministry supports chaplains and pastoral counselors working within the Antiochian Archdiocese. Under the coordination of Fr. George Morelli, the department organizes retreats, workshops, and courses, as well as posting pertinent articles and web links on this page. Personal consultation by phone and e-mail is available for those seeking more specific, situational guidance as they practice in the fields of mental health and pastoral care.
Because ministry takes place in a complex, pluralistic world, this department provides clear archdiocesan guidelines to help Orthodox chaplains and pastoral counselors adhere to Orthodox teaching, spirituality, and healing traditions, while also knowing when and how to incorporate scientifically sound clinical interventions.
Some years ago there was a fast food chain advertisement tagline: “Where’s the beef?” As we look around modern society we can easily modify the tagline as a description of the current ‘state of the world’: ‘Where is the spiritual’? The dictionary word that best fits this description is sloth. Sloth is typically defined as “apathy” and inactivity in the practice of virtue.” It can also be enumerated as one of the “deadly sins,” and be considered as a neglect of God and His word.
In the book of Proverbs (19: 23-24) we read: “The fear of the Lord is unto life: and he shall abide in fullness without being visited with evil. The slothful hideth his hand under his armpit, and will not so much as bring it to his mouth.” Many of the world’s religious traditions warn of the neglect of the spiritual. Hindu writings inform us: “"When a man, having freed his mind from sloth, distraction, and vacillation, becomes as it were delivered from his mind, that is the highest point."i In Islamic tradition we read: “"O Allah! I seek refuge in You from worry and sorrow. I seek refuge in You from incapacity and sloth.”ii Buddhism lists a number of hindrances or obstructions to attaining a spiritual life. Among the five important ones listed are ‘sloth - torpor (thina-middha). It has its deleterious effect by interfering with tranquility and blocking insight.iii
One of the best ways to reflect on the meaning of harmony is in relationship to music. Historically, the word harmony was derived from the Greek word ἁρμονία (harmonía), which the Oxford English Dictionaryi defines as: "Joint, agreement, concord; the quality of forming a pleasing and consistent whole.", the verb form, can also be considered: "To fit together, to join.” Interestingly, the great composer and musician, Johann Sebastian Bach, connects harmony and Godliness: “Music is an agreeable harmony for the honor of God and the permissible delights of the soul.”ii
Ancient Chinese philosophical tradition points out that harmony must start with what I describe as ‘self-concord’ – in the sense of an inner integration of our ethical and moral principles and actions into a “consistent whole.” From ourselves, this inner harmony can radiate out to all. As the Chinese aphorism states: “If there is beauty in character, there will be harmony in the home. If there is harmony in the home, there will be order in the nation. If there is order in the nation, there will be peace in the world.”iii
From the Hindu tradition, but speaking for all mankind, Mahatma Gandhi advises that we should “. . .always aim at complete harmony of thought and word and deed. Always aim at purifying your thoughts and everything will be well.”iv
King David the psalmist tells us: “Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell in unity.” (Ps 132:1). The Roman Catholic Trappist monk Thomas Merton pinpoints the fruit of harmony: “ . . .happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance and order and rhythm and harmony.”
A recent report issued by the American Psychiatric Association pointed out the importance of family in healing.i Specifically cited were findings released by for Chronic Disease Outcomes Research of the Minneapolis Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center regarding factors in healing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Chaplains and Pastoral Counselors of all religious traditions are in a unique position to aid in such treatment, as stated in the chaplain resource material: "chaplain's strengths have been in the offering of care to patients, families and staff, and in building an intuitive sense of the importance of the care they provide.”ii
Care to individuals in the context of their families is central to religious traditions. Speaking in the Buddhist tradition, the Dali Lama has said: “The ultimate source of peace in the family, the country, and the world is altruism.”iii The Bhagavad-Gita (68: 8-9) points out: “They are completely fulfilled by spiritual wisdom and Self-realization . . . . They are equally disposed to family, enemies, and friends, to those who support them and those who are hostile, to the good and the evil alike. Because they are impartial, they rise to great heights.”