My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
THE SPIRITUAL FATHER
"Nothing is more pitiful, nothing more disastrous than to be one's own spiritual director" (Saint Dorotheos of Gaza--+580 A.D.)
Agree before Marriage
"A married couple must have the same spiritual father. They should agree to this before marriage (or as soon as possible) so they don't have problems later on. You see, the spiritual father helps a lot. He sees anomalies and the peculiarities of both and he chisels them away so that they can fit, like two pieces of wood which must unite. When I was a carpenter, I chiseled pieces of wood so that they would fit well, so that they could stand on their own. Afterwards I would drive in a nail and they'd be fine. However if the pieces of wood don't match, they won't fit well, and if you force them into place with nails they will eventually break apart from the pressure. For this reason the carpenter must have both pieces of wood in his hands, to see what work is being done on the one, so he can work the other one accordingly. This is how the spiritual father should be also. The spiritual father helps a lot. Many couples which were suited for each other, who married because they were in love, separated afterwards because they were not helped by a good spiritual father. Sometimes, however, couples which did not suit one another, but had the same spiritual father, did just fine" (Elder (Saint) Paisios the Athonite --- +1994).
Family Unity in Mutual Confessors
Have the same spiritual father for the whole family. It is very difficult if one parent sees one confessor and the other parent someone else. Who do the children go to? Insist on the same spiritual father if at all possible. Having different confessors created many challenges for our family and grown children. One spouse did not have a spirit of repentance and would not confess serious sins to his more liberal confessor or even go to Confession at all but still appeared to be faithful and receive Holy Communion. Having the same (stricter/traditional) spiritual father would have been more beneficial for the whole family.
A Simple Priest May Suffice
The Church Holy Fathers tell us to pray, and to accept what God provides. This may be a simple parish priest to serve as a confessor; it may be a seasoned monastic spiritual father. But a spiritual father cannot be "assigned". God simply presents the relationship and it grows. While many people are not blessed with a spiritual father, every Orthodox Christian must have a regular confessor.
Our Spiritual Father
Our spiritual father prays for us regularly and loves us as his spiritual children. We knew many priests, but we were especially drawn to one and we asked him to please be our spiritual father. We no longer live near him, but we still know that our spiritual connection is a reality and we feel his love as an example of Christ's love for us. As preschoolers, our children learn to start communicating with our spiritual father. Besides asking for his blessing, they draw him pictures and give them to him. Around kindergarten or first grade, they speak with him for a few minutes privately as our whole family gathers for Confession appointments, which we try to do every fasting period. When we are away from our spiritual father, we write him our Confessions by mail, which the children also do. We, and our spiritual father, explain what Confession is to our children and they grow older wanting to make Confession each time by reading books intended for that purpose and we write things down to help us remember everything.
The Role of a Spiritual Father
The job of the spiritual father in family life is to instruct the family in spiritual matters only; leaving the husband to be the head of the house, and to make practical daily life decisions, together with his wife. If the husband is not a loving leader or the wife takes the lead in the family, the spiritual father is still just there to address their spiritual needs.
Paving the Way for Holy Confession
[Metropolitan Athanasios of Limassol, Cyprus paraphrased from an excellent talk on Repentance.]
"Teach your children to say "forgive me" early and often. It grows more difficult to ask for forgiveness as we grow older. Parents, ask forgiveness of each other often and if appropriate ask for your child's forgiveness or their hearts may harden. Bring your children to Confession before they are seven years old, not because they sin but to help them develop a conscience and a relationship with God and their priest."
A "Must Read"
A must read for children and especially adults! The Path to Confession by Father Artemy Vladimirov (Ash Grove, MO: Unexpected Joy Press, 2000). (Source: Orthodox Christian Parenting by Zoe Press)
(To be continued)
"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God