Pastoral Letter July 10, 2016

“Refuse to listen to the devil when he whispers to you: give me now, and you will give tomorrow to God. No, no! Spend all the hours of your life in a way pleasing to God; keep in your mind the thought that after the present hour you will not be given another and that you will have to render a strict account for every minute of this present hour.”
– Unseen Warfare: The Spiritual Combat and Path to Paradise
(Nicodemos of the Holy Mountain)

Dearly Beloved in the Lord,

For the past 17 years, Fr. Matthew has taught the area Greek Orthodox faithful, primarily through a ministry of love and commitment. This humble man of God shown most brilliantly (though his gifts are deep and varied) as he sat at the bedside of those who were anguished, sick or dying. Fr. Matthew’s visits to the sick were never fleeting, obligatory or casual. He encountered Christ in the person of those who profoundly suffer. And today, at this hour, Fr. Matthew’s family finds him not in support of the seriously ill, but lying in that bed itself.

For only the past few days, the news of Fr. Matthew’s challenges with cancer are really penetrating the core of those who love him and who have been served admirably through his priesthood. As I said after the Divine Liturgy last Sunday, there are few members of our parish who have not received blessings, prayers, support, guidance or the Sacraments from Fr. Matthew. Earlier this week, many people received the following email from Kristen Bruskas, Presbytera Denise’s sister, and a close, personal friend. Please read her words, and learn directly from Fr. Matthew’s family how they are asking for our participation in praying for Fr. Matthew:

Dear Family and Friends,

Thank you all for your love, concern and prayers for my brother-in-law, Father Matthew Gilbert. He and my sister Denise are with me in Phoenix where I am helping them navigate the world of oncology.

We have started a Caring Bridge site to keep you updated on Father Matthew’s progress, and also to provide a way for you to send messages to the family. They are so appreciative of everyone’s phone calls, texts and emails, and it is hard to find time for them to respond. This Caring Bridge site is a quick and efficient way for the family to be uplifted by your thoughts and prayers. Please fee free to pass this information along to others….the more that know and join us in prayer, the better!

https://www.caringbridge.org/visit/fathermatthewgilbert

For those of you in the Phoenix area, we will have a Paraklesis Service on Monday, July 11 at 6:00 p.m. at Holy Trinity Cathedral to pray for Father Matthew’s health. We would love to see as many of you as possible.

To access the Caring Bridge site, you will need to create a free log-in with your email address, but I can tell you from personal experience, they do not add you to any other lists or fill up your in-box with advertisements.

Many thanks again for your prayers, love and support!

Love,
Kristen

With Kristen’s message (and beyond) taken to heart, I implore the kind, generous and faithful parishioners of St. Anna’s to help Fr. Matthew and his family in the following ways:

  1. Please establish your connection to Fr. Matthew’s Caring Bridge Site and leave your messages of prayer, support, friendship and gratitude. He has been there for you. We will be there for him.
  2. Just as the faithful surrounding Fr. Matthew in Phoenix will gather this coming Monday evening to chant the Paraklesis Service in supplication for his health, comfort and well-being, we will also have a Paraklesis service on Monday, July 11th at 7:00 pm here at St. Anna’s. And just as Kristen suggested concerning the service in Phoenix, we would love to see as many of you as possible. With Arizona currently on Pacific Time, our parishes will be praying together in support of Fr. Matthew, and asking the Theotokos to encourage her Son for a miracle of healing.
  3. Though it was not requested in her email, or through any other message, I am also asking that you consider financial assistance for this family as they face sudden and mounting challenges. Fr. Matthew and Presbytera Denise will be made aware of anyone who contributes to the St. Anna Benevolence Fund in their honor. Think of the countless hours he spent in the rooms and corridors of our area hospitals and nursing facilities, serving with love and humility. And the Sacraments, Liturgies and homilies he prepared with care and dedication. Praising God for the comfort He rains down upon us through His priests, let us give thanks to Him now, acting with love and generosity, to our suffering brother and father in Christ.

These words are not easy to write. This topic is hard to comprehend, as a young family faces challenges of this incredible magnitude. But Fr. Matthew told me last week that he will not fall apart, as he faces what others have experienced throughout his years as a priest. He said “If I do, then my ministry was a lie.” He is faithful. He is prepared. He is obedient. Fr. Matthew continues to teach and inspire. Let us show him and his family, that we are still willing to learn. I remain,

With Love in our Merciful Lord,

Fr. Anthony