It’s Time to Tell a Story part XV: Foundations
In previous posts I have written about my religious and spiritual formation within the cultural milieu of the Holy Order of MANS, Christ the Savior Brotherhood, the Hermanite traditions – simply grouped as “the Brotherhood”. This is also the culture within which Bobby DeLucia became the revered and feared Fr. Paisius. This is world that produced St. Innocent’s Academy (SIA). Before I continue telling my story, I would like to give a brief account of that history here.
Before the founding of SIA, Fr. Paisius lived in a CSB community in Santa Rosa CA officially called Holy Dormition Orthodox Community or, for short, Rose Ave. In the Fall of 1997 he was given a small grant by CSB to fund a “pilot program for the Brotherhood’s work with youth” to “train young men in Orthodox life and the love of labor in the context of the Rose Avenue Community.” * I’ve heard stories from friends of Fr. Paisius’ tough love approach in this context, but cannot speak to the particulars of this endeavor nor its outcomes. It did not last long.
In Part VII I referred to the original idea of a boy’s school in Alaska on Spruce Island. This was to eventually become St. Innocent’s Academy. What is interesting is that Fr. Paisius along with Monk John Marler were actually sent to Kodiak as missionaries by CSB (and presumably Fr. Herman):
“Fr. Dcn. Paisius DeLucia and Fr. John Marler presented their vision for starting St. Innocent’s Academy, a spiritual school and training center for young men in Kodiak, Alaska – much like our ‘brotherhouses’ of old. We were inspired by this vision and the spirit of sacrifice in these missionaries, which is a strong basis for renewal and hope. We sent them forth as our representatives in this undertaking as a work of the Brotherhood.”
– Excerpt from the Brotherhood Council Action Summary Report from the March 12-14, 1998 Meeting
From the beginning SIA was underpinned by the worldview and culture of the Brotherhood. There are some points about this culture are worth mentioning here.I would like to stress that this is not exhaustive nor is it meant to be balanced. I am specifically writing about the unhealthy negative aspects. Many of these negatives have an upside. Example: the isolated nature of many communities often leads to very strong bonds of friendship (this also strengthens loyalty which I will write about in great detail later.)
Brotherhood communities tend towards guru worship, not just national figures like Fr. Paul or Fr. Herman, but often the local priest. In concert with this is an emphasis on monasticism** as a model for parish life, emphasizing obedience, discipleship, asceticism. Some CSB communities (specifically the leadership “hubs”) have a tendencey to be insular, exhibiting an “us vs. them” mentality and a sense of spiritual superiority within the Orthodox Christian world. This often ends up as a sort of hybridization of monastic practice and romanticized “old country” stereotypes (what I call the “Russian peasant pretense”), anti-intellectualism and a marked mistrust or fear of modernity … simply put: the cult mind.
This is just a sampling of the cult mindset manifest in varying degrees within the Brotherhood culture. These elements are dendritic and interconnected, often reinforcing one another.
Geographically and ecclesiastically isolated, St. Innocents Academy was fertile ground for this culture and Fr. Deacon Paisius was the perfect leader. Charismatic, talented, fully immersed in the Brotherhood mind. An absolutist, self-assured, self-righteous man who before long became the unquestioned (much like Fr. Herman), uncontested, center of all authority, the arbiter of truth for St. Innocents Academy.
“In Hell there is Democracy, in Heaven there is a Kingdom”
— Saint John of Kronstadt
* from the Summary of Brotherhood Council Meeting Nov. 3-5, 1997
** This emphasis on monasticism appears to be a hybrid of HOOM values and Russian monasticism as filtered through Fr. Herman and Fr. Seraphim