One of the coolest moments of the Pats’ victory over the Ravens to move on to the Super Bowl came when the “Law Firm”, BenJarvus Green-Ellis (greatest name ever, and a fabulous nickname) scored and pulled at the patch on his jersey commemorating Myra Kraft, who passed away this summer after a struggle with cancer.  Her spirit and memory clearly inspire this team, and it is refreshing and sobering to see how much she means to the whole organization.  (I had no idea, incidentally, that she was born in Worcester – I will need to do more research on her time here).  There is much talk from people in the organization and elsewhere about how she is guiding the team to their destiny.  This, to me, is understandable but a bit cringe-worthy; I have spent the past two months listening to sports talk radio people rake Tim Tebow over the coals for similar things his fans, though not Tebow himself, were saying.  These same voices have been silent on the Pats/Myra Kraft stuff though.

In any case…Myra Kraft was an extraordinary woman and I can’t help but think of my mother who passed away around the same time after a struggle with health problems.  Clearly Myra was an “away mother” for many players.  My own mother, for her part, was a bit of a sports sage, in the way that is peculiar to old school Boston fans.  Some memories:

-She was an unreconstructed Red Sox fan who never could really get comfortable with the fact that they won the World Series.  I mentioned this in my eulogy.  Last summer, when they were winning like crazy before the epic collapse, I would go to the hospital and tell her they won, and she would say “they are doing TOO well” meaning it was bound to fall apart – a true veteran Sox fan.

-She was so into the games that when Vinatieri trotted out to kick the field goal in the first Pats Super Bowl win she ran and hid in another room – she could not bear to watch it out of nervousness!

-My mother – Carol – was a huge, huge Bruins fan.  She could probably dress for a week in nothing but Bruins clothing – she had that much stuff.  She even had special Boston Bruins bowling balls for her weekly bowling with the church seniors.

-She was a devout Orthodox Christian but would talk about how she “hated” Roger Clemens, or Ulf Samuelsson, or some other such sports figure.  I asked her about this once and she said “it is sports hate, not regular hate.  It is different”.  As a sports fan I totally understand what she meant – she didn’t wish bad upon these people in real life but only in the arena of sports.

I miss her so much.

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January 25th, 2012 by Fr. Greg

A Yearly Tradition Lives On

Saturday was my annual winter hike of Mount Monadnock, and it was epic.  I do this every year around this time with a great group of guys.  The core of the group are neighbors but many of us see each other only this once a year, and it is like no time has passed.  The group has its origins with George F. from the Cathedral and a gentleman named Randy who passed away several years ago.  Thirty-nine years ago on New Year’s Eve day they climbed Monadnock, and every year since a group has made this traditional climb.  George has retired from the hike beginning this year but through these two gentleman the rest of us have been brought into the fold.

People think we are crazy for going because it is so cold and the mountain is covered in ice usually, but that is part of the attraction.  Making the summit and then returning safely gives us quite a feeling of accomplishment, and the social part – breakfast beforehand, the climb and the after party – is super fun.  The temperature at the base was about 18 degrees, which I would normally say is very cold.  However, the main challenge on the mountain is not overheating from the exertion, so in addition to our ice axes and crampons we all had many layers that were shed as we ascended, and even then everyone was pretty warm.  It was a beautiful day and we made great time – up and down, with a stop for lunch and periodic brief rests, in under four hours.

At the after party, graciously hosted by Stephen, we celebrated with the traditional toast of Harvey’s Bristol Cream sherry and ate cheese and Sophie’s famous keftedes.  No one really likes the Harvey’s, but we toasted the group and George’s retirement, and memorialized Randy, and all presented downed half a finger of Harvey’s.  With much relief we then switched to refreshing beer.  This year George enlightened us to the origins of the toast.  That first trek up the mountain George and Randy came back soaked and Randy’s wife made them go in the basement and sit by the furnace.  The only provisions down there were a bottle of Harvey’s and a block (or ball, depending on the source) of cheese, so they indulged accordingly.  Hence our yearly tradition.

This year we added a few rookies and welcomed them to the fraternity.  There is a big European bent to the group, with members of Norwegian, British, German, Swiss, and Greek (guess who) extraction.  Conversation was all over the place but stories were shared of the Brenner Pass, the White Mountians of Crete, Chamonix and other places.  We also went to a new breakfast place, Joseph’s in Westminster, which was awesome.  Breakfast is a big part of the event – we all catch up, the new guys get a chance to meet everyone and vice versa, chops are busted and we fuel up for the hike.  Here are a few pictures:

This is me at the summit.  Note the beard, which I grew specifically for the trip but am keeping as a “playoff beard” for the Pats.


Chris, a new member of the group and the other Greek on the trip, took this cool picture, which looks black and white but is in color and untouched up:

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January 23rd, 2012 by Fr. Greg

Old And New

I was listening to the local oldies station today and Donna Summer’s Dim All The Lights came on, with its line “Turn on the old Victrola”, which refers to an old school phonograph.  I started thinking about obsolete references in songs, and realized there is probably a whole spectrum of such things (I am not well versed in current top 40 tunes so I cannot attempt any sort of off the top of my head blog post on this but I am going somewhere here).  The disco one given above is obsolete on purpose – it is clearly a nostalgic reference to the old days.  The obvious example of a dated reference from a song that sprang to my mind was “jump like a Willys in four wheel drive” from Sugar Magnolia, a Grateful Dead tune with music by Bobby and lyrics by Hunter.  There are several obscurities here; we now use Jeep to mean a different vehicle, Willys has been forgotten, and the lyric refers to a trick you could do with the old Willys.  I remember playing with a Matchbox  toy Jeep Willys depicting it in WWII action when I was a young boy and even then noticing that it was strange that a Jeep was called a Willys, so I imagine few people younger than me who listen to classic rock get the reference.

And yet…just when you form an opinion about something, your worldview is turned upside down.  While catching up on sports news I read this post (warning – very grim language) which has a reference to a watch fob (or watch and fob – a pocket watch with a chain).  The article got me thinking – a watch fob is one of those things that is very outdated.  Most people wear wristwatches – how silly to have a whole get-up where you pull something out of your pocket to check the time.  But…we are now, and have been for a while,  in the cell phone era.  And I (a person who never wears a watch and doesn’t even own one, as a point of pride) pull my cell out a dozen times a day or so to check the time.  For me, and I imagine for others with a similar bent, the cell phone has become a watch fob without the chain.  Funny how things come around again…

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January 18th, 2012 by Fr. Greg

Eulogy For Firefighter James Rice

Below is the sermon delivered by Metropolitan Methodios at the funeral of firefighter James Rice on December 30, 2011.  Video of the funeral may be found here.  May his memory be eternal.

May I begin by acknowledging and thanking the hundreds of brethren that are attending the funeral service this morning in this church and the thousands that have lined the streets of this city these past days to pay their respects and honor Jim.


I thank His Excellency Bishop Uglietto and Father John MacGinnis, the pastor of this community, and thank them for extending their welcome to the Saint Vasilios Greek Orthodox Community. I thank the firefighters and policemen of Peabody and throughout the Commonwealth and from neighboring states that are in attendance. I am grateful to our governor and all officials of the Commonwealth together with the mayor in Peabody who have come to honor the memory of a man loved by all.


We gather today to pray that Almighty God may open His arms and welcome into His loving embrace a man respected and befriended by everyone. We offer our sympathies to his beloved family – his parents, his loving wife Amy and his three precious children, Katelyn, Alyssa and Ryan.


The Church and the streets of this city are filled with Jim’s colleagues and friends from the Peabody Fire Department who mourn the passing of a man of character and courage, of inner strength and ethos who earned their friendship and admiration.


Last Friday when I learned the tragic news, I recalled what our Lord and Savior taught His Disciples. He told them that “greater love hath no man than this, to lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). That truth, treasured in the fifteenth chapter of the Gospel according to John, was surely etched upon the heart and soul of Jim Rice.


On December 23 he and his fellow firefighters rushed into a burning building to save the endangered lives of the residents. In the line of duty, James was ready to even lay down his life – (if need be) – to save, his friends. Yes his friends! The residents of that building on Hancock Street were Jim’s friends, even though he may never have met them. They were God’s children. They were Jim’s brothers and sisters in the household of God.


What Jim did last Friday was heroic – but I’m sure he would say that he and his fellow firemen were only doing what they loved to do, to be firefighters – to serve the public – to save lives. To be a firefighter or a policeman is not a job, it’s a vocation. It’s a calling. It’s a special life lived by very special people.


In a generation that has come to be known as the ME generation, when many of us selfishly think only of our selves… in an age of entitlement – when many of us feel we are entitled to what we have or what we can get from others (including our government)… In times such as these, I thank God for men like Jim Rice and men and women like him that have character, ethos, courage and inner strength that help make the world a better place.


Every day as they leave their homes to go to work, firemen and policemen know in their hearts that it could very well be the day that they may be called to prove, “greater love hath no man than this – to lay down his life for his friends.” For Jim Rice that day was December 23, 2011.


Let us join in prayer that our Benevolent Lord grant eternal rest to this beloved son, this dedicated and loving husband, this adoring father, this respected and revered colleague and friend.

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January 17th, 2012 by Fr. Greg

Van Halen Is Back!

The current lineup of VH – the two Van Halen brothers, Eddie’s son Wolfie on bass, and David Lee Roth back on vocals – issued a new single yesterday and will soon release an album of new material (although some of it has its origins in their pre-fame days).  As someone who as a junior high student many years ago considered them the coolest band in the universe I must say this is one of the most exciting things to happen to me in a while.  The new song rocks – you can check it out here.  I love it – it is not Panama or some other such old hit but it is driving and catchy, which is what I want out of a VH song.  Some thoughts on Van Halen…

-I definitely prefer the Roth era of VH to the Van Hagar era.  Early Van Halen was fun party music, while the Sammy stuff is VH for grownups.  There are some great moments with Sammy and he is technically a better singer but Dave is an awesome frontman and I like his stuff best.

-Dave’s leaving of the band in the mid-80s was shattering to us little VH fans.  People forget this now but initially Dave had a very successful solo career although within a few years he slid into irrelevance.  But there was always the pull of him coming back to Van Halen, as the Sammy Years became a time of soap opera – like drama.

-It is hard to believe that Sammy last recorded an album with VH in 1995 – 17 years ago!   (There was a touring reunion and the recording of a few new songs in 2004).  I was an avid reader of various guitar geek magazines at that time and the back and forth between Eddie and Sammy in interviews was dizzying.  It really seemed then that fifty years on we would still be talking about the Dave vs. Sammy argument.

-I mentioned above that I loved the new song Tattoo.  It is catchy in a way that new material from heritage bands (and I don’t mind calling VH that – it is a good thing) often isn’t.  The lyrics are clever Dave-speak and it is good to see the guys bouncing around on stage.  The song is way better than the two they recorded during their initial reunion in 1996.  It is sad that Michael Anthony is no longer welcome in the band.  To me the sound of Van Halen was four special parts combined – the guitar prowess (and keys) of Eddie, Alex’s drumming, which is the most easily identifiable drum sound this side of John Bonham, Dave’s unique voice and phrasing, and the distinctive backing vocals of Michael Anthony.  We will see how much his vocals are missed on the album.

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January 11th, 2012 by Fr. Greg

A Moment Before Liturgy

Something stunning happened before the service this morning.  I realize that it is a confluence of predictable events – today is the feast of John the Baptist, and the sun is where it always is this year.  But it just so happens that the stained glass window in the choir loft has been removed for repairs to the window frame while the loft happens to be painted.  The clear protective glass remains.  And I just happened to be in the church at just the right moment, along with our president Jim P.  But for the sun to be shining a huge beam right on the icon of John the Baptist at that moment, on his feast day, without the color filters that would normally be there…

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January 7th, 2012 by Fr. Greg