Moldavian Feast of the Elevation of the Holy Cross

With these photos from the Feast Day of my Monastery in Moldavia, I can finally breathe in peace. These ten days have been an immense blessing for me, and I am certain everyone on the pilgrimage shares my gratitude to Christ, his Holy Mother and His Saints for everything we experienced in Bucovine.

I cannot imagine a better group or a most beautiful pilgrimage.

After SUCH a wonderful time together, I am now confident to announce that we shall lead a new pilgrimage to the Moldavian Monasteries between September 5-16, 2020.

More information and the opportunity to purchase your deposit are available by clicking this link. As this year, the group is limited to 16 people.

Thank you all for your prayers and support. God bless us ALL!

St Theodora’s Cave in Sihla (the deep forest)

‘If Sihla does not surpass earthly imagination, it is about as harsh, lonely and wild a place as one could possibly conceive’

This is a nineteen century description of the forests where St Theodora of Sihla lived as a hermit for close to six decades. She had lived there in late 1600s, mostly in a cave, at a time when no other humans except the hermits dared to venture so far in the forested mountains of Bucovine.

St Theodora had been married, but – very early into their marriage – she and her husband decided to become monastics, so they each entered a monastery. He went to a men’s monastery, and she started on her own path to holiness. At first, she entered a women’s monastery, but she was soon given a blessing to live as a hermit in the harshest Moldavian forests.

Today, there is a small monastery where she lived, a wooden church in the forest, which had been used by the hermits in the area, and the cave where she spent most of the life in the wilderness.

It was towards the end of the day when we got to Sihla, the monks had started Vespers in church, but the entire group slowly made its way into the forest and prayer in St Theodora’s Cave and the old wooden church of the hermits. We were dead tired, but strangely happy and light at heart.

By the prayers of St Theodora of Sihla and of all the holy hermits who lived and continue to live in these forests (known and unknown to us, but known to God in His Kingdom), may we all be blessed beyond our wildest hopes.

Pilgrimage to the Painted Monasteries in Moldavia

A few new photos from our ongoing pilgrimage to Moldavia. These are from the Dormition of the Theotokos Monastery in Humor, one of the UNESCO world-heritage painted monasteries. All of these were painted inside and outside in the early 1500s (although some of the monasteries were built in the 1400s), and the frescoes are amazingly well kept.

Even better kept than the beauty of the outside walls is the beauty of the inside spiritual life of these centres of monastic life. This is a miracle in itself, a miracle for which I am immensely grateful to God.

Beginning of our FIRST Pilgrimage to Moldavia

And so, our first annual Pilgrimage to Moldavia has begun. Please keep us in your prayers – myself and the sixteen wonderful (potentially mad) pilgrims who have flown over one (close to two, in some cases) continents and on ocean to join me.

For seven night, we shall stay at the Skete of my Monastery, fifteen kilometres into the forest from the big Monastery of St Nicholas in Rasca. This is the monastery where I was received as a novice, I was tonsured a monk and ordained as a priest – this is the home of my monastic childhood.

Apart from the seven nights here, we shall also spend three nights in Putna, at the very North of Moldavia. This will allow us to visit and pray in the most ancient and beautiful Monasteries of Moldavia, including the world-heritage Painted Monasteries of Bucovine.

By the grace of God, my Abbot has given me the blessing to celebrate the Divine Liturgy in English in the week we are at the forest Skete, so we may all participate in the service (we can even join their choir) and develop a personal relationship with the Skete. This is the greatest gift they could have offered.

As possible, I shall try to keep you updated with how the pilgrimage is progressing. As is the case with our Monastery on Mull, there is no internet at the Skete either, so do forgive me if I fail to post as frequently as I would like to. Being silent online does not mean we are silent in our prayer.

May we ALL be blessed

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Summer Pilgrimages 2020

I am happy to announce the Four weeks of Pilgrimage to the Isles of Scotland for the summer of 2020:

May 30 – June 6
June 27 – July 4
July 11 – 18
August 1 – 8

As in previous years, we shall limit each group to only ten people per pilgrimage – this is due to the size of the boats we use, as well as that of the Monastery Pilgrimage House. I also find that a larger number of pilgrims takes away the opportunity to spend personal time together and to properly meet each other.

We visit some of the most remote and authentic holy sites connected with early Celtic Christianity. Some of these places have been uninhabited for centuries, with no touristic or religious routes linking them to other destinations. The pilgrimages organised by the Monastery are the only way one can visit some of these isles.

Among many other places, we shall get to the Isle of Iona (Iona Abbey, Martyrs’ Bay, the Nunnery, St Oran’s Chapel, the famous Celtic High Crosses, St Columba’s Bay, the Hill of the Turning Back to Ireland and the Machair); the ruins of St Kenneth’s monastery and the ancient hermit cave; St Brendan’s monastery and bee-hive cell on his uninhabited Isle; and some of the great Christian places on the Isle of Mull (such as The Nuns’ Cave and Kilninian).

In our sixth year of running these pilgrimages, I feel the need to allow myself more time to personally explore the Outer Isles (while I still have the physical strength). The more I found out myself, the more I shall have to share with everyone. Because of this need (and since all such travels have to take place in the summer), I shall lead only four weeks of pilgrimage the whole year (unlike eight this summer).

The price for a week-long pilgrimage is 1900 US dollars. This is split between a non-refundable deposit of 600 US dollars (payable at booking) and a balance of 1300 US dollars (due by December 1st, 2019).

We offer a reduced number of three places per pilgrimage at a discounted price of 1600 US dollars for: the second person in a married couple who come together; teachers; full-time artists; full-time students; widows and widowers; retired clergy and their wives; parents of over five children.

The price includes everything for the week you are in the Isles – accommodation for seven nights, all meals, cars available for transport, a sailing boat and a motor boat to get us to the isles we shall visit, ferry tickets, entry tickets to museums and historical sites, fees and a personal guide (me).

To book a place, you must purchase a non-refundable Deposit (600 USD) either through the monastery website or by cheque. Please send an email to ierom.serafim@yahoo.co.uk before paying for your deposit, to avoid double-booking.
Cheques should be written to our US organisation – American friends of the Celtic Saints – and sent to 3736 W County Rd 4, Berthoud, CO 80513

May God bless us all and may St Brendan lead our way to Christ. Please keep me in yours prayers.

Lovely hike to MacKinnon’s Cave

There are at least four caves on Mull where monastic hermit life has been present from the sixth century, since (or perhaps even before) St Brendan founded the first monastery in the Hebrides (shorly followed, two decaded later, by St Columba’s arrival on Iona).

This is MacKinnon’s Cave, at the foot of the mountainous area of Mull known as the Wilderness. It is only accessible at low tide. A bit further, there is a second, smaller cave – that is called the Priest’s Cave, which is only accessible by boat (there is no foot passage to it).

Just like the Nun’s Cave and Scoor Cave, I very rarely come here with our pilgrims, because the hike is difficult, but I’d like you to at least see these photographs. These caves document an important part of the history of Celtic monasticism in the Scottish Isles.

Today was a beautiful day, surprisingly sunny and warm. We even saw an otter playing in the water, which seemed like an extra blessing 🙂


Update on the Monastery: still no boiler (but having high hopes for next week), still no phone and definitely no internet (but I shall travel every other day to keep up to date with you all).

For our pilgrims: please do NOT worry. The monastic house is not our pilgrimage house – our pilgrimage house is a rental and is a LOVELY home, well heated and (moderately) well connected to the internet.

I am not sharing these things with you to complain – God knows that and I pray you know it as well. I do it because you asked me to keep you updated on how the monastery is progressing, and because I want to share with you all the positive and less positive things that happen here (which is also why we need internet access).

God bless us all! Keep the Monastery in your prayers.


If you want to join us for our 2019 Pilgrimages, there is an update on the available places on this website. feel free to send me an email (ierom.serafim@yahoo.co.uk) if you have any other questions that are not answered there.

 

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Staffa and the Saints

It was such a lovely day. We were not supposed to get to Staffa that afternoon – we only go to the Treshnish Isles during the first pilgrimage in July, or if the weather is too bad for us to get to St Brendan’s Isle. That particular day was our pilgrimage day to InchKenneth, but Mark offered us an extended trip back via Staffa. Everything went beautifully from early morning. We all woke up on time, we managed to avoid traffic hour (the sheep and Highland cows that still don’t realise grass does not grow on the one-lane roads of Mull) and we started our sailing from Fionnphort with great weather and the right winds.

After all these years, I am still amazed at how beautiful and peaceful the Isles can be. As we slowly sail towards InchKenneth, once the sails are up and the wind takes over, all you hear are the waves and the birds. In may ways, sailing itself is an important part of our pilgrimage, because this is how the Saints travelled from one isle to the another. This is the silence they heard, and the stillness they felt. This rhythm of the ocean, the feeling that you depend its moods, that you are somehow related to its waters, to its winds – there is something profoundly spiritual about all of this. You end up praying for the ocean as for a brother; you end up blessing its waters and its winds for the love you feel for the God Who made them all.

I remember the first time I went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land – the thing that left the strongest impression on me was the desert itself. When I went to the Holy Mountain the first few times, I was in awe at the mountain itself – those narrow paths through the bushes, the abandoned hermit caves I stumbled across, the wild flowers, the boiling hot air of the Greek summer, the complete lack of movement – all of that brought me closer to the Saints than anything else.

It is such a blessing to visit the ruins of ancient Celtic monasteries, sketes, hermit caves, monastic bee-hives etc – it is such a blessing to stand where the Saints stood, and to pray where they prayed more than a millennium ago. But all of that would not be complete without the experience of the nature that surrounded them, the nature that shaped their prayer and their spiritual life. Many years ago, when I returned from Athos after my first visit, I confessed to my spiritual father that I felt guilty that I spent most of my time in the forests of the mountain instead of the monasteries, to which he replied ‘remember that it was the mountain that shaped the Saints who built the monasteries, not the other way around’.

It is so tempting to jump steps in our spiritual life. In theory, we want to trust God entirely, but we do not want to put ourselves in the context that would teach us how to do that. In theory, we want to be humble, but we do not want to expose ourselves to the context that would teach us humility. All our pilgrims come to the Isles because we love the Celtic Saints and we want to learn from them, we want to meet them in a more personal, direct way by praying with them, in the lands where God blessed them. An essential part of that personal meeting is to experience the context that shaped them – the ocean, the winds, the isles themselves – and to allow them to grow roots in our hearts. This is all I pray for. This is all we can hope for.

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2019 Pilgrimages – Update on available places

Concerning our NEXT year (2019) Pilgrimages, here are the news:

Thank you so much for the wonderful response to our Pilgrimage announcement. Below is an update on the available places (updated today, September 2, 2018).

18 – 25 May:            FULLY BOOKED

1 – 8 June:                FULLY BOOKED

15 – 22 June:           FULLY BOOKED

29 June – 6 July:   FULLY BOOKED

20 – 27 July:            FULLY BOOKED

3 – 10 August:         FULLY BOOKED

24 – 31 August:       FULLY BOOKED

As in previous years, we shall limit each group to only ten people per pilgrimage – this is due to the size of the boats we use, as well as that of the house. I also find that a larger number of pilgrims takes away the opportunity to spend time together and to properly meet each other.
For a fourth year running, we shall keep the cost of the pilgrimage unchanged – 1400 USD / person (double occupancy). The cost in pounds will be updated regularly, due to currency exchange variations. The price includes everything for the week you are in the Isles – accommodation for seven nights, all meals, three cars available for transport, a sailing boat and a motor boat to get us to the isles we shall visit, ferry tickets, entry tickets to museums and historical sites, and fees.
To book a place, you must purchase a non-refundable Deposit (400 USD) either through the monastery website or by cheque. Please send an email to ierom.serafim@yahoo.co.uk before paying for your deposit, to avoid double-booking.
Cheques should be written to our US organisation – American Friends of the Celtic Saints – and sent to 3736 W County Rd 4, Berthoud, CO 80513
The remaining balance is due by the end of the calendar year (31 December 2018).
We visit some of the most remote and authentic holy sites connected with early Celtic Christianity. Some of these places have been uninhabited for centuries, with no touristic or religious routes linking them to other destinations. The pilgrimages organised by the Monastery are the only way one can visit some of these isles.
Among many other places, we shall get to the Isle of Iona (Iona Abbey, Martyrs’ Bay, the Nunnery, St Oran’s Chapel, the famous Celtic High Crosses, St Columba’s Bay, the Hill of the Turning Back to Ireland and the Machair); the ruins of St Kenneth’s monastery and the ancient hermit cave; St Brendan’s monastery and bee-hive cell on his uninhabited Isle; and some of the great Christian places on the Isle of Mull (such as The Nuns’ Cave and Kilninian).

2019 Summer Pilgrimages to the Isles of Scotland

I am happy to announce the Four weeks of Pilgrimage to the Isles of Scotland for the summer of 2019:
1 – 8 June
15 – 22 June
29 June – 6 July
20 – 27 July
As in previous years, we shall limit each group to only ten people per pilgrimage – this is due to the size of the boats we use, as well as that of the house. I also find that a larger number of pilgrims takes away the opportunity to spend time together and to properly meet each other.
For a fourth year running, we shall keep the cost of the pilgrimage unchanged – 1400 USD / person (double occupancy). The cost in pounds will be updated regularly, due to currency exchange variations. The price includes everything for the week you are in the Isles – accommodation for seven nights, all meals, three cars available for transport, a sailing boat and a motor boat to get us to the isles we shall visit, ferry tickets, entry tickets to museums and historical sites, and fees.
To book a place, you must purchase a non-refundable Deposit (400 USD) either through the monastery website or by cheque. Please send an email to ierom.serafim@yahoo.co.uk before paying for your deposit, to avoid double-booking.
Cheques should be written to our US organisation – American friends of the Celtic Saints – and sent to 3736 W County Rd 4, Berthoud, CO 80513
The remaining balance is due by the end of the calendar year (31 December 2018).
We visit some of the most remote and authentic holy sites connected with early Celtic Christianity. Some of these places have been uninhabited for centuries, with no touristic or religious routes linking them to other destinations. The pilgrimages organised by the Monastery are the only way one can visit some of these isles.
Among many other places, we shall get to the Isle of Iona (Iona Abbey, Martyrs’ Bay, the Nunnery, St Oran’s Chapel, the famous Celtic High Crosses, St Columba’s Bay, the Hill of the Turning Back to Ireland and the Machair); the ruins of St Kenneth’s monastery and the ancient hermit cave; St Brendan’s monastery and bee-hive cell on his uninhabited Isle; and some of the great Christian places on the Isle of Mull (such as The Nuns’ Cave and Kilninian).
May God bless us all. Please keep me in yours prayers.
In Christ,fr seraphim

2018 Pilgrimages – we are now FULLY BOOKED

All our 2018 Summer Celtic Pilgrimages are now fully booked. Thank you all for your love, support and enthusiasm. I look forward to meeting all our new pilgrims in just a few months, and I shall shortly announce the weeks of pilgrimage for the summer of 2019. If you would like to be added to our waiting list, please send an email to ierom.serafim@yahoo.co.uk

May we all be blessed.

Pilgrimage 1 (9 – 16 June 2018):      SOLD OUT

Pilgrimage 2 (23 – 30 June 2018):          SOLD OUT

Pilgrimage 3 (30 June – 7 July 2018):             SOLD OUT

Pilgrimage 4 (14 – 21 July 2018):             SOLD OUT

Pilgrimage 5 (4 – 11 August 2018):             SOLD OUT

Pilgrimage 6 (18 – 25 August 2018):       Sold OUT

To make a booking, first please check with me that the places are still available , (at fatherseraphim@mullmonastery.com), then I shall advise you on the available payment options – online (PayPal / credit card / debit card) or by cheque.

More information concerning costs and our schedule is available on the Monastery Bookstore.

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