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Vol. 3 No. 1 - Pascha 2008

Madness On Campus

"The devil"

- Reply of Saint John Maximovitch, when asked who was to blame for unexplainable personal attacks

Within a few weeks of the beginning of 2008, North America was rocked by a string of on-campus shootings, resulting in many deaths, and countless injuries. This is not the first time such tragedies have occurred. Since the shooting rampage at Montreal's École Polytechnique in late 1989, countless campus shootings have taken place in Canada (notably in Brampton, Ottawa, Montreal, and Taber, Alberta) and in the United States.

Numerous theories have been put forward regarding the root of such mind-numbing acts of violence: the social isolation of individual attackers, violence in the media, the availability of handguns, and other social causes. There is some level of truth to each of these possible causes, and on a human level, each one is worthy of note, and worthy of response and action.

Yet as Orthodox Christians, we are called to see beyond the material causes, to look for the spiritual roots behind such heinous acts. As the spiritual threads of western society continue to unravel, the interior life of an increasing number of people, both inside and outside the Church, is deeply afflicted with spiritual burdens and wounds that are usually invisible to the eye of most other people. High school and college campuses are particularly precarious places for the many individuals who are struggling for spiritual stability and true interior peace; many on campus are completely unaware that such a struggle exists, or where they might turn for instruction in the most basic tools of the interior life.

The need for spiritual support on Canada's campuses has never been greater, and while the number of interested individual students is likely low, Orthodox faithful should not underestimate the power of the prayers of the Church for the spiritual well-being of those who are studying in preparation for the adult lives that hopefully lie ahead of them. The creation of small Orthodox campus groups, the presence of a priest on campus, and the offering up of the prayers of the Church in the form of Vespers or the Divine Liturgy on campus on a regular basis, should not be underestimated. In the times in which we live, these very simple acts do not simply provide instruction to a handful of faithful students: they provide the grace of God to an entire campus, providing effective weapons in a spiritual battle most will never see.

Each year, some Orthodox campus fellowships serve a blessing of the campus at the beginning of each school years, or at Theophany; some offer prayers for students at exam time, or circulate lists with the names of students to their parish prayer group. To the world, these are very small acts indeed, but on a deeper level - and a much more real and potent level for those who are serious about the Orthodox Faith - such small acts are a mighty defense against the spiritual evils that afflict the hearts and minds of many bright, promising young people.

In light of the unfolding of such tragedies on our campuses, such small acts of spiritual defense are critical for our life today, and for the wellbeing of our future as a nation.

Father Geoffrey Korz, (Pascha, 2008)

© All Saints of North America Orthodox Church
Orthodox Church in America, 2008.