On January 30, 2015, His Grace Bishop Nicholas engaged his audience in a fascinating historical look at “The Life and Ministry of St. Raphael of Brooklyn” during the 32nd Annual Father Alexander Schmemann Memorial Lecture, held in the Metropolitan Philip Auditorium at St. Vladimir’s Seminary. Metropolitan Tikhon, primate of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA), attended the evening lecture.
Bishop Nicholas holds several engineering degrees as well as a Master of Divinity degree awarded with Highest Distinction from Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, Massachusetts. He speaks Arabic and English fluently and has a working knowledge of French, Hebrew, Ancient Greek, New Testament Greek, and Modern Greek. His Grace administers the Diocese of New York and Washington, D.C. and also serves as the assistant to His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph.
As the second Bishop of Brooklyn after St. Raphael, Bishop Nicholas introduced his talk by remarking wryly, “He’s a very hard act to follow—it’s very humbling.” Using sources such as articles from The Word magazine from the early 1900s, His Grace unfolded the life of the saint, painting a picture of an itinerant preacher under the omophorian of Patriarch Gerasimos who subsequently became a translator, academic, and evangelist. Starting in 1896, when he was sent to minister to the growing Syrian community in the United States, St. Raphael’s grueling schedule was characterized by a visit to a far-flung town to hear confessions and perform baptisms of Syrian Orthodox Christians, only then to take a train the next day to the next location.
Saint Raphael founded, and then wrote a multitude of articles for, The Word magazine—edited today by Bishop John of the Diocese of Worcester. Interestingly, while the saint’s academic thesis had been loftily written, his articles for the faithful were composed in simple language. “It was the sign of a true shepherd,” noted Bishop Nicholas. “He wanted to meet his audience where they were.” Saint Raphael was canonized in 2000 after a three-year study by a Joint Canonization Commission of the Orthodox Church in America and the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America. The Rite of Canonization took place at Saint Tikhon’s Monastery, South Canaan, PA.