A quiet story in a holy place

6a00c22524135a549d00d414376ccb685e 500piI think this post will break some kind of record for the oldest story ever featured on this weblog, and this news clip is not even from the famous tmatt GetReligion Guilt folder. Some will believe I am calling attention to it because it is about some Eastern Orthodox monks and, I guess, there is a bit of truth to that.

But here is why I want you to check out this story from San Antonio. The story itself, by Express-News religion writer J. Michael Parker, is good and has some nice details about a monastery in the quiet Texas Hill Country. The story has to deal with a tough issue or two, like the following material very close to the top:

Founded in 1996, Holy Archangels is less known these days than the 25-year-old Christ of the Hills monastery 5 miles southwest of Blanco.

Christ of the Hills has courted frequent publicity, with a "weeping" icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary that attracted thousands of visitors for years and with ... charges of sexual assault against several of its monks.

The Blanco monks' only affiliation with any recognized ecclesiastical jurisdiction -- the New York-based Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia -- lasted from 1991 to 1999. A church spokesman said its recognition was revoked because the Blanco monks refused to abide by church discipline.

You think? Not a nice thing to have to bring up.

But that is not the real story. What this is all about is some spiritual fish who are now in a totally new and very foreign pond, only we get to see it from the other side because the foreign pond is contemporary America -- Protestant Texas, even. The "normal" world, for these monks, is a place that most Americans would consider as natural an environment as, well, Jupiter or Mars.

The eight monks of Holy Archangels are veterans of monastic life on Mount Athos in Greece. They left the "holy mountain" to join other pioneers in establishing Greek Orthodox monasticism across the United States. ...

In parts of the United States with large Orthodox populations, the monks are readily recognized by non-Orthodox neighbors, said Father Ephraim, 36, a Galveston-born priest-monk at Holy Archangels. "But there aren't many monasteries in the Texas Hill Country."

OK, so why bring this up?

This story (hat tip to Rod "friend of this blog" Dreher for finding this) has a nice little multi-platform journalism feature with it. That is journalism education jargon for a click-on feature that blends some photograph -- nice photography -- with some very basic and simply beautiful audio into a feature that, in a story like this one, lifts you totally off the printed page and takes you somewhere else far, far away. It's all about the sound, isn't it?

You have to know to actually click right on the photo feature to activate the sound. So I think this will work -- click here.

The emerging digital journalism era has, so far, offered lots of bells and whistles that, to me, rarely deliver. This is one case where a little bit of multimedia goes a long, long way. Enjoy.

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