Since I’m sure I’ll get questions about this in the coming weeks and months, I’ll try to cover as many of them as I can with this brief post. On Sunday, July 22, I was made an Orthodox catechumen at Holy Apostles Orthodox Church in Bixby, Oklahoma. My hope is to be baptized as an Orthodox Christian on Pascha (Easter) of next year. “Orthodox” refers to the Orthodox Catholic Church, which is often referred to in the West as the Eastern Orthodox Church; it has been distinct from the Roman Catholic Church since the East-West Schism of 1054, though concerted efforts are underway to reconcile the two bodies.
I was catechized as “Aidan.” Aidan is the name I chose as my Christian name and is the name of my patron saint, St. Aidan of Lindisfarne. It’s the name I’ll be known by within the Church. Roy is not a Christian name (it’s from the French word ‘roi’ for ‘king’) and I didn’t feel a particularly strong connection with the Orthodox saint Eugene of Trebizond. Aidan was a native of Ireland (which was the homeland of a sizable number of my ancestors) and a missionary to England (where a good deal of the rest originate) who lived in the 7th Century A.D. He was known for being an articulate conveyor of the Gospel and for showing great respect to the cultures of the people he encountered.
As founder of the monastery at Lindisfarne, he was very intentional about bringing in young English men to be trained as monks and wanted to ensure that the Christian leadership in the area (Northumbria) in the years to come would be English, not Irish. In a time when so many people either knowingly or unknowingly spend their time spreading a very narrow and culturally-specific understanding of the Gospel, Aidan’s example is particularly useful: Christianity transcends culture and great care should be taken to avoid evangelism becoming synonymous with cultural imperialism. You can read more about St. Aidan here. On another note, St. Aidan is also considered the patron saint of firefighters, which was significant to me because many in my father’s family have been or are currently firefighters.
I will continue to go by “Roy-Gene.” To my Orthodox friends (and anyone, really), you may call me whichever you wish. I plan to write a recounting of my “journey” into the Orthodox faith at some point in the near future, probably as I get closer to baptism. So, until then, stay tuned…