Straight Talk From A loving Heart
This week, clergy and laity from throughout the Antiochian Archdiocese and beyond are gathering at Saint George Orthodox Cathedral in Miami, Florida and the Antiochian Village in Pennsylvania for the funeral and burial of our beloved Bishop Antoun. In eulogies, public reflections and private conversations, memories are being shared of a man whose life of service had a profound impact on so many.
Those who met Bishop Antoun remember him as being very down to earth, approachable and loving. Those that knew him better knew him for all those things, but also as a strict disciplinarian, and someone who told it like it was. He didn’t earn the unofficial title of “Sheriff” by sugar coating his critiques. Virtually every priest in the Archdiocese could tell multiple stories of when Bishop Antoun wagged his finger and raised his voice over one thing or another. He was a stickler for a clean Altar and demanded his priests to be loving servants to their people. So how is it that someone so demanding could be so loved? The answer to this is simple: whether he was joking or scolding, Sayidna did everything in love. As one priest remarked today, “If he yelled at you, you knew he loved you a lot.”
In our era, so much communication is on one extreme end of the spectrum or the other: it seems that people are either being crude, inflammatory and even scandalizing to each other, or they don’t risk any kind of unpleasantness and avoid any topics which might be in any way difficult. In this time of so much unhealthy communication, Bishop Antoun seemed to be from another time, who brought straight talk, spoken in love into all his conversations. St. Paul encouraged us to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). This was one way Bishop Antoun was an example to many. May his memory be eternally, and may our memory of him inspire us to be lovingly bold—and boldly loving–in our interactions with each other.