So we couldn't help but mention an amazing "coincidence"! Who would have thought a few months after we published Voyage to the Rock we'd be reading this headline: Crucifix unearthed in Ferryland after 400 years underground. For those of you who don't know - and I would assume that is most of you out there - Ferryland is in Newfoundland and is one of the earliest British settlements in North America, established in 1621.
It wasn't Martin who made the discovery this time, but it was a young student archaeologist only TWO WEEKS into her dig! Unlike Martin's bronze cross, this crucifix was made of copper (and much smaller!).
What's even more amazing is that we, the founders of Lumination Press, in April of this year stood at the very spot where this student made her discovery 2 months later! I (Fr Matthew) even made my own discovery! It wasn't a bronze or copper cross, but on Bright Tuesday I found amid a reconstructed early forge at the site a shiny, foil-wrapped chocolate Easter egg!
And we thought that was a funny coincidence. What if we'd kicked around some of the loose dirt and soil at our own feet? You might be reading about us instead of this happy student archaeologist!
Enjoy the news story on the find reprinted for you here:
Front of the Crucifix showing crucified Christ
Back of Crucifix showing the Mother of God holding Christ
An archeology student made a small discovery on Newfoundland's Avalon Peninsula earlier in July that has made a big splash for early Canadian history.
Anna Sparrow, an undergraduate student at Memorial University in St. John's, unearthed a 400-year-old copper crucifix at the site of the former colony of an early Newfoundland governor, Baron George Calvert of Baltimore, in Ferryland.
Archeology student Anna Sparrow unearthed the copper crucifix during a dig in early July at the site of an English settlement. (CBC)
She spent hours painstakingly sifting through dirt at the site, and while there are plenty of broken pieces of pottery and glass there from the 1600s, Sparrow's discovery is unique.
"As I was sifting, I was cleaning off a clump of dirt and in that clump of dirt was this crucifix — this little tiny crucifix," Sparrow said.
"I wasn't expecting to find something quite so spectacular, especially not in my second week. It was very exciting."
The copper cross is just three centimetres wide, with the top portion missing. It depicts the crucifixion of Christ on one side and the Virgin Mary on the reverse.'My heart sort of stopped'
But while the artifact is small, it garnered quite a response from her professor Barry Gaulton, who said the Catholic cross in an otherwise English settlement is a significant discovery.
Barry Gaulton, an associate professor of archeology at Memorial University in St. John's, says the discovery of the crucifix is an important part of North American history. (CBC)
The colony was originally settled by Calvert in the early 1600s as a place where Christians could openly practise their religion without fear or persecution, making the colony the birthplace of religious tolerance in British North America.
"When Anna first found it, my heart sort of stopped for a minute and I knew it was a crucifix," he said.
"Back in England, you could be fined, imprisoned or put to death for practising Catholic faith, so Calvert had different plans for Newfoundland and one of his plans was religious toleration, religious freedom. This artifact is a direct manifestation of that toleration, so it's an important part of Canadian history."
Motivations and inspirations for writing are tricky things. Sometimes a story is a small seed that grows in the back of your mind, which you occasionally water and prune, and you just know when it’s ready to bloom onto the page. At other times, it’s an idea, or a feeling, or a person, so irresistible that it impresses itself on your mind and sweeps you along with it, like a leaf on a river’s current.
When I first became Orthodox, I was dazzled by the brightness of a whole new reality. It was like the sun bursting from behind dark clouds to illumine a landscape that I had only ever seen in grays and shadows. One of the things that struck me was just how supernatural, miraculous, and alive this new world was. I remember thinking: Orthodoxy has all the mystery and wonder and “magic” that any modern fantastical story has – except it’s true. I remember thinking of all the times as a youth that I had longed for the stories and the worlds and the characters I’d loved to be true – but they never were. And so I said to myself, “Wouldn’t it be great to write stories that people could fall in love with, a world they could yearn to live in, only to find out this world does exist and you can live in it?” This became my over-arching motivation for wanting to write fiction – not writing to justify Orthodox belief or make an apology for it, but presupposing it. What does the world look like when God exists, when miracles occur, when saints do superhuman things, when the invisible spiritual warfare is perceptible? And how do the human beings involved in this world react, how do they struggle to come to terms with such a world, and what does it teach us about living in the brightness of awareness, rather than in the grays and shadows? Particularly, I wanted to do this for our young people – to give them something to be inspired by, to delve into, to be surprised by, and in a way that meets them where they already are.
Martin, Brigid, and Ashley’s story in Voyage to the Rock is meant to be just that. Real kids, real situations, but with a sudden glimpse of a deeper world where they never expected one. The story is written for Orthodox youth so that they can become excited about their faith and their history, and so that they can begin to approach the ‘Lives of the Saints’ in a way that is initially a bit more accessible. But my hope is that it is not so ‘in your face Orthodox’ that others couldn’t enjoy or benefit from reading it.
From what I’ve seen and heard, there is a general lack of good stories written from an Orthodox perspective – again not necessarily preaching it, but embodying it. So I wrote this quite intentionally to help fill that gap. Our young people are going to read; we’re constantly encouraging (and forcing) them to, whether for school or for fun. So why shouldn’t we offer them a chance to drink deeply from the well of our Holy Orthodox faith and to retreat into the mystery and wonder of the life in Christ, rather than into that of imaginary fantasies, or even – in worst case scenarios – into spiritual and moral poison? And why don’t we strive to do it in a way that isn’t pedantic or preachy or poorly written (forgive me for the times that my writing crosses these lines!). Our faith promotes itself when we present it authentically – because it’s true and because it’s beautiful.
I hope my small offering of Voyage to the Rock encourages our writers out there to do what they can toward producing great works. I intend to keep writing with these goals in mind. I am presently working on a sequel to Voyage, and have other stories slowly growing in the back of my mind. With God’s help and your prayers, those of us at our new Lumination Press, will continue to offer more of these stories.
Xristos Anesti! Christ is Risen!
One of the most difficult thing as a parent to a tween boy that loves to read is finding books that are on his reading level yet still has appropriate content. I feel like we’ve gone through most of the good series that are out there and we recently began dipping our toes into other book series.
Like the Percy Jackson series, for example. There were a few romantic references I wasn’t too thrilled about but luckily they went right over Ace’s head as he raced through them to get to the good parts, like the poisonous swords and magic horses.
However, after he finished The House of Hades, the fourth book in The Heroes of Olympus series, I was… appalled? shocked? disappointed? All three really. I found out that one of Ace’s favorite characters Nico Di Angelo comes out of the closet at the end of the story. Luckily, this also slipped right past Ace. Due entirely, I believe, to the fact that we got a blessing from our spiritual father before he began reading the series. Now, I’m not getting into the g a y debate in this post, but I am going to say how ridiculously inappropriate that is in a MG/YA novel. I’m definitely not one to encourage the banning of books, regardless of content, I believe it’s a person’s freedom of speech to write whatever he/she wishes but if publisher’s are going to make it a habit to publish this sort of garbage in books other people’s children are reading, they need to have a LGBT category (they have one for everything else) for them. Parents need to know beforehand if a book contains this type of inappropriate content, and it IS inappropriate. Because we, parents, also have the right to decide when/where/how we will introduce and discuss these types of issues with our children.
Anyway, after that incident I have been EXTREMELY careful what he reads. When he was younger, I would read the books before he did. Easy peasy. As he got older, I skimmed them. Still not too difficult. But now that he is reading books with word counts over 100,000 I usually just read the jacketflap and flip through it to see if anything jumps out at me.
Which brings me to today’s post. The FANTASTIC new book out by Fr. Matthew Penney (brother of Mat. Constantina Palmer, author of The Scent of Holiness and the blog Lessons from a Monastery).
Voyage to the Rock is a terrific new book out for Orthodox young people. It is full of adventures and mysteries and danger-everything young boys (and girls) love! I was sort of nervous to give it to Ace at first because he is really, really picky about what he reads. Unfortunately, he judges his books by their covers and if it looks at all preachy or boring, he exes it before even hearing what it’s about.
So, first I played the trailer for him and Lucky, reading the captions in my most adventurous voice. It must’ve worked because he shrugged his shoulders and said, “That sounds pretty good.” Then he shoved his nose back between the current book he was reading in the backseat. Now, any moms of tween-aged boys knows that’s a major win!
A few days later, he asked if the book came in yet. Finally, when it did, he grabbed it off the counter and took off in search of a quiet spot to read. He was on the porch reading for over an hour that first night! Yay!!
What’s even cooler is that he took the book to school to read during quiet time and told me a few of his friends asked what it was about and one asked to borrow it when he was finished! What an awesome way for young people to share their faith quietly and naturally.
I hope to come back and post some of Ace’s thoughts on the book, but I can tell you know it is already officially kid-tested and approved!
Official Description of Voyage to the Rock:
“To be like St. Herman of Alaska!” These words – only a family joke once, were now turning Martin’s world upside down. Catapulted from his ideal teenage existence in Boston to Newfoundland, Canada – a place affectionately called “The Rock” by its inhabitants, he doesn’t want anything to do with his father’s missionary dreams. Accompanied by his parents and his all-too-perky younger sister, a dismal summer of hard work and early mornings is all that awaits Martin. Or so he thinks…
But all that changes the day he finds a bronze cross at the site of the historic Viking settlement, L’Anse aux Meadows. A whole new world opens to Martin then, one of trans-Atlantic voyages, unanswered clues, suspicious antique-dealers, narrow escapes, mysterious deaths, and at the center of it all is an ancient cross and a manuscript poem.
A burning question begins his search: Is the cross Viking, or could it be from the fabled voyage of St. Brendan the Navigator?
Now with the help of his sister, Brigid, and a local Newfoundland boy, Ashley, the three of them race to unlock the mystery of an ancient Christian treasure. But with the Old Wolf, Sullivan O’Connell hunting them, it isn’t just about treasure anymore… It’s about survival.
Mat. Constantina also posted an interview with the author and Ace was pleased to hear that Voyage to the Rock will become a three book series! Woo-hoo!
A huge thank you to Fr. Matthew and Lumination Press for filling this ginormous gap in Orthodox literature and tending to the needs of the most impressionable members of our Faith! We are already anxiously awaiting for your next release!
Voyage to the Rock is available here through Lumination Press.
To enter to win your copy simply:
1. Leave your name (with a VALID email address) in the comment section here.
2. Tell me what you wish there was more of in Orthodox children’s literature.
3. Why you’re excited about this book!
For extra entries:
1. Tweet, Facebook, Instagram or Blog about this giveaway. Be sure to leave a link to your post!
Winner will be announced on Wednesday! (April 30th, 2014)
Christ is Risen!
Matushka Constantina: I’m here overlooking the Atlantic Ocean at Cape Spear, the most easterly point of all of North America, with my brother Father Matthew Penney, the author of the new Young Adult novel Voyage to the Rock. The wind is blowing roughly and we can see a large ship approaching St. John’s harbour.
Father Matthew: Thanks, Matushka. It’s a pleasure to be here with you on the Rock and to be doing this interview.
Father M: This book is about the struggles of Martin – a teenager from Boston – to come to grips with his family’s move to a small city in Newfoundland, Canada, while they pursue his father’s missionary dreams of starting an Orthodox church. Through a series of events Martin discovers that what he first took to be a boring place in the middle of nowhere has a lot more adventure waiting for him than he could ever have dreamed of. After finding an ancient Christian artifact, he is led, along with his sister and a friend, on a quest to find its origins. There are Viking and Irish trans-atlantic voyages, mysterious clues, dangerous chases, and all this with the backdrop of the rich history and wild natural beauty of the massive island fittingly termed, ‘The Rock’. Let’s just say some unexpected saints make their way into it all as well – though not in the way you might imagine.
Father M: The target audience for this book is Young Adult (well, let’s say upper middle grade to YA) – really anyone from 12 and up. But I think anyone from any age can enjoy the read because there’s just so many interesting historical facts mixed with the different mysteries and clues that need to be solved. But more particularly, this book is definitely targeted toward an Orthodox audience, and this is really what I had in mind when deciding to write it. I wanted Orthodox young people to be able to be excited about some of their history and their faith – especially for those of us in North America, so that we could see some of the amazing connections we have in our history to early Christians and saints. As well, it has a bit of the lives of the saints mingled within it. For that reason I think Orthodox people could really benefit from this story, but also anyone interested in early Christian contact with North America. I’d like to add, this is also intended for anyone who loves a good mystery/adventure story in general.
Father M: Interestingly enough, I actually conceived of the story itself in a moment of nostalgia we might say, while sitting on my sixth-storey balcony in Thessaloniki. It was one of those rare days of cool, blustery winds and clear skies after a summer rain storm the previous evening. I was looking out and able to see the blue waters of the sea in the distance and couldn’t help but be reminded of the winds of Newfoundland and the rough natural beauty that exists there, and I started thinking about the Viking voyages and Irish voyages across the great Atlantic. And so the story was born you might say.
Father M: Yes, definitely. Having been to Corner Brook – which is where dad’s side of our family is from – many times in my life, my experiences there formed the backdrop for the story. The places and the amazing natural beauty and historic sites really gave me the inspiration for this kind of story of travel and adventure, not to mention all the local color of the place with the accents of the people and the interesting Newfoundland culture. I thought it made for a real interesting setting. And our heritage on mom’s side also played into it, funny enough. We’re of Irish descent on her side, and so we always heard stories growing up about St. Brendan the Navigator, about St. Patrick, about many of these different Irish figures, and especially any sort of connections that her family could make for us living in Canada. That’s why it was very natural for me to write a story melding these two worlds – of Ireland and Newfoundland, especially since historically, many speculate that they did actually meld.
Father M: First of all, just on the light side of things, that they could enjoy a good read, something they could put themselves into, be a bit excited about, and be entertained by. But on a deeper level I was hoping they would be able to learn more about our Orthodox roots here in North America because all of the Christians who lived before the Schism were Orthodox Christians. Those that were in the Church, were all Orthodox together, and that includes the early Irish – and in particular the early Irish, really, when we see the kind of spiritual practices and monasticism that they had; we can see just how closely we of the Orthodox Church today are with those early Irish. And so that was particularly significant. But also with the Vikings, they were also Orthodox Christians. And so I wanted all of us to learn a bit about this history.
On top of that, there is sort of a story within the story. The life of a saint is actually woven throughout the book and Martin’s own journey mirrors this in many ways. In that sense, I thought it might be an interesting way for young people to learn more about our tradition and our faith in a context that might not be as intimidating or as daunting as picking up a volume of the Lives of the Saints.
Father M: Yes, actually. The day I conceived of Voyage to the Rock, the seeds of two sequels were also germinating in my head. At the present time, I am working on the first of these sequels. It will actually take place in Ireland, and so it will be an extension of Voyage to the Rock. So yes, people can look forward to this – not in the immediate future maybe, but in the future – to more adventures with Martin and Brigid and Ashley.
Father M: Right now people can buy the book on my website for the novel called
voyagetotherock.webs.com. If you go there, you can go to the Order page and easily buy the book there. It is in two formats: the print format and the e-book. For the print version make sure you click on the button either for the U.S. or Canada since the prices are a little different depending on where you’re shipping to and the exchange rates. I should also point out, as followers of your blog will know, they can also find access to the book’s website directly through your blog, and this as the first publication of the new Lumination Press will shortly be available through Lumination Press website which should be launched later this week or next.