Orthodox America

Jose Munoz-Cortez, A Conversation

Earlier this year, Priest Paul Iwaszewicz conducted an interview with Brother Joseph in Spanish for Russky Pastyr (v. 27). Below are some excerpts.

Brother Joseph, for fifteen years you have been a daily witness to the miraculous streaming of myrrh. Is it something you have become used to? One must never take this, or any miracle, for granted. It would be as if the celebration of the Eucharist became routine for a priest. ... The streaming of myrrh appears new to me every day. I can never become accustomed to it.

Is there any miracle that stands out especially in your memory?

I cannot forget the various physical healings people have received, but what is always in my memory is the spiritual transformation of people in the presence of the wonderworking icon. Many approach the icon and begin to weep. People's souls are so touched by the icon that they feel the need to receive Holy Communion. For me, this is the great miracle. Nowadays we have so many doctors for the body, but so few for the soul! ... People are suffering, and are sicker spiritually than physically. And, as Holy Scripture says, when the body suffers the soul guides it, but when the soul suffers who will guide it?

On your travels with the icon, you are constantly surrounded by the faithful. What do they most often confide in you?

People nowadays are very restless, for they have a conflict between Orthodox spirituality and the materialism of today's world. Passions are rampant in their souls. I have come to the conclusion that there is a common factor in everyone's passions: egoism, the absence of love. ... They don't have direction, yet it is essential that they have answers to their questions. I think the answer lies in a change of lifestyle. Only when a person corrects himself will such problems disappear. So it is with the sick, and the grief of illness. Many ask why God has punished them. I tell them, God has not punished you, He has visited you. Now, when you have time as you lie in the hospital, look back over your life, repent, examine your conscience, and realize that the Lord has always been waiting for you. Go over your past, and then you will be able to mend your ways. ... I always feel the tragedy of modern man, who does not know God but who, in the depths of his soul, is seeking for Him. People are looking for answers. I advise them to read the Gospel-all the answers are there.

Our Church is going through a difficult period. How do we, the clergy and the flock, not get discouraged?

We have to be Orthodox Christians not in name only, but in the way we live. Priests should try to bring prayer back to life in the home. Every home should become a house-church, so that parents can pray with their children, and enrich their lives with the reading of the Lives of Saints and Sacred Scripture. Instead of watching football, the father ought to pray and read with the children, regardless of their age. There are people who go to church and put up candles but they are not really present and they do not understand what is going on. By creating a church at home, the situation can be improved. ...The faithful should attend Saturday vigils, otherwise they are asking a lot from the priest and not doing anything themselves. One should go to church not just on feastdays, but always. Translated for Orthodox America by Vera Toshiko

A complete translation was published in Orthodox Life (No. 4, 1997)