THE POWER OF PRAYER
by Serge Bolshakoff
In Paris, in a narrow and rather noisy street near the Vaugirard Metro station, there is a humble-looking house, 26 rue d'Alleray. This simple house, however, receives many visitors. People come to it from all over Paris and elsewhere for healing by prayer. They are sent by the clergy as well as by specialists when all other means fail. The majority of visitors are afflicted with mental and nervous troubles.
I have visited this house several times. The front door opens on to a quiet and restful hall. The small chapel, where healing services take place, is nearby. Many votive candles and lamps burn there. The chapel is small, humble, unpretentious, but it has a peculiar atmosphere of rest and hopefulness. Behind the house is a charming small garden. Although the house is situated in a noisy and thickly populated district, it is very quiet.
This small house always reminds me of a very different place — the grandiose Benedictine Abbey of Silos in Spain. That great abbey rises up in the sunburnt and parched plains of Old Castile. In the heat and glaring sunshine, dust and thirst afflict the traveler. In the abbey, especially in its patio, surrounded with one of the most celebrated cloisters in the world, it is fresh, pleasant, restful. Fountains throw their water amidst the brilliant greenery and flowers. Birds sing. The abbey is like an interior castle of the soul. Outside there is the world — passion, sin, unhappiness: while within the soul of a mystic there is a radiant joy and peace because God is there.
The small house in the rue d'Alleray, like Silos, is an oasis of peace and joy in the heart of a great capital where souls suffer from the troubles, sins and unhappiness usual to big cities. Moreover it, too, is a Benedictine establishment. It is the Priory of the Orthodox Benedictines of the Western rite and comes under the jurisdiction of the Russian Patriarchate. A parish is attached to the Priory. There are now a few Orthodox congregations of the Western rite in Poland, France and even Italy. Originally they formed small, independent congregations vaguely called Old Catholic, Evangelical Catholic and so on. There are many such groups, both in Europe and in America. Their history is usually complicated and often quite long.
In the past a number of such groups approached the Orthodox Church authorities with a request to be received into the Orthodox Church. In some instances their request was granted. The petitioners agreed to accept the Orthodox faith and the Byzantine rite. There are several Orthodox parishes of this type in America and a flourishing Orthodox Church in East Africa, mostly in Uganda. A few congregations were allowed to continue using the Western rite. The Russian Synod permitted the use of the Roman Mass with a few changes as far back as 1870. The d'Alleray Use was sanctioned by the Moscow Synod in the thirties.
Fr. Denis Chambault, Superior of d'Alleray Priory and originally a journalist, became an acknowledged healer about fifteen years ago by assisting the late Fr. Joseph Cirel, who possessed a remarkable healing power. There is nothing esoteric or peculiar about the healing services in the chapel. The ordinary prayers prescribed by the Latin rite are used. The gift of healing is indeed a charisma, but it is given to people according to their faith. Nothing more is needed. Fr. Chambault is a quiet, retiring but friendly man in his sixties.
Generally those who want to use a healing service make an appointment with him. The healing service is preceded by a long talk with the patient. There may be several talks. The Orthodox patients usually make their confession, though it is not required from the rest. In due course the healing service takes place in the chapel.
The results are often astonishing, and the number of visitors is growing all the time. There are, of course, no fees, although those healed usually make a thanksgiving donation. The experience of the Priory shows plainly the astonishing healing power of prayer. Our contemporaries neglect to use this power because our faith is weak. None can possess healing power unless he has faith which moves mountains.
The d'Alleray Priory, besides being a healing centre and administering a parish, also works for promoting Christian unity through prayer and literature. It produces regular bulletins in French and English. The Fathers of the Priory speak English as well as French. The Priory is a most unusual place, and a talk with Fr. Chambault is in itself an experience.
(Reprinted from the Church Times, July 21, 1961)
From Word Magazine
Publication of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America