St Nektarios of Aegina, Pray for Us!

St. Nektarios

St. Nektarios of Aegina

Today is the feast day of St Nektarios of Aegina, as most of you probably already know.

Why am I mentioning this? A couple of reasons. As you know, this blog is not a personal one (for that I have a Facebook page). Instead, I’ve tried to comment primarily on topical issues of importance. Things like religion, politics and culture. I’ve strived mightily to never make it about me with only peremptory mentions of personal experiences. That’s partly because my mother raised us to not draw attention to ourselves but to put others first. Basically, I’m uncomfortable talking about myself.

Today however, I make an exception and I hope that you will forgive me.

November 9th, 1969 was a bright and warm Sunday. I was ten years old. My sister and I had been playing tag outside and I tripped and fell flat on the concrete, fracturing the right side of my skull. I came to but then about 30 minutes later the whole left side of my body started going numb. I don’t really remember what happened later but I vaguely remember being in an ambulance. Long story short, I was rushed to surgery and I woke up from anesthesia the next day.

Sometime later, my mother told me that during my surgery, someone had told her about this day being the feast day of St Nektarios. (At the time, he was on the calendar but it wasn’t a red-letter day, so I’m not sure that my parents had every heard about him.) Anyway, during my surgery, both her and my father prayed to him for intercession. They made a tama (difficult to translate into English but basically a vow/duty) to him that if I survived, they would make a pilgrimage to his tomb on Aegina. I came out of it, a little worse for the wear no doubt. After much financial sacrifice, we went to Greece two years later to honor their pledge.

Anyway, enough of that. There’s a broader picture involved, one that reflects quite negatively on our culture today. It’s not related to the Saint himself in any way other than the fact that that day changed my life. Let me explain.

Because of my injury, I was not allowed to take part in daily gymnastics or sports of any kind for at least a year. It was decided that rather than sit and mope while watching the other kids exercise and play, I would instead spend that time with our school’s custodian, Mr Bill Owens.

One would think that this would be a sort of punishment. Instead, this was one of the best times in my life if I may say so. Mr Owens had a small office –a nook actually–which was about 4 ft wide and 8 ft deep, right next to the principal’s office. He had a little desk in there with a chair, and a whole lot of tools and gadgets. The walls were full of them.

As for Mr Owens himself, he was an impressive man. He told me about his days in Patton’s Third Army and how he had actually come within ten feet of him somewhere during his push through France. Sometime later, my dad and uncle had taken me to see the movie (with George C Scott) and the next day when I reported to his office, I stood at attention because I felt I was in the presence of a demigod.

Mr Owens taught me many things: how to splice electrical wires, how to readjust doors, how to know when to use a hammer and a nail or to use a screwdriver. Tricks of the trade; things like how to use shims, when to use a hacksaw, and so on. Anything that needed to be repaired, he took me along with him. It was a masculine culture; unapologetically so. Get this: he’d smoke his L&M’s (or was it Pall Malls?) in the office when there was nothing to do and tell me about the world in general.

In time, I knew the drill and would help him on his rounds gathering trash, sweeping messes and replacing bulbs. In time, I would do these rounds on my own.

Now, imagine if you will, is this scenario one that can be played out in today’s highly sexualized culture? Not a chance.

There was no hint of anything that would indicate sexual abuse of any kind. Such a thing was beyond unimaginable. My parents never spent a second thinking that anything untoward could happen. Nor did Principal Smith, his secretary, the other teachers, or anybody else remotely associated with Riverview Elementary School for that matter.

Even today, as I write these words (with tears streaming down my eyes), not even the slightest innuendo or anything at all comes to my mind for even an instant. My memories of Mr Owens are full of fondness, not merely because he treated me with kindness but for all the things he taught me. Things that I put to use when my wife and I bought our first house, a “fixer-upper” if you know what I mean. (My father also taught me a lot in the mechanical realm being a jack-of-all-trades but that was later, when I was a teenager.)

What have we lost? Well, for one thing, the concept of mentor/apprentice. Western civilization was built on this concept to a large extent. I think we know that and perhaps that’s one reason that the Star Wars legendarium is so hugely popular. I fervently believe that thanks to rampant promiscuity, such a thing is impossible now. Freudianism has mandated that we give in to our feelings, otherwise we’ll be “repressed”. And that’s not good or so we are told. Relentlessly. And cultural Marxism tells us that if you say otherwise you’re some type of “phobe”.

I’d wager that any person under the age of forty who reads these words thinks that I’m describing life on another planet. I’m not. Will we ever get back to that place ca 1969? I rather doubt it. And for that we can thank all the liberationists out there. Sob stories are a dime-a-dozen in today’s world and so the driving force to “make it better” mandates that our entire civilization must be rejiggered to accommodate every whim of the moment.

Virtue —arete–has been lost. To be replaced by –what exactly? A more just and equitable world? A happier world? If you believe that I’ve got a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you.

St Nektarios of Aegina, pray for us.

Comments

  1. Greatly Saddened says:

    Yes, you are so right. What a different world it was back then. Life was much more simple then and we could play outside until dinner time and our parents felt safe, as we did as well. It didn’t take much for us to be happy back then. Boy, has life changed!

  2. I grew up in the same era that you have described and have similar experiences and memories. Your post made me feel as if I had lost an old friend. It brought me to the verge of tears.

    St Nektarios of Aegina pray for us!

  3. Wonderful story, George. I pray for St Nektarios’ intercessions also.

    The modern college/university will never replace apprenticeship, regardless of how hard they try. Thank God, many professions (the trades, teaching, medicine/surgery through residency programs, and more, even the priesthood) still rely on apprenticeship to learn. It is irreplaceable.

  4. Peter Ray Millman says:

    Okay, now George, check this out. Did you know there are more Masons in the US than there are Orthodox Christians, and the Masons are persecuted by many of the Christian communities. What does that say about Orthodoxy? And, no, you know as well as I do, the Masons are emphatically not part of any illuminati conspiracy, and do not conspire to take over the world. Of course, there are very many Orthodox Christian Masons following in the example of the two recent Ecumenical Patriarchs that preceded the incumbent.

    • George Michalopulos says:

      I’m fixing to write something about freemasonry and how I believe it was hijacked by occultists some time ago.

    • Joseph Lipper says:

      Peter, when I was asked to be a parish council member years ago, I had to swear some kind of oath. I believe it was like going to confession, on my knees with the priest’s stole over my head and in front of a bible. I had to read aloud something about how I wasn’t a Freemason or a member of any secret societies. I thought this was odd at first, but I guess historically it has been a problem for some parish councils.

  5. Saint Nektarios example and life story is one we must remember when we are quick to scandalize Bishops and priests especially now during this financial turmoil and power play. He was scandalized by many jealous leaders, yet never scandalized in return. He knew his truth and understood his false accusers blessed him. We must be careful not to become false accusers and scandalized in gossip. Keep in mind only maybe half of what is reported in the National Herald is true, and what is true is done for reasons very few of us can understand. Our judgment will be our own.

  6. I have seen many miracles through the intercessions of St. Nectarios. Another recent saint of the Greek orthodox church is St.Cosmas Aitolos (1714-1779). he was martyred by the Turks. he was given the title “equal to the Apostles” The GOA needs a parish dedicated to him. There is a small chapel in Astoria NY dedicated to him that is it! St. Cosmas made many prophecies that have come true. among them were many of the technology that we have and Greece becoming independent. Another prophecy that he predicted is that the clergy will be the most in-pious of all. another saint that was recently was S. Dionysios of Zakenthos (1545-1622) wh is considered to be a “Walking Saint’

  7. (Patrons saint of bacchan orgy! Saint? )
    Greeks overlook saint’s minor defects
    (HELENA SMITH, Guardian, November 12, 1990)

    EVERY November they make their way up past the rivulets and rocks that run through the hills on the island of Aegina to the whitewashed buildings of the Holy Trinity convent. Armed with a vow, nearly all have a story to tell as they mark the feast day of Aghios Nectarios, Greece’s most contemporary saint, with an all-night vigil outside his tomb. Nectarios Kephalas, Metropolitan of Pentapolis, was proclaimed a saint in 1961. Joined by a group of nuns, Nectarios, a theologian, philosopher, moralist, educator, poet, ascetic and mystic, spent his latter years leading a monastic life at the island convent he founded in 1908.

    And though he did not have to contend with the persecutions endured by other holy men, Nectarios remains one of the Greek Orthodox world’s most popular saints. Since his death 70 years ago he has been credited with hundreds of miracles, involving cures for diseases from stomach ulcers to cancer. But the story of Nectarios is not without controversy. Even before his canonisation, he was accused of living a life of reckless abandon, indulging in orgies with his nuns, and soiling the pristine surroundings of the convent in a cloud of cigarette smoke, blasphemies and wine. Such were the rumours that during his lifetime the saint was subjected to intense investigation concerning the alleged pregnancy of one of his nuns. Among the less charitable today, it is women rather than men who have taken the accusations more seriously. Ten years ago, the abbess of a monastery near the town of Kozani devoted an entire book to denouncing the saint for his alleged improprieties, and was immediately branded a ‘devil in the form of a woman’ by leading Orthodox figures. With her nuns, who rallied around, she now holds the unenviable position of being the only churchwoman to have ever been excommunicated. In true Byzantine fashion, the nuns have built four huge walls around their monastery. But while the outcast order appears to live in fear of invasion by hostile neighbouring monks, the weight of rumour is fast receding with the passing of the years. ‘Even if St Nectarios did do the things he is being accused of, which I don’t believe, it is unimportant when he is accepted by all,’ George Spiropoulos, a novice priest, said.