Sunday, January 8, 2017

St. Severianus of Noricum, Apostle of Austria

Born in 410, St. Severinus came to the borderland of present-day Germany and Austria from the east — possibly the Egyptian desert — to care for the Roman Christians who were endangered by invading barbarians during the collapse of the Roman Empire.

The mysterious high-born Severinus is first recorded as travelling along the Danube in Noricum and Bavaria, preaching Christianity, procuring supplies for the starving, redeeming captives and establishing monasteries at Passau and Favianae, and hospices in the chaotic territories that were ravaged by the Great Migrations, sleeping on sackcloth and fasting severely. His efforts seem to have won him wide respect, including that of the Germanic chieftain Odoacer. Eugippius credits him with the prediction that Odoacer would become king of Rome. However, Severinus warned that Odoacer would rule not more than fourteen years.

He remained there until the end of his life. While he was there he advised both common people and kings to put eternal life first, and taught them to be generous to one another and to lead a true Christian life.

He built a monastery and protected from harm those who gathered around him. As he foretold, the monks and other Christians who had followed him escaped to safety in Italy, taking St. Severinus’ incorrupt relics with them.

He died in 482 at his monastic cell at Favianae while singing Psalm 150. Six years after his death, his monks were driven from their abbey, and his body was taken to Italy, where it was at first kept in the Castel dell'Ovo, Naples, then eventually interred at the Benedictine monastery rededicated to him, at the Abbey of San Severino near Naples. St. Severinus was also the childhood guardian and spiritual father of St. Anthony the Hermit.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

St. Dionysius of Zakynthos

St. Dionysius of Zakynthos was born in 1547 on the island of Zakynthos in the Ionian Sea (Greece). Before becoming a monk, his name was Draganigos Sigouros. He was educated by priests and became fluent in Greek, Italian, and Latin. He excelled in theology, became a monk in 1568, received his first degree of ordination as a priest in 1570 as Daniel; he later became the hieromonk of Zakynthos and Strofades. In 1577, he was raised to Archbishop of Aegina and Poros, and after a year, abdicated from this dignity and settled in Zakynthos as an abbot of a monastery. In December 17, 1622 he fell asleep in the Lord. He had asked to be buried in this monastery and his grave is still to be found in the chapel of St George; a dependent of the monastery. 

It has been found that his body remains intact and emits a mixed fragrance of flowers and frankincense. Therefore he is venerated, and his sainthood has been proclaimed by the Patriarch of Constantinople. His feast day is celebrated on December 17, and on August 24, the Church celebrates the transfer of his holy relics.

St. Dionysius is an example to us all for his forgiveness of even the most grievous sins against us.

St. Dionysius rests in the church which bears his name in Zakynthos, where opening his tomb is often found impossible. It appears as though this occurs when Dionysius is out performing miracles. Afterwards, when the tomb can be opened, seaweed is found at his feet and his slippers are found to be worn thin. In fact, his slippers need continual replacement because they receive so much wear! He is often seen alive and walking.
The Holy Monastery of Strofades and Saint Dionysios

Together with your child, read "Saint Dionysius of Zakynthos" by Potamitis Publications!

In honor of his forgiving spirit, color a forgiveness coloring page and discuss how we can "forgive those who trespass against us" like St. Dionysius did.

Friday, November 11, 2016

St. Milica the Princess of Serbia

Princess Milica Hrebeljanović née Nemanjić ca. 1335 – November 11, 1405) also known as Empress (Tsaritsa) Milica, was a royal consort of Serbia. Her husband was Serbian Prince St. Lazar and her children included despot Stefan Lazarević, and Jelena Lazarević, whose husband was Đurađ II
Balšić. She is the author of "A Mother's Prayer" and a famously moving poem of mourning for her husband, "My Widowhood's Bridegroom."

After the death of her husband St. Lazar at the Battle of Kosovo in 1389, Milica ruled Serbia until 1393 when her son, Stefan Lazarević Hrebeljanović, came of age to take the throne. At that time,
Ljubostinja monastery
much wisdom and personal courage was needed to reign in a country which was nominally free but always under threat of invading forces, from the East and the West. It was difficult to maintain a national spirit without provoking neighboring kingdoms or pashaluks to raid or plunder. Milica proved herself an able ruler of the country at a very trying time. Her personal tragedy (losing her husband and sending her daughter Mileva (Olivera Despina) to marry Bayezid I, who had ordered the execution of her husband Prince Lazar in 1389) did not interfere with her carrying out her duties. She founded the Ljubostinja monastery around 1390 and later took monastic vows at her monastery and became the nun Eugenia (Јевгенија, later abbess Euphrosine, Јефросина) around 1393.

In 1397 she issued the "A Mother's Prayer" together with her sons at the Dečani monastery. She commissioned the repairing of the bronze horos of Dečani.

In later diplomatic negotiations with Sultan Bayezid I, Eugenia and Euphemia, the former Vasilissa of Serres, both traveled to the Sultan's court in 1398/99.

In 1403, Eugenia went to the Sultan at Serres, arguing in favour of her son Stefan Lazarević in a complicated dispute that had emerged between her two sons and Branković.

She was buried in Ljubostinja, her monastery. She was canonized by the Serbian Orthodox Church. Princess Milica was also a writer. She wrote several prayers and religious poems. It appears that her grief and loneliness were captured in her highly lyrical and poetic address to Prince Lazar (Hrebeljanović). Although conceived as a church hymn, it contains a personal note and lyrical tones unusual for solemn and somber church hymnody.

St. Milica is the patron of writers (especially religious ones) and poets. 

A slava is very popular among Serbian Orthodox faithful. Since St. Milica is one of the patron saints of Serbia, consider hosting a slava in her honor.

Monday, September 26, 2016

St. Nilus the Younger of Rossano

Saint Nilus the Younger (910 – December 27, 1005), was a monk, abbot, and founder of Italo-Greek monasticism in southern Italy. His feast day is celebrated on September 26.

Born to a Greek family of Rossano, in the Byzantine Theme of Calabria, for a time he was married and had a daughter. Sickness brought about his conversion, however, and from that time he became a monk and a propagator of the rule of St. Basil in Italy.
He was known for his ascetic life, his virtues, and theological learning. For a time he lived as a hermit, later he spent certain periods of his life at various monasteries which he either founded or restored. He was for some time at Monte Cassino, and again at the Alexius monastery at Rome. He was a charismatic leader and an important figure of his time.
When Pope Gregory V was driven out of Rome, Nilus opposed the usurpation of Philogatos of Piacenza as antipope. Later when Philogatos was tortured and mutilated, he reproached Gregory and the Emperor Otto III for this crime.
Sant'Agata monastery in Amalfi coast
St. Nilus' chief work was the foundation in 1004 of the famous Greek monastery of Grottaferrata near Frascati, on lands granted him by Gregory, count of Tusculum; he is counted as the first Abbot there. He spent the end of his life partly in St. Agata monastery in Tusculum and partly in a hermitage at Valleluce near Gaeta. He died in the Sant'Agata monastery in 1005.

St. Nilus is revered as the patron Saint of the scribes and calligraphers.

Friday, August 5, 2016

St. Oswald King of Northumbria

The holy, glorious, right-victorious martyr and right-believing King St. Oswald of Northumbria (c. 604-August 5, 641/642) was the king of Northumbria (Northern England) from 633 or 634 until his death. The son of Æthelfrith of Bernicia, King of Northumbria, he is best remembered as a Christian martyr. His feast day is August 5.
After his father was defeated and killed by Raedwald of East Anglia, Oswald fled to Dalriada, where he was converted to Christianity by the monks of Iona. He fought under Connadd Cerr in the Battle of Fid Eoin in Ireland.
The Cross at Heavenfield marking the place where
St. Oswald defeated Cadwallon in AD634. 
After the king of Gwynedd, Cadwallon ap Cadfan killed King St. Edwin of Northumbria in battle at Hatfield Chase cross. He knelt down, holding the cross in position until enough earth had been thrown in the hole to make it stand firm. He then prayed and asked his army to join in. In the battle that followed, the Welsh were routed despite their superior numbers and pursued for miles by the Northumbrians; Cadwallon himself was killed.
in 632 (or 633), Northumbria was split between its sub-kingdoms of Bernicia and Deira. St. Oswald's half-brother Eanfrith became king of Bernicia, but he was killed by Cadwallon in 633
(or 634) after attempting to negotiate peace. Oswald then returned from exile with an army and marched against Cadwallon; his ranks were bolstered by Scots sent by the king of Dalriada, Domnal Brecc. The day before the two sides met in battle at Heavenfield, Oswald made his soldiers construct a wooden
Following this victory, Oswald reunited Northumbria. He is considered to have been Bretwalda ("Lord of Britain") for the eight years of his rule, although his authority over the other Anglo-Saxon kingdoms seems to have been limited. He did, however, form an alliance with Wessex under Cynegils: Cynegils converted to Christianity and accepted baptism, and Oswald married Cyneburh, the daughter of Cynegils. With her he had a son, Æthelwald.
Although Edwin had previously converted to Christianity in 627, it was Oswald who did the most to spread the religion in Northumbria. It was he who gave the island of Lindisfarne to the bishop St. Aidan, who established a monastery there.
Oswald won some successes against the British to the north, but the primary concern of his reign was Northumbria's conflict with the rising power of Mercia under Penda. He was killed by the Mercians at the Battle of Maserfield in 641 or 642, and his body was dismembered by the pagan Penda. (St. Bede says that Oswald died in the 38th year of his life.) Oswald's head and limbs were placed on stakes, but according to legend, one of his arms martyr and saint: a holy well of healing was said to have sprung up at the spot where the arm had landed, and the site soon became known as Oswestry, or "Oswald's Tree." His holy relics now reside with those of Sts. Aidan and Cuthbert in the cathedral at Durham, England.

  • One Easter he was about to dine with Saint Aidan. A crowd of poor came begging alms. Oswald gave them all the food and the wealth he carried on him, then had his silver table settings broken up and distributed.
  • Saint Aidan was so moved by the king's generosity that he grasped Oswald's right hand and exclaimed, "May this hand never perish!" For years after, the king was considered invincible. The hand has, indeed, survived, as it is enshrined as a relic in the Bamburgh church.
  • Oswald's body was hacked to pieces on the battle field where he fell, and his head and arms stuck on poles in triumph. One arm taken to an ash tree by Oswald's pet raven. Where the arm fell to the ground, a holy well sprang up.
  • Once a horseman was riding near Heavenfield. The horse developed a medical problem, fell to the ground, rolling around in pain. At one point it happened to roll over the spot where Oswald had died, and was immediately cured.
  • The horseman told his story at a nearby inn. The people there took a paralysed girl to the same spot, and she was cured, too.
  • People began to take earth from the spot to put into water for the sick to drink. So much earth was removed that it left a pit large enough for a man to stand in.
  • Oswald's niece wanted to have the king buried at Bardney Abbey, Lincolnshire. The monks were reluctant as they were not on good terms with Northumbrian overlords. However, the coffin admitted a light at night. The monks considered it a sign, and allowed the burial.
  • When the monks washed the bones prior to enshrinement, they poured the water onto the ground nearby. Local people soon learned that the ground had power to heal.
  • A sick man who had led a dissolute life drank water which contained a chip of the stake on which Oswald's head had been spiked. The man was healed, reformed his life.
  • A little boy was cured of a fever by sitting by Oswald's tomb at Bardney.
  • Pieces from the Heavenfield cross were claimed to have healing powers.
  • Healing powers were claimed for moss that grew on the cross.
  • A plague in Sussex was stopped by Oswald's intercession.
  • Archbishop Willibrord recounted to Saint Wilfrid tales of miracles worked in Germany by Oswald's relics.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

St. Panteleimon the Greatmartyr and Healer

The holy, glorious and right-victorious Greatmartyr St. Panteleimon (born Pantaleon) the Unmercenary Healer was martyred under the reign of Emperor Maximian (ca. 305 A.D.). His feast day is celebrated on July 27.

St. Panteleimon had been educated as a physician, and he "dedicated his life to the suffering, the sick, the unfortunate and the needy. He treated all those who turned to him without charge, healing them in the name of Jesus Christ. He visited those held captive in prison. These were usually Christians, and he healed them of their wounds. In a short time, reports of the charitable physician spread throughout the city. Forsaking the other doctors, the inhabitants began to turn only to St. Panteleimon.

Other physicians brought his case before the Emperor Maximian. St. Panteleimon confessed to being a Christian and refused to offer sacrifice to the state gods."[He] suggested that a sick person, for whom the doctors held out no hope, should be brought before the emperor. Then the doctors could invoke their gods, and Panteleimon would pray to his God to heal the man. A man paralyzed for many years was brought in, and pagan priests who knew the art of medicine invoked their gods without success. Then, before the very eyes of the emperor, the saint healed the paralytic by calling on the name of Jesus Christ. The ferocious Maximian executed the healed man, and gave St. Panteleimon over to fierce torture.

Hermolaus, Hermippus, and Hermocrates were brought forth; they confessed and were beheaded. Throughout the many tortures, St. Panteleimon remained untouched. Enraged, Maximian ordered that St. Panteleimon be beheaded. The soldiers took him to an olive tree, but when they struck him while he was praying, the sword melted like wax. After he finished his prayer, "a Voice was heard from Heaven, calling the passion-bearer by his new name and summoning him to the heavenly Kingdom." He instructed the soldiers to rise from their knees where they had fallen in fear and to complete the execution. After they followed his instruction, the olive tree became covered with fruit.

St. Panteleimon relics at The Holy Monastery of the Great Martyr Saint Panteleimon:

The holy Great Martyr and Healer St. Panteleimon is invoked in the Mystery of Anointing the Sick, at the Blessing of Water, and in the Prayers for the Sick.
St. Panteleimon is the patron of Physicians, midwives, livestock, invoked against headaches, consumption, accidents and loneliness.

Holy Great-Martyr and Healer Panteleimon,
thou imitator of God's mercy!
Look down in thy loving kindness and hearken unto us, sinners,
who offer heartfelt prayers before thy holy icon.
Ask for us from the Lord God,
before Whom the Angels stand in heaven,
remission of our sins and transgressions.
Heal the ills of body and soul of the servants of God whom we here commemorate,
who are here present,
and of all Orthodox Christians who seek thy help.
For behold, we, who because of our sins are possessed by bitter ills and have no help or consolation,
yet flee to thee for refuge, since thou hast been given Grace to pray for us and to heal every ill and every disease.
Grant, therefore, to all of us, by thy holy prayers,
health and strength of soul and body,
a good growth in the Faith and in devotion,
and all that is needful unto this temporal life and unto our salvation:
So that, having been granted great and rich mercy thorugh thee,
we may glorify thee and Him that bestoweth all good things,
our God Who is wondrous in His Saints,
the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

From "Polny Sbornik Molitv", pp. 214-215: Prayer 3.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

St. Lazar the Prince of Serbia

The holy, glorious and right-victorious Great Martyr Lazar, Prince of Serbia (Свети Великомученик кнез Лазар, also Lazarus, or Lazar of Kosovo) was one of the Serbian noblemen who ruled the Serbian empire after the death of Emperor Dušan. After death of Emperor St. Uroš V (December 2), Lazar was the de facto ruler of Serbia. He died for Christ's name on June 15, 1389. His feast day is June 15/June 28 (Old Calendar).

Lazar was born in Prilepac, which is near Novo Brdo, in 1329, the son of the imperial chancellor Pribac Hrebeljanović. He was educated at Emperor Dušan's court in Prizren. He

was later granted the high title knez ("prince" in Serbian) by Dušan's successor St. Emperor Stefan Uroš V. Despite his imperial title, Uroš was a weak and ineffectual leader, allowing local nobles to gain power and influence at the expense of the central authority. Lazar remained a loyal vassal to Stefan Uros V.

After the death of the emperor, Lazar became a central figure in Serbia. He called, together with his son-in-law Đurađ Stracimirović, a synod that elected a new patriarch, St.Ephraem. Lazar sent a delegation to Constantinople with the monk Isaiah to implore the patriarch to heal the Serbian-Constantinople Schism of 1352. In 1375, full communion between Peć and Constantinople was re-established in the Holy Archangels Monastery on the grave of Emperor Dušan.

St. Lazar restored the monasteries of Hilandar on Mount Athos and Gornjak. He built Ravanica and Lazarica in Kruševac and was a benefactor of the Russian monastery of St.
St. Lazar and St. Milica
Pantaleon on Mt. Athos, as well as many other churches and monasteries.

Lazar married Milica (Venerable Euphrosine of Serbia) around 1353. Milica was a relative of Emperor Dušan. She was a daughter of Prince Vratko (кнез Вратко), who was a great-grandson of Vukan Nemanjic. Vukan himself was the eldest son of Stefan Nemanja. Lazar and Milica had seven children: Mara, St. Stefan Visoki, Vuk, Dragana, Teodora, Jelena and Olivera.

The Battle of Kosovo
St. Lazar fought against the Turkish powers on several occasions in order to protect his people. Finally, he fought the Turkish Emperor Amurat and lost on the Field of Blackbirds [Kosovo Polje] on June 15, 1389. Afterwards he was beheaded.
Lazar, having been visited by an angel of God on the night before the battle, was offered a choice between an earthly or a Heavenly kingdom. This choice would result in a victory or defeat, respectively, at the coming Battle of

Serbian Orthodox Monastery of Ravanica

Kosovo. Lazar, naturally, opted for the Heavenly kingdom, which will last "forever and ever" ("Perishable is earthly kingdom, but forever and ever is Kingdom of Heaven!" As a result, he perished on the battlefield. "We die with Christ, to live forever," he told his soldiers. Soon after death Lazar was glorified.
His body was translated and interred in Ravanica, in his memorial church near Ćuprija, and later was translated to Sisatovac in Srem. From there, during World War II, his body was translated to Belgrade and placed in the
Cathedral Church of the Holy Archangel Michael. In 1989, on the occasion of the 600th anniversary of his martyrdom, St. Lazar's relics were again translated to the Monastery of Ravanica in Ćuprija (Central Serbia - Uža Srbija). It rests there today incorrupt and extends comfort and healing to all those who turn to him with prayer.
+holy relics of St. Lazar in the Ravanica Monastary! 
His Troparion can be found here.