Saint Nektarios, the Saint of our Century By Sotos Chondropoulos

I find a great joy when reading, I come across a meaningful bookmark that helps me place a book in a specific time or place in my memory. This book is in no need of a placeholder, but holds a vivid spot in my memory beyond place and time. Saint Nektarios, the Saint of our Century by Sotos Chondropoulos is a favorite book of mine which offers something new each time I read it.

The writing style utilized here is very different than most saint stories as it is written with conversive dialogue and an omniscient author. With the easy-to-read narrative style, it helps illustrate the inner struggle of the saint in a very real way resulting in the illustration of a tangible and relatable spiritual struggle helpful to us struggling today. The all-knowing author invites us to see the saint’s personal struggle, showing us, that when pain befalls us, we must run to Christ and the Mother of God.

The book begins with Fr. Nektarios’s rise to ‘power’ in Alexandria and his banishment to Greece. It also highlights his time at the Rizarios School in Athens and ends with the establishment of a woman’s monastery on the island of Aegina.

After finishing the book (again), this particularly story stuck with me. Saint Nektarios was the Dean of the Rizarios School in Athens, where they prepared young men for the priesthood. As Dean, Saint Nektarios guided the students by his ascetic practice, which is beautifully exemplified in the following excerpt:

Divine grace would not abandon the Rizarios School even amidst this troublesome atmosphere. It was to make itself most apparent in the student body, although ironically, the events which led to this blessing were rooted in evil and the discord it harbors. It started with a quarrel among some of the graduates of the high school… an insignificant matter escalated into an uproar, an argument, and finally a fist fight. Then insults started getting hurled back and forth only to lead to more physical violence. 

The four culprits were taken by school ushers to Nektraios’ office, guilty of serious violations of school regulation. They entered the office agitated, red faced and ready to accept the consequences of their rebellion.

Nektarios looked into the boys’ eyes, one by one. His usually shining blue eyes were tearing from sadness.  "All these things that you boys have done," he started to say slowly, "give me no alterative but to punish myself."

"Yourself, Dean?"  the usher said astonished.

"Yes myself… I shall punish myself with a hunger strike. Mr. Usher, at noon I would like you to instruct the cook to not send me food for three days… Understood? During the meals times I will be praying about this disruption."

"Yes sir," the usher answered.

"You truly sadden me, my children. You sadden me because you are the priests of tomorrow. Now please go, and may the Lord forgive you and send you His grace to guide you."

The boys were speechless as they stared at Nektarios.

"Go… " Nektarios said again, "and please by noon today, I want to hear that you have fully made amends with one another. Otherwise I shall have no continue my punishment for a longer time."

The boys bowed their heads in shame, and filled with fear and awe, the left the room one by one. That noon, none of the boys had lunch. Instead they remained in their rooms crying. In the meantime the incident circulated from class to class bringing a host of feelings to its listeners. Some felt utmost reverence for Nektarios in punishing himself for the wrongdoing of his students; others could not stop discussing it; and, other were outrightly astonished.[1]

This book, and this passage in particular, reminds me that the action of sincere prayer and fasting will reveal God’s divine grace.

May Saint Nektarios the wonderworker intercede to Christ God on our behalf!

In Christ,

Pani Amy George