Original icon of St. Phanourios from Rhodes1
This is the continuation of my essay series on St. Phanourios. You can read part 1 here.2
As it is for many, we often spiritually grow through suffering. Elder Sophrony3, when writing to his sister Maria, writes about what suffering can give us:
Do you really think that my in my years of monastic life I have escaped periods when the vision of my ruin was so petrifying that it is not permitted to speak of it? But, strangely, when these visions were transformed into an opening up of NEW horizons, into manifestation of the INFINITE LIGHT of another world, could not find words to express my gratitude to God for my experience of hellish torments, because these spiritual events occurred in a sequence such that precisely these intense sufferings were an indispensable condition for the development of the very capacity to receive eternity4.
I would never claim to have the level of suffering and consolation that God granted to Elder Sophrony. But I did go through a period of suffering in my thirties that was incredibly pivotal in my life. I began to see how St. Phanourios’ prayers and presence were part of what God used to save me.5 I was in between jobs, running out of money, received a tax bill the size of my savings, my unbalanced neighbour tried to get me evicted and I fell ill – all at once. The illness was that I got a huge rash on my face, it was really bad and super sudden. I was at the dermatologist office and was told that there was a 50/50 chance that I had cancer. (The rash often being a sign of cancer’s presence). Blood work was done, I would meet with a hematologist to be told if I had cancer later that month. Nothing like a shot of fear to urge one to pray even more! I had the service to St. Phanourios with me in the doctor’s office and I vividly remember praying parts of it, begging for his prayers. I was so afraid and felt very alone. But St. Phanourios prayers were with me. Within a month, I found out that the sickness was idiopathic, not caused by cancer; I met with a hematologist who gave me the good news, a happy meeting, thank God!
Slowly, I got better physically; by the mercy of God and the prayers of the Saints, my family, church family and friends prayers, I found work again a few months later. But that was not the end of my experiences of St. Phanourios’ prayers for help in times of need – in my life and in the life of others. I can see how I was carried through this very difficult time; how I received, more than once, unexpected monies, always enough for rent and food. Around St. Nicholas’ day, I found a plane ticket home that my parents could afford to purchase for me; that Christmas was so special. I felt surrounded with love, as I recovered from my illness, struggling with insomnia and the effects of the strong medicine I was on. I found new work and, within months, I discovered a new direction that would totally upend my life as I knew it. St. Phanourios’ prayers never left me. St. Phanourios helped me when I was lost in a sea of questions, fear, exhaustion and uncertain future. I know his prayers helped me find my way out of this struggle.
St. Phanourios is known, as I previously wrote, for helping people find both deep things (life direction, spiritual fathers, a spouse) but also things that are lost. I want to share three such stories. First story: Once my sister-friend, when they did not have much extra money to spare, lost a car key, one that was made special for the car and would cost a few hundred dollars to replace. They looked everywhere, for days. They asked St. Phanourios for help, reading the service I had given them6. Days went by and then, suddenly, their then four year old son walked into the kitchen holding the car key. When asked, he said he found it on the couch, the same couch they had searched more than once by stripping all the cushions off it more than once.
Second story: a family from my church in Ottawa were enjoying a nice family holiday at the beach. The Mom had a special ring that she had for years and she lost it there, at the beach. They felt no hope of finding it but their young son thought of St. Phanourios and asked this Saint’s prayers. A day or so later, the Mother was busy washing dishes, and all of a sudden, she realized that the ring she had lost was back on her finger. Wow! When we heard of this miracle, we all had chills! God is wonderful in His Saints!
Third story, but not the last . . . a family I know was gathered for Christmas. The Mother’s wedding band was getting a bit loose on her finger but she had not had time to get it resized at the Jewelers. She realized, after coming home from a store, that her wedding ring of so many decades was gone! The Mother called the store, feeling sure she lost it where she was recycling pop cans and asked them to leave all the bags there until she could return. They did. One of her family members, while the Mom went back, hurried to St. Phanourios to ask his prayers. The ring was found! In a large bag with tons of pop cans. One of many such bags…. God is truly wonderful in His Saints! I think we often forget that we can pray about everything, that God’s care for us is manifold.
In two weeks, God willing, I will write again here of how St. Phanourios helped me find what I was long wishing for: the husband I had been waiting for nearly 20 year. As a friend said later on, I was in trouble for a while and then, unexpectedly, my future husband suddenly appeared and I was saved. I agreed, saying, it was as if all the hidden sunlight, during my time of darkness, burst out at once. It was a miracle.
(1) This picture was found here: https://orthodoxwiki.org/Phanourios
(2) Elizabeth Roosje. “Revealer of Light: St. Phanourios”. Conciliar Post. Wordpress. November 3, 2016. http://www.conciliarpost.com/journeys-of-faith/revealer-of-light-st-phanourios/
(3) For a brief outline of his life, go here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sophrony_(Sakharov)
(4) Archimandrite Sophrony (Sakharov). Letters to His Family. Essex, England: Stavropegic Monastery of St John the Baptist, 2015, pp. 183-184.
(5) I have written about this before, in this post: http://www.conciliarpost.com/journeys-of-faith/perspective-choices-and-what-a-picture-from-1904-taught-me/
(6) I write about this and where to get this service here, in part 1 of this series: http://www.conciliarpost.com/journeys-of-faith/revealer-of-light-st-phanourios