Celebrating St Calogero. Buona Festa!

Dear brothers and sisters – 18 June / 1st July is the feast of St Calogero, to whom some of you were introduced around this time last year, when we celebrated his feast with a moleben/supplication: an occasion for which the children arrived having baked bread ex votos and made feast-day cards.

For one afternoon, we celebrated a saint of Sicily who had ‘intoduced himself’ to Norman and Georgina and their family many years before, and whose festa – during their family holidays – is a treasured memory.

Our parishioners often observe that we do not choose the saints, but that the saints choose us. It certainly was the case with St Calogero.

The feast set off a chain of events, with introductions from Efraim and Olympia in Sicily, Olympia translating texts for the feast and Efraim painting and donating an icon of St Calogero to the parish.

Today, on the feast of the Venerable Calogero, we especially send our greetings to Efraim and Olympia, and to the Orthodox faithful in Sicily – once part of the Byzantine Empire and a meeting-place of East and West – which makes Sicily particularly interesting to us, when our own parish is such a meeting place in Cardiff.

Efraim e Olympia – Buona festa di San Calogero! Che Dio vi benedica!

I will simply publish a few paragraphs abot St Calogero from last year’s post, but I would like to stress that we should particulary value St Calogero not only for his evangelical zeal, but for being a confessor who resisted falsehood and compromise, standing steadfast in his Faith and resisting falsehood – what we should be doing as the world bares its teeth to the Church and the faithful.

Blessed is God in His saints… so, let us follow them and imitate them in holiness, courage and fearlessness.

Calogero would not have been his actual name, as καλόγερος / kalogeros is a generic Greek word for a monk or hermit. This need not worry us, for he will hear us when we call upon him with the name by which he has remembered for over a thousand years, working miracles and interceding for those who call upon this name.

There are divergent accounts of whom St Calogero was, but they all agree that he was an outsider, who came to Sicily to seek refuge, preaching the Gospel and defending Orthodox doctrine before retiring to lead an eremtical life.

According to one account, he was an opponent of Arianism, who fled from North Africa to Sicily in the latter half of the fifth century to escape persecution, though there were also Arian heretics in Sicily. After missionary labours in the area of Fragalata, near Messina, he retreated to a cave on Monte Kronio to live a strict and ascetical eremtical life.

Another account has him fleeing to Sicily from the monophysite persecution of the Orthodox in Thrace. Wandering around the island preaching and celebrating the Holy Mysteries, he found shelter in ancient tombs and volcanic caves, with his last abode being the cave on Monte Kronio where he died during the night between 17th and 18th June, 561. He was 95 years of age. The cave in which St Calogero had lived was subsequently made into a small church, and cells for monks were dug into the rock, in the same way that the first hermitage developed in Kiev.

Despite their differences, both accounts agree that he was a refugee from persecution, a pillar of Orthodoxy surrounded by heresy, who did not simply teach a vague Faith, but the Truth of Orthodox Christology and the teachings of the Church.

“O Holy Father Calogero, taking the yoke of Christ upon thy shoulders, thou didst come into the cave, having no fear of the assaults the enemy launched with beatings and vain noises, O holy one; but thou didst refute them with thy prayers, O mighty soul, pride of the ascetics; therefore, constantly beseech Christ to have mercy upon us.”