What an immense joy it was to return to Llanelli buoyed by our celebration of the memory of St John of Shanghai and San Francisco and St Calogero the Wonderworker of Sicily. We were very happy to welcome Elijah, Eleanor and Domenico from the cathedral, who will no doubt be sharing the news of the celebration with Sicilian family members in London.
After the homily, we chanted a moleben to St Calogero, including the whole ancient canon, by Sergios the Monk, telling the story of st Calogero’s life and miracles, blessing the bread ex votos baked by the children.
As I explained in the homily, our parish’s relationship with St Calogero is rooted in the family-holidays of our churchwarden, Norman, his wife Georgina and his then young children – memories which prompted our first celebration of the feast three or four years ago, complete with baked ex votos offered on behalf of the sick.
This simple first celebration, in the refectory of the much-missed Newman Hall, prompted iconographer Efraim Augello (now happily Father Efraim) and his wife Olympia to offer the parish the gift of a painted icon to replace the little printed santino, which was all we had.
The wonderful icon of St Calogero from father and matushka was at the centre of our Sunday festivities in Nazareth House, complete with the usual bread offerings baked by the children – which was poignant, given our prayers to St Calogero for the sick and infirm. Metropolitn Pavel and the brotherhood of the Kiev Caves Dormition Lavra also held a special place in our prayers to St Calogero, as we asked his protection for the Lavra and brotherhood.
As I observed in conversations, after the Liturgy, we sometimes find that the saints push their way into our lives, with the power and authority that the All-Merciful Lord gives them, and this seems the case with st Calogero.
How was it that matushka Olympia picked up on news of the first Cardiff celebration just hours after we had gathered in Newman Hall?
It seems that St Calogero remembered the devotions of a Cardiff family decades before, responding to the fondness with which his feast and its local traditions were remembered and shared at home.
Like our beloved St John the Wonderworker, St Calogero was forced from his homeland by persecution, and wasted no time in preaching the Gospel in the place of his refuge – not mourning or moping, but springing to action and taking hold of his situation – with its challenges and uncertainties – to serve the Lord and bring the Light of Christ and Orthodox teaching to his newly-found neighbour, given him by God. Living a life of prayer, asceticism and holiness, those around him were touched by God’s Grace and cherished the wonderful teacher God had given them.
We should emulate the examples of both St Calogero and St John, whatever our circumstances and the challenges of our lives – accepting whatever God has allowed, and refusing to let it be an obstacle or distraction for serving Him to the best of our abilities.
We are far from being wonderworkers, but we can all be the hands of the Saviour, helping our neighbours in His world; giving them an ear when they need somebody to listen; being a voice when they need an advocate; feeding, tending, defending all, in the Name of Christ. We can all be the voice of true Faith – defending Orthodox dogmatic Truths from heresy and schism. We can all love, care, show compassion and generosity.
The great wonderworkers, St John and St Efraim, did not waste time or opportunity. The same should be true of our lives.
Stichera, Tone 4: As a true ascetic of Christ, O Blessed One, wast thou crowned; verily, with mortifications thou didst purify the eye of the soul, and wast therefore made worthy to see the God whom thou didst love and whom Moses had once seen; thou also receivest from him, O Calogero, the grace of thy miracles, through which thou hast made thyself known to us, and thee we celebrate with hymns.
Holy, Venerable Father, Calogero, pray to God for us.
Thou wast made truly worthy to receive the gifts of the Spirit, O Father, and dost reward the faithful who celebrate thy holy memory by bestowing upon them peace and mercy; also, freeing them from all dangers, O glorious Calogero, thou leadest them by thy thy prayers to the never-waning light, O Blessed One.
Holy, Venerable Father, Calogero, pray to God for us.
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 ascetics; therefore, constantly beseech Christ to have mercy upon us.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit; both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
O unwedded Virgin, bulwark and boast of those who praise thee, save the faithful who beseech thee, and free them from all misery, O thou who didst didst give birth to God who of his good pleasure wast made incarnate.
Troparion, Tone 8. By the streams of thy tears, thou didst make the soil of the desert fertile / and with thy deep groans didst make thy labours to bear fruit an hundredfold; / and thou didst became a beacon for the whole world, /radiating light by miracles, O Calogero, our Father; / intercede with Christ-God to save our souls.
Glory be to the father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit; both now and ever, unto the ages of ages. Amen.
Kontakion. Tone IV: Celebrating today the sacred memory of Calogero with songs,/ we give glory to Christ /, Who grants him the grace of miracles to heal infirmities.