August 11, 2009

A Protestant is Baptized Orthodox on Mount Athos

The sign advertizing the Athonite radio communication with Monk Apollo

On Saturday August 8th, 2009 at the Sacred Monastery of Docheiariou on the Holy Mountain, in a touching atmosphere, a German by the name of Dominik Weiel, a 40 year old Geologist, abandoned Protestantism and was baptized Orthodox taking on the name Michael.

For a place not known for its technological advancement, it is interesting how Michael's conversion came about through a monk from the Holy Mountain. In the words of a monk named Apollo at the Monastery of Docheiariou:

"In spring 1986 our monastery had remained without telephone for over five months, a phenomenon that is not unusual on Mount Athos. It then happened that one of the brothers who was working in the garden struck a big stone with his hoe, and a small piece of the hoe stuck into his eye. After two days, we reached the AHEPA Hospital in Thessalonica. When Mr Georgiadis, ophthalmology professor and chairman of then Radio Amateur Union of Northern Greece, heard the story, he recommended that somebody in the monastery become an amateur radio operator, in order to guarantee communication in case of emergency: for the safety of the monks, as well as of the treasures preserved in the monastery. It was in this way that I first learnt about amateur radio. In 1988 I obtained my licence. I am the first and only ham radio on Athos.

"In spite of all the difficulties and of not being fond of DXing (which does not really fit in my monastic way of life), I have been sacrificing my very little spare time to make the voice of the Holy Mountain heard on the air and to give joy to a multitude of friends impatiently waiting for a contact. I have been doing so since 1990, trying to spread, through my presence on the radio waves, a message of hope and optimism – from the ascetic world of Mount Athos to the troubled world outside...

"Moreover, since I started to operate on the HF, I have been living a lot of very moving experiences – it is these that keep me on the bands, even though this means taking precious time from my heavy and difficult monastic program. Friends I met on the air have come to see me from all over the world. Some of them visit every year as pilgrims, travelling all the way from the United States...

"As an Athonite monk, I am constantly reminded that I carry a heavy over-thousand-year-old heritage on my shoulders. It is a heritage which I deeply respect and I feel the duty to spread throughout the world."

More can be read about Monk Apollo, otherwise known as callsign SV2ASP/A, here.

Michael first heard about Mount Athos and Orthodoxy through Monk Apollo via the radio communication between the both of them while he was a student in Germany. His callsign is DL5EBE and his profile is here and here.

Monk Apollo apparently had a weak signal and Michael offered him his help over the air. He came to the Holy Mountain to organize the station for Monk Apollo. While there he came to know Elder Gregory, abbot of the Monastery, together with the entire brotherhood. He enjoyed his visit so much that he started making frequent pilgrimages living the daily regiment of the monks during his visits.

Upon completing his University studies he began working for a large petroleum company. For many years he lived in Moscow which hindered making his frequent visits to Mount Athos, yet all the while he never lost communication with Monk Apollo. During this long period of time he struggled with the change that was occurring within him and finally decided to go to the Holy Mountain.

When he arrived the Monastery was occuppied with a lot of work, and Michael was glad to lend a helping hand. Days passed and he was struggling with the decision on whether or not to be baptized. One Friday the Elder asked him: "Would you like to be baptized?"

"It would be my great joy", responded Michael and his face brightened with joy. The Elder then invited an officer from the Air Force named Stavros Pomaki, a spiritual child of the Elder who was visiting the Monastery and himself an amateur radio operator (callsign SV2BIC), to be his godfather.

The next day on Saturday, following the Divine Liturgy, the baptism took place at the harbor of the Monastery in front of the entire brotherhood and visitors. Soon after Michael returned to his duties in the world.

The Elder gave Dominik (a.k.a. DL5EBE) the name Michael because the Archangel Michael is the protector of the Monastery of Docheiariou.

Monk Apollo

Michael Weiel in front of his radio

The radio antenna at the Monastery of Docheiariou

Monk Apollo, Michael Weiel and Stavros Pomaki