July 21, 2015

Saint Parthenios, Bishop of Radovisdiou (+ 1777)

St. Parthenios of Radovisdiou (Feast Day - July 21)

Saint Parthenios was born in the early 18th century in the village of Vatsounia in Thessaly, in the region of Agrafa, a region in which during the Turkish occupation of Greece remained unconquered by the Turks and where there was a strong spiritual presence. His parents were pious Orthodox Christians who lived the simple life of being farmers and raising animals.

At a young age the Saint went to a monastery of the region to become a monk, where he lived an ecclesiastical life focused on prayer, fasting, asceticism, vigils and church services to acquire the virtues and communion with the Holy Trinity. There he was given the duty of looking after the animals of the monastery. Being a shining example within the monastery, he was elevated to the priesthood. Eventually he was chosen to become the bishop of Radovisdiou, which is today part of Radovizi and consists of a number of villages in Arta (this diocese no longer exists as of 1830 and has become a part of the Metropolis of Arta). It is estimated that prior to 1854, the Diocese of Radovisdiou had around 830 families and 9 churches. As a bishop he served the needs of the people with love and humility, both spiritual and physical, and he did not cease living a life of strict fasting and prayer.

Near the Diocese there lived a poor man who had five children. He had a piece of land which contained many rocks, and because he was sick he was unable to remove the rocks and till the land to provide food for his household. This prompted St. Parthenios to go out every night at midnight and remove the rocks for the poor man, with the only light provided to him by the moon. The poor father would notice that someone was coming every night and removing the rocks. One night he kept watch and saw Bishop Parthenios out there cleaning his field. When the bishop was discovered, he ordered the man to not tell anyone what he had done for him. Eventually the entire field was clear of both the large and the small rocks by the labors of Bishop Parthenios.

St. Parthenios not only loved God very much as well as his fellow people, but from his youth also loved animals. He would spend several hours of the day near the herds of cows in the village. According to tradition, during the summer months he would leave the village and go out to Beselo where the flocks passed to be watered. There, sitting on a wooden bed beneath the shade of the trees, he watched them, blessing and praying for them. Sometimes he cared for the animals as he did while he was a monk. He considered shepherds to be especially blessed as "the least of the brethren" who were first blessed with the announcement of the incarnation of Christ by angels and heard the angelic hymn "Glory to God in the highest." It should be added that St. Parthenios many times healed the animals and cows from sicknesses through his prayers, which is why today he is considered a patron saint of animals.

According to local tradition, when St. Kosmas Aitolos visited this region, he met Bishop Parthenios (even today villagers point to the spot where they met). After they discussed various matters they went together to the Monastery of Rovelista, in which there was a school run by the monks and which contained a large library. This library is lost today, having been destroyed by the Turks.

As for the death of St. Parthenios, there are two traditions. One says he died as a martyr, and another says he died in peace on July 21, 1777 in the village of Velentziko. He was buried behind the Holy Altar of the Diocesan Church of the Holy Unmercenaries.

35 years passed and they uncovered his grave in order to intern one of St. Parthenios' successors, Bishop Kallinikos. On 21 July 1810 his grave was opened and a heavenly fragrance emerged, and immediately the clouds began to sprinkle. This was believed to be a heavenly sign of his sainthood. His relics were then placed atop the Holy Altar of the Church of the Holy Unmercenaries.

After this the family of St. Parthenios sought to take possession of his relics, but the residents of Velentzikou wanted to keep them instead for them to be venerated by the Diocese. The matter was brought before the Ecumenical Patriarch, and the Ecumenical Patriarch decided to give the skull of St. Parthenios to the residents of Velentzikou, and the rest of the bones were to go to the family of the Saint. Eventually the relics of the Saint were distributed to many places, including the Monastery of Gregoriou on Mount Athos which possesses his jaw, given to them by Bishop Ambrose of Stagon.

Yet it is the skull of the Saint which is the primary object of veneration for the faithful, and is processed annually on his feast. In 1854 there was a revolt by the people of Radovisdiou against the Turks, and during this time the Service which had been written to honor the Saint was destroyed. One priest however was able to protect the holy skull from being lost or destroyed, and he brought it to the village of Valto. In 1939 the abbot of the Dousikou Monastery, where there is special veneration to St. Parthenios and which holds many of his relics, arranged for a new Service to be written for the Saint by Fr. Gerasimos Mikragiannanitis, and it was published in 1971.

Today many miracles are attributed to Saint Parthenios, and he is especially invoked to come to the aid of sick animals.

Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
You lived blamelessly, with much humility, Venerable Parthenios, and you were made worthy to partake of divine gifts. Wherefore we fall down before your holy Skull, to receive healing, and the salvation of our souls through you Hierarch, honoring you with hymns.

Kontakion in Plagal of the Fourth Tone
As a most inspired Hierarch of the Savior, and an imitator and equal of the Saints, we your servants sing to you O God-bearer. As an intercessor and mediator to the Lord, entreat that we may be redeemed from all afflictions, we who cry to you, Rejoice Father Parthenios.