Tom Mitrakos is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in Political Science and Economics, was co-captain of the football team, and was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers. He also has a teaching degree in secondary education, and taught Sunday school for 15 years at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church in Pittsburgh. For the past 35 years he has been a homebuilder. He has made many pilgrimages to Mt. Athos and to the U.S. monasteries of St. Anthony’s in Arizona, Holy Archangels in Texas, and St. Nectarios in New York. He was instrumental in establishing the first Greek Orthodox monastery in America for Elder Ephraim, in an effort to help monasticism gain a foothold in America. Tom created and has been writing the Daily Lives, Miracles, and Wisdom of the Saints & Fasting Calendar for the last 20 years. It is sold in the United States, Canada, and around the world, and can be purchased online at www.LivesoftheSaintsCalendar.com. His other book, Wisdom of the Divine Philosophers, is a compilation of wisdom and writings of the saints, which are categorized by subject, such as humility, sin, love, faith, etc. He also writes a satire column for local newspapers about things that set his teeth on edge, and will soon be writing a blog for the Huffington Post. Tom is married to Georgia, and they have three talented sons – Nicholas, Michael, and Gabriel.
I was reading about the life of Saint Chad, abbot and bishop of the Northumbrians and Mercians in 7th century Ireland. He viscerally reminded me of my yiayia, who taught me long ago by her example.
Whenever a huge, terrifying storm sprang up, St. Chad would prostrate himself in prayer and call on God to have pity on humanity. He would also sing psalms until the storm subsided.
St. Chad explained that storms are sent by God to remind humans of the Day of Judgment, and to humble their pride.
I remember when I was living with my yiayia and tremendous lightning storms would rage outside. She would get down on her knees in her entryway, arms raised up to heaven, and make the sign of the cross, imploring God to keep us all safe.
I would also pass her bedroom on the way to mine, and see her, through the crack in the door, on her knees in her closet. Again her arms upraised, she was praying before her icon of the Panagia. And now I think of her whenever I read the Gospel of Matthew, “But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut the door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.”
I was young and didn’t know what to think about her actions then, but I see now that she was an icon, showing me, the one who will always be illiterate in faith and humility compared to her, who hadn’t yet begun to read about the saints and the scriptures, some of the essence of our faith.
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