Parenting Living Icons

Parenting Living Icons



At the Missions Institute conference, Speaking to Secular America, Dr. Philip Mamalakis, the Assistant Professor of Pastoral Care at Holy Cross Greek School of Theology, gave an inspiring and thought provoking talk on raising children in the Orthodox Christian faith

Dr. Mamalakis raised the all too familiar plethora of issues that parents in the faith face today however he cautions us that fear is not the key to parenting. Raising seven children together with his dedicated wife Georgia, Dr. Mamalakis spoke of their shared commitment to living and practicing the faith. Attending the liturgy and feast days are a regular feature in the Mamalakis’ household, more regular than watching the Packers, that helps children assess their priorities by observing their parents. The presence of prayer in the household is as routine as waking, eating and sleeping, so much so that when a child rebels and challenges this way of life Dr. Mamalakis points out that respecting his child’s point of view is key. By asking his children to explain what they mean a discussion ensues, and children are eventually able to discern for themselves the importance of living in faith.

Parenting, he says is like a 3-legged stool where the personal life and faith of the parent, the relationship between the parent and the child, and the connection between the home and the church are formed. These three legs support the child to internalize the faith in his or her heart.

Another beautiful analogy he evokes to remind parents that they have been entrusted with the most sanctified of jobs, he likens children to living icons that need to be venerated. And so when we as parents make mistakes the value of repentance and forgiveness cannot be underestimated in bringing healing and a way forward.

Steve Tussing, father of four, MTS student and an IT security professional for Nike had this to say, “Dr. Mamalakis’s talk really hit the nail on the head with his emphasis on deeply connecting and ‘entering’ into your children’s world. If we, as parents, don’t have a connection like this with our children then our attempts to witness our Christian faith through our example won’t resonate with them. If we don’t have a genuine interest in their life, why should they be interested in our life?

With his practical tried and tested wisdom that comes from being grounded in the Orthodox Christian faith Dr. Mamalakis left the audience with a lot to chew and reflect on keeping it real by actively living in the faith so children can follow by observation.

Dr. Mamalakis directs the Field Education program at the seminary and teaches classes in Pastoral Care, Pastoral Counseling, Marriage and Family, Grief, Death and Dying. His academic interests are in the area of pastoral counseling, Orthodoxy and contemporary psychology, gender, marriage and family, and parenting. Together with Fr. Charles Joanides at the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese Department of Inter-faith marriage, he has developed the only Orthodox marriage preparation program entitled, The Journey of Marriage. He is now completing his first book on Orthodox Parenting conducting most of his research together with his wife, Georgia, on their seven children.


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About author

Anberin Pasha

Anberin Pasha, OCN's Digital Disciple Producer and Program Coordinator is a Graduate student in the Master's of Divinity Program at Hellenic College Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, Massachusetts.