The Powerful Story of St. Nektarios of Aegina

The present situation in the world between Russia and Ukraine has brought to our attention many different saints that the western Church, that is, Roman Catholics, would have little familiarity.  They could be saints associated with the Eastern Churches in communion with Rome like the Ukrainian Catholic Church or it could be saints associated with the Orthodox churches which do not enjoy communion with Rome, like the Russian or Ukrainian Orthodox. 

On Monday, March 28th you can have the opportunity to learn about St. Nektarios of Aegina with the Fathom release of Man of God.  To see if a theatre is playing it near you, visit Fathom Events. Personally, I never had heard of St. Nektarios, but as I watched his life story unfold on film, I was inspired by his life. 

St. Nektarios was persecuted by the hierarchy of his church.  They removed him from his position without any reason.  When he wanted to meet with his bishop, he was stonewalled when no correspondences were returned.  The holiness of St. Nektarios was noted by many in the Church, and they were disappointed when he was passed over for the role of patriarch in the Alexandria. 

The Powerful Story of St. Nektarios of Aegina
Saint Nectarios, Wonderworker of Aegina. 2013 oil on Canvas. Artist A.N. Mironov / Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)

He was a prayerful man too.  Whenever he had a decision to make, he would turn to prayer and ask God what he should do.  In one glimpse into his prayer life, he asks, “What should I do?  What is your will?”  In another prayer, he prayed, “Have mercy on them that hate me.  Let them not perish.”  He found it in his heart to pray even for those who hurt and persecuted him.  A good example for us all. 

For Roman Catholics, watching Man of God will expose them to the practices of the Eastern Catholic and Orthodox churches. In our churches, we have statues of the saints. In the Eastern Church, they have icons.  They look like pictures but are called icons.  While they are painted, the correct way to describe their creation is that an icon is written by the iconographer.  It is a form of prayer to write an icon. 

Devotion to Mary is present within the Eastern Church, and at one point, St. Nektarios said, “I need to speak to my mother.”  The subsequent scene brought him to an icon of Mary and there he consulted her in his prayer.  We call our worship Mass or Eucharist.  The Eastern Church has Divine Liturgy, with the Eucharist being celebrated behind an iconostasis. Chant is a key component to the Divine Liturgy. And another prayer of the Eastern Church is the Jesus Prayer: “Lord, Jesus Christ, son of the Living God, have mercy on me a sinner.” This prayer is repeated in a series much like Catholics pray the rosary.  If you are unfamiliar with the Eastern Churches, you will gain familiarity to their style of prayer and worship in Man of God

Toward the end of the film, the spiritual fatherhood of St. Nektarios is shown.  He heard an inner voice tell him to go to an island and to bring a group of women who wanted to form a monastery of their own.  This brought the saint much scrutiny and false allegations from those who opposed him and his ministry with the religious women. When you watch Man of God observe every interaction St. Nektarios has with individuals and notice how he treats them like a son or daughter and calls them to holiness and the ways of God. 

The film Man of God tells the story of an orthodox bishop who withstood many trials in his life and never gave up on the God he loved and served.  In 1998 the Greek Orthodox Church of Alexandria offered a public apology for the mistreatment of St. Nektarios and restored the dignity of his name.  In their apology, they wrote, “We beseech Saint Nektarios to forgive both us, unworthy as we are, and our predecessors.”  One can only imagine that the holy and saintly bishop did indeed forgive them from his place in eternity, as he continues to intercede for those who ask his prayers.  Man of God is a powerful story which will certainly touch your heart and inspire your faith.   

image: Icons of Saints Nicholas and Nektarios in Vavedenje (Belgrade), photo by Andrija1234567 (GFDL or GFDL), via Wikimedia Commons

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Fr. Edward Looney is a priest in the Diocese of Green Bay, a Marian theologian, author, columnist, media personality, podcaster, film enthusiast, and fellow pilgrim. He is the host of the podcast, Hey Everybody! It’s Fr. Edward. You can follow him on social media at the handle @FrEdwardLooney.

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