Saints of the Day: St. Parthenios

(Welcome to our Saint of the Day series! Each weekday, we present you with an excerpt from Fr. George Poulos' Orthodox Saints series, published by Holy Cross Orthodox Press. Today we commemorate St. Parthenios, whose account is found in Volume 3 of the series.)
Saint Parthenios

A pious man noted for his familiarity with nature and its creatures, St. Parthenios led a life as a churchman of distinction whose services to the Savior and to mankind were overshadowed by his devotion as well to the creatures of God, a unique service for the lesser of living beings which makes him no less a saint then his more famous sainted brethren. A man of remarkable intellect and extreme compassion, he was to spread out over his lifetime a spiritual blanket that gave comfort to man and beast, little noted while he lived but discovered shortly after his earthly life to be the work of a saint.

An eighteenth-century cleric, who stood fast in the ranks of those who held high the banner of the Greek Orthodox faith that never wavered in the face of the oppression of Turkish conquest, Parthenios was born in Thessaly, Greece, noted for its civic pride in retention of time-honored traditions.

Brilliantly educated, Parthenios rose in rapid order in the administrative structure of the Church, eventually becoming one of the youngest of archbishops when appointed to Radivision. He soon won the respect of the Islamic authorities and the love of every Greek Orthodox communicant in his archdiocese with his humility, charity and extreme devotion to all that God created.

As much through his love of animals as through asceticism, he was a strict vegetarian, which made the Lenten season superfluous, although on fast days he did without the barest of essentials but managed to remain robust de-spite his abstentions. A lover of nature from childhood, he would from time to time seek solace in the fields. Never a herdsman, he nevertheless developed a love for the sheep, cows, goats and others he would stroke with fondness, even looking with love upon the few beasts in the wild of which he would catch a glimpse from time to time. Eventually, he grew to know the instincts and habits of animals and to detect any of their ailments, so that in the end he was a virtual veterinarian. Early detection and treatment are not always the cure, but prayer, he found, was the best medicine of all and he therefore prayed for every stricken animal, as he would have done for a fellow human being.

If all man’s four-footed friends could voice a choice for a patron saint, their choice would be Parthenios. His ministrations were not confined to those he encountered in the field. When word got around, he was called to tend to some ailing domestic animal, but the cures he was able to effect left no doubt in the minds of many that it was his proximity to God that healed numberless animals. Parthenios was first and foremost a hierarch who was able to cope with the highest of despotic authority and capable of serving as a vicar of Christ. In addition, he was a humble man who found comfort in communing with nature, and took delight in carrying a stray lamb back to the fold. His priority was tending the faithful flock of Greek Orthodox worshipers whose lives were enriched by his presence. His service to God, man and creature came to an end only when he died. His relative obscurity turned into fame only after his death.

Parthenios was interred with no great ceremony alongside the Church of the Unmercenaries, in the town of Velenzikos, a village which had known his presence, especially when there was an animal in need of attention. After the customary three-year period, he was disinterred and, to the amazement of all present, there emanated from his grave a sweet aroma. This was evidence that he was a saint. The news of the remains was sent to the Patriarchate by the townspeople of Velenzikos, who hoped that they would be allowed to enshrine the holy remains in their village.

After due deliberation, the Patriarchate decided that a more suitable final resting place for the remains of the sainted Parthenios would be in a select spot located in the Monastery of Dousikos in Trikkala. But it was further decided that the town of Velenzikos retain the skull of this man who for years had been among them. For a number of years the sacred skull would be brought forth whenever disease broke out amidst cattle and, with priests praying for its dissipation, the disease would vanish. In 1909, a particular virulent disease among cattle broke out, threatening the entire area and again the relics were brought forth and prayers offered, effecting a cure.

Parthenios, who was born in 1777, is commemorated on July 21 of each year.

Text from Fr. George Poulos' Orthodox Saints. Image from Wikipedia.

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