June 7th: Saint Paisios-Panagis Basias of Kefallonia

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Saint Panagis Basias was son of the pious and wealthy couple Michael Typaldos-Basias and Regina Delaporta. He was born in Lixouri, Kefallonia in 1801.

Because his wealth afforded him an excellent education, Panagis received very good theological and philosophical training and learned to speak Italian, French and Latin besides his native Greek language. At the age of 20 he began his career as a grammar school teacher due to his linguistic skills. Soon he became inspired by the radical preaching of Kosmas Flamiatos and Eusebios Panas, two men of the Church who believed that the British occupying the Ionian Islands at the time were essentially tyrants attempting to undermine the population’s Orthodox faith with Protestant teachings. As a result, he left his official teaching post, and continued his mission by giving lessons privately at home.

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At the age of 26 Panagis, following his father’s death, felt a natural inclination as well as the influence from the character of the great ascetics of Kefallonia Saints Gerasimos and his neighbor Saint Anthimos, to leave everything behind and go to the tiny island Vlahernon off the coast of Livathos. This monastery was used as a place of exile for clergymen by the British rulers. Exiled on the island at that time was the famous cleric Nikolaos Kantounis from Zakynthos. However, his widowed mother’s and orphaned sister’s pleas forced him to cut short his stay at Vlahernon. He returned to the world but his entire life proved to be a continuous ascetic striving and adherence to the monastic existence he had chosen. He returned to Lixouri in 1828-9 and soon thereafter was ordained a Reader.

In 1836 he was ordained as a deacon and a priest by the Archbishop of Kefallonia, Parthenios Makris. Upon his ordination he was given the name “Paisios”. He then served as priest at the Monastery of Saint Spyridon in Plati Gialo near Lixouri where he originally intended to serve as a monk. There he liturgized and preached on a daily basis, spending the remaining time of his day visiting the homes of the faithful who were in need of comfort, charity, spiritual guidance, relief and compassion. He was an exceptional confessor who impressed the image of Christ upon the souls of the faithful.

Throughout his life Saint Panagis gave himself over to charity work and ministry towards the sick and suffering, even distributing his entire wealth to the needy.

God had granted him the gift of prophecy which he used to foretell future events to those around him, something that is mentioned in the proposal for his sainthood. Reflections of his many miracles, prophecies and accounts of his devout life are still with us. With his gift of clairvoyance he was able to read the hearts of the faithful and expose their private sins so as to gently lead them to repentance.

His widespread fame as a miracle worker forced him to claim mental illness ten years after his ordination in 1846 though in reality he became a “fool for Christ’s sake”, embracing what many saintly men before him had in order to avoid the fall into arrogance and egotism. During this time he was tortured by a nervous breakdown and was deprived of sleep walking the streets at night and shouting out loud, among other things. When he would come back to his senses it was as if he was in terrible fear and weakness. However his biographer and contemporary, Father Zisimos Typaldos, informs us that the faithful understood this to be a test and were not bothered by it. During these times the faithful would still come to him and with devotion kiss his hand. They knew this was a test many Saints of the past had endured for a life of humility, what Saint Paul called “a thorn in the flesh”(2 Cor. 12:7).

On May 21, 1864 he experienced the joy of the Union of the Ionian islands with Greece, a goal he had worked hard for by preaching and cultivating the Orthodox tradition during a period of political and social turmoil.

Father Basias had lived with his widowed sister in Lixouri until 1861 when she passed away. Before this and after he lived with his cousin Andreas Typaldos-Basias during which time he was given money by insurance to be taken care of (1864). The devastating earthquakes of Palliki in 1867 destroyed his house and forced him to live as a guest from then on, “poor but enriching others” and “having nothing and having it all”, in the house of his cousin John Geroulanos (he was the father of the famous surgeon Marinos Geroulanos). This John was the son of the sister of Father Paisios’ mother Regina. In return for the kind hospitality of his cousin John and his family, Father Paisios became a protector of the household and aided them with his prophetic and healing gifts (he had saved John’s life when he was sick years earlier and near death and even married John to his wife). John considered the hospitality he was giving as if he was giving it to the Lord Jesus himself. Among his prophecies was that he foretold to John that his son Marinos would become “a great, great man” and often repeated this. The Geroulanos family highly honored the Saint and to this day their descendants pay special reverence to him. The son of Marino, John, was born in 1904 and became the care-taker of the Church of Saint Spyridon, where Father Paisios liturgized following his departure from the Monastery in Plati Gialo , and the tomb of the Saint. They allow the faithful to this day to visit his memorable house and the room (or what the faithful refer to as his “cell”) he stayed in for the rest of his life.

Between 1882-1887 he remained prostrate and confined to his bed, during which time many visited him to receive counsel, confess their sins and seek his prayers. He endured this trial with patience and perseverance. Day and night the door to his cell was always open by his request so that anyone could come to him at any time as was needed.

He passed away peacefully on June 7, 1888 at the age of 88 years old in Lixouri. At a massively attended funeral service held over three days, the eulogy was delivered by the Metropolitan of Kefalonia Germanos Kalligas. Day and night the faithful came to pay their respects over a period of 50 hours or so without stopping, and many photos were taken of this event of which one is known to be preserved.

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The Saint’s praises were delivered by Archbishop Germanos Kalligas, Father Zisimos Typaldos (his biographer) and written by Amilkas Alivizatos, Father Elias Mastrogianopoulos, the Lixourian born Bishop of Trikki and Staggon Cheroubim Anninos and the Reverend Konstantinos Gellis.

The radiance of his personality was so immense that even the satyric poet Andreas Laskaratos, known for his anti-tradition and anti-clergy views, noted in footnote 6 of his book The Mysteries of Kefallonia that: “I have honored and loved virtue every time I found it in the clergy”.

His pious life and the repetitions of the miracles he performed remained alive in the conscience of devout Christians for the next 88 years, leading the son of Marinos, John Geroulanos, to request the transfer of his relics to the Church of Saint Spyridon in Lixouri. The Metropolitan of Kefallonia Prokopios Menoutis had his sacred remains transferred on June 6, 1976.

The procedure to recognize Panagis’ official sainthood by the Ecumenical Patriarchate was delayed by unfortunate ecclesiastical problems in Kefallonia. After his enthronement, the new peacemaker Metropolitan of Kefallonia Spyridon, performed with full honors the sainthood induction ceremonies on September 7, 1986. The ceremonies, following the Patriarchal and Synodal Decree issued on February 4, 1986, were attended by representatives of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Holy Synod, and a large number of bishops.

Relics of Saint Panagis Basias

Relics of Saint Panagis Basias

 

The Church of Saint Spyridion where Saint Panagis served as a priest.

The Church of Saint Spyridion where Saint Panagis served as a priest.

 

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