February 6, 2013
Feast of Saint Photios
Saint Photios National Shrine Day
To the Most Reverend Hierarchs, the Reverend Priests and Deacons, the Monks and Nuns, the Presidents and Members of the Parish Councils of the Greek Orthodox Communities, the Distinguished Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Day, Afternoon, and Church Schools, the Philoptochos Sisterhoods, the Youth, the Hellenic Organizations, and the entire Greek Orthodox Family in America
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
On this feast of Saint Photios, we commemorate him as holy and learned man who remained focused on the mission of the Church and the message of the Gospel even in the midst of great turmoil. As Patriarch of Constantinople he was confronted with political intrigue and ecclesiastical controversies. But his faithfulness to God and his spiritual strength and wisdom guided the Church in her apostolic mission. Even at the height of attacks against him and his efforts to uphold truth, he promoted among other things the evangelization of the Slavs by sending Saints Cyril and Methodios from Thessalonike to central Europe to preach the Gospel and lead the people to the faith.
The blessed witness of Saint Photios affirms the witness of many other Saints. It is a witness of the power of faith in the midst of great challenges. It is a witness that is also a part of the story of Greek Americans. We have been the beneficiaries of the freedom, security, and opportunity offered in this country. But we are also blessed by the legacy of many of Hellenic descent who came to this land seeking a better life. Their story is one of hardship and struggle in establishing homes, businesses and communities. It is also a story of hope and faith. Even in the midst of tremendous challenges, our forbearers in this land built churches and community centers, places to gather for fellowship, prayer, and worship. In a place far from their homeland, they nurtured faith in God and hope in His love and provision.
This heritage is the foundation for the growth and strength of our Church in America today, and it is a heritage that has been preserved and promoted in a special way by our beloved Saint Photios National Shrine in St. Augustine, Florida. For three decades, this institution of our Holy Archdiocese has connected us to the earliest Greek immigrants to America along with offering a witness of the strength of our faith in God and the unique character of our Greek American presence in this country. This mission continues today through conferences, exhibits, and services, and through a beautiful facility which was visited by over 120,000 people in 2012.
The ministry and programs of the Saint Photios National Shrine have also been blessed by many faithful throughout the Archdiocese who have given generously of their time and resources. These offerings have been an affirmation of the priority of preserving and promoting our presence in America. They are also an example to all of how this presence of struggle and hope, of challenge and faith, can be shared within our own Greek American community and with our brothers and sisters in this country.
On this feast day of Saint Photios, the patron saint of the Shrine, I ask you to offer your prayers and your gifts for this vital work. I also invite you to connect with the Shrine through its programs, web site, and especially through a visit to see and experience its mission. I also encourage you to make connections with our heritage and presence in America. Through the Saint Photios Shrine and other resources, your hearts will be filled with gratitude and inspired by the endurance, determination, hope and faith of those who brought our Hellenic legacy and our Orthodox faith to this great land.
With paternal love in Him,
Archbishop of America