"Saintly Unmercenaries and Wonder Workers, regard our infirmities; freely you have received, freely share with us."
It is during the month of November that we should pause for a moment to thank the stewards throughout our holy Archdiocese who serve as members of the Philoptochos Society. It was in November 1931 that the late Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras I, who was then serving as Archbishop of North and South America, established the Philoptochos Society. Their purpose was clear; they were to become the official philanthropic organization of our Church in the Western Hemisphere. This year, we celebrate their 70th anniversary and, in so doing, we recognize their efforts in providing a ministry that serves the philanthropic, humanitarian, and Christian mission of our Church.
The selection of Ss. Kosmas and Damian as patron saints of the Philoptochos Society was a prudent and admirable choice. Their lives exemplified the meaning of Christian service and dedication. Let us take a closer look at these two saints so that we, too, might renew our conviction to be better Christian Orthodox stewards.
Born in Asia Minor of a pagan father and a Christian mother, these two brothers lived during the early years of the Christian Church. When their father died, their mother devoted her time and energy to giving the boys a Christian education. They were both recognized for their intelligence that led them to pursue studies in medicine. The combination of their faith in Jesus Christ, along with their academic aptitude, convinced them that healing came from God! They promised to offer their medical skills to all people without payment and, in this way, they would fulfill Christ’s teaching: "Freely you have received, freely give" (Matt. 10:8).
How was it that they could minister to people without payment? Ss. Kosmas and Damian inherited their fairly sizeable parents’ estate, but it was not so great that they could be careless with their spending. Vowing to minister to people freely meant that they had to be prudent stewards in managing this estate. There would be no extra money for luxuries that they could afford if they charged their patients even a nominal medical fee; for this reason, they were named the "unmercenaries."
The medical assistance they provided was offered as an expression of prayer and faith in Jesus Christ, the Healer of both soul and body. During the many years of service, it became evident that they attributed their work not to the medical achievements of their time but to the healing power of our Lord and Savior. All the people, Christians and non-Christians alike, respected the brothers for their generosity and abilities. Their lives were long and their ministry was an inspiration for generations to come. Consider the fact that within a few centuries following their life, there were two more sets of Christian brothers named after them. In each of these cases, the brothers pursued medical carreers and ministered to the people free of charge. The one set of brother lived in Rome and they are commemorated on July 1, while the second set of brothers was from Arabia, and they are remembered on October 17.
In remembrance of Ss. Kosmas and Damian, we express our appreciation to the members of the Philoptochos Society and all the stewards of our parishes who freely contribute countless hours and effort. As Ss. Kosmas and Damian reached out to those in need, may we also reach out to all people and embrace them with the love of Christ our God.
To learn more about the stewardship of the saints, click here.