Matchmaker, Matchmaker, Make me a Match…: St. Phanourios and the long wished for Husband
Last time, I wrote about how St. Phanourios helped me through a series of personal crises that, as they often do, all spilled out at once. I was jobless, looking for work, had run out of money, and my health was crumbling, with a 50/50 chance of having cancer. St. Phanourios’ prayers were of great effect. Within time, I was assured I did not have cancer, I got a contract job and was financially afloat again. At that point, I talked to my spiritual father about what to do. I really wanted to stay in Ottawa but did not have full time work. He advised a daily routine of prayer and trusting God to provide for me as the days went on, understanding His provision might not be through a steady full-time job but by contracts here and there.
As I began living this way, I went to a beloved church friend’s baby shower; her first baby, a boy, long awaited3! I had a friend at this party who had met her husband when she was 34. I was 34, and told some friends at the shower that I really wanted to get married—I felt like it was really time. My church friends immediately said they would pray for me about this. That very night, I got an email unlike any I had gotten before. The email told me of a man who I had a lot of similarities to, I was astounded! I did 4 things, (other than emailing the person back) in quick succession: I emailed my priest and spiritual father, I called my Mother, my sister-friend and my Ottawa Ukrainian Mother! (“I got this email about this man!!!). Within two months, my father confessor gave me his blessing to know this man, if I was willing to leave Ottawa, and only if I was. I agreed, and emails commenced a few weeks later between myself and “this man.”
I never dreamed of having such a chance to even meet such a man; yet the dream was there; it all started a few years before, when I was at Holy Dormition Monastery for their feast day in August.4,5 I had a ride from a (very much younger) man who, given that we were both coming from Grand Rapids, Michigan, where the Christian Reformed Church (CRC) first began6, was just like me—a CRC convert to Eastern Orthodoxy. I remember thinking, in passing, that it would be nice to meet someone closer to my age that would have grown up CRC but converted to the Eastern Orthodox Church. Meanwhile, little did I know that in New Jersey there was a CRC convert to the Orthodox Church who was praying every night, asking the prayers of St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco for a wife….
That August, my sister-friend and I went to a Greek Monastery together. Being on the Julian calendar7, I had not realized that it was St. Phanourios’ day. My sister-friend listened to me talk all about “this man that I was emailing” and she lovingly, with good humour, asked if I liked him….and yes, I really did. I’d never dated in my life, and my list for what I wanted in a man was only getting longer. This list included: Orthodox Christian, went to Sunday liturgy and Saturday vespers, on the conservative side of things, smart, trustworthy. My dream list would have included: loved kids, monasteries, was a Dutch-American Christian Reformed Church convert to Eastern Orthodoxy like myself, from a stable family, with a professional job, bookish, quiet and kind. Well, the Lord sure could engineer things: this man I was emailing was all of these. Just like my Dutch-American family, half his family had immigrated from Holland to Canada. So many connections!
Back to the glorious day in August: there I was, with my dear sister-friend on our way to the monastery in Quebec on a beautifully sunny day… she was expecting her third child, I was about to start a new job,we were happy to be going to the monastery together….and I was emailing “this man from New Jersey!” I was so excited when I realized that it was St. Phanourios’ day! They had the bread for him out in the courtyard. I went into the small beautiful chapel there, and saw a small icon of St. Phanourios propped up on the ledge by the icon of Christ on their iconostasis 8. While I had prayed formal prayers to St. Phanourios before, that day my prayer was much more spontaneous. It went like this: “please, please, please, I really like him, his name is ___, please, please, please, I really like him…He’s Orthodox! … please, please, please….”
My prayer was spontaneous, heart-felt; nothing profound, just a girl who was so taken by an Orthodox man writing her emails. It so happened that this “man I was emailing” knew a novice at this monastery, the then-Novice C. He had known her since she was a small blond curly-haired four-year-old, and he was like an uncle to her family. She had been a novice at this monastery for some time. Being the man he is, he asked me to pass on his greetings. So I asked the Abbess there to pass on his greetings, saying that this man I am emailing knew her. She looked at me, and simply said, “tell him to come here”.
So… I did. I emailed the man and said, “Mother T. said for you to come to her monastery.” Well, that did it. The man I was emailing wrote back to me “maybe I can meet you there”. MEET ME? You want to meet me? And so it began: I soon got the email: He likes me. And I find myself in love. So we began dating, writing a prodigious amount of emails along the way. Soon after, it was labour day weekend, early September. Newly dating (not yet having met in person), I told my spiritual father that we were dating. I asked him, so do you think a year and then have the wedding? My priest thought that sounded about right! A month later, to my hairdresser, I think I may get married in about a year, can you do my hair for the wedding? (The man I was emailing, and was now dating, had no idea of either conversation till much later!). Well, time went on, this man was passing with flying colours, we met each other’s family, he came to Ottawa, I went to New Jersey, we met in Michigan…and before we knew it, we were planning our wedding. The date we chose was Sunday September 9, 2012. One day I got curious. What Saints day were we getting married on? Who but St. Phanourios whom I had prayed to months before, please, please, please, I really like him, He’s Orthodox, please, please, please…
That summer I went back to Holy Dormition Monastery and met a woman, older than myself, there. She had married a man older than herself (just as I was about to) and loved St. Phanourios. She told me how Saint Phanourios had helped her many times her life. She was a new widow; I remember how she prayed for many who had departed this life, often praying for those who had no one to pray for them. I was really impressed with that. She asked for my address and for our wedding, sent us a beautiful icon of St. Phanourios, done by the iconographer who also did the Trapeza icons at Holy Dormition Monastery. This icon is now in our bedroom and is a reminder of how Saint Phanourios has helped many people throughout the years and is another sign of the blessing of St. Phanourios on our marriage and for our life together.
And so St. Phanourios became the patron saint of our marriage, of our family. My life changed dramatically as I married and moved to New Jersey. I left my spiritual home of 7 years, my spiritual father, my city and country to become my Husband’s wife; we had already become each other’s best friend. In my final essay on St. Phanourios I hope to share more about how his prayers and presence personally impacted our lives as we live out our married lives here in Northern New Jersey. It is wonderful to see how St. Phanourios’ prayers not only helped me find my way but find my husband! God is glorious in His Saints!
(1) Elizabeth Roosje. “Revealer of Light: St. Phanourios”. Conciliar Post. WordPress. November 3, 2016. http://conciliarpost.com/journeys-of-faith/revealer-of-light-st-phanourios/
(2) Elizabeth Roosje. “Saint Phanourios: a Friend in Suffering and One Who Finds What is Lost”.Conciliar Post. WordPress. November 17, 2016. http://conciliarpost.com/journeys-of-faith/saint-phanourios-friend-suffering-one-finds-lost/
(3) Elizabeth Roosje “Summer Strawberry Lemon Cake.” Roosje: Little Rose. Blogger. Saturday, May 28, 2011. https://eroosje.blogspot.com/2011/05/summer-strawberry-lemon-cake.html
(4) The feast day being the Dormition of the Mother of God, August 15th on the ‘new’ calendar (modified Gregorian to be exact).
(5) Elizabeth Roosje. “Thankful”. Roosje: Little Rose, Blogger, Sunday, August 15, 2010. https://eroosje.blogspot.com/2010/08/thankful.html
(6) Wikipedia, s.v. “Christian Reformed Church in North America,” last modified April 17, 2017, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_Reformed_Church_in_North_America#History
(7) The Julian calendar being 13 days behind the Gregorian and civil calendar.
(8) Iconostasis is the word for ‘icon screen’, the wall-like screen with three doors in it, that is before the altar in an Orthodox Church.