Growing up I was blessed to have many mentors and guides in the Faith. One of my role models was, and continues to be, my grandmother Nikonia, whose life helped shape my commitment to Christ.
I would often stay at my grandmother’s house for weeks at a time during summer vacation. She would take me to church services on Sunday. On weekdays she would rise early, offer her daily prayers, and cense the house. Since I slept in the room with the icon corner, my grandmother would unintentionally wake me from a deep sleep during censing. One day I asked her why she was praying since it was not Sunday. She responded lovingly, “God blesses us seven days a week. Should we not do the same?” I learned at that moment about the importance of daily prayer. In the twenty-four hours God gives each day, certainly we can find a portion of that time to share with God our praise, our problems, our thanks, our love.
My grandmother was very active in her church, participating in choir, Philoptochos, festivals, and other activities, but she made the greatest impression on me when she took me to the hospital to visit people. Being a patient can be lonely, frightening, and painful. The comfort of a friendly visit is usually appreciated. My grandmother and I would visit people she knew, and then she would take the extra step. She would peek into other hospital rooms to see if someone else might benefit from a warm conversation. This spoke volumes about my grandmother’s gifts of compassion, conversation, and concern for others. She modeled for me the importance of using the gifts that God has given us to serve our parish and the community at large.
My grandparents raised their three children during the Depression years of the 1930s. Many people suffered terrible financial hardships during that era. It was a common practice for my grandmother to prepare a plate of food—not the leftovers, but the first fruits—and bring it to those who struggled to support their families. During my childhood, my grandmother continued this practice by preparing covered dishes to deliver to her neighbors in need.
I share these reflections not for sentimental reasons but to highlight how one person, one witness, made a permanent impression on me about Jesus Christ. Faith must be modeled by people we love and trust. Once we see that example in others, we will be inspired to follow suit.
Who are the people that brought you to Christ? What values did they model for you?
Fr. Alexander Goussetis is the director of the Center for Family Care.