An Interview with Troy Polamalu
The Mane Man
Pittsburgh Magazine, August 2009
JOURNEY TO ORTHODOXY
Football is a given: How was this year’s Super Bowl experience versus XL? Tomlin versus Cowher? Goals for the coming season?
Fatherhood is new in Polamalu’s life since the birth of his son, Paisios, named after a beloved contemporary Greek Orthodox monastic, Elder Paisios, on Oct. 31, 2008. Has daddy-dom been life-changing? Will he encourage his son to play professional sports? How’s that
beautiful new mom doing?
And last but not least: Faith. In order to properly meet Polamalu where he lives, this is the requisite, the grounding force that gives meaning to everything he does, every play he makes. Polamalu’s evident gratitude to the one who made him is marbled throughout our talk – from his training regime to his travels to Mount Athos, a monastic site in Greece, a place he calls “heaven on earth.”
While he has a reputation for being one of the NFL’s fiercest players, Polamalu would prefer “Tasmanian angel” over “Tasmanian devil” because his ball game is about glorifying God. “Football is part of my life but not life itself,” he says. “Football doesn’t define me. It’s what I do [and] how I carry out my faith.”
Whether shooting a Coke Zero commercial or running up the sand hills on Continue reading “The Mane Man – An Interview with Troy Polamalu of Pittsburg Steelers Team, Samoa & USA – Journey to Orthodoxy”
USA OF MY HEART
AUSTRALIA & ST PAISIOS OF MY HEART
AMERICA OF MY HEART
Ὁ Ἅγ. Νικόλαος Βελιμίροβιτς γράφει: «Ὅπως χαίρονται οἱ γονεῖς, ὅταν κάποιος ἀγαπάη καί ἐπαινῆ τά παιδιά τους, ἔτσι καί ὁ Κύριος χαίρεται, ὅταν τά παιδιά του, οἱ ἄνθρωποι, ἀγαποῦν καί δοξάζουν τούς ἁγίους Του. Χαίρεται μέ τόν ἴδιο τρόπο ὅπως ὅταν δοξάζουν τόν Ἴδιο. “Ὁ δεχόμενος ὑμᾶς, ἐμέ δέχεται”(Μθ 10, 40) εἶπε, καί ὅποιος δοξάζει τούς ἁγίους τοῦ Χριστοῦ τό Χριστό δοξάζει».
Ἀπό τό βίο τοῦ Ἁγ. Παϊσίου τοῦ Ἁγιορείτου:
«[Προτεστάντης:]—Ἐσεῖς οἱ Ὀρθόδοξοι… προσκυνᾶτε τίς Εἰκόνες καί νομίζετε ὅτι μποροῦν νά κάνουν θαύματα! Κι ἀκόμα χειρότερα συμπεριφέρεσθε μέ τά λείψανα τῶν ἁγίων σας, τά ὁποῖα, ἄν καί πολλές φορές ἔχουν ἀκόμη καί ἄλιωτες σάρκες, χωρίς νά σιχαίνεσθε, τά ἀσπάζεσθε! Ὅλα αὐτά δείχνουν ὅτι ἐσεῖς, οἱ ὀρθόδοξοι, βρίσκεσθε σέ μεγάλη πλάνη!…
—Δέν μοῦ λές…: Στό σπίτι σου ἔχεις φωτογραφίες ἀπό τούς γονεῖς σου, ἀπό τά ἀδέλφια σου, ἀπό τά παιδιά σου, ἀπό τούς φίλους σου;
—Βεβαίως κι ἔχω!
—Αἴ, ἐμεῖς γιατί νά μήν ἔχουμε “φωτογραφίες” ἀπό τόν πατέρα μας, τόν Κύριό μας, τή μητέρα μας, τήν Παναγία καί τ᾽ ἀδέλφια μας, τούς ἁγίους καί μάρτυρες; Γιατί νά μήν ἔχουμε τίς εἰκόνες τους, γιά νά τούς βλέπουμε, νά τούς θυμώμασθε καί νά παρακαλοῦμε νά μᾶς βοηθήσουν; Κι ὅσο πιό θερμά, βλέποντας τίς εἰκόνες τῶν ἁγίων, τούς παρακαλοῦμε, τόσο περισσότερο ἐκεῖνοι μᾶς βοηθοῦν. Κι ἐπειδή ἦταν γεμᾶτοι “μέχρι τό μεδούλι”, ἀπό Θεία Χάρι, γι᾽ αὐτό ἀσπαζόμασθε τά ἅγια λείψανά τους, ὥστε νά ἀποκτήσουμε κι ἐμεῖς λίγη Χάρι. Κι ἄν, μάλιστα, τύχη ὁ συγκεκριμένος ἅγιος νά ἔχη κι ἄφθαρτο λείψανο, τόση περισσότερη χάρι ἔχει· κι ἐμεῖς, μέ τή σειρά μας, προσκυνώντας το τήν παίρνουμε!».
° Ἀκόμα: «—Ἡ Ὀρθόδοξη Ἐκκλησία προσκυνάει τίς Εἰκόνες. Εἶναι σωστό:
—[Ἅγ. Παΐσιος:] Ἄκου. Ἡ μάνα πού ἔχει τό παιδί της στόν πόλεμο, φοβᾶται γι᾽ αὐτό νύκτα-μέρα. Ἔχει πολλή ἀγωνία. Ξαφνικά παίρνει ἕνα γράμμα ἀπό τό παιδί της μέ μιά φωτογραφία του μέσα. Ὅταν τή βλέπει τί κάνει; Τήν πιάνει στά χέρια της καί τή φιλεῖ, τή βάζει στόν κόρφο της ν᾽ ἀγγίξη τήν καρδιά της. Αἴ, τί νομίζεις; Αὐτή ἡ μάνα μέ τέτοιο φλογερό πόθο πού ἔχει γιά τό παιδί της πιστεύει ὅτι φιλεῖ τή φωτογραφία; Τό ἴδιο τό παιδί της πιστεύει ὅτι φιλεῖ. Τό ἴδιο πιστεύει καί ὅποιος ἔχει φλογερό πόθο γιά τήν Παναγία καί τόν ἅγιο τούς ὁποίους προσκυνάει. Δέν προσκυνᾶμε τίς εἰκόνες γιατί εἶναι εἰκόνες, ἀλλά γιά τούς ἁγίους. Καί αὐτούς ὄχι γιατί εἶναι τά πρόσωπα πού εἶναι, ἀλλά γιατί ἀγωνίσθηκαν γιά τό Χριστό. Ὁ Θεός εἶναι ζηλότυπος, εἶναι ἀλήθεια. Ὄχι, ὅμως, γιά τούς δικούς Του, ἀλλά γιά τό διάβολο. Ὁ πατέρας δέν ζηλεύει τά δικά του παιδιά. Μήν ἀνησυχεῖς, ὁ Κύριος χαίρεται ὅταν σέ βλέπη νά σέβεσαι καί ν᾽ ἀγαπᾶς τή Μάνα Του καί τούς Ἁγίους».
Ἀρχιμ. Ἰωάννου Κωστώφ
ἐκδ. Ἁγ. Ἰωάννης ὁ Δαμασκηνός
HAWAII OF MY HEART
Photo: Honolulu, Hawaii, USA
Akathist Hawaiian Iveron Icon of Virgin Mary in Connecticut, USA
Hawaii’s miracle icon
Sung in St. Panteleimon Church, Hartford, CT October 19, 2012. Protopriest Dionisiy Nalitov with Father Constantine Semyanko, Father Brendan Crowley and Father Kevin Kalish serving. Choir under the direction of Nicholas Semyanko.
SAINT PAISIOS OF MOUNT ATHOS
2013: A new miracle of Saint Paisios of Greece in Florida, USA
I held off talking about this miracle by Elder Paisios publicly until the miracle was complete, which it nearly is. I was asked to write an account of the miracle to be included in the papers sent to the Ecumenical Patriarchate where a decision will be made soon on the canonization of Elder Paisios as a Saint. I offer it here for the glory of God and the edification of the reader.
[July 9, 2015. Elder Paisios is now St. Paisios of Mt. Athos. He was canonized January 13, 2015 and his feast day is celebrated on July 12]
* * *
December 18, 2013
Naples, Florida USA
Early morning on April 2, 2013 I looked down at my phone and saw a text from Jeremiah’s mother Patti, “Jeremiah was in a bad car accident. We are on the way to the hospital.” Jeremiah was 23 years old at the time. She had just received the news from the police who came to her door to tell her.
I rushed to the hospital. Soon the rest of Jeremiah’s family arrived and we got the news. It did not look good. Jeremiah’s car hit the curb, rolled three times, and the paramedics found him sitting outside the car barely conscious. He had multiple skull fractures, slipped into unconsciousness and was laying on the gurney in the emergency room.
I told the family that this was a desperate time but in desperate times we pray and we are going to ask God to save Jeremiah. Then we prayed and I anointed Jeremiah with oil. It was foggy that morning so the helicopter could not fly Jeremiah to the trauma center in nearby Fort Myers. They drove him instead.
The next three days were touch and go. We did not know if Jeremiah was going to live. Meanwhile, Dimitri, a friend of Jeremiah’s in Greece heard about the accident and told Jeremiah’s sister Emily about Elder Paisios, particularly how the Elder helped many young people in car accidents in Greece who suffered brain injuries. Emily told me.
Dimitri told Emily what to do. Get a picture of Elder Paisios (Dimitri sent one by email) and put it in his hospital room and ask for his direct intercession. I pinned the picture on the bed near the side of Jeremiah’s head that was injured. We started to ask for the Elder’s intercession on Jeremiah’s behalf to God. A week later the oil arrived that Dimitri sent from the monastery where the Elder spent his last days in Greece and we annointed Jeremiah with it. Through Dimitri, Elder Paisios came to us.
Thousands of prayers were said for Jeremiah and we added ours to them. I could tell the day that Elder Paisios joined in, or at least when I became aware he was with us. It was as if the weight of the prayers lifted somehow, something I call “calling in the cavalry” – an American term that means that we are joined by fighters on horseback who sit higher and see the battlefield more clearly and make the prospect of victory tangible. This happened on the third day. We could sense the Elder’s presence and strength with us. Some nurses remarked they could feel a power in Jeremiah’s room.
We prayed and anointed Jeremiah daily. This was a particularly difficult time for his family but hope did not wane even though there were times of doubt and exhaustion. Jeremiah was in an induced coma for five weeks to give his brain time to heal and we waited with great anticipation for his return to consciousness so that we could get a sense of the extent of his injuries and healing.
Photo: Elder Paisios of Mount Athos, Greece, +1994
Jeremiah’s first liturgy
after the accident
Finally the time came to wean him off his medication. It would take three days for the sedation to clear his body. On the third day Jeremiah’s awareness returned. A test of a person’s brain function after a serious injury is whether he can respond to commands. As I entered the room I asked Jeremiah to give me a “thumbs up.” He lifted his thumb. Then I asked him to make his cross. He made it. We knew then that we might be witnessing a miracle.
Recovery was steady and after a few months Jeremiah was released from the hospital and went to the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, Georgia (a hospital specializing in brain injuries). There the doctors openly said that his survival and the extent of his healing was a miracle. On August 15, 2013 the portion of his skull that was removed a few days after his accident (to allow the brain to swell) was reattached. The surgeon told Jeremiah that 95% of his patients who had the kind of injury that he experienced do not survive. The other 5% another doctor told me are usually institutionalized for the rest of their lives.
Today (December 18, 2013) Jeremiah is fishing off the Gulf of Mexico with his friends. His healing is almost complete. We expect a full and complete recovery.
We are filled with gratitude to God and His servant Elder Paisios for Jeremiah’s healing. We are grateful for the self-revelation of God to the family and friends of Jeremiah –- an event that exceeds our comprehension to grasp entirely but which we see in countless ways. Our Lord has touched hundreds of lives and some have been changed.
May God be glorified in all things.
Fr. Johannes L. Jacobse
ST PAISIOS OF MOUNT ATHOS
Saint Paisios of Mount Athos, Greece (+1994)
Fr. Peter Heers, USA
Fr. Peter Heers; a talk given at St. John the Wonderworker Orthodox Church (OCA), Atlanta, Georgia, May 10,2012, about the book he edited, “Elder Paisios of Mount Athos”, now available in English.