Saint of the Month - St. Sophia the Righteous, May 6
This holy ascetic, newly glorified in 2011, was born as Sophia Saoulidi in 1883 in Trebizond, Turkey. In 1907 she married, but her husband disappeared seven years later, leaving her with a newborn son. Not long afterward her beloved only son also died. Turning from the world, she placed all her trust in God, spending her time in solitary prayer on a mountain near her town.
In 1919 she arrived in Greece as part of the “exchange of populations” between Turkey and Greece following the First World War. As the ship carried the refugees from Asia Minor to Greece a storm hit that put the passengers at great risk. Eventually the storm ceased and everyone survived, but the captain said after making the sign of the cross: "You must have a righteous person among you that saved you", and everyone looked at Sophia who was standing at the corner of the ship the entire journey praying. This incident exists on videotape, where Sophia herself recounts what happened:
"The waves were filled with angels and the Panagia appeared, saying, 'Humanity will be lost, because they are very sinful.' And I said: 'Panagia, let me be lost because I am a sinner, so let the world be saved.'"
Not long after her arrival the Most Holy Theotokos appeared to her in a vision and said, “Come to my house.” When Sophia asked her where to find her house, the Virgin replied, “I am in Kleisoura.” Heeding these holy instructions, Sophia moved to the Monastery of the Nativity of the Theotokos in Kleisoura in northern Greece, where she remained for the rest of her life.
She never took monastic tonsure but lived in the monastery kitchen. She slept only two hours a night, giving over the rest of the night to prayer. She dressed in old, tattered clothes, but if anyone tried to give her better clothing, she would give it away to the poor. Similarly, if anyone gave her money, she would hide it until she could give it to someone in need. She ate very little and showed no interest in food. Worldly people called her “Crazy Sophia,” but those with discernment saw her as a living saint. She was endowed with gifts of healing and prophecy: when visitors would come to her she would greet them by name even if she had never met them before, and would describe their family problems, offering counsel. As with many Saints, she had a special relationship with wild animals, especially with bears in the forest, but also with snakes and birds.
In 1967 she was healed of a painful, life-threatening illness through a vision of the Holy Theotokos, the Archangel Gabriel and St. George. She fell asleep in the Lord on May 6, 1974, after a long life given over to prayer, asceticism and utter poverty. Her relics are enshrined in the monastery where she spent most of her life.
Spiritual Sayings of St. Sophia
"The fear of God makes a person wise. What is the fear of God? Not that one should be afraid of God, but to be afraid to sadden someone, to harm someone, to do them no wrong, and to not make accusations. This is wisdom. After all this, God will illumine you as to what to do in your life."
"Look for and find the poor and gather them and help them. This is what God wants, and not to go to church as if to pray."
"Almsgiving should be in secret, for God alone to know."
"Oh, if you only knew what happened to the Lord on
Wednesday and Friday, you would put nothing in your mouth. Neither bread, nor oil. Do not break the fast of Wednesday and Friday."
"The angels speak every day. God sends the angels to see if people are repenting."
"The Panagia weeps, she weeps every day. She says to her Son: 'My Son and my God, grant the world wisdom, forgive the world.'"
"Let the mouth become basil and a rose."