Lives of Saints - St. Pankratios, Bishop of Taormina, Sicily Christianity - Books
And if thy hand cause thee to stumble, cut it off: it is good for thee to enter into life maimed, rather than having thy two hands to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire.                where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.                And if thy foot cause thee to stumble, cut it off: it is good for thee to enter into life halt, rather than having thy two feet to be cast into hell.                where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.                And if thine eye cause thee to stumble, cast it out: it is good for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell;                where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.               
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St. Pankratios, Bishop of Taormina, Sicily
   

Among the many who made the journey to Jerusalem to hear the words of Jesus Christ were the parents of an only child whose name, Pankratios, is too little known, despite the fact that not only did he commit himself to Jesus Christ as a boy, but as he grew to manhood, he became a missionary and confidant of the two mightiest saints of Christianity, Sts. Peter and Paul. The parents of the boy, who was to join the company of saints with whom he served the Messiah, made a journey on foot from ancient Antioch to Jerusalem that altered the course of their lives, making devout Christians of the parents and of the son a true servant of the Lord.

Pankratios had come of age when the Messiah was crucified, and although there is no record that he enjoyed the company of the living Christ, he did pledge himself to what was then called the New Faith of the Nazarenes and went forth to preach with a missionary zeal that soon enough drew him to the attention of St. Peter. Pankratios and his parents had the distinction of being baptised by St. Peter who made it a point to visit the family whenever he was in Antioch, a city in which he won so many converts that the name "Christian" supplanted the original Nazarene.

Pankratios was assisted in his missionary work by his father, Markellos, who went so far as to forsake his enterprises and give all his worldly goods to the poor to help his son in full service to Jesus Christ. Other areas were in greater need of missionaries, and to this end, St. Peter ordained Pankratios bishop of Taormina in distant Sicily, there to serve a predominantly Greek colony that knew little or nothing about Jesus Christ. Not one to sit back and gaze out over the sea in contentment, Pankratios preached aboard the ship that carried him to Sicily so that when it made port the vessel's chief officers, Lykaonides and Romulus, were confirmed Christians who made it their business to let every seafarer they could reach hear about the faith of Jesus Christ. The ship had no sooner docked than Pankratios disembarked and set about the Lord's business in a hurry and never slackened his pace until his untimely and brutal death.

It was during his ministry in spiritually darkened Sicily that Pankratios met the magnificent St. Paul, considered by most to be the greatest apostle of Christianity. No higher tribute could have been paid a fellow Christian than to receive the plaudits of St. Paul who commended Pankratios for his most impressive work in introducing Christianity to islanders who for too long had not only been isolated from the mainland but from God's light as well. To convert hidebound pagans of that area, known for their deep seated resentment for mainland intruders into very devout Christians was no small task, but the pagan priests were no match for Pankratios who saw to the rapid elimination of ritualistic temples replaced by the churches of Jesus Christ.

Pankratios had a formidable ally in the magistrate, Bonafatios, whom he had converted to Christianity, in gratitude for which the magistrate enlisted a whole host of labourers whom he supervised in the erection of a new Christian church, a feat accomplished in a thirty- day period. The very sight of this church which seemed to have mushroomed from out of the the earth was awe-inspiring enough to win converts, and the great joy of Pankratios knew no bounds, earning him the respect of even those who hesitated to join the ranks of Christians.

It seems that the Messiah had no sooner departed this earth than there started to appear false prophets here and there and, unfortunately for Pankratios, one such rabble rouser emerged to set himself up as a spurious spiritual leader, finding followers among the hesitant and the easily misled. This affront to God was named Montanos, reputed to have been a Christian priest, perhaps gone mad, whose fanatical followers come to be known as Montanists clinging to the utterances of this chief much as did that unfortunate band in Guyana twenty centuries later.

Driven by their leader not to destroy themselves but to destroy Pankratios, the envy of Montanos, a group of assassins stormed into the Church of Pankratios and brutally murdered him. The courageous bishop of Sicily gave his life for Christ on July 22.

Source: http://www.orthodoxchristian.info

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