In the Church of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul in Daphne, in the Archdiocese of Athens, there is preserved a large, portable icon of St. Anthony the Great with the following dedication on the bottom right: “An offering of gratitude by the sinful Priest Constantine Papantoniou.”
What is the reason for this expression of gratitude by the ever-memorable and particularly philanthropic Priest of our Church? (He remains known as a “ragman” who scavenged in order to help the poor).
The story is as follows: During the severe persecution of the Old Calendarists in 1951-1953, the late Fr. Constantine was arrested, violently stripped of his clerical garb, and was thrown into the “Chatzikostas” Prisons in Athens. His Presbytera Catherine was left alone and helpless to nourish her (then) three children. Presbytera’s parents, being New Calendarists, tried to persuade her to go to jail and pressure Fr. Constantine to accept the New Calendar innovation that he may be freed from prison. They told her the usual: “Have pity on your children. How will they live? ”
In the end, she was persuaded and acted according to the bad counsel of her parents. Fr. Constantine, hearing Presbytera’s words concerning the danger for his children, although he was sorrowful he did not answer her immediately, asking for a little time to think about it. It was the eve of St. Anthony the Great’s Feast Day according to the Patristic Calendar, and at evening he prayed, supplicating St. Antony to enlighten him as to what he should do.
Falling asleep that night he saw St. Anthony who said to him: “Remain where you are and I will get you out of prison!”
On the next day, a certain unknown man paid Fr. Constantine’s bail. Once he was freed, Fr. Constantine met with that unknown man and asked him what his parents’ names are so he can commemorate them. The unknown man did not answer. Then Fr. Constantine sought to learn at least his name so he can commemorate him. The unknown man answered: “Anthony” and he disappeared!
Since then, Fr. Constantine served a Vigil each year on the Feast of St. Anthony the Great: the Wonderworker. He used to tell his spiritual children: “I am with the Patristic Calendar because of St. Anthony!” He ordered the previously mentioned large Icon to be painted.
At the Church of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul in Daphne, St. Anthony continues to be celebrated brilliantly every year, and this year a Hierarchical Divine Liturgy was celebrated.
Translated from the Greek