Greek Orthodox priest reflects on a life of religious service and on the challenges to his faith.
At the tender age of 12, Stathakios (The Gift of the Present, 2015) entered a monastery on the Greek island of Patmos, where he spent the next seven years. He then moved to Boston to attend a theological school, attended medical school as well, and ultimately became a Greek Orthodox priest. Along the way, he says, he was persistently nagged by doubts regarding his faith and compelled to interrogate his religious beliefs through the prism of reason. His dissatisfaction with the Greek Orthodox Church itself—its sectarian divisions, hypocrisy, and pettiness—only exacerbated his inner conflict. First and foremost, this book is a memoir that not only charts Stathakios’ life as a priest, but also as a husband and a father. In addition, it’s an assemblage of philosophical mediations on religious life, replete with extended discussions of prayer, the place of the supernatural in Christian theology, and the relationship between faith and reason. One of its highlights is a provocative reinterpretation of Jesus’ performance of miracles that emphasizes their symbolic, rather than magical, properties. Also, Stathakios’ critique of the Greek Orthodox Church, and by extension, institutional religion, is particularly engaging given his privileged perch as an insider. The work as a whole is somewhat disjointed; it seems to peripatetically wander from subject to subject, and sometimes the author recounts conversations at lengths that will challenge readers’ attention. However, the prose is clear and refreshingly forthcoming: “Alas, priesthood would be awesome if not for the people.” Overall, this book is a confession in the classic, Augustinian sense: part remembrance and part searching examination of life itself.
A quirky, meditative look at priestly existence.