Saint Ioakeim Pappoulakis

29 October 2011

The Blessed Ioakeim, surnamed Pappoulakis, may be included in the catalogue of saints of Vatopaidi, because, although not officially canonised, he is honoured as a local saint in Ithaca. His life was published in 1902 by Panos Raftopoulos, a doctor from Ithaca, under the title The Life and Deeds of Our Holy Father Ioakeim of Ithaca.

The Blessed Ioakeim was born in the village of Kalyvia, then in the Municipality of Polyktoria, on Ithaca, of devout parents in 1786. His baptismal name was Ioannis. He lost his mother while he was still a child, and his father, who was a sea-captain, married again and his second wife hated the young and innocent Ioannis. For this reason she persuaded his father to take him away from the family home since, as she maintained, he was always so busy with his religious duties that he neglected his tasks in the home. Thus the young Ioannis was put to work on someone else’s ship as a cabin-boy and so visited the various ports of the maritime world. One day, the ship on which he worked went to Athos and put in at the harbour of Vatopaidi, where Ioannis took the opportunity of visiting the Monastery and venerating its sacred relics. So charmed was he by what he saw and experienced at the Monastery that he went to the Abbot and asked to stay and become a monk. The Abbot agreed that he should stay, and helped him to fulfil this burning inner desire. As a novice, Ioannis at once began to give evidence of his many gifts and of his suitability for the monastic life, to which he was soon admitted, taking the name of Ioakeim. His discretion, farsightedness and vigour led the Abbot to appoint him counsellor, steward and administrator of the Monastery, until the outbreak of the Revolution, when he was sent by the Monastery to the Peloponnese, in order to support those fighting against the Turks. When the horrors of war were over, Father Ioakeim did not return to Athos, but chose retire to a hesychasterion in the Gouva gorge on Ithaca. There he gave his consolation and support to the simple people who visited him, and soon ‘Pappoulakis’ (Little Grandfather), as he was called, became of figure of interest for the people of Ithaca. Later he moved to Vathy on the island, where he continued his work for the Christian religion and the nation, constantly stirring up the zeal of the Ithacans to achieve union with liberated Greece. To the faint-hearted he prophesied that the British would soon leave the Ionian Islands, without a war. Throughout his stay on the island he played a leading part in the building of churches for the needs of the Ithacans, crowning his achievements with the working of miracles, for which he became famous and much-loved by the islanders. After a life marked by poverty and simplicity, he died on 2 March 1867 and was buried, as he had wished, behind the sanctuary of his beloved Church of St Barbara. The people of Ithaca tell with reverence of the miracles performed – and still performed after his death, even today – by St Ioakeim Pappoulakis15.