“Orphaned at an early age,” this great saint “was raised by a certain good and pious nun.” He “imitated his adoptive mother in the habits of monastic life, in fasting and in prayer,” and grew to be a shepherd of souls, founding a monastery which thrives to this day, over a millennium later.
From this we see how proximity to monasteries through regular pilgrimages can help children and young people — all of us, really — grow in the Life in Christ by cultivating the good habits of the monks and nuns. And who knows, some of us may eventually become monastics ourselves!
Venerable Athanasius the Founder of the Great Lavra and Coenobitic Monasticism on Mt. Athos
OCA.org, Commemorated on July 5; reposed ca. 1003 A.D.:
Saint Athanasius of Athos, in holy Baptism named Abraham, was born in the city of Trebezond. He was orphaned at an early age, and being raised by a certain good and pious nun, he imitated his adoptive mother in the habits of monastic life, in fasting and in prayer. Doing his lessons came easily and he soon outpaced his peers in study.
After the death of his adoptive mother, Abraham was taken to Constantinople, to the court of the Byzantine emperor Romanus the Elder, and was enrolled as a student under the renowned rhetorician Athanasius. In a short while the student attained the mastery of skill of his teacher and he himself became an instructor of youths. Reckoning as the true life that of fasting and vigilance, Abraham led a strict and abstinent life, he slept little and then only sitting upon a stool, and barley bread and water were his nourishment. When his teacher Athanasius through human weakness became jealous of his student, blessed Abraham gave up his teaching position and went away.
During these days there had arrived at Constantinople Saint Michael Maleinos (July 12), igumen of the Kyminas monastery. Abraham told the igumen about his life, and revealed to him his secret desire to become a monk. The holy Elder, discerning in Abraham a chosen vessel of the Holy Spirit, became fond of him and taught him much in questions of salvation. One time during their spiritual talks Saint Michael was visited by his nephew, Nicephorus Phocas, a military officer and future emperor. Abraham’s lofty spirit and profound mind impressed Nicephorus, and all his life he regarded the saint with reverent respect and with love. Abraham was consumed by his zeal for the monastic life. Having forsaken everything, he went to the Kyminas monastery and, falling down at the feet of the holy igumen, he begged to be received into the monastic life. The igumen fulfilled his request with joy and tonsured him with the name Athanasius.