ROMAN CATHOLICS MET ORTHODOXY
“They must learn, for they do not know”
The conversion of French George Lesier from
Roman Catholicism to Orthodoxy
With this title we publish the letter of Mrs. Catherine Lesier, by which she expresses her thanks for the contribution of our Holy Monastery for the conversion of her reposed husband to the One, Catholic and Apostolic Church, our Orthodox Church.
We used the above title, because it consists of the saying of George Lesier himself, while expressing his pain for his countrymen, himself being French, and because we believe this publication would also help those who have yet to know and taste the Grace of the Holy Spirit.
The conversion of George, of course is by nature the work of the Divine Grace. It is the response of God to his innocent intention, in his personal spiritual struggle which was but an expression of his anticipation for his union with the Holy Church. It is without doubt the fruit of love and of the hearty prayers of his pious wife and of the spiritual fathers and brothers, who anonymously or otherwise, they are referred to in the letter of Mrs. Lesier.
The contribution of our Holy Monastery lies in the divine functioning providence of its New Marmara Metohion at Halkidiki. of the last few years.
We believe that George, as he requested, kept clean the robe of holy baptism and now he reposes in the glory of the Lord. He intercedes for his family, his spiritual brothers but also for his, of the flesh countrymen. “They must learn, because they do not know” he would say when he referred to them. He wished that they all knew, if possible, the Grace of the Holy Spirit which he intensely lived with his holy baptism. Finally George was speaking from experience. For this he was very convincing and he became greatly accepted within his narrow family circle and by his countrymen that came to know him.
We pray that God rest his spirit with the Just and we ask him to pray to God for us who came to love him.
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N. Marmaras 15-3-1993.
My honourable elder George, bless.
I know your time is precious, for this I beg you to forgive me that I make you spend a little time reading my letter.
Personally I thank you for the contribution of your spiritual work at the New Marmara Metohion. I especially thank you and all the fathers of the Monastery, for helping my husband George to come to Orthodoxy and be baptized at 65 years of age. I truly believe I have lived a miracle, because in my twenty years of married life, I had to deal with a very difficult man, especially in religious matters.
When after our wedding – fortunately we married in the Orthodox Church – I learned from someone spiritual that it is a heavy misdemeanour that I had married a heterodox and even as he called him a heretic. I was shaken and I started to feel the weight of my responsibility and guilt. That Spiritual one suggested to me that I should help him get to know Orthodoxy and perhaps if he became Orthodox, that would settle the matter.
I tried as much as I could but it proved impossible. Our visit to the village Church failed and he did not wish that I talk again on such matters.
I stopped trying and I started praying for God to enlighten him, because I could see he was pious, he would pray and he would read the Bible, use the prayer rope, he had a spiritual father in Thessaloniki who used to visit him often and would receive Holy Communion.
When our children came to this world, hope was also born in me that if we baptized our children Orthodox, something would have happened in him too. Unfortunately, he not only did not think something like what I hoped but in the contrary he did not wish to baptize the kids. He insisted that they follow the Roman Catholic faith and threatened that he would take one of the kids and separate. I almost went crazy from sadness and the calamity he threatened of scuttling our family. No one knew or suspected anything. My only refuge was the Lady Theotokos. I would pray with fervour and beg her to help us out of the impasse. I would pray, beg and wait full of anguish and pain for the Sweet Mother of our Lord to show her miracle.
And the answer did not tarry. She enlightened my husband to visit his spiritual father and be advised. It was a very difficult day that would remain unforgettable. The return of my husband filled me with joy. He had decided to baptize the children Orthodox. Everything disappeared as a bad dream and my heart overflowed with giving glory and thanks to our All-Holy Theotokos for her help.
Little by little we began by visiting the Metohion of your monastery. My husband’s heart had softened. He would relax and wish to go there more often. He would visit the neighbouring monasteries and went often to the Holy Mountain. He always returned very happy and he would tell us of everything he heard from the fathers. He was greatly impressed by the miraculous icons and would be tearful when he described something about them.
I understood that the Divine Grace started visiting him. He had a great wish to learn as much as he could. He struggled greatly. He would seldom sleep, would pray a lot, fasted and he would almost eat nothing and at night he would do the prayer rope.
I begged the Theotokos to give him patience, to strengthen his faith and to help him to the end, to his baptism.
When he decided to be baptized, our happiness was indescribable. However the temptations and obstacles would fight us day and night without ceasing. Here I must thank warmly the fathers who at that time were at Metohion, and to ask their forgiveness because we had burdened them very much. He felt a great respect for the Agiorite fathers and the Orthodox monastics.
He would discover a lot of things that as a Roman Catholic he never felt. For this when two young children who came from France, visited him shortly after his baptism, he told them: “Don’t ask too much about Orthodoxy. Only hurry up and get baptized, because I committed a mistake by waiting so long to do so. Those youths today dressed in the monastic schema, serve the Lord somewhere at the Holy Mountain.
After many obstacles and continuous postponements it should be noted during the day set for the baptism, the weather was foul, it snowed a lot, and for this it was suggested that it be postponed – the much awaited day for George’s day when he would finally become Orthodox Christian, had arrived. His yierning was so great that when the Abbess of the Holy Annunciation of the Theotokos Monastery at Ormylia suggested that he be baptized on Pascha when the weather would be warmer George answered: “I cannot wait any longer. If you refuse to baptize me I shall remain here until you will baptize me.
Thus, with the help of God, the prayers of the fathers and the love of all his people, George entered the Holy Mystery, at the dawn of the Sunday of Orthodoxy. The morning the temperature was quite a few degrees below zero. The baptism was outdoors and the water was icy. We asked him how he felt and he said wonderful and that the water was warm. His face shone at that moment. He would laugh happily and was as happy as a child. Many of us present had tears in the eyes at that time being flooded by a different, heavenly joy. My lips were heartily glorifying and warmly thanking God and our beloved Theotokos for their blessings they bestowed on us and to this day I have not ceased to glorify Them.
George changed the following days. He was happy and peaceful, in good mood, a total opposite person with whom I had lived so far, totally renewed. This greatly impressed me and I would ask him what he felt after baptism, what changed, what was the difference. And he would answer by moving his head and saying: “I am sad that I cannot explain so that you could understand. I cannot say it with words, I cannot describe it. I just wish to say one thing now: that Christ take me now. I wish to die, for if I remain I shall lose what I have inside me, the Divine Grace will leave me”.
The good Lord heard him. After a few months he became very sick with lung cancer of the malignant type, and the doctors gave him about two months to live. We hurriedly departed for France and we did not succeed even though we tried to ask for your blessings Father George, and Father Gregory who was also our confessor. My blessed husband had a great love and respect towards you as well as the reverend fathers of your Holy Monastery. The last and precious supply from Greece was the Holy Communion which he received at the Metohion.
Our days in France were bitter and difficult. Our doctors prepared us that to the end we should expect more difficult days. Soon the cancer metastasized to the head and George was paralyzed in half. Despite of his difficult state, he did not cease to preach Orthodoxy. When I would advise him not to speak he would answer: “They must learn, because they do not know”. People would surround his bed and would listen with awe that the icons are miraculous and how a vigil at the Holy Mountain could last ten to twelve hours. And they would ask me to confirm what he was saying. Strange and newly heard things for them. They were amazed by the fact that you were praying for us at the Monastery. He would calm his sister by telling her that many pray for him in Greece and that God is with him.
To one of his doctors, who was very educated and a great scientist, he told him that since he did not visit the Holy Mountain and has not known Orthodoxy, then he has not accomplished anything in his life.
They were also greatly impressed by the visits of Father Elijah, who would come despite we were about two hundred kilometers apart, to help us by confessing and communing him and keep him company. Father Elijah helped us very much as did the sisters of the local Monastery.
With the help of Father Elijah, we told George’s sister that he was baptized Orthodox and while we expected a bad reaction from her, she hugged him and told him he did well. He would then cry with joy. The same day he confessed and received communion and after Father Elijah left, I sat alone in the room, close to him. George was sleeping peacefully. Suddenly I felt a great fragrance begin to fill the room like censing and while I was wondering where it came from, I turned and saw the face of George shine with a sweet smile. Shortly the fragrance disappeared.
Another day, tired, sad and perhaps may I dare say feeling hopeless, I sat on the armchair close to the sick one to relax. No sooner did I close my eyelids, I saw a little girl opening the door and entering and coming close to me, touching me on the shoulder and telling me not to be sad because she would stay with us to the end. She was a girl of medium height, brunette, with an open dress and a monastic belt. She was very pretty, and sweet and around eighteen years old. I woke up and looked for her and felt that I should not be overcome by hopelessness. This happened on the 10th or 11th November (feast day of Saint Virgin Martyr Anastasia the Roman in the Holy Monastery of Saint Gregory, namely, 29 October according to the old calendar).
George was approaching his end and was in great pain. The days flowed martyrically but he did not moan. He would just say, praying “My Christ I am tired, only You know how much”. His weight dropped to 35 kilos. On December 25, on the day of Christmas, the Lord called George close to Him, a day when 66 years before he saw the light for the first time. I hope and pray that the Most Good God rest the soul of my blessed husband and I beg you my reverend Father George, pray also for him, for his children and finally for me the weak one, who used to lose my patience. Pray for God to have mercy on me and forgive me.
It is worth noting that on the 40th day commemoration of my husband repose, that took place at the Monastery of Ormylia, where George was baptized, many nuns saw him between us shining and smiling.
We thank you one more time, you and the fathers who put up and shared with us our problems.
We pray that the Most Good God strengthen, protect and enlighten you always.
With respect and esteem,