Cary J. Limberakis, D.M.D.
Philadelphia Regional Commander
Mount Athos - Four years ago, I kept a promise to myself when my son, Jonathan, was born that I would bring him to the Holy Mountain, Mount Athos, in Greece; replicating a prior trip fifty years before when my Dad, Father John A. Limberakis, had brought my brother, Anthony, and me there to visit the monasteries. Jonathan was about to embark on a four year journey… he was beginning dental school, and he sought a blessing before he began his studies. On that trip, we only could stay for one day, but we promised that we would return sometime in the future, this time, to render dental care to the monks.
Fast-forward four years and Jonathan has just graduated from Temple’s Kornberg School of Dentistry. We knew for several months prior to his completing his dental training that we wanted to keep that promise we made four years earlier. The plans were made and we departed Philadelphia for Mount Athos. Mount Athos is located in the northern part of Greece on a peninsula stretching into the Aegean Sea. It’s the home of twenty monasteries and the one we visited is called Vatopaidi Monastery. Father Basil is the resident dental therapist at this monastery.
We arrived early afternoon on a Monday, and following afternoon services, dinner and a formal welcome tour, we were advised that the monks (our patients) were waiting for us in the dental clinic. Although Greek is the official language at the monastery, and I speak Greek somewhat well, we were fortunate to become close with several English-speaking monks who hailed from Wisconsin, South Carolina, Australia and France. Our dental treatment consisted of operative dentistry, endodontics, crown & bridge, occlusal guard therapy and prophies. The clinic was well outfitted, from materials to equipment to technology, due to the generous donations of past visitors to the monastery.
A day in a life of a monk at Vatopaidi Monastery begins at 4am when he is called by ringing bells to attend religious services; they conclude at about 8:30 when the monks, in hierarchical order, process into the refectory to have breakfast in silence while another monk reads from scripture. After breakfast the monks depart for their assigned duties. Due to their responsibilities during the daytime, the monks can only come to the dental clinic at night following evening services and dinner. I kidded Father Basil when I asked him if he charged more for evening appointments!
During the nearly four days we were at the monastery, Jonathan and I tag-teamed to treat over twenty monks. They were most grateful and asked us for the names of family and friends for whom they would pray daily henceforth. Our evenings concluded with our feeling rewarded and gratified that we were able to give back to those who pray for all of us, day in and day out.
A slice of life at Mount Athos can be witnessed when you view the CBS program 60 Minutes “The Monks of Mount Athos” episode on YouTube.com.