PHANOURIOS CHARITY PROJECT

What are you looking for?

In the Greek Orthodox Church, Saint Phanourios is the saint of the “Lost and Found,” so to speak. Be it your car keys or your job, an apartment or a husband . . . Saint Phanourios has been known to reveal what you seek. In exchange, custom demands that you bake him a special cake, and the cake you bake must be shared with others—preferably with those in need.

I first learned about the saint and his cake—called a Phanouropita (fan-oo-RO-pee-ta)—in the summer of 2009, as I was thumbing through an old cookbook on my mother’s shelf (Adventures in Greek Cookery, Kopulos and Jones). The book calls it “Pita Ayiou Fanoureo” or “St. Fanoureo’s Cake,” and this is from the recipe headnote: The supplicant “pledges a cake in his prayer to the saint [ . . . ] and when the prayer is answered [ . . . ] this cake is taken to the church for a blessing. It is then cut into nine pieces and distributed to the poor outside the church door.”

In terms of historical record, not much is known about Saint Phanourios, yet according to Orthodox clergy members, he is among the most venerated. Why? Does it have something to do with this brandied spice cake? Some say that you should bake the cake before the prayer is answered; that is, when you make your request. Does this tradition “work”? I have met people who swear that it does.

Being a bit of a skeptic, but loving any opportunity to feed those in need, the PHANOURIOS CHARITY PROJECT was born. Its premise/purpose is simple:

  1. I have a special prayer, something I am seeking.
  2. Every week, I bake a traditional phanouropita.
  3. I give the cake away, and . . .
  4. I wait and see what happens.

How many cakes will I bake to have my prayer answered? What will I learn in the process—about giving, about faith? Periodically, I will post about my experiences with Saint Phanourios and his cake. The “scorecard” is updated in the right-hand column of the blog, and information is kept up to date here on this page as well.

At the bottom of the page, you’ll find a list of cake recipients. If there is someone you would like to receive a phanouropita, please contact me at acparker [at] feedingthesaints [dot] com to discuss arrangements. As this is a charity project, there is NO CHARGE for sending a homemade cake, once we agree on feasibility. The only firm requirement is that the recipient be someone other than yourself. Remember, the cake must be given away.

To date, the PHANOURIOS CHARITY PROJECT has benefitted:

CHURCHES

The Greek Orthodox Archdiocesan Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, NYC (multiple cakes)

Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, NYC (multiple cakes)

PUBLIC SERVICE/CHARITY ORGANIZATIONS

Big Brothers Big Sisters of New York City

N.O.R.C. (Naturally Occurring Retirement Community) Program

N.Y.F.D. Engine Co. 16 & Ladder Co. 7

Share Our Strength (via the National Food Bloggers Bake Sale)

HOMELESS/HUNGRY INDIVIDUALS (by location)

Bellevue/Mt. Carmel Place, NYC

Kips Bay neighborhood, NYC

Stuyvesant Cove/East River Promenade, NYC

ADDITIONAL RECIPIENTS

Students of the Institute for Culinary Education, NYC

Security guards at my son’s school, NYC

Neighbors in my parents’ building, CT

. . . . plus a handful of friends and acquaintances who wish to remain wholly anonymous

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Sophia Hazell December 14, 2010 at 7:26 pm

Good Evening,
I have been praying to Saint Phanourios for over a month now for a lost case that belonged to my workplace. It has caused a lot of heartache and I still have HOPE that it shall turn up!! The area where I work is not a very safe area, and I feel that the contents were used already!! (money was inside) I have not made the bread to share yet, and wonder if I should do that now.. I have read different views on the internet!! Should I pray for clarity, and perhaps expect that the contents were used already, since it is Christmas now?? God Bless you for your advice, and please pray for me…
Sophia Hazell

Reply

ACP December 14, 2010 at 11:38 pm

Dear Sophia,
I am so sorry for your lost case and the heartache its absence has caused. I also thank you for taking the time to leave a comment here. You know, these elements of hope, supplication, generosity and gratitude can be so mysterious. As for prayers to Phanourios and the timing of baking the cake… yes, there are different views out there. Some people will tell you that you pray first and make the cake later; others say that the cake is part of the supplication, so you make it first. I don’t think you can go wrong either way. I tend to bake the cake as part of my own process of asking for guidance or help. The baking makes me focus, and I like to visualize the thing I’m looking for as I bake, to imagine myself receiving it.

I wish I had an answer for what you should do. I don’t know if my experience will be the same for you or not. But I will keep you in my thoughts. I guess one thing I’d suggest is this: try to realize that you could also “recover” what you lost in a different way. You may not get that particular case back (though I hope you do)… but perhaps its value will somehow be replaced in another way. Maybe a business opportunity in your work will come that could be equal to or greater in value than what was lost. My very limited experience with saints (or even “serendipity”) has proven to me beyond a doubt that answered prayers frequently come from unexpected places, and not always in the form we imagined.

So, Sophia, good luck to you. I hope that your Christmas and New Year bring more than you’re hoping for.

Thanks again for writing to me,
Allison

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Anonymous February 27, 2011 at 1:57 am

It has been a long and difficult journey to this point. I made an Aghios Phanourios cake out of desperation in April, 2010, a few days after Easter, when my daughter’s fiance (wedding date set for July, 2010 and all arrangements made) exploded. He had been staying in our home for several months as he had lost his apartment. He had been showing signs of distress, arguing, saying negative things about her and the upcoming marriage for several months in our presence, but our daughter could not heed the signs or our warnings.

In desperation as he slammed the door behind him and my daughter cried in love-pain for the umpteenth time, I decided to make the cake. Her Godmother, devout Orthodox Christian living in Athens, had told me about this Saint. I found [a recipe], prepared and baked it as I prayed asking Aghios Phanourios to intercede in my daughter’s behalf to God so that He might “fanerosi” or “show,” “bring to light” for her the true heart of her young man. At this point, I prayed for both of them. I made a cross over the cake with a knife, cut it, and made sure she and her father and I ate a piece. I believe he ate one, too, but I didn’t tell him why I had made it. He had fled from the home while she was lining the invitation envelopes with one of her bridesmaids, slamming the door behind him. This he did two weekends in a row, returning several days later to tell her he did not want to marry her.

We canceled the wedding at her request. Within a week, he called my husband and told him, crying, that he loved her still and wanted to marry her immediately. My husband asked him to give her time to determine what she herself wanted. He continued to pursue her. She told him he must seek counseling. He told us when he came to get his things that he loved her and did not know why he was hurting her this way and leaving. She had stood by him many years helping him deal with his personal/family problems. They began to see each other again within a few months. They became engaged again in November, but this time, he changed the date from within a few months to maybe some year down the road.

When he admitted to her (she suspected it and asked him directly) after he spent Christmas Eve and Day and the whole week after with us, not his own family… that he was having a ‘relationship’ with another girl that had been a friend of both… my daughter finally broke away from him and all the pain, breaking the engagement herself. She said to me, “I thank Jesus who gave me the strength to break up with him.” The first breakup was at Eastertime. The second and final at Christmastime. God works in His own way and in His own time. Let us thank Him. His Saints intercede for us because they are holy people, having been martyrs or miracle workers. I pray my precious child will find true loving happiness. I wish the same for him, as well.

Please do not add my name to this testimony to protect their identities.

Reply

ACP August 16, 2011 at 11:32 pm

Dear Anonymous,
I wanted to let you know, I have replied in private to your message. But I thought others should read what you took the time to write. In this public forum, I’ll just say I am sorry for your daughter’s (and the whole family’s) heartbreak. Sometimes the things that come to light or are “shown” to us are not what we want to see… but I hope that better things have been revealed in your lives since then.

Reply

Vasiliki Didaskalou August 16, 2011 at 9:04 pm

Lovely … however, there is one critical ingredient missing here. The idea of the relationship with the saint is one of faith and of good intention. If he is approached as a “scientific” experiment in order to “verify” that the miracle of the phanouropita is genuine you are likely to be disappointed. God and his saints are not “fooled” or “tricked” into “miracles” like we flick a switch and a light turns on.

They grant our requests and prayers from compassion and mercy for us.

Reply

ACP August 16, 2011 at 11:05 pm

Dear Vasiliki,
I completely understand your concern, and I appreciate your leaving your comment.

If you read the following essay (link down below) that I wrote from the heart, over the course of a year, you will see that in reality, this was not a “scientific” experiment. My prose is skeptical and light in tone, but I assure you that I have always been of good intention. And of good faith–just not raised in a tradition of saints, so that element very “foreign” to me even though technically part of my culture.

I have never been disappointed in this quest. Quite the contrary. I believe that St. Phanourios, the cake, my actions, and a healthy dose of grace (divine, if you wish) all brought change in my life, for the better. This is not about “fooling” or “tricking,” it’s a very personal journey to find a source of faith and soulful community.

Link: “Saints, Cakes, and Redemption” essay on Leite’s Culinaria

Sto kalo,
Allison

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Vasiliki Didaskalou August 16, 2011 at 9:05 pm

Though, I am impressed at how many people have been helped from your project. That is a miracle in its own right :) God Bless.

Reply

ACP August 16, 2011 at 11:07 pm

Thank you!

Reply

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