Accepted paper:

Miracles in an imperfect world: contemporary Romanian narratives on Saint Nektarios the Wonderworker

Author:

Irina Stahl (Institute of Sociology, Romanian Academy)

Paper short abstract:

The devotion of saints is an essential part of Orthodox religion and devotees have a special relationship with the saints. Analysis of over 300 miracle narratives reveals the relationship of Romanians with Saint Nektarios, a 20th century Greek, in a post-communist era.

Paper long abstract:

Communism in Romania promised an ideal, egalitarian society; an utopia that would provide people with everything they needed. Today, twenty-five years after the events that ended communist rule, Romanians confront a different world. Lost in the rapidly changing society, many have chosen to turn towards the other-worldly, seeking help, guidance and support, as they struggle to make sense of an imperfect reality. Belief in miracles and divine intervention allow them 'to cope with the stresses and strains of life' (Stringer, 2008), providing them with miraculous solutions to the problems with which they are confronted daily. The veneration of saints is an essential component of current lived Orthodoxy in Romania, especially within the urban environment. Devotees develop a special relationship with saints, whom they relate to as close friends and protectors not just in religious confines, but as a constant of everyday life. Shortly after the first relics of the 20th century Greek Saint Nektarios, were exhibited in Bucharest, in 2003, testimonies of miracles started to appear. Many of these narratives were posted on the internet and later published. In this paper, over 300 of them were examined to gain insight into how Orthodox Romanian devotees understand, interpret and make meaning of their experiences with the world around them within their religious context and the nature of their relationship with the saint. Quantitative analysis provided descriptions of the testifiers, while a qualitative process identified significant themes inherent in the miracle narratives. The paper reports these themes and contextually discusses their meaning.

panel Reli003
Almost heaven: vernacular utopias and the culture of belief