A Paradigm that Makes Us Stronger
German by origin, son of an industrialist from Schwarzwald, educated and successful manager, suddenly discovered a call from Mt. Athos in the window of a bookstore near Frankfurt. He was introduced into the depths of Orthodox Christianity and monastic path by elder Mitrophan of Chilandar. In Chilandar, Helmut became Panteleimon, the all-merciful. He made the desolated metochion Jovanica an astonishing place. After a quarter of a century, he moved from Mt. Athos to Grabovac, Serbian monastery in Hungary, which he also reformed. There he passed away

By: Mišo Vujović

Throughout the turbulent history of the Serbian nation, gathered around the church and its temples – the first school and universities in which the spiritual vertical of the national being was being built, the Chilandar Monastery had an immeasurable role. As the Serbian imperial lavra, Chilandar Monastery enjoyed great fondness of Serbian medieval rulers, starting from its founders St. Simeon and St. Sava, Emperor Dušan, King Milutin and other members of the Nemanjić dynasty, to the tragic prince of Kosovo Lazar, who got his Chilandar throne by building the porch on Milutin’s Church in Chilandar, along with his martyr aureole in Gazimestan. Thanks to such an attitude of the Serbian state towards its ”soul dislocated from the body”, Chilandar Monastery became the first treasury of written documents, from Chilandar decrees, typicons, Codes, to the first translated liturgical books, which rightfully makes it the first Serbian university and atrium for bishops and heads of the Serbian Church. After the fall of the Serbian medieval state under Ottoman dominion, Chilandar Monastery, up to then the richest and most influential sanctity in Mt. Athos, entered a several-century-long period of surviving and difficult temptations. It lost its estates and metochions, the Serbian monastic community was reduced, and the Turkish authorities, under Greek influence, didn’t allow any novices to come from the enslaved homeland. Thus Chilandar Monastery fell under the influence of the Bulgarians, the majority in the monastic community, therefore gaining management over the Monastery. One of the most famous Chilandar monks, Sava of Chilandar, wrote about that period and the state the Monastery was in in the late nineteenth century. He was author of monographs History of Chilandar Monastery and Typicon Hermitage of St. Sava in Karyes, whose manuscripts were, unfortunately, displaced in the rich archive and library of Chilandar Monastery for an entire century. It’s interesting that this hard-working enthusiast, librarian and treasury keeper wasn’t of Serbian origin. Only at the end of his life, after the national structure in the Monastery had changed, his fraternity understood his stand that the treasure he arranged, a large part of it plundered, was priceless. However, even after the change of the national structure (upon the departure of Bulgarian monks from the Monastery), narrow-mindedness and prejudice were still present, but this hard-working monk and ascetic, who dedicated his entire being to Orthodox Christianity and Serbian people, didn’t step back.
Sava of Chilandar, Czech by origin – Slavibor Brayer, was born in 1837 in Kutna Gora in Czechia, and passed away in Chilandar in 1911. He had an enormous contribution to arranging the archive and library material and poured part of his experience into two mentioned books, very significant both for the history of Chilandar and Serbian Church, and the entire history of the Serbian nation. Patriarch Gavrilo Dožić wrote an inspiring essay about Sava of Chilandar, emphasizing his virtues, as well as sufferings and troubles told him by Sava himself, because of the ”non-brotherlike behavior of other monks”. As Patriarch Gavrilo states, Sava was mostly struck by the ”belief of some monks that he was a German spy”.
This short review about Sava of Chilandar, whose life and work will be described in some of the following issues, leads us to the story about another Chilandar monk, almost our contemporary, monk Panteleimon, dedicated mason of Mt. Athos, who ended his life and ascetic path on earth last year in the Serbian monastery of Grabovac in Hungary.


Jovanica is the first dock on the way from Ouranopolis to the monasteries of Mt. Athos. That metochion of Chilandar was renewed in the late 1980s by father Panteleimon, born as German Helmut Christian Ratt from Schwarzwald. This exemplary and devoted monk made the Jovanica dock paradise on earth in about twenty years. He planted a vineyard, olive orchards, arranged the dock, build magnificent quarters with a small chapel (paraclys) and garage for boats on the shore. He was an excellent singer. He came to the monastery every Saturday and served the entire liturgy, lasting four to five hours, alone at one choir. This humble ascetic and tireless mason was born in 1947 in a family of a local industrialist, owner of a factory for manufacturing windows and carpentry, who planned to pass on his steady business to his son one day. Young Helmut had other aspirations, wishing to show his abilities outside of the family business, so not long after completing his studies, he became director of a clinic in the vicinity of Frankfurt.
In the moment his career was in full swing, the young manager unconsciously stopped in front of the window of a bookstore, attracted by the wondrous power, as he said, of the cover of a book about Elder Siluan from Mt. Athos. It took only one sleepless night and meeting with the saint, who testified faith with prayer and his life, to change his plans completely, and neglect his successful career and the family business he was supposed to inherit from his father.
The lessons of Elder Siluan took him to Mt. Athos and Elder Mitrofan helped him on his road to salvation, to experience the new faith deeper. He welcomed him and, in fluent German language, with an illustrative sermon of a humble monk, through many examples about the feats of Mt. Athos elders and saints, he simply introduced him to monastic life. Elder Mitrofan spoke with his heart, arousing in Helmut Ratt even more love towards monastic life, so after a few stays in Mt. Athos he decided to settle there for good, first in Chilandar, where he lived almost four years, and then in the desolated metochion and dock Jovanica.


In a short time, father Panteleimon overpassed the language barrier by learning Serbian, as well as liturgical Church Slavic language, perfecting his singing to the extent that even educated singers and theologians admired him.
Different temptations followed late father Panteleimon (Panteleimon – the all-merciful), former industrialist from Schwarzwald, on his God-seeking path of salvation. As a German, he wasn’t accepted in Chilandar by a group of novices turned to Zealotry. That is why he, after four years, left to the desolated metochion – dock of Jovanica. However, according to those who know the story, father Panteleimon actually couldn’t find common language with another convert – monk Serafim, born as Frane Špika, from father Ante, Croatian and German mother. Father Serafim is today autonomously managing the metochion of Kakovo, arranged and revived by late Elder Mitrofan, epithrope of Chilandar for many years and twice manager of Mt. Athos.
Father Panteleimon of Chilandar spent more than two and a half decades in Mt. Athos and rarely left it, but he was often visited by his German friends, who provided financial support for the architectural plans of this tireless hard-working enthusiast. Father Panteleimon repaid them with his monastic love and blessing, recuperated their souls with the peace of Mt. Athos and prayers, gave them fruit from his vineyards and olive orchards. When he made paradise on earth in this metochion, where ships with Chilandar pilgrims dock, this tireless enthusiast went to Hungary in 2010, to the Serbian monastery of Grabovac, with the same intentions he had when, two decades earlier, he left Chilandar and went to Jovanica.
After only one year in Grabovac, father Panteleimon was advanced to the rank of Hieromonk and not long after appointed prior of the monastery. The new prior-mason dressed the monastery in new robes. He changed the old roofs of the church and quarters, raised a winter chapel, arranged the porch, agreed business with the nearby winery about planting a new vineyard on 35 hectares of land, orchards on four hectares, which greatly strengthened the monastery economy and provided constant earnings to the monastery fraternity. When saying goodbye to father Panteleimon, Bishop Lukijan tried to depict the character of this unusual man and Christ’s ascetic in a few sentences:
”Our father Panteleimon had the strength to be different from others in this world. It’s not easy, but God, who sees the heart of each of us and knows our wishes, helped this upright man to separate from his traditional environment and set off down a new path, a path steep, full of thorns – the path of Christ. That path led him to Mt. Athos, in which norms and standards of this world are hardly important, but where the main and basic measure is the soul, and main objective salvation. Ever since St. Sava, Chilandar had good spiritual guardians, true steersmen in the storms of life, and Chilandar became a dock to father Panteleimon”, said Bishop of Budim, emphasizing that he was a heavenly man and earthly angel, and that this answers the question how he was able to carry ”the burden loaded on him by unreasonable people in his environment, where nobody would ever expect it. His deeds are proof of how God acts through his chosen ones”.


”It’s obvious that times have changed and that the church must find answers to contemporary challenges, but only those that would be blessed by St. Sava and St. Simeon – lighthouses of the entire nation, who rejected all the power they had, sacrificing themselves for the salvation of their people. ‘Greatest sinner of all, Sava’ was his signature. He was aware that he was carrying sins of his ancestors and descendants and that He and his feat will become the foundation of the vertical in the Serbian nation.” This is what was often emphasized by, often with tears in his eyes, Elder Mitrofan of Chilandar, lecturer, journalist and editor of Chilandar magazine, which he published independently for decades, the old man who gave the biggest support to father Panteleimon in the beginning of his monastic path.


With Words and Deeds
Father Panteleimon published several books in German about his journey in the Mt. Athos paths of salvation. The door to his heart and cell were always open for all those who sought answers beyond earthly rules and laws.


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