Dr Constantine Cavarnos, head of the Institute for Byzantine and Modern Greek Studes in Belmont, Massachusetts, has for a number of years been a writer of discernment on matters Orthodox, with a special emphasis on traditional expressions of Orthodoxy in Greek culture. His books are numerous (see those listed on the IBMGS site), and all the ones I’ve read have always been as informative as they are edifying. It’s a rare talent to accomplish the two regularly, but Dr Cavarnos succeeds entirely.
His series on Modern Orthodox Saints is a case in point. The series is up to 15 volumes now (short descriptions here). The first of these that I ever picked up was volume six, on Saint Arsenios of Paros (whom I’ve mentioned here before). I’ve appreciated the quality of both the writing and the books ever since. On the quality of the books, it is perhaps sufficient to note that the paper is a thick, smooth, and creamy, obviously acid-free, with sewn bindings in both hardcover and softcover. The softcovers have particularly sturdy cardstock for covers, thicker than is usual. The quality of the book production is suitable to its subject, honoring these saints with a quality setting for these modern lives. On the writing, it is a pleasure to say that Dr Cavarnos is a believer as well as an academic. The books are well-organized and full of information, but they are not merely academic treatises on the sources and lives of the saints. They are modern hagiographies. As these saints are all relatively recently reposed, some indeed very recently, there are numerous sources available to give satisfactory detail to their lives, including photographs of the saints and their surroundings, where available. Several of the saints were even interviewed by Dr Cavarnos during the struggles of their waking lives among us, and so we benefit from his sharing this primary source material. I cannot recommend them highly enough.
Here is the list of volumes:
1: St. Cosmas Aitolos
2: St. Macarios of Corinth
3: St. Nicodemos the Hagiorite
4: St. Nikephoros of Chios
5: St. Seraphim of Sarov
6: St. Arsenios of Paros
7: St. Nectarios of Aegina
8: St. Savvas the New
9: St. Methodia of Kimolos
10: Saints Raphael, Nicholas and Irene of Lesvos
11: Blessed Elder Philotheos Zervakos
12: Blessed Hermit Philaretos of the Holy Mountain
13: Blessed Elder Gabriel Dionysiatis
14: Blessed Elder Iakovos of Epiros, Elder Joseph the
Hesychast, and Mother Stavritsa the Missionary
15: Saint Athanasios Parios
The Modern Orthodox Saints volumes are all available from the Institute itself, though without an online ordering system. One may also find the volumes at Saint Nectarios Press and Eastern Christian Supply, both of which have online ordering, and both of which I highly recommend, as I’ve only had good experiences with both.
I thoroughly enjoy reading the lives of the saints. I recommend stocking up on them. Saint Nectarios Press has an unsurpassed collection of Lives of Groups of Saints and Lives of Individual Saints offered, some of them very inexpensive indeed.
It is certainly worth noting that a consistent feature of saints is that they enjoyed reading the lives of the saints! Archimadrite Nektarios Serfes has written a fine article on the value of reading the lives of the saints. Whatever lives of the saints you have at hand, make use of them, particularly during the Great Fast of Lent. Fast from worldly novels and distractions, and feast your eyes and minds instead on the lives of the Saints approved by God.