St Sophia of Kleisoura (1883-1974)
Also known as Saint Sophia the New Ascetic of Kleisoura, Sophia Saoulidi was born in Pontus, Asia Minor, in 1883, at a time of growing hostility between the Turkish and Greek populations. Her married life was short-lived following the disappearance of her husband and the death of her new-born son. These events led Sophia to turn completely to God and marked the beginning of her ascetic way of life.
In 1919, Sophia fled the tense environment in Turkey. Upon her arrival to Greece, the Mother of God appeared to her saying, “Come to my house. I am in Kleisoura”. Sophia went to a monastery in Kleisoura, located in Kastoria, West Macedonia, dedicated to the Birth of the Mother of God. She remained there for the rest of her life, although she was never tonsured a nun.
Sophia’s life in the monastery was characterised by poverty, humility and strict asceticism. She lived in the kitchen near the fireplace. When it rained, water would drip on her. She slept for two hours each night, devoting the rest of her time to prayer. People would see her ragged appearance and give her clothes or money which she would pass onto the poor. She fasted very strictly, only eating oil on the weekends.
Despite being labelled “Crazy Sophia” by some, she was granted many spiritual gifts, including the ability to know the names and troubles of people who came to see her before they would speak. People subsequently came to see her from all over Greece.
In 1967 Sophia became very ill with open sores in her stomach resulting in great pain. She would say, “The Panagia will come to take away my pain. She promised me”. She later explained how Panagia, Saint George and the Archangel Gabriel appeared to her and performed surgery on her.
On the 6th of May 1974, Sophia passed away. Her grave is at the monastery in Kleisoura, Kastoria, where many people venerate her relics each day. She was canonised by the Church on 4th October 2011, a powerful reminder to us, that those who humble themselves will be exalted. Her annual feast day is the 6th May, the day of her repose in the Lord.
Source: Lychnos October/November 2017