Father George Livanos
“God is constantly talking to us,”
says Father George L. Livanos, the pastor of All Saints Greek Orthodox Church in Canonsburg, near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. And he should know; he himself has heeded God’s call several times in his life.
The first was while he was serving as a 16-year-old altar boy, when he looked out on the altar and “everything became a cloudy gold haze,” he recalls, “I felt moved to become a servant of Christ.” On the drive home from church that day, he announced to his mother that he wanted to become a priest. It was a surprising choice for the self-described “chubby Greek boy” whose parents ran La Mode—the landmark Philly restaurant his grandfather started—until his dad’s untimely death when Father George was only twelve. But young George was committed to his vision, and heeded his parish priest’s advice to head straight to Hellenic College after high school and start preparing for the priesthood.
It was at Hellenic College that God spoke to him again, when he saw a green Buick pull up on campus.
“I gazed at the car and I saw this angelic face that just grabbed my heart,”
Father George remembers. The face belonged to his future wife, Presvytera Dianthe, who still turns his head and his heart after 35 years. Together they have raised 7 children, and are enjoying the fruits of that labor with many grandchildren round-about their table– a true miracle in light of an illness in his 20’s that would have made it impossible to have children.
In 2020, Father George’s 31st year at All Saints, two remarkable things happened. The first was the Covid pandemic. The second, his terminal diagnosis with mesothelioma. When both of those conspired to keep him from preaching each week in person, he began creating video messages for his flock, which he calls “Soul Food for Life.”
In it, he shares thoughts, inspiration, and his own challenges. “No one should be shocked that every single human being struggles against the flesh,” he says. “Our goal is not conquering the flesh but sanctifying the flesh. That’s why I call these messages Soul Food; if you feed the soul then it becomes a really strong force that lifts the body and the soul to a heavenly place.”
With that attitude guiding him, his health struggles have become an inspiration for Father George. “Life is a big classroom; we were born for eternity,” he says. “We weren’t born to live upon this earth for long. It could be 80 years, it could be 100 years, but that’s nothing compared to eternity. As we live, we’re preparing each other for the joy of eternity.”
That’s a massive goal, but Father George makes sure the mini sermons themselves—the Soul Food “bytes”—are short, sweet, and actionable. But beyond that, there’s no schedule or plan behind his messages, much like his sermons in person. “I just leave my heart open to Him,” he says. Once he feels divine inspiration, Father George records the message “thinking of the one person who might need it, and hoping that person will benefit from it,” he says.