Holy Father

John of the Kronstadt

November 1 and January 2 (October 19 and December 20 old calendar).

Saint John (whose full name is John Il'ich Serguiev) was born on October 19 in a poor family living in the village of Sura in the province of Archangelsk. Fearing that the infant would not live long, his parents had him baptized immediately after birth with the name of John in honor of the Venerable John of the Rylsk, whose day of celebration it was. But the child grew stronger. The family lived in extreme poverty and deprivation, but his parents laid a strong foundation of faith in the boy. He was a peaceful and determined child, who loved nature and church services.

When John turned 9 his father spent his last money to take him to a parochial school in Archangelsk. The difficulties in learning would sometimes make him feel despondent. At such times the boy prayed God for help. Once during one of those hard moments, deep at night when all the scholars were asleep, he got up and started praying, entreating God very fervently. And the Lord heard his prayer; heavenly goodness dawned upon him and according to his description it was "as if a veil blocking his vision dropped off his eyes." He remembered what was told in class and somehow everything became so clear in his mind. From that time on he started doing great progress in his studies. In 1851 John Seguiev graduated from the seminary with merit and entered the St. Petersburg ecclesiastical academy.

The capital did not spoil the young man, he remained as devout and focused as he had been at home. His father died not long after that and in order to support his mother John started working at the office of the academy with a salary of 9 rubles per month. All this money was sent on his mother. In 1855 he graduated from the academy with excellent marks. That same year the young graduated was ordained by laying of hands and appointed as a priest to the church of Saint Andrew in Kronstadt (not far from St. Petersburg).

From the very first day of his ordinance Fr. John devoted himself entirely to serving the Lord and the people. He served the Divine Liturgy every day. He prayed, taught and helped many people. His zeal was amazing. In the beginning and even later, people sometimes criticized him, mocked him and regarded him as an abnormal person.

During the liturgy Fr. John was praying fervently, demandingly and daringly. He never rejected a request to pray from anyone who asked him; a rich person or a poor one, a nobleman or a commoner. And the Lord accepted his prayers. Innumerable wonders would occur, some of them recorded - some not. People from not only Kronstadt, but from St. Petersburg and later from all of Russia and foreign countries started to turn to him.

Hundreds of letters and telegrams were coming to Kronstadt. Father John usually started praying fervently immediately after reading them. Tens of thousands of people would come to him for a prayer and a blessing.

Father John was not a brilliant orator. His speech was simple, clear and heartfelt, it was coming right from his soul, which charmed and inspired his listeners. The sermons were published in separate issues and spread all over Russia in enormous amounts. A collection of Fr. John's works was also published in several big volumes.

Especially popular with the believers was his clerical dairy "My Life in Christ." Is was a recount of Fr. John's spiritual life, a record of graceful thoughts and feelings, with which he was blessed, according to his own words, "by God's enlightening Spirit in times of deep vigilance and trial of himself especially during a prayer."

Those thoughts and feelings were addressed to the Lord God (in the form of a prayer), or to his "self" (in meditation), or to other people (in the form of teaching). They pertain to various aspects of faith, and being of great moral value, they are a school of spiritual life.

Fr. John was also a scripture teacher. His influence of the students was charismatic. Children loved him. Fr. John was not a dogmatic teacher, he was an inspiring interlocutor. He treated his disciples in a warm and hearty way, often stood up for them, and did not give home tasks nor fail at exams, but just spoke to them. And the students for the rest of their lives would remember those conversations. Fr. John had a gift of awakening true faith in the soul of a child. He often read Lives of Saints and the Bible at the lessons, he would also tell them about his ministerial work.

From the first days of his priesthood Fr. John was a very compassionate pastor. He never cast off anyone, visiting when first called the most poor and degraded people. There he prayed, instructed and helped, often giving up the last of what he had, which at first evoke some reproaches from his family. Sometimes on a visit to a poor family struck with destitute and illnesses, he himself would go to a grocer of a drugstore to fetch a doctor.

Later Fr. John was to handle hundreds of thousands of rubles. But he did not count the money; he would take it with one hand and immediately give it away with the other. In addition to such direct charity Fr. John created a special organization rendering assistance. In 1882 a "House of Industriousness" was set up, which had its own church, elementary school for boys and girls, orphanage, polyclinic for visitors, hospital, free public library, people's home which provided shelter for up to 40 thousand people a year, various work shops which provided the poor with some source of income, cheap public cafeteria which gave up to 800 free meals on holidays, and a boarding house for travelers.

On Fr. John's initiative and with his donations a life guard station was built on the bay shore. He built a beautiful church in his native place. It is impossible to enumerate all of the spheres and areas where he reached out caring for people and helping them.

Fr. John reposed at the age of 80 on December 20, 1908. Innumerable crowds joined the burial procession going from Kronstadt to St. Petersburg where he was buried in the Ivanovski monastery which had been founded by him. From all over Russia, believers would come to the place of his repose and requiems were constantly served there.

God blessed Father John of Kronstadt granting him veneration of the whole of Russia for his strong faith, zealous prayers and great love to God and all people.

Troparion, Tone 4

With the Apostles thy message has gone out to the ends of the world,/ and with the Confessors thou didst suffer for Christ;/ thou art like the Hierarchs through thy preaching of the Word;/ with the Righteous thou art radiant with God's grace./ The Lord has exalted thy humility above the heavens/ and given us thy name as a source of miracles./ O wonderworker living in Christ forever,/ have mercy on those in trouble/ and hear us when we call to thee with faith, O our beloved shepherd John.

Troparion, Tone 4

O Wonderworker living in Christ forever,/ with love have mercy on those in danger;/ hear thy children who call upon thee with faith;/ be compassionate to those who hope for aid from thee,/ O Father John of Kronstadt, our beloved shepherd.

Kontakion, Tone 4

Thou wast chosen by God in infancy/ and in childhood received the gift of learning./ Thou wast called to the priesthood in a vision during sleep/ and didst become a wonderful shepherd of Christ's Church./ Pray to Christ our God/ that we may all be with thee in the Kingdom of heaven,/ O Father John, namesake of grace.


Holy Protection Russian Orthodox Church

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(john_kronstadt.doc, 08-15-2000)