Life and miracles of St. John (Maximovich) Archbishop of
Shanghai and San Francisco — one of the greatest saints of the 20-th
San Francisco. The Death of a Saint. Epilogue.
Some Recent Miracles of St. John. From the Sermons of Saint John.
"Sanctity is not just a virtue. It is an attainment of such
spiritual height, that the abundance of God's grace which fills the saint
overflows on all who associate with him. Great is the saint's state of bliss in
which they dwell contemplating the Glory of God. Being filled with love for God
and man, they are responsive to man's needs, interceding before God and helping
those who turn to them."
Characterizing with such words the ancient Saints, Vladika John
simultaneously summarized his own spiritual attitude which made him one of the
greatest Saints of our time.
ARCHBISHOP JOHN was born on June 4, 1896, in the village of
Adamovka in the province of Kharkov in southern Russia. He was a member of the
Little Russian noble family of Maximovitch, to which St. John of Tobolsk also
had belonged. He received at baptism the name of Michael, his heavenly protector
being the Archangel Michael. He was a sickly child and ate little.
He received his secondary education in the Poltava Military
School, which he attended from 1907 to 1914. Upon completing military school he
entered Kharkov Imperial University in the faculty of law, from which he
graduated in 1918, before it was seized by the Soviets.
Kharkov, where Vladika spent his formative years, was a true
town of Holy Russia, and the young Michael, impressionable to revelations of
holiness, acquired there the pattern of his future life. There were two
miraculous Icons of the Mother of God, the Oseryanskaya and Eletskaya, which
were carried in a religious procession twice a year from the monasteries where
they were treasured to the Dormition Cathedral. In the Protection Monastery, in
a frescoed grotto underneath the altar, lay the remains of the holy Archbishop
Melety Leontovitch, who after his death in 1841 rendered miraculous help to
those who served a panikhida for him at his coffin. Even during his lifetime the
Archbishop was venerated for his severe asceticism, especially for the ascetic
feat of abstaining from sleep. He was known to spend nights on end standing
motionless, with lifted arms, deep in prayer. He foreknew the day and the hour
of his own death. The young Maximovitch was known to have a veneration for this
Today Archbishop John may be seen to resemble the holy man of
Kharkov in at least three respects: he was known not to have slept in a bed for
forty years; he knew beforehand of his death; and before his glorification in
1994 his relics rested under a cathedral in a special grave-chapel where
panikhidas were sung almost daily and the Psalter read over his coffin by those
asking for his help. This is a unique case of the transplanting, as it were, of
a part of Holy Russia to contemporary America.
While at Kharkov University, Vladika spent more time reading
the lives of the saints than attending classes; nonetheless he was an excellent
student. Evidently his emulation of saints was apparent even at that age, since
Archbishop Anthony of Kharkov, one of the great Church figures of that time
(later Metropolitan Anthony Hrapovitsky, the first Chief Hierarch and founder of
the Russian Church Abroad) took special pains to become acquainted with him, and
then kept the youth close to him and guided his spiritual formation.
IN 1921, DURING THE RUSSIAN CIVIL WAR, Vladika, together with
his parents, his brothers, and his sister, was evacuated to Belgrade, where he
and his brothers entered the University of Belgrade. One brother graduated in
the technical faculty and became an engineer, the other graduated in law and
served in the Yugoslav police. Vladika himself graduated in 1925 in the faculty
of theology. While he was a student he worked for his living by selling
In 1924 Vladika was ordained reader in the Russian church in
Belgrade by Metropolitan Anthony, who continued to exert great influence over
him; and Vladika in his turn showed the utmost respect and devotion to his
superior. In 1926 Metropolitan Anthony tonsured him a monk and ordained him
hierodeacon in the Milkov Monastery, giving him the name John, after Vladika's
own distant relative, Saint John (Maximovitch) of Tobolsk. On November 21 of the
same year Vladika was ordained hieromonk.
The city of Bitol was in the diocese of Okhrida. At that time
the ruling bishop of this diocese was Nicholas Velimirovich — a noted preacher,
poet, writer, and inspirer of the popular religious movement. He, as much as
Metropolitan Anthony, valued and loved the young Hieromonk John, and himself
exerted a beneficial influence upon him. More than once he was heard to say, "If
you wish to see a living saint, go to Bitol to Father John."
For, indeed, it began to become evident that this was an
entirely extraordinary man. It was his own students who first discovered what
was perhaps Vladika's greatest feat of asceticism. They noticed at first that he
stayed up long after everyone else had gone to bed; he would go through the
dormitories at night and pick up blankets that had fallen down and cover the
unsuspecting sleepers, making the Sign of the Cross over them. Finally it was
discovered that he scarcely slept at all, and never in a bed, allowing himself
only an hour or two each night of uncomfortable rest in a sitting position, or
bent over on the floor praying before icons. Years afterward he himself admitted
that since taking the monastic vows he had not slept lying in a bed. Such an
ascetic practice is a very rare one; and yet it is not unknown to Orthodox
Archbishop Averky of the Jordanville Holy Trinity monastery,
then a young hieromonk in Carpatho-Russia, witnessed the deep impression
Hieromonk John made upon the seminary students. When they returned home on
vacations they would speak of their extraordinary instructor who prayed
constantly, served the Divine Liturgy or at least received Holy Communion every
day, fasted strictly, never slept lying down, and with true fatherly love
inspired them with the high ideals of Christianity and of Holy Russia.
In 1934 it was decided to raise Hieromonk John to the rank of
bishop. As for Vladika himself, nothing was farther from his mind. A lady who
knew him relates how she met him at this time on a streetcar in Belgrade. He
told her that he was in town by mistake, having been sent for in place of some
other Hieromonk John who was to be consecrated bishop! When she saw him the next
day he informed her that the situation was worse than he had thought: it was him
they wished to make bishop! When he had protested that this was out of the
question, since he had a speech defect and could not enunciate clearly, he had
only been told that the Prophet Moses had the same difficulty.
The consecration occurred on May 28, 1934. Vladika was the last
bishop of the very many to be consecrated by Metropolitan Anthony, and the
extraordinarily high esteem in which that venerable hierarch held the new bishop
is indicated in a letter which he sent to Archbishop Dimitry in the Far East.
Himself declining an invitation to retire to China, he wrote: "Dear friend! I am
very old and unable to travel … But in place of myself, as my soul, as my heart,
I am sending you Bishop John. This little, frail man, looking almost like a
child, is in actuality a miracle of ascetic firmness and strictness in our time
of total spiritual enfeeblement." Vladika was assigned to the Diocese of
VLADIKA ARRIVED IN SHANGHAI in late November, on the Feast of
the Entrance of the Mother of God into the Temple, and found a large cathedral
uncompleted and a jurisdictional conflict to resolve. The first thing he did was
to restore Church unity. He established contact with Serbs, Greeks, Ukrainians.
He paid special attention to religious education and made it a rule to be
present at the oral examinations of the catechism classes in all the Orthodox
schools in Shanghai. He at once became a protector of various charitable and
philanthropic societies and actively participated in their work, especially
after seeing the needy circumstances in which the majority of his flock,
refugees from the Soviet Union, were placed. He never went visiting for tea to
the rich, but he was to be seen wherever there was need, regardless of times and
weather. He organized a home for orphans and the children of needy parents,
entrusting it to the heavenly protection of a Saint he highly venerated, St.
Tikhon of Zadonsk, who loved children. Vladika himself gathered sick and
starving children off the streets and dark alleys of Shanghai's slums. Beginning
with eight children, the orphanage later housed up to a hundred children at one
time, and some 1500 in all. When the Communists came, Vladika evacuated the
whole orphanage, first to an island in the Philippines, and then to America.
It soon became apparent to his new flock that Vladika was a
great ascetic. The core of his asceticism was prayer and fasting. He ate once a
day at 11 p.m. During the first and last weeks of Lent he did not eat at all,
and for the rest of this and the Christmas fast he ate only bread from the
altar. His nights he spent usually in prayer, and when he finally became
exhausted he would put his head on the floor and steal a few hours of sleep near
dawn. When the time would come to serve Matins, someone would knock on the door,
to no avail; they would open the door and find Vladika huddled on the floor in
the icon-corner, overcome by sleep. At a tap on the shoulder he would jump up,
and in a few minutes he would be in church for services — cold water streaming
down his beard, but quite awake.
Vladika officiated in the cathedral every morning and evening,
even when sick. He celebrated the Divine Liturgy daily, as he was to do for the
rest of his life, and if for some reason he could not serve, he would still
receive Holy Communion. No matter where he was, he would not miss a service.
Once, according to a witness, "Vladika's leg was terribly swollen and the
concilium of doctors, fearing gangrene, prescribed immediate hospitalization,
which Vladika categorically refused. Then the Russian doctors informed the
Parish Council that they released themselves of any responsibility for the
health and even the life of the patient. The members of the Parish Council,
after long pleas for mercy and threats of taking him by force, compelled Vladika
to agree, and he was sent to the Russian Hospital in the morning of the day
before the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. By six o'clock, however,
Vladika came limping to the cathedral on foot and served. In a day all the
swelling was gone."
Vladika's constant attention to self-mortification had its root
in the fear of God, which he possessed in the tradition of the ancient Church
and of Holy Russia. The following incident, told by 0. Skopichenko and confirmed
by many from Shanghai, well illustrates his daring, unshakable faith in Christ.
"Mrs. Menshikova was bitten by a mad dog. The injections against rabies she
either refused to take or took carelessly … And then she came down with this
terrible disease. Bishop John found out about it and came to the dying woman. He
gave her Holy Communion, but just then she began having one of the fits of this
disease; she began to foam at the mouth, and at the same time she spit out the
Holy Gifts which she had just received. The Holy Sacrament cannot be thrown out.
And Vladika picked up and put in his mouth the Holy Gifts vomited by the sick
woman. Those who were with him exclaimed: `Vladika, what are you doing! Rabies
is terribly contagious!' But Vladika peacefully answered: `Nothing will happen;
these are the Holy Gifts.' And indeed nothing did happen."
By now it had become known that Vladika not only was a
righteous man and an ascetic, but was also so close to God that he was endowed
with the gift of clairvoyance and there were healings by his prayers. A striking
account told by an eyewitness, Lidia Liu, testifies to Vladika's spiritual
height. "Vladika came to Hong Kong twice. It's strange, but I, not knowing
Vladika then, wrote him a letter asking him to help a widow with children, and I
also asked him about some personal spiritual matter, but I never received an
answer. A year passed. Vladika came to Hong Kong and I was in a crowd that went
to meet him in church. Vladika turned to me and said, `It is you who wrote me
the letter!' I was astonished, since Vladika had never seen me before."
"A moleben was sung, after which Vladika, standing before a
lectern, was delivering a sermon. I was standing next to my mother, and we both
saw a light surrounding Vladika down to the lectern — a radiance around him a
foot wide. This lasted a rather long time. When the sermon was over, I, struck
by such an unusual phenomenon, told what we had seen to our friend, who replied
to us: `Yes, many faithful saw it.' My husband, who was standing a little way
off, also saw this light."
A similar event occured in 1939, when certain parishioner began
to lose her faith due to many tribulations which had befallen her. Once, upon
entering the Church during Vladika's service, she witnessed during the
transubstantiation of the Holy Sacraments a little flame in the form of a large
tulip descended into the Chalice. After this miracle her faith returned, and she
began repenting of her faint-heartedness.
Vladika visited prisons and celebrated the Divine Liturgy for
the convicts. On one occasion in Shanghai, Vladika John was asked to give
communion to a dying man in a Russian hospital. This time he took another priest
with him. On his arrival he spotted a gregarious young man in his twenties,
playing a harmonica. This lad was to be discharged the next day. Vladika John
called to him and said: "I want to give you communion right now." The young man
immediately confessed his sins and received communion. The astonished priest
asked Vladika why he did not go to the one dying, but tarried instead with an
obviously healthy young man. Vladika answered: "He will die tonight, and the
other, who is seriously ill, will live many years." It happened just as he
Vladika loved to visit the sick and did it every single day,
hearing confessions and giving Holy Communion. If the condition of a patient
should become critical, Vladika would go to him at any hour of the day or night
to pray at his bedside. Here is one undoubted miracle among the many worked by
Vladika's prayers; it was recorded and placed in the archives of the County
Hospital in Shanghai.
L. D. Sadkovskaya was very much taken by the sport of horse
racing. Once she was thrown off her horse; she hit her head on a rock and lost
consciousness. She was brought to the hospital unconscious. A concilium of
doctors agreed that her condition was hopeless and it was not likely that she
would live until morning. The pulse was almost gone; the skull was fractured in
places so that small pieces of the skull were pressing on the brain. In such a
condition she would die on the operating table. Even if her heart would tolerate
surgery and the result were successful, she would still remain deaf, dumb, and
Her sister, after hearing all this, rushed to Bishop John in
despair and begged him to save her sister. Vladika agreed. He came to the
hospital and asked everyone to leave the room and prayed there for about two
hours. Then he called the chief doctor and asked him to examine her again. How
surprised the doctor was to discover that her pulse was normal! He agreed to
perform the operation immediately, but only in the presence of Bishop John. The
operation was successful, and the doctors were amazed when, after the operation,
the patient regained consciousness and asked to drink. Soon she was released
from the hospital and lived for many years a normal life.
Vladika visited the prison also, and celebrated the Divine
Liturgy for the convicts on a primitive little table. But the most difficult
task for a pastor is to visit the mentally ill and the possessed — and Vladika
sharply distinguished between the two. Outside Shanghai there was a mental
hospital, and Vladika alone had the spiritual power to visit these terribly sick
people. He gave them Holy Communion, and they, surprisingly, received it
peacefully and listened to him. They always looked forward to his visits and met
him with joy.
Vladika possessed great courage. During the Japanese occupation
the Japanese authorities tried in every way possible to bend the Russian colony
to their will. Pressure was directed through the heads of the Russian Emigrant
Committee. Two presidents of this Committee strove to maintain its independence,
and as a result both were killed. Confusion and terror seized the Russian
colony, and at that moment Vladika John, in spite of warnings from the Russians
who were collaborating with the Japanese, declared himself the temporary head of
the Russian colony.
During the Japanese occupation it was extremely dangerous to
walk on the streets at night, and most people took care to be home by dark.
Vladika, however, paying no heed to the danger, continued to visit the sick and
needy at any hour of the night, and he was never touched.
In Shanghai, a voice teacher, Anna Petrovna Lushnikova, taught
Vladika the proper method of breathing and pronunciation of words, thus helping
him to better his diction. At the end of each lesson Vladika paid her 20
dollars. In 1945, during the war, she was gravely wounded and chanced to be in a
French hospital. On a very stormy night, feeling that she might die, Anna
Petrovna began asking the nurses to call Vladika John, who was in France, so
that he would give her communion. The nurses refused since the hospital was
locked up during the night due to war-time conditions. Anna Petrovna was beside
herself and kept calling upon Vladika. Suddenly, around eleven o'clock in the
evening, Vladika appeared in the ward. Unable to believe her eyes, Anna Petrovna
asked Vladika, weather this was a dream or did he really come to her. Vladika
smiled, prayed and administered communion to her. Following this she calmed down
and slept. The next morning she felt cured. No one believed Anna Petrovna that
Vladika visited her that night since the hospital was tightly secured. However,
her ward neighbor substantiated the fact that she also saw Vladika. The greatest
surprise was that under Anna Petrovna's pillow was found a 20 dollar bill. Thus
Vladika left a material evidence of his visit.
A former Shanghai altar boy of Vladika's and presently
Archpriest George Larin, relates: "Notwithstanding Vladika's strictness, all the
altar boys loved him very much. To me, Vladika was an ideal whom I wished to
emulate in every way. Thus, during Lent, I stopped sleeping in bed and lay on
the floor, I stopped eating the usual meals with the family, but partook of
bread and water in solitude … My parents became worried and took me to Vladika.
Hearing them out, the prelate asked the guard to go to the store and bring a
sausage. To my tearful outcries to the fact that I did not wish to break Lent,
the wise prelate admonished me to eat the sausage and to remember always that
obedience to parents is more important than personal accomplishments. "How then
shall I go on Vladika?' — I asked wishing albeit to "especially" apply myself. —
"Go to Church as you always did, and at home do what your mother and father
ask.' I remember how grieved I was then that Vladika did not assign to me some
With the coming of the Communists, the Russians in China were
forced once again to flee, most of them through the Philippine Islands. In 1949
approximately 5000 refugees from the Chinese mainland were living in an
International Refugee Organization camp on the island of Tubabao in the
Philippines. This island is located in the path of the seasonal typhoons which
sweep through that part of the Pacific. During the 27-month period of the camp'
s occupancy, the island was threatened only once by a typhoon, and it changed
course and bypassed the island.
When the fear of typhoons was mentioned by one Russian to the
Filipinos, they replied that there was no reason to worry, because "your holy
man blesses your camp from four directions every night." They referred to
Vladika John; for no typhoon struck the island while he was there. After the
camp had been almost totally evacuated and the people resettled elsewhere
(mainly in the USA and Australia), it was struck by a terrible typhoon that
totally destroyed the camp.
VLADIKA HIMSELF went to Washington, D. C., to get his people to
America. Legislation was changed and almost the whole camp came to the New World
— thanks again to Vladika. The exodus of his flock from China accomplished,
Archbishop John was given in 1951 a new field for his pastoral endeavor: he was
sent by the Synod of Bishops to the Archdiocese of Western Europe, with his see
first in Paris, and later in Brussels. He was now one of the leading hierarchs
of the Russian Church, and his attendance was frequently required at the
sessions of the Synod in New York City.
In Western Europe Vladika took a deep interest not only in the
Russians in the diaspora, for whom he exerted himself tirelessly in labors
similar to those for which he had been known in Shanghai, but also in the local
inhabitants. He received under his jurisdiction local Dutch and French Orthodox
Churches, protecting them and encouraging their Orthodox development. He
celebrated the Divine Liturgy in Dutch and French, as before he had served in
Greek and Chinese, and as later he was to serve in English.
Vladika's interest in and devotion to the Church's Saints, of
whom his knowledge was already seemingly limitless, was extended now to Western
European Saints dating from before the schism of the Latin Church, many of whom,
venerated only locally, were included in no Orthodox calendar of Saints. He
collected their lives and images of them, and later submitted a long list of
them to the Synod.
From this period of Vladika's presence in Western Europe, Mrs.
E. G. Chertkova reminisces: "On several occasions I visited Vladika when he
lived in the Cadet Corps building near Paris. He had a small cell on the top
floor. In the cell were a table, an armchair and several chairs and in the
corner — icons and a lectern with books. There was no bed in the cell since
Vladika did not lie down to sleep, but prayed by leaning on a tall stick with a
cross-bar on top. Sometimes he prayed on his knees; most likely when he
prostrated himself he would then fall asleep for a little while in that position
on the floor. That is how he exhausted himself! Sometimes during our
conversation it seemed to me that he dozed. But when I stopped, he would
immediately say: "Continue, I hear you.'"
"Since for a long time our church did not have a permanent
priest, once a priest from another parish came to us to celebrate Vespers. The
whole service lasted only 45 minutes (usualy it takes 2 and a half hours)! We
were horrified! So many parts of Vespers were skipped that we decided to tell
about this to Vladika. We hopped that he will influence the priest to follow the
established order of Orthodox services. But Vladika pleasently smiling said to
us: `How difficult is to please you people. I celebrate too long and he too
short!' With such kindness and meeknes he taught us not to judge."
Vladika's reputation for holiness, too, spread among the
non-Orthodox as well as the Orthodox population. In one of the Catholic churches
of Paris, a priest strove to inspire his young people with these words: "You
demand proofs, you say that now there are neither miracles nor saints. Why
should I give you theoretical proofs, when today there walks in the streets of
Paris a Saint — Saint Jean Nus Pieds (Saint John the Barefoot)." Many people
testify to the miracles worked by the prayers of Archbishop John in Western
V. D. recounts: "Many were aware that it was not necessary to
ask Vladika to visit someone. The Lord Himself inspired him where and to whom to
go. Vladika John was known to many in the French hospitals and was admitted
therein at any time. Besides, Vladika unerringly directed himself where he was
needed. My brother, when wounded in the head, was taken to the hospital. The
x-ray revealed a large fracture of the skull. His eyes swelled and became
sanguinous; he was in critical condition. Vladika, who did not know my brother,
somehow found him in the hospital, prayed over him and gave him communion. When
my brother underwent a follow up of head x-rays, there was no fracture to be
found. My brother recuperated very fast. The doctor was dumbfounded!"
IN SAN FRANCISCO, WHOSE cathedral parish is the largest in the
Russian Church Abroad, a life-long friend of Vladika, Archbishop Tikhon, retired
because of ill-health, and in his absence the construction of a great new
cathedral came to a halt as a bitter dispute paralyzed the Russian community. In
response to the urgent request of thousands of Russians in San Francisco who had
known him in Shanghai, Archbishop John was sent by the Synod in 1962 as the only
hierarch likely to restore peace in the divided community. He arrived at his
last assignment as bishop twenty-eight years to the day after his first arrival
in Shanghai: on the feast of the Entrance of the Mother of God into the Temple,
November 21, 1962.
Under Vladika's guidance a measure of peace was restored, the
paralysis of the community was ended, and the cathedral finished. Yet even in
the role of peacemaker Vladika was attacked, and accusations and slanders were
heaped upon his head. He was forced to appear in public court — in flagrant
violation of church canons — to answer to preposterous charges of concealing
financial dishonesty by the Parish Council. All involved were completely
exonerated; but thus Vladika's last years were filled with the bitterness of
slander and persecution, to which he unfailingly replied without complaint,
without judging anyone, with undisturbed peacefulness.
Vladika remained true to the end to his path of faithful
service to the Church. To those who knew him in his last years perhaps two
aspects of his character stood out. First was his strictness in what regarded
the Church and the Law of God.
At the end of October the Roman Catholic Church celebrates the
feast of All Saints. There is a tradition that during the preceding night the
dark spirits celebrated their own festival of disorder. In America this
"celebration" called Halloween has become an occasion on which children make
mischief dressed in costumes of witches, devils, ghosts, as if calling on the
dark powers — a diabolic mockery of Christianity. A group of Russians organized
on this night a Halloween Ball. In the San Francisco Cathedral at this time was
the All-night Vigil celebrated, and a number of people were absent, to the great
sorrow of Vladika. After the service Vladika went to the place where the ball
was still in progress. He climbed the steps and entered the hall, to the
absolute astonishment of the participants. The music stopped and Vladika, in
complete silence, glared at the dumbfounded people, slowly and deliberately
making the round of the entire hall, staff in hand. He spoke not a word, and
none was necessary; the mere sight of Vladika stung the conscience of all, as
was evident from the general consternation. Vladika left in silence; and the
next day in church he thundered his holy indignation and his flaming zeal
calling all to the devout Christian life.
Yet Vladika is not best remembered by his flock for his
sternness, but rather for his gentleness, his joyfulness, even for what is known
as "foolishness for Christ's sake." The most popular photograph of him captures
something of this aspect of his character. It was especially noticeable in his
conduct with children. After services he would smile and joke with the boys who
served with him, playfully knocking the refractory on the head with his staff.
Occasionally the Cathedral clergy would be disconcerted to see Vladika, in the
middle of a service (though never in the altar), bend over to play with a small
child! And on feast days when blessing with holy water was called for, he would
sprinkle the faithful, not on the top of the head as is usual, but right in the
face (which once led a small girl to exclaim, "he squirts you"), with a
noticeable glint in his eye and total unconcern at the discomfiture of some of
the more dignified. Children were absolutely devoted to him, despite his usual
strictness with them.
Anna Hodyriva recounts: "My sister Xenia Yarovoy, who lived in
Los Angeles, suffered for a long time with a painful hand. She sought
physicians, tried home remedies, yet nothing helped. She finally decided to turn
to Vladika John and wrote to him in San Francisco. Some time went by and the
hand was healed. Xenia began to forget about the previous pain in her hand. On
one occasion, when she visited San Francisco, she went to the Cathedral for
services. At the end of the service Vladika John held the cross to be kissed. On
seeing my sister he asked: `How is your hand?' Vladika saw my sister for the
first time! How then did he recognize her and know that it was she who had a
Anna S. recollects: "My sister Musia and I got into an
accident. A drunken young man was traveling towards us. He struck with great
force the door on the side where my sister was sitting. The ambulance was called
and she was taken to the hospital. Her condition was very serious — a lung was
punctured and a rib broken, which caused her great pain. Her eyes were invisible
in her swollen face. When Vladika visited her, she lifted her eyelid with her
finger and upon seeing him took his hand and kissed it. She could not speak
since she had a tracheotomy, but tears of joy flowed from her eyes. After that
Vladika visited her several times and she began to get better. Once Vladika
entered the ward and announced: `Musia is feeling very poorly now.' He then went
to her and, closing the drape around her bed, he prayed for a long time. During
his prayer we were approached by two physicians and I asked them how serious was
my sister's condition and if I should summon her daughter from Canada? (we kept
from the daughter the fact that her mother was in an accident). The physicians
answered: `To call or not to call the family is your problem — we cannot
guarantee that she will survive until the morning.' Thank God that she not only
survived that night, but was completely cured and returned to Canada … My family
and I believe that Musia was saved by the prayers of Vladika John."
Vladika's life was governed by the standards of the spiritual
life, and if this upset the routine order of things it was in order to jolt
people out of their spiritual inertia and remind them that there is a higher
judgment than the world's. A remarkable incident from Vladika's years in San
Francisco (1963) illustrates several aspects of his holiness: his spiritual
boldness based on absolute faith; his ability to see the future and to overcome
by his spiritual sight the bounds of space; and the power of his prayer, which
beyond all doubt worked miracles. The incident is related by the woman who
witnessed it, Mrs. L. Liu; the exact words of Vladika were confirmed by the Mr.
T. who is mentioned.
"In San Francisco my husband was involved in an automobile
accident and was seriously injured; he lost control of balance and suffered
terribly. At this time Vladika had many troubles. Knowing the power of Vladika's
prayers, I thought: "If I ask Vladika to come to my husband, my husband would
recover;" But I was afraid to do this because Vladika was so busy then. Two days
passed, and suddenly Vladika came to us, accompanied by Mr. B. T., who had
driven him. Vladika stayed with us about five minutes, but I believed that my
husband would recover. The state of his health was at its most serious point
then, and after Vladika's visit there was a sharp crisis and then he began to
recover and lived four more years after this. He was quite aged. Afterwards I
met Mr. T. at a Church meeting and he told me that he had been driving Vladika
to the airport. Suddenly Vladika had said to him: "Let's go now to the Liu's."
He had objected that they would be late for the plane and that he could not turn
around at that moment. Then Vladika had said: "Can you take the life of a man
upon yourself?" He could do nothing but drive Vladika to us. Vladika, as it
turned out, was not late for the plane."
AMONG THOSE WHO KNEW and loved Vladika, the first response to
the news of his sudden death was: it cannot be! And this was more than a
reaction to the suddenness of the event; for among those who were close to him
there had unaccountably developed the notion that this pillar of the Church,
this holy man who was always accessible to his flock — would never cease to be!
There would never be a time when one would not be able to turn to him for advice
and consolation! In one sense, in a spiritual sense, this has since turned out
to be true. But it is also one of the realities of this world that every man who
lives must die. Vladika was prepared for this reality.
To the manager of the orphanage where he lived, who had spoken
in the spring of 1966 of a diocesan meeting to be held three years later, he
indicated, "I will not be here then." In May, 1966, a woman who had known
Vladika for twelve years and whose testimony, according to Metropolitan
Philaret, is "worthy of complete confidence" was amazed to hear him say, "I will
die soon, at the end of June — not in San Francisco, but in Seattle."
Again, on the evening before his departure for Seattle, four
days before his death, Vladika astonished a man for whom he had just served a
moleben with the words, "You will not kiss my hand again." And on the day of his
death, at the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy which he celebrated, he spent
three hours in the altar praying, emerging not long before his death, which
occurred on July 2, 1966. He died in his room in the parish building next to the
church. He was heard to fall and, having been placed in a chair by those who ran
to help him, breathed his last peacefully and with little evident pain, in the
presence of the miracle-working Kursk Icon of the Sign.
Before the of canonization of Archbishop John his relics
reposed in a chapel in the basement of the San Francisco cathedral (after the
canonization in July of 1994 the relics of Archbishop John were moved to the
main floor of the cathedral). Soon after his repose, a new chapter began in the
story of this holy man. Just as St. Seraphim of Sarov told his spiritual
children to regard him as living after his death, and to come to his grave and
tell him what was in their hearts, so our Vladika also has proved to be hearing
those who revere his memory. Soon after his death a one-time student of his, Fr.
Amvrosy P., saw one night a dream or a vision: Vladika, clad in Easter
vestments, full of light and shining, was censing the cathedral and joyfully
uttered to him just one word while blessing him: "happy."
Later, before the end of the forty-day period, Fr. Constantine
Z., long Vladika' s deacon and now a priest, who had lately been angry at
Vladika and had begun to doubt his righteousness, saw Vladika in a dream all in
light, with rays of light shining around his head so brightly that it was
impossible to look at them. Thus were Fr. Constantine's doubts of Vladika's
The manager of the St. Tikhon Zadonsky Home and long a devoted
servant of Vladika, M. A. Shakmatova, saw a remarkable dream. A crowd of people
carried Vladika in a coffin into St. Tikhon's Church; Vladika came to life and
stood in the royal doors anointing the people and saying to her, "Tell the
people: although I have died, I am alive!"
As during his life time, Vladika continues to be very active in
helping those who need him. Here are just two of the thousands of cases of
Vladika's miracles. Victor Boyton, who witnessed the healing of his friend by
Vladika John, recounts: "The miracle occurred after I had received the copyright
to the English publication of Orthodox Life from Jordanville, N.Y., which
included photos of Vladika John. I had a friend, a Moslem from Russia, who was
suffering from cancer of the blood and was losing his sight. The doctors
concurred that in three months time he would be blind. Placing the picture of
Vladika John by my vigil light, I began to pray daily for my friend. After a
short period of time my friend was healed from the blood cancer and began to see
normally. The eye doctors were amazed at this occurrence. From then on, my
friend has lead a normal life and reads without impediment."
The archpriest Stephan Pavlenko recollects: "My brother Paul,
although not in the military, lived for some years in Vietnam. There he sought
children who were wounded or orphaned due to the then continuing war. He placed
them either in orphanages or hospitals. Thus he became close with his future
wife, a certain Vietnamese Kim En who was also involved with helping the
unfortunate children. My brother introduced Kim to the Christian faith and to
the lives of many of God's Saints. She told my brother that during her very
difficult times there appeared to her in her dreams a certain monk who consoled
her and told her what to do. Once, towards Easter time, I sent my brother some
cassettes of monastic songs as well as some books and journals of a spiritual
context. Having received my parcel and having shown the spiritual literature to
Kim he was surprised, when upon seeing the cover of a certain journal she
exclaimed: `This is the monk who appears to me in my sleep!' She pointed to a
well known picture of Vladika John, taken among the graves of the Novo Diveevo
monastery in Spring-Valley. In suit, Kim was baptized in the Orthodox Church
with the name Kyra."
THE BLESSED ARCHBISHOP JOHN of Shanghai and San Francisco was
canonized as a Saint by the Russian Church on July 2 1994. It was a wonderfull
and unforgettable event to which hundreds of clergy and many thousands of laymen
came from all over the world!
The importance of St. John for the people of the 20th Century
cannot be underestimated. Those who knew him personally or have read about his
life and miracles have learned of the tremendous spiritual power embodied in
this frail little man. God was drawn to the burning, loving heart of Vladika
John, which became a vessel of His grace. He entrusted the Saint with heavenly
secrets and the ability to transcend physical laws, making him a point of
contact between Himself, the Creator, and us, His creatures.
There can be no doubt that Vladika John has been sent by God as
a gift of holiness to the people of the last days. At a time when imitation has
become the norm in all aspects of life, when the authentic spirit of the
Christian Faith has been so hidden that most are oblivious of its very
existence, he can be seen as a model of genuineness.
Vladika John has set the right "tone" of true apostleship in
the modern world. As more people are drawn into the Orthodox Church of Christ
before the final unleashing of evil, may they look to him as their loving guide
and a pastor who knows no death. He is a kind of "measuring stick" that
indicates who and what is real in our confusing times. The unit of measure is
nothing else than pure Christian love, which he possessed and distributed in
abundance. With this love, the intense struggle of spiritual life becomes worth
By the prayers of Saint John may God bless and save us.
**** **** ****
O BELOVED HIERARCH JOHN while living amongst us thou didst see
the future as if present, distant things as if near, the hearts and minds of men
as if they were thine own. We know that in this thou wast illumined by God, with
Whom thou wast ever in the mystical communion of prayer, and with Whom thou now
abidest eternally. As thou once didst hear the mental petitions of thy
far-scattered flock even before they could speak to thee, so now hear our
prayers and bring them before the Lord. Thou hast gone over unto the life
unaging, unto the other world, yet thou art in truth not far from us, for heaven
is closer to us than our own souls. Show us who feel frightened and alone the
same compassion that thou didst once show to the trembling fatherless ones. Give
to us who have fallen into sin, confusion and despair the same stern yet loving
instruction that thou didst once give to thy chosen flock. In thee we see the
living likeness of our Maker, the living spirit of the Gospel, and the
foundation of our Faith.
In the pure life that thou hast led during our sinful times, we
see a model of virtue, a source of instruction and inspiration. Beholding the
grace bestowed upon thee, we know that God hath not abandoned His people. It is
rather we that have fallen from Him, and so must regain the likeness of Divinity
as thou hast done. Through thine intercession, O blessed one, grant that we may
increase our striving toward our heavenly homeland, setting our affections on
things above, laboring in prayer and virtue, waging war against the attacks of
our fallen nature. Invoke the mercy of God, that we may one day join thee in His
Kingdom. For our deepest wish is to live forever with Him, with the Father, and
the Son, and the Holy Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen.
Archbishop John's abundant miracles both before and
after his death testify to his love for the people. People in America, Europe,
and the other places of his pastoral labors have long known of the power of his
heavenly intercessions. And now, with the publication of Blessed John the
Wonderworker and other books and articles about him in the Russian language,
the people of Russia are beginning to know, too, and have already experienced
healings through his prayers, as the following accounts testify.
1) Valentina A. is a member of our parish which is dedicated to
the Reigning Icon of the Mother of God. Having read the book on the healings and
life of St. John of San Francisco (Blessed John the Wonderworker), she
came to me after church services and asked for oil from the lampada in the
sepulchre of Archbishop John, as her daughter was seriously sick. Valentina A.
recounted that her daughter, an architect by profession, had a swelling in her
breast. It grew and the daughter turned to a doctor for help. The diagnosis was
a frightful one, cancer of the breast. I had Unction served over the daughter
and later gave her cotton saturated with oil from Archbishop Johnís lampada. She
anointed the ailing spot several times by making the Sign of the Cross. The
doctors insisted on surgery, but when she came to the hospital for observation,
the doctors and the sick woman herself were amazed: the swelling had disappeared
and there remained only a scar. (1994)
2) Our altar boy, Oleg S., asked me after church services to
anoint his hand. There was a swelling on it the size of a chicken egg. I
anointed him with the oil of Archbishop John in a cross-like form in the Name of
the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and the acolyte left for home. After a week, I
asked Oleg about his hand. He said he himself did not even notice when that
swelling had disappeared. (1995)
3) Some time later, after Divine Liturgy, a Moleben was served
with a Blessing of the Water. At the end of the Moleben, I anointed all
communicants with the oil of St. John Maximovitch. I also anointed Olga. After a
week, she was again at services and stood weeping. I asked her why she was
weeping and all she could say was that everything was fine. Her husband, a
military man, later came to me and told me that her leg had developed some
infected growths. These growths had rapidly become ulcerous and had begun to
multiply. The sight was awful. She turned to doctors but they simply shrugged
their shoulders and could say nothing concrete. They gave her various creams but
these did not help her.
Alter Holy Communion, Alga had been anointed with the oil of
St. John. At home she sprinkled her legs with holy water and went to bed. In the
morning, she saw no ulcers at all on her legs. Therefore, at the next church
service, Olga wept from gratitude and was too emotional to tell us by herself.
4) Another parishioner of mine, Nadezhda, told me that her son
Michael caught a severe cold and had a convulsive cough which only grew worse.
She began to treat him with various medications. In the evening he would begin
to fall asleep but the cough continued to torment him. Each minute he would be
racked by this cough. His mother, a professional medical worker, was very
frightened because at one time he had been rushed to the hospital by ambulance
with these same symptoms. At this time, Nadezhda was reading the book on St.
John Maximovitch and his miraculous healings. The mother began to pray, asking
help from St. John, that he would heal her son. Having prayed, she came over to
her sleeping son, crossed him and turned him on the other side. Some time later,
the cough stopped and the boy quietly slept until morning. She no longer gave
him any medication, only some holy water. For several days, her son would
occasionally cough, but the convulsive fits did not return, and he became quite
well. The mother was very thankful to Archbishop John for the healing of her son
and continues to pray to him with gratitude. (April, 1995)
Hieromonk Cyril Osipov