A Married Saint?
Fr. Alexander Goussetis
The saints of our Church are sometimes seen as distant figures from long ago. We view them as ‘out of touch’ and not relevant to our current circumstances. Many also incorrectly believe that saints are mostly anti-social celibate hermits. The Church reminds us that there are countless married saints that we honor. One in particular is St. John of Kronstadt, who was canonized by the Church as a saint twenty-five years ago this month.
St. John was a married parish priest in Russia during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. His parish, situated in the port city of Kronstadt, served thousands of Orthodox Christians. Rather than live a remote and cloistered life, St. John was actively involved in serving the needs of the people of Kronstadt. One biography of his life notes that St. John was ‘an ideal parish priest.’ The author remarks, ‘He lived a life of heroic good works; he was no advocate of impractical theories, but one who practiced what he preached; loving and serving all, beholding his God in all his children.’
St. John balanced his social outreach with prayer. His biographer notes, ‘He simply was convinced that God cannot refuse to hear the prayer of insistent petition accompanied by the offering of self.’
A few quotes from the writings of St. John give us a flavor of his life:
The means to confirm and strengthen Christian hope are prayer, especially frequent and sincere prayer, confession of our sins, frequent reading of the Word of God, and above all, frequent communion of the holy and life-giving sacraments of the Body and Blood of Christ.
The purer the heart becomes, the larger it becomes; consequently it is able to find room for more and more loved ones; the more sinful it is, the more it contracts; consequently it is able to find room for fewer and fewer loved ones – it is limited by a false love: self-love.
Do not develop a habit of noticing every sin in others, and of judging them, as we are so inclined to do. Everyone shall give an answer to God for himself. Correct your own sins; and amend your own heart.
An excellent book on the life and writings of St. John of Kronstadt is entitled Spiritual Counsels. Seek the wisdom that this married, ‘city-dwelling’ saint can offer to us.
Christ is risen! By following the wisdom of St. Theophan we can cultivate a deeper experience of Christ’s resurrection throughout the year.