The churches, monasteries, chapels, schools, orphanages, brotherhoods, sisterhoods, charitable organizations, societies and other Orthodox Christian organizations dedicated to St. John of Kronstadt.
For the participants of the great "family" of the Righteous John of Kronstadt, today’s celebration of the 30th anniversary of his glorification of serves as a reason to remember our meetings and share impressions, to tell our dear Batushka about our love for him and at the same time glorify the Lord in the person of His remarkable saint.
Five years ago, we marked the 25th anniversary of the glorification of St. John of Kronstadt by the Russian Orthodox Church. His "family" celebrated this holiday widely in 2015: some came to St. Petersburg to the jubilee events and traveled together with a cross procession of the cross Sura, while some were with us only in prayer at the time.
Remembering this first radiant celebration and the more recent anniversary in 2019, our dear companions talked about what was especially dear to them during our gatherings, what gave the meetings and exchange of thoughts of the St. John Family, what examples of pastoral or social service made deep impressions in the soul as real examples of Batushka’s work, genuine spiritual service to one’s neighbor. Of course, on the eve of the 30th anniversary of the glorification of this All-Russian pastor we exchanged well-wishes with each other and our entire community.
Archimandrite Joseph (Eremenko): A Family of Parishes Sharing a Single Forefather
The secretary of the Tomsk Diocese and author of the book Holy Righteous John of Kronstadt told us that this was his first time at such a grandiose celebration: "I was astounded, of course: the scale, the presentation, the logistics," said Fr. Joseph. "All of the gears were in motion. When I saw the entirety of the St. John Family, I got the sense that there is still a future, that everything is not lost."
According to Fr. Joseph, Priest Nicholas Belyaev, dean of St. John Monastery in St. Petersburg, having gathered the "family" together, accomplished something great. "Why is this a kind of family? Not an association, not a union," asked Fr. Joseph, and then answers himself: "Because a family is the divinely blessed foundation of human life, of civilization. That is why the family is the wisest, the most proper form of human relationships. That Fr. Nicholas’ family knew St. John of Kronstadt’s family transformed what he accomplished. May God grant him strength and health; we are all praying for him."
Fr. Joseph was especially struck by the parish communities. It was remarkable to see working people taking vacation days to make a personal sacrifice, to make their contribution for the sake of Fr. John. "I remember one of the participants of these meetings saying: ‘Sometimes you work and work to exhaustion,’" quoted Fr. Joseph. "But this is a meeting of like-minded souls who support each other. It’s hard for everyone but people find a way to serve the glory of God for the sake of Fr. John, not for the sake of their own self-interest."
The St. John Family is not only for social service, says Fr. Joseph, it is also prayerful, and financial support for poor parishes who all share a common forefather. He was not only a famous or great person, but a saint. Spiritual unity exists because Fr. John received it and blessed it.
"The greatest work that we accomplished was the Liturgy," summarized Fr. Joseph. "And we celebrated it in Kronstadt. This is exceptionally important! This is such a powerful spiritual abundance, that when you come home, you know that you are not alone, that you must continue your service. Everyone has his place."
Archpriest Gleb Dolzhnikov: To Continuing the Undertakings of John of Kronstadt
The rector of the Church of St. John of Kronstadt in the village of Puksa in Archangelsk Oblast participated in such a celebration for the first time in the autumn of 2019.
"What was amazing was the high quality of these celebrations," he said. "The conference made a great impression, where we were given the opportunity to participate in various forums, moving from section to section. At the roundtable devoted to education, I liked the lecture on work with preschoolers, about Orthodox Christian programs for the spiritual and moral rearing of children. I took note of this. I also work with children, so it was of particular interest to me."
Fr. Gleb found the experience of working with homeless and addicts to be useful, and something that he can manifest in real life. His parish is still only building a church, established in a village that was once a labor camp. It was demolished and everyone decided that a church should take its place. "The idea came to me during the 2015 cross procession, when a train passed by the station. We were inspired and decided to build a church."
Fr. Gleb ministers to eight parishes, and, of course, one of them is dedicated to the Pastor of Kronstadt. In Plesetsk, there is a group doing social work and provided support to needy families with many children. In the north of the country, there are many lonely people in the parishes. In Puksa, where the parish is only now forming, the plan is to open a dormitory workshop, where people could learn a trade: men, for instance, can do carpentry, women can read the akathist while doing crafts. "Labor and prayer unite people," insists the rector.
He was also greatly inspired by a film with miraculous examples of service, with fascinating and edifying stories that can be watched over and over. Fr. Gleb showed it to parents and parishioners. As a real example of continuing the work of Father John, he recalled one of the protagonists of the film: Nicholas Afonin, who set up an orphanage in Biysk. Thus, the wheat miraculously began growing there while the weeds withered. God’s providence was clearly demonstrated there.
"Thank you for this wondrous gathering," said Fr. Gleb gratefully. "I hope to participate in future events of the larger St. John Family, which I hope will continue to thrive in love, to remain united in the work of continuing the undertakings of John of Kronstadt."
Abbot Metrophanes (Gudkov): Zealous Service according to Fr. John’s Example!
The rector of Moscow’s Church of the "Reigning" Mother of God in Chertanov, which has a chapel dedicated to St. John of Kronstadt, expressed joy that, by God’s grace, he was a participant in the 2015 events and took part with the rest of the St. John Family in the cross procession to Sura. Particularly memorable for him was talking to his fellow-travelers in the procession, the shared prayer, the special spirit and pride that they all became witnesses to these events in person.
"I remember the seminars and roundtables during our 2019 gathering, devoted to social work and prison ministry, to education and the experience of working with preschool kids," added Fr. Metrophanes. "As we approached the 30th anniversary of the glorification of the All-Russian Pastor, I would like to wish the St. John Family zealous service to God according to Fr. John of Kronstadt’s example!"
Archpriest Alexis: In Difficult Moments, I Turn to Him as a Child to a Father
The rector of the Nativity of the Mother of God Church in Albany, NY, told us that he grew up in America and learned about Father John from those who had personal experiences with or were even eyewitnesses of St. John during his lifetime. When he was glorified by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia in 1964, his renowned journal My Life in Christ was in every home and parish, and his teachings were always cited.
Once, a bishop was asked, if he were to be left with only one book, what would it be? Everyone thought that he would say "the Gospel," but he said "My Life in Christ." The hierarch explained that if someone could live the life laid out in that book, he would fulfill the Gospel, as well.
"When I was invited to the 2015 anniversary celebrations, I immediately bought a plane ticket," recalls Fr. Alexis. "I grew up during the Cold War, so to imagine that I would ever visit the village where the Holy Righteous John of Kronstadt was born was unthinkable!
"I was overjoyed at the trip! When we began the celebrations, I felt indescribable consolation, knowing how many like-minded people there were, who devoted themselves to the spiritual guidance of this great Russian Pastor. We were united not only by our Orthodox Christian Faith, but by more profound fraternal bonds under the ministry of this Pastor of souls, our dear Father John. He was with us not only in spirit, but in reality. To this day, I keep his icon on the table of oblation in church, and in difficult moments turn to him as a child turns to a father. And he hears me!"
Father still remembers how the train traveled for many hours to Sura, but it was more of a spiritual journey that seemed too short. "What a triumphant feast it was for us!" said Fr. Alexis. "Beginning in Kronstadt, we traveled along the Russian North to the quiet and isolated site, where the sky was unending, the air filled with pious trepidation, and thousands of believers were assembled. To be honest, I never felt anything of the sort! Every person I saw shone with the light of Christ. The days were clear, and the abundant grace of God flowed like honey. It was a time filled with joy. Even now, I vividly recall the people I met, and my senses are filled with peace and bliss!"
"We Participated in a Great Miracle ‒ the Rebirth of Holy Russia"
In last year’s celebration in 2019, the Albany priest visited St. Petersburg, and the celebrations there were, in his words, likewise imbued with the spirit of the "Family." The divine services were likewise peaceful and grand. Among the crowds of people, one would think that the services were exhausting, but it wasn’t so: the joint prayer, proximity, and harmony of each person introduced a sense of brotherhood.
"I was deeply shaken to the depths of my soul as someone who knew our older generations and the burdens of the Soviet period: when we sat in the former Duma premises in the Tauride Palace, I looked at the tribunal where in the previous centuries the ‘leaders,’ viciously fighting against God, belched out hatred and blasphemy. But today, in the very same place, bishops, clergymen, monastics, laymen, and politicians praised the memory of St. John of Kronstadt!" said Fr. Alexis with heartfelt joy. "This is the greatest miracle of our day! Now the civil leaders of St. Petersburg cross themselves and praise God. Can anything inspire more pious trepidation in our age of disbelief? We all participated in this great miracle ‒ the rebirth of Holy Russia by the prayers of our Holy Righteous Father John of Kronstadt."
"It Is a Great Joy for Me to Be His Friend"
"It is possible, as I remember the various people who left such impressions with me, that it would too difficult to pare down the list to only a few," replied Fr. Alexis when asked about his most memorable acquaintances of the time. "Everyone who worked to organize the gatherings were, without a doubt, the noblest of people. Bishops, clergymen, and volunteers, they all played an important role not only in the success of the event, but in the sense of the spiritual blessings we all received. I remember the faces of so many people, shining with joy of this celebration of grace. They truly changed our lives!
"Yet, on a very personal level, I must say that at my first such event five years ago, I met a young priest who was filled with zeal. We became friends and to this day stay in touch and maintain the most wonderful brotherly relationship. He visited my home, and every time I go to Russia, we meet. It is a great joy to be his friend. Was this not a gift from St. John, that we have been united together in perfect spiritual faith and rejoice at our salvation? We are in a great spiritual pilgrimage on this earth, we all strive for that same doorway: the very Gates of the Kingdom of Heaven. There, by God’s great mercy, we might be deemed worthy to behold with our own eyes our dear Father John.
"I wish a life of repentance and love to all of the members of our St. John Family. We are embarking on a time prophesied by the Pastor of Kronstadt, of unprecedented upheavals and civil unrest. Let us all be granted the power to endure and achieve victory. Let us all live with pure and limitless love, to accept all that the Lord sends us and rejoice with overwhelming joy. Let the Lord grant us yet again the opportunity to gather and celebrate the memory of St. John of Kronstadt in St. Petersburg!"
Materials prepared by:
Irina Vasilieva, Elena Skalon, Tatiana Pavlova,
Tamara Almazova, Tatiana Strekalova & Olga Dmitrieva.