Wildly venerated as a saint even during his lifestime, and the only married parish priest in the Russian calendar of saints, Father John is known for his spiritual gifts of powerful prayer, healing, spiritual insight and great love for all people.
He also reawakened the Russian Orthodox Church to the Apostolic tradition of receiving Holy Communion at every Divine Liturgy. This is why he is most commonly portrayed holding a Communion chalice, as he is in the Russian Icon to the right.
Born to poor, devout parents in a small village in the far north of Russia, Father John experienced the power of prayer even as a child.
While at the Theological Academy in St. Petersburg, he wanted to be a missionary monk to Siberia, but after a vision, he realized that God wanted him to be a missionary where he was.
Thus he married and was ordained priest in 1855. he was assigned to the St Andrew Cathederal on the Island of Kronstadt, in the bay near St. Petersburg. Kronstadt was filled with unspeakable squalor and misery, disease and starvation, crime and alcoholism. However, Father John remained there for 53 years as an urban missionary, putting into action Christ’s command to love our neighbor, healing people’s bodies and souls, and teaching children, whom he especially loved. As his reputation as a healer and miracle worker spread, the many requests for his help that flowed in were accompanied by much money, which he used for extensive charitable works, including building a “House of Industry” that provided jobs, job-training, food, shelter and medical care for the poor.
He received his strength from the overwhelming awareness of the Presence of God, from reading the Bible, and from daily serving the Divine Liturgy and receiving Holy Communion. Every day his cathedral was packed with 5,000 people for Matins and Liturgy; it lasted from 4 am until noon, because he insisted that everyone present receive Holy Communion, and because there were so many requests for his prayers. After Liturgy, he healed and prayed for those who asked his help, treating rich and poor equally, and rarely returned home before midnight.
Despite his demanding schedule, he managed to maintain a spiritual diary of simple and practical Bible-based meditations, published as My Life in Christ. He teaches that the weapons in spiritual warfare are the traditional Orthodox armour; prayer, repentant, fasting, reading the Bible, and at least weekly Confession and Holy Communion.
Father John was a simple parish priest, who was endowed with an absolute faith in the power of prayer, a power that he used daily, and continues to use, to help people who request his aid
Although venerated as a saint since before his repose, he was officially glorified/canonized in 1988, St John’s relics (photo to the right) are located in the crypt of the St John of Rila Woman’s Monastery, which he founded in northeastern St. Petersburg (also photo to the right)
There is an attractive power in the personality of Father John of Kronstadt, in his portrait, the magnetism of his writings, and in his diary My Life in Christ. There is a peaceful and consoling quality in the notes of his diary, not to mention the very subjects of his talks, which spiritually exalt, uplift and strengthen.
This article was written by Jane M. deVyver, M. TH.,Ph.D.
“When you are praying alone, and your spirit is dejected, and you are wearied and oppressed by your loneliness, remember then, as always, that God the Trinity looks upon you with eyes brighter than the sun; also all the angels, your own Guardian Angel, and all the Saints of God. Truly they do; for they are all one in God, and where God is, there are they also. Where the sun is, thither also are directed all its rays. Try to understand what this means”.
“Oh, what great happiness and bliss, what exaltation it is to address oneself to the Eternal Father. A;ways, without fail, value this joy which has been according to you by God’s infinite grace and do not forget it during your prayers; God, the angels and God’s holy men listen to you”.
“There is nothing impossible unto those who believe; lively and unshaken faith can accomplish great miracles in the twinkling of an eye. Besides, even without our sincere and firm faith, miracles are accomplished, such as the miracles of the sacraments; for God’s mystery is always accomplished, even though we were incredulous or unbelieving at the time of its celebrations. “Shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect” (Rom. 3:3). Our wickedness shall not overpower the unspeakable goodness and mercy of God; our dullness shall not overpower God’s wisdom, nor our infirmity God’s omnipotence” – My Life in Christ
“The enemy of our salvation especially strives to draw our heart and mind away from God when we are about to serve Him, and endeavors to adulterously attach our heart to something irrelevant. Be always, every moment, with God, especially when you pray to Him. If you are inconstant, you will fall away from life, and will cast yourself into sorrow and straightness”
“Do not be despondent when fighting against the incorporeal enemy, but even in the midst of your afflictions and oppression praise the Lord. Who has found you worthy to suffer for Him, by struggling against the subtlety of the serpent, and to be wounded for Him at every hour; for had you not lived piously, and endeavored to become united to God, the enemy would not have attacked and tormented you”
“Do not fear the conflict, and do not flee from it; where there is no struggle, there is no virtue. Our faith, trust, and love are proved and revealed in adversities, that is, in difficult and grievous outward and inward circumstances, during sickness, sorrow, and privations”.