HEAVEN ON EARTH – ORTHODOXY
of Saint John Maximovitch of Shangai & San Francisco (1896-1966)
Saint John was born on 4 June 1896 in the village Adamovka in the province of Kharkov in Southern Russia. He was a descendent of the aristocratic family Maximovitch, a member of which was pronounced a saint in 1916, the hierarch John Maximovitch, Metropolitan of Tobolsk, whose incorrupt relics are in Tobolsk to this day. This holy hierarch reposed at the beginning of the 18th century but he carried the torch of his grace to his distant nephew, Michael (the baptismal name of Saint John, who later received the name of his uncle when he was tonsured a monk). His father Boris was a marshal of the nobility in a region of Kharkov and his uncle was rector at the University of Kiev. His relationship with his parents was always excellent. Throughout his youth, Michael was sickly and ate very little. He was a quiet kid, very polite and deeply religious. When he played he would dress his play soldiers as monks, collect icons and religious books and enjoyed reading about the lives of the Saints. At night he would stand praying for long periods. Because he was the eldest of five siblings, it was he who knew the lives of the Saints very well and became their first teacher of the Faith. He was very austere with himself in the application of ecclesiastic and national traditions. So much did he impress his teacher, who was a French woman and Catholic, that she was influenced by young Michael’s Christian life and was baptized Orthodox.
He had a country house near a monastery where little Michael would visit often. At the age of 11 his parents Boris and Glaphyra sent him to the Military School of Poltava where he continued to live, with his faith deeply rooted. For when kids are absent from their home for long time, their youthful souls are easily influenced. He, however, remained steadfast in his faith. There he also met the Bishop of Poltava, Theophan, a much loved hierarch, who influenced Michael. At a military parade while passing by the cathedral, little Michael (who was 13 then) crossed himself, and his classmates laughed at him and mocked him, and he was punished by his officers for the action. However Prince Constantine, who was a benefactor of the school, told them not to punish cadet Michael for with his action he showed deep and healthy religious feelings. In 1914, he completed the military school and wished to continue his studies at the Theological School of Kiev. However, his parents insisted that he go to law school and Michael obeyed them. His classmates observed that he read about the lives of the saints even more than his lessons and yet he was a good student. Time passed and he completed his studies. However, at that time the anti-Christian movement had started to spread in Russia, but Michael had deep faith inside him and he was bold. The ecclesiastic council of Kharkov was discussing whether to take down the silver bell of the church to melt it.
They all agreed to do it. Others were afraid to go against the decision and were getting ready to do this but the saint, together with a few others, disagreed and arrests started. His parents told him to leave and hide but Michael told them: “There does not exist a place where one can hide from the will of God and that without the will of God nothing happens, not even one strand of hair can fall from our heads”. So he was jailed and after a month they set him free. He was then re-arrested and after having determined that he could not care less whether he was free or jailed, they discharged him. Michael lived in a different world and yearned for God. In Continue reading “Condensed biography of Saint John Maximovitch of San Francisco, CA, USA (1896-1966) – July 2”