Our Patron Saint
Saint John Maximovitch of Shanghai and San Francisco is the last of great hierarchs in the Orthodox world in these times when we are being constantly assaulted, directly and indirectly, by synchrestic ecumenism of the Evil One...
I had been living a rather sordid life in the 1960’s, even though just barely a priest at the time who, like so many others, had been placed on the back-burners (so-to-speak) because of many of my own faults and frailties that did not necessarily include willingness on my part to take instruction and direction very well. I took a ’jog’ that led me to San Francisco as a result of a painful struggle with family issues in East Rochester, New York. For professional reasons I had changed my name from my birth and adopted names so that my family would not only find it difficult to locate me, but no longer be affected by my tenacious youthfulness and some of the things I was involved in, now that I was living in San Francisco, California, U.S.A.
With friends and associates in our film company in San Francisco, I had many times driven by the Russian Orthodox Cathedral on Geary Street, on the way to the beach for rest, relaxation and sometimes for a film project.
It was an accidental meeting, when first I met this Holy Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church.
I was visited by a friend of mine whom I had met shortly after I got out of the Air Force and had returned to East Rochester. Joe L. was also from the Rochester area, where I had moved from East Rochester when I returned home from the Air Force. Joe was intrigued with Russian culture, life and its religion. I was too young and foolish to understand all that Joe had told me. But, when I left Rochester and lost contact with him, it was he who had found me in San Francisco. It was he who took me to the Russian community near Geary Street where I was introduced to everything ’Russian’ and then on to the Russian Orthodox Cathedral on Geary Street for my first encounter with Russian Orthodoxy. We entered the bookshop.
No more than a few minutes had passed after going into the bookshop where, I must admit, that I became rather curious, then intrigued by some of the material available. I gave no thought to the coming and going of others as I became more absorbed by what I was finding. Finally, going up to the counter area so that I could purchase some items I had selected that caught my eye, I was most certainly not prepared for what happened next.
A very short stature, bearded and disheveled looking man in what appeared to be a habit, came up and looked straight at me, “You are not fulfilling your vows, your commitment. You will in time, and you’ll be back. You are living in sin and helping others to live in sin. You have a duty and an obligation to yourself and to your future. You have much to learn!” He did not ask for my name, who I was, or why I was there. He immediately left the bookstore.
"Do you know who spoke to you," I was asked by a soft spoken, bearded monk who I whom later I came to know as Father Seraphim Rose, disciple of St. John's. "No, I really don't," I replied. He told me that was Archbishop John of Shanhai.
Fr. Seraphim Rose - 1980
A God favored disciple of St. John Maximovitch the Wonderworker
Joe left as he was on his way to the military language institute and I've never heard from him again. But, as for me, without telling my close friends in the film company, I was deeply moved by the encounter at the bookshop, never telling them what had happened and never letting them know that I was visiting the bookstore rather often over the next few years. I did not feel comfortable telling them anything about this, as I look back now, because I was really uncomfortable with myself, the life I was leading and having many concerns for my family back East and the issues surrounding my being the baby half-brother to an older brother and sister who were full blood brother and sister to each other.
Nothing happens overnight, so-to-speak, but things in my life during those times did happen that eventually caused for me to divest myself of many of my ways, taking a more devotional approach to duty and responsibility in spirit. That too was an arduous struggle and just a beginning as I and those whom I had gathered with me over the next several years, came to know Bishop +James Abdul Miklaeovitch Dennis and the now reposed Archbishops +Itkin, +Joachim, +Maxey and so many others. Of course, Orthodoxy would not admit or accept these bishops as true to the Orthodox Faith no more than they initially accept the "Holy Order of Mans" whom I had several contacts with over the years, including their encounters with Orthodoxy. The Russian Orthodox seminarian, Brother Shevchenko who was then living or working at one of the local funeral homes, walked with me when I engaged in a streets ministry program on the "Polk" which was a part of the Community United Against Violence (CUAV) that I had, by then, helped and worked for, as a part of the St. Jude's Halway House programs.
During those times, I repeatedly went back to the Bookshop and obtained more materials and had brief encounters with both Fathers Seraphim and Herman, and an occasional encounter with Archbishop John Maximovitch, although more with Fr. Seraphim whom many today in Orthodoxy, denounce because of his allegorical "Toll House" theory. Yet, in spirit and truth, Fr. Seraphim, the disciple of St. John Maximovitch was vibrant and strong in spiritual understanding and direction. I had several more encounters with Archbishop, Saint John, during those times and learned many other things that have come true.
The years passed as I grew through many spiritual and other struggles, coming more and more into those things so necessary for true spiritual struggle out of pain of heart for the Life and Teachings of Jesus Christ.
In January 2003, I made a trip from Seaside, California to San Francisco where I visited the tomb of St. John the Wonderworker which is now housed in the main cathedral as a side altar. The visit was unexpected because those of our own spiritual family of faithful had made plans to surprise me with this trip as a gift. It was indeed, for I had dearly prayed that I would be able to make a visit as I knew that if I didn't do it now, I would never again have a chance as several of us were faced with serious problems involving threats against our lives which were a part of court documentation, but to which local law enforcement refused to act protectively.
When we arrived at the Cathedral, believing the tomb was downstairs, heading in that direction, I met a priest who told me that it was now in the Cathedral itself. Another priest, a very arrogant mannered priest, unlocked the Cathedral with permission from the bishop who was seated at the afternoon Sunday meal. I was able to go to the glass enclosed relics of St. John and gave my thanksgiving and placed several religious items on the glass covering, praying and entreating God for a blessing from St. John upon those religious artifacts I had: the antimens, the Orthodox Episcopal Cross and ring which I normally wear and which; initially were presented to me through intermediaries many years previous, one of which was given, I am told, by St. John himself. On looking back, I must admit that I am sure St. John, in his life, included me in his prayers, for the turning point in my life was not to long after I had initially met him.
When finally leaving Seaside, California in January after we had been fired upon; we went through serious heavy duty climate changes involving snow blizzards and rain. It had been more than 30 years since having driven through anything like that. I placed the icon of St. John, along with the relic medal of St. Jude Thaddeus on the dash board where I could touch them as I drove, praying such prayers for protection as we skidded many times, unable to see the road, but undauntingly persevered towards our destination. Since then, after having arrived in Ohio and Michigan, and finding ourselves struggling even more so... St. John has interceded in our lives in very real ways that are so numerous it would fill a book. I, and those with me, have truly been blessed. I know now that St. John has always been my intercessor, along with St. Jude Thaddeus. Yet, one can only ask, how do I know? Isn't it imagination working overtime? The answer is "NO. Imagination has certainly not been working overtime!"
On several occasions, I have prayed that if it is St. John Maximovitch to whom I owe much, to help me in my uncertainty. It wasn't long one night after this particular prayer, a matter of hours, but what I was convinced that it was him. The icon of St. John that I normally kept with my priest's emergency kit, had been somehow transferred, by no human hands, to where I slept. It was under my pillow. I had gone to sleep shortly after my prayer of uncertainty. I awoke during the night, within a matter of at least two hours because of a dream in which St. John appeared to me. He pointed to me and had in his other hand the icon of himself and then reached down toward me, in the dream, where he placed it behind my head. In this dream, I saw myself before his reliquary at the San Francisco Russian Orthodox Cathedral. From within the glass enclosure, his hand reached up, as though passing through the glass, touching everything that I had layed out on top in real life. He made a blessing on each of them. I immediately awoke from the dream and looked at the pillow, thinking, 'Oh what a dream. It was a real doozy!'. Under the pillow was not only the Icon, but my bronze Orthodox cross. I was stunned, to say the least. I am sure now, that in spirit, when I did visit him in death at the Cathedral, that my prayer was answered in asking for a blessing. But in these recent moments of the current dream, I was sure everything in the dream took place in the spiritual realm for the following reason. No one, when questioned the next day, had gone into my priest's emergency kit as no one had any reason. Besides, the kit was locked in my briefcase which no one could get into to without breaking the two locks which would have ruined it!
Do not think for one moment that I believe I am marked for anything or have any more importance than anyone else who has been helped by St. John Maximovitch the Wonderworker. I believe I am no different than most who have prayed for his intercession. I believe: that although I, and the Church of faithful, are not accepted by those of the 'ethnic' jurisdictions as being 'Orthodox' enough, that we are accepted as faithful strugglers according to our individual and collective nature and degrees of ability by Jesus Christ, the WORD of God!
It is, I further believe, that the Saints, especially St. John Maximovitch, do intercede for those faithful who know they are truly sinners, strugglers in Orthodoxy no matter how far removed they may be by those of the 'Correctness Disease' of Eastern Orthodoxy.