Sunday, May 27, 2012

How the Fame of St. John the Russian Revived


In 1922 with the Greek-Turkish war and the wave of nationalism and ethnic cleansing that swept Turkey, the body of St. John the Russian was carried to Greece by refugees during the exchange of populations. It was housed at a church dedicated to the Saint's name.

Remaining largely forgotten and ignored, Saint John's fame was revived in the 1970s, when he resumed his miraculous works of healing. Children with congenital deformities and diseases are the most common beneficiaries of the Saint's grace.

In 1970 a child was born to a family in Istiaia, Greece, living in extreme poverty. The boy's legs were horribly bent and his feet attached to his back. The doctors surgically separated the boy's legs from the rest of his body, but there was no hope of the boy being able to walk. There was no neural network in the lower half of his body.

While the child grew his family spent what little money they had with the hope of finding a treatment for the boy's disability. When the only thing left to them was a small lamb, a vision of Saint John the Russian led the family in a pilgrimage. Carrying the animal on his back and the boy on his arms, the desolate father took his family on a march of 80 miles through the wilderness leading to the church housing the coffin with the Saint's body.

Tying the lamb to the holy coffin, the father dedicated his last belonging to the Saint, praying for his son's recovery. After the ceremony of veneration and prayer to the miracle-working Saint, the family slept outside, in front of the church's door.

Soon after midnight the father woke the handicapped child. His wife, stirred by the noise, asked what he wanted of the child at this time. Ignoring her, he went on and asked the child for a drink of water. The healed child arose to bring his father water from the fountain outside the church.

This was one of the first in a sequence of miracles that made the saint rise again in popularity and make pilgrims flock to his church today with their gifts and wishes. Among them, every year in autumn a young man brings a living lamb in his arms, an offering to the Saint that turned his life from a condemnation to a blessing.

In 1974, in France, a devastated mother prayed at a monastery of the Virgin Mary. A Russian visitor approached the mother having heard her pray for her child born with a rare, congenital disease of the pituitary gland. He told her of his compatriot Saint, whose miraculous body remained intact in Greece. He showed her a small icon of the Saint.

Back at the hospital, the stranger maked the sign of the cross on the infant's forehead with the small image of the Saint. The child writhed and turned. It was covered with sweat. The mother touched her lips on its brow - the fever was gone. The child, whose death had been predicted as imminent and inevitable, continued to grow normally.

Since then many incidents of wondrous healing and recovery have been attributed to the young Saint and his miraculous body. His small church is now brimming with offerings of wax statues, silver vessels and icons of the Saint. He continues to perform miracles for those who pray to him and he attracts a large crowd of pilgrims every year.

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