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July 2, 2013

The Saint Who Conquered the Passion of Smoking

In many ways St. John of Kronstadt can be considered a patron saint for those who are trying to overcome the passion, or habit or addiction, of smoking. He writes in My Life in Christ:

"If you wish to live long on the earth, do not hurry to live in a carnal manner, to satiate yourself, to get drunk, to smoke, to commit fornication, to live in luxury, to indulge yourself. The carnal way of life constitutes death, and therefore, in the Holy Scripture, our flesh is called mortal, or, 'the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts.' If you wish to live long, live through the spirit; for life consists in the spirit: 'If ye through the spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live,' both here on earth and there in heaven."

He also says:

"One cannot eat and drink and smoke continually. One cannot turn human life into constant eating, drinking, and smoking, although there are men who do eat, drink, and smoke almost uninterruptedly; and thus the spirit of evil has turned life into smoking, and made the mouth, which ought to be employed in thanking and praising the Lord, into a smoking furnace. The less and lighter the food and drink you take, the lighter and more refined your spirit will become."

Elsewhere he writes of the effects smoking had on his own physical and spiritual health, and how he came to hate this sin:

"Smoking is a whim. From this comes foot pain and depression. That the devil is the father of the cigarette I especially figured out today: something impacted negatively upon me from head to toe. I felt that the enemy nested in my sides and in my heart and he opposed me strongly, preventing me from saying the prayer, scaring me, paralyzing me and saddening me to the point of sin.

By smoking an unclean spirit enters a person. Last night after smoking the devil made his presence felt through continuous hiccups which pestered me from the time of the Cherubic Hymn until a little before Holy Communion. My nerves were stretched, my voice was 'escaping' me, I was shivering and I was exhausted. That's why smoking is futile. It is a silly whim, a desecration of the lips, a large and unnecessary irritation, a fog that covers voluntarily.

The taste of a cigarette I cannot compare to anything but something diabolical. And how do I know this smoking? How do I allow myself to do something like this?"

For St. John, smoking was not an easy habit to break. He prayed, weeping bitterly that God would help him defeat his passion. Here is a testimony of his repentance:

"I came to church, falling on my knees with a contrite heart before the Holy Altar. How could I serve my enemy every day and not the Lord with zeal? Lord, help me to be free from all evil, because I am an evil man, dirty, full of sins."

His deep humility and perseverance in prayer saved him from his dependence. We also can follow his example and seek his intercession, since he battled with this passion throughout his life. Regarding war with the passions, he writes:

"The Lord knows our weaknesses. He is ready to forgive us everything, as long as we repent and seek forgiveness. The essential thing is that our hearts not become petrified, that is to stop hesitating to think of our committed sin, to immediately repent, and to leave ourselves to the mercy of God."