July 30, 2018

Saint Anatole the Younger of Optina (+ 1922)

St. Anatole the Younger of Optina (Feast Day - July 30)

Saint Anatole the Younger (Alexander Potapov in the world) was born on February 15, 1855 in the city of Moscow to an old merchant family. He graduated from the district school, and then engaged in trade, serving as a clerk in Kaluga.

He longed to be a monk from his youth. His mother would not give her blessing for this, so he entered Optina Monastery only after her death in 1885.

Anatole lived in the Skete for many years as cell attendant to Saint Ambrose (Oct. 10). In 1888 he was made a novice and in 1895 he was tonsured a monk and took the name of Anatole. In 1906 he was ordained a deacon. After the death of Elder Ambrose, Father Anatole functioned as an Elder, even though he was still a deacon.

Saint Anatole received everyone with love, and there were always crowds of visitors at his cell. He got very little sleep, since the people would not leave his cell until late at night.

The Elder was always very kind and ready to help anyone who came to him with problems or sorrows. One day he was visited by a man whose family had no roof over their head, and little money. No one was able to help him, so he began to drink. Then he decided to leave his wife and children and look for work in Moscow. Somehow he decided to go to Optina first and speak with Father Anatole.

As he was blessing the man, Saint Anatole tapped him lightly on the head. Then the man said that he wanted to die. When questioned by the Elder, the man poured out his whole story. Father Anatole listened patiently, blessed him again and told him that he would move into a new home in three days. This indeed came to pass, and the man’s whole life changed.

In 1921, the rector of the monastery, the Monk Isaac, offered the Elder to accept the Great Schema. During the tonsure, Elder Anatole was so weak that he could not hold the candle himself, and uttered the vow in a barely audible voice. After the adoption of the Great Schema he became better, he began to eat and gradually get up from his bed.

In the early 1920's Saint Anatole was mocked and tormented by soldiers of the Red Army. He endured much suffering, but continued to receive visitors. He was supposed to be arrested on July 22, 1922, but asked for time to prepare himself.

Soldiers came the next morning and asked the Elder’s cell attendant if he was ready. Father Barnabas invited them to come in, and they found Father Anatole lying in his coffin. The Lord had taken him during the night to spare him further suffering.

The Moscow Patriarchate authorized local veneration of the Optina Elders on June 13, 1996. The work of uncovering the relics of Saints Leonid, Macarius, Hilarion, Ambrose, Anatole I, Barsanuphius and Anatole II began on June 24/July 7, 1998 and was concluded the next day. However, because of the church feasts (Nativity of Saint John the Baptist, etc.) associated with the actual dates of the uncovering of the relics, Patriarch Alexey II designated June 27/July 10 as the date for commemorating this event. The relics of the holy Elders now rest in the new church of the Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God.

The Optina Elders were glorified by the Moscow Patriarchate for universal veneration on August 7, 2000.