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August 17, 2019

Saint Theodoret of Kola, Enlightener of the Lapps in Solovki (+ 1571)

St. Theodoret of Kola (Feast Day - August 17)

Venerable Theodoret left his home in Rostov and went to the Solovki Monastery when he was only thirteen years old, where he was a scribe of books. The following year he was tonsured and placed under obedience to the wise Father Zosimas. For the next fifteen years he grew in wisdom and virtue, then was ordained a deacon by the Archbishop of Novgorod.

Theodoret spent one more year with his Elder, then asked for permission to visit other monasteries. At each place he spoke with experienced ascetics, deriving much spiritual profit from their conversation. After two years at the White Lake Monastery, Theodoret lived alone in the forest around the monastery. During his four years in the forest, he came into contact with other ascetics, from whom he learned many useful things.

Father Zosimas at Solovki, sensing that he would die soon, wrote to Theodoret asking him to return to him. He served his Elder for about a year, taking care of him during his final illness.

Theodoret then traveled to the mouth of the Kola River and undertook missionary labors among the Lapps with the Elder Metrophanes. The Lapps worshiped idols and did not live in towns or cities. The monks learned their language so they could teach them about Christ, and also translated prayers for them.

The Saint labored among the Lapps for twenty years. He was ordained to the holy priesthood in Novgorod, and later returned to the Lapps and established a monastery. He then spent two years in the Novgorod area as abbot of a monastery. Later, he was raised to the rank of archimandrite and became the abbot of the Savior-Saint Euthymius Monastery at Suzdal for five years.

In 1554 Saint Theodoret was slandered and confined for two years at the White Lake Monastery. Upon his release, he went to live in a monastery at Yaroslav. Tsar Ivan the Terrible sent him to Constantinople in 1558 to discuss his coronation with the Patriarch. On his trip, which lasted almost a year, he visited Athos and Jerusalem as well.

Theodoret returned to Russia with the Patriarch’s reply, and the Tsar gave him twenty-five silver coins and a sable coat. Not wishing to acquire material possessions, the Saint sold the coat and gave the money away to the poor.

Searching for peace, he went to the monastery at Priluki in Vologda. From there, Saint Theodoret made two visits to the Lapps whom he had converted. He departed to the Lord on August 17, 1571 at the Solovki Monastery where he had been tonsured. He was not officially canonized until August 30, 2002, in the Church of the Annunication in the city of Kola.