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May 19, 2020

Saint Cornelius of Paleostrov and Olonets (+ 1420)

St. Cornleius of Paleostrov (Feast Day - May 19)

Venerable Cornelius was born at Pskov, and was tonsured a monk at Valaam Monastery. Then, through Finland, he went to the White Sea and enlightened the Gentiles there, more than once being exposed to mortal danger. For some time, Saint Cornelius wandered through through various monasteries, collecting invaluable experience from humble hermits and ascetics.

At the end of the fourteenth century, having completed his wanderings, he went to Lake Onega in search of a secluded place to live in silence and prayer. The beauty of the location and the desertedness of the Onega island of Paley (Vzpalye) attracted the hermit, and he settled here, building himself a small cell. Divine contemplation and a prayerful feats became the basis of his solitary life.

St. Cornelius teaching his disciple Abraham

Soon the news of the pious life of the Venerable Cornelius spread throughout the surrounding area. And, despite the solitude of the island, numerous visitors began to come to him, seeking spiritual help and guidance from him. Some of them asked the holy ascetic to allow them to settle on the island for an ascetic life. Venerable Cornelius gladly received them, helped them build cells, and then with them built a church in honor of the Nativity of the Mother of God and a refectory church in honor of the Holy Prophet Elijah. That was the beginning of the Paleostrov Monastery.

Vision of Christ to St. Cornelius

Without abandoning his responsibilities for managing the monastery he created, the Saint of God often retired for solitary prayer to a cave located on the same island at the foot of the mountain. The prayerful feat of the Monk Cornelius was enhanced by the wearing of heavy iron chains (which reportedly weighed 14 kg or 31 lbs.) and severe fasting. Once during a night of prayer, the Holy Cornelius was honored with a vision of the Lord Jesus Christ, who appeared to him with a cross in his hands and blessed him and the monastery. Comforted by such a sweet vision, the Monk Cornelius left as the abbot of the monastery his beloved disciple, the Monk Abraham (Aug. 21), and retired to the cave half a verst from the monastery, where he remained until his death.

St. Cornelius retired in his cave

Saint Cornelius died around 1420 in old age and was buried in the place of his reclusive feat. Even during the lifetime of the Abbot Abraham (he died in the second half of the 15th century), the Lord glorified the incorruptible body of the founder of the monastery, Saint Cornelius. The abbot Abraham with the brethren solemnly transferred the honorable relics of his teacher from the cave and put them in the cathedral church in honor of the Nativity of the Mother of God. The ascetic’s burial was accompanied by the healing of the sick.