August 12, 2021

Saint Manetha of Gomel (+ 1984)

St. Manetha of Gomel (Feast Day - August 11)

Matushka Manetha, whose name in the world was Maria Vladimirovna Skopicheva, was born on April 1st, 1918, in the village of Sevryuki, Belarus. The baby was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, and the doctors forewarned the parents that she would never be able to walk. 

Despite her serious condition, Maria grew up to be a cheerful, active and earnest girl. Her parents or one of the neighbours would often take her on their shoulders to the local church.

From early childhood, Mary saw her mother Glykeria praying daily in front of the holy icons, and the sensitive soul of the child grasped the meaning of our existence on earth: everything rests on prayer, love and goodness. As a child, in a night vision, Maria saw two roads and was faced with a choice of which to go. There was a voice: "If you will walk on the left, you will live your life calmly; on the right, you will grieve." Without hesitation, Maria chose the right - the sorrowful path.

Once an old man, who was begging in the village and went into the Skopicheva's house, was served a piece of bacon by Maria. Her mother, Glykeria, who met him on the doorstep of the house, was told by the elder: "Your nun gave me lard." With these words, he predicted the fate of Maria.

Soon Maria became one of the sisters of the Chenkovo Convent in honor of the Tikhvin Icon of the Mother of God. On the day of the feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, she took monastic vows. From that moment on, she subdued all the fervor of her heart to the will of God. Later, she was tonsured into the Great Schema by Abbot Macarius, one of the last Optina elders, who became a spiritual father for Schema Nun Manetha.

Schema Nun Manetha learned to do sewing and dressmaking at a young age. She had good taste in clothes, and the neighbours would come to her asking for advice on what style to choose or for help in sewing a nice dress. All through her life, Mother Manetha had been embroidering towels for churches of the Gomel region.

Archimandrite Savva (Mazuko) notes that Schema Nun Manetha was a deeply compassionate person. Any visitor to her cell was always given a warm welcome, treated to a meal and comforted by her. Mother Manetha did not reproach anyone for their sins. Only sincere sympathy, love, benevolence and cheerfulness exuded her heart. She was thus endowed with a gift of clairvoyance, and miracles were wrought through her holy prayers. But most importantly Mother Manetha was known as a very kind, loving and humble person. Her condition caused her chronic pain, but you could always see a heartfelt smile on her face.

With a pain in her heart, Mother looked at the suffering of people during the Second World War. At this time, she settled in the village of Vishnevka of the Ternichensky village council with the elderly spouses Kizyovs. In the village of Vishnevka during the war years, there was an unusual rite: every year on September 24, a "candle" and an icon were transferred from one house to another. People believed that this action would help husbands and sons who went to the front, thus, they prayerfully protected them from death. A wooden candle was dressed up in a linen outfit and was solemnly carried in a procession along the village street. The nun Manetha always held the candle in front of the icon and was carried on her shoulders. Mother Manetha was often asked about the fate of husbands and fathers. The old woman, as best she could, consoled the unfortunates who had lost their relatives and friends, and inspired hope in women whose husbands and sons fought with the enemy at the front. Most of all she pitied and loved the widow Stepanida and Anna Mironenko. Stepanida had a large family, and Mother, feeling sorry for her, did not tell the truth about her husband's death, and Anna often repeated: "Pray, pray for him (for your husband)." Anna's husband was in captivity in Belgium, after the end of the war he returned alive.

After the war, Mother Manetha, due to her low mobility, grew fat, and Anna's husband, Philip Mironenko, began to carry Mother to church in a cart. Once Philip Mironenko was taking Mother from Vishnevka to Gomel. Suddenly Mother said: "Philip, soon we will meet bad people, so you treat them quietly, do not be rude, and do not contradict them." In this turbulent post-war time and difficult in all respects, it was scary to appear far from the settlement at a late hour. Philip, possessing remarkable strength, was not afraid of anyone. Approaching the village of Zalipye, they were stopped by seven bandits. The bandits surrounded the cart, on which sat Mother Manetha, silently praying for salvation.

Soon after, Mother Manetha had to return to her parents' house, where her nephew Vasili, who had not yet gotten to his feet and needed help, was left unattended after the death her sister. Mother now had someone to take care of, talk to and share her life alone.

In the first post-war years, it was difficult with food. Once it happened that for three days Mother did not take food, except for boiling water. She was already thinking that her end was coming, but at that time, from distant Vishnevka, Anna Mironenko having dried biscuits with her hurried through the deep snowdrifts to Mother Manetha. Mother was touched by such attention and kindness. Taking the biscuits, she said: "From now on, the bread will not leave the table of your children and grandchildren."

Mother's main advice was consistent: prayer, repentance, mercy. Mother advised everyone to read the Akathist of the Mother of God, and to pray for the living and the dead in monasteries, giving alms for them. Mother Manetha had many predictions. Once a resident of the neighboring village, Zinaida, came to her to ask about her sick husband, who was diagnosed by doctors with bone sarcoma and offered to put him in a hospital. Mother did not bless the patient to be admitted to the hospital, but ordered him to be treated at home. But Zinaida admitted her husband without a blessing in the hospital, and although she soon took him home, nevertheless, the patient did not live long, and died within a year.

Mother Manetha was ashamed to take donations at this difficult time. But, having the blessing of the Elder Macarius, she accepted with gratitude so that she could feed those who came from afar. No one left Mother hungry. Ordinary people came to her, priests went for spiritual communication. People, far from spiritual, drew near to God and learned the power of Mother's prayers.

The Lord did not leave Mother Manetha without help and support. For a long time, a former nurse lived with her, and later nun Anna, as well as nun Photini, who later took the schema with the name Eustathia.

Compensating for the helplessness of Schema Nun Manetha, the Lord sent her like-minded people, people who were close in spirit, who took care of and protected her. With their help, a vegetable garden was cultivated, and simple farming was carried out. Each had their own obedience: nun Anna read prayers, the Akathists, the Psalter, helped to receive visitors, and went to the river to wash. Nun Photini cooked and cleaned. Father Artemy (Pototsky), a hieroschemamonk who served in the city of Dovsk, suffered for the faith of Christ in exile in Siberia, was in a great spiritual friendship with Mother. Father Artemy directed people in need of spiritual help to Mother Manetha.

To strengthen her spiritual strength, the Lord sent to Mother Manetha a deeply pious person. He was a former officer of the Red Army, a front-line soldier, who arrived in the city of Gomel and temporarily decided to stay with Schema Nun Seraphim, Nikolai Mamichev. Having heard from her and from other people about Schema Nun Manetha, Nikolai went to Mother to receive relief from serious illnesses. Looking intently from head to foot at Nikolai, a thin, handsome young man, Schema Nun Manetha briefly and firmly said: "You will be a priest." In the depths of his heart he himself had such a thought before, but now, having listened to Mother's saying, he believed in his calling to be a priest. Out of his kindness, Nikolai often visited the helpless woman. In the household of Mother Manetha, his skillful male hands were needed: to repair the fence, the roof, and prepare firewood for the winter. Soon Nikolai Mamichev, leaving his job at a woodworking plant, moved to Mother Manetha for permanent residence. While living with Mother, Nikolai took secret monasticism from Elder Macarius during his lifetime and was ordained a priest. Then a small monastery was formed by itself, in which there were: the Hieromonk Nikolai, the Scema Nun Manetha and three nuns: Anna, Eustathia and Photini. The monastery lived according to its own established rules. Everyone in the house tried to do it in agreement, and with the appearance of their own priest, much in the small monastery was even more transformed. Father Nikolai built a wooden extension of two rooms for visitors, a summer kitchen, and built a stroller for mother to move.

Between the reception of pilgrims, spiritual children, prayer and service, Mother Manetha sewed and embroidered linen. Pillowcases, bed linen, socks, bedspreads - everything was clean and tidy. While sewing, nun Anna read aloud Mother's favorite Psalms: the 26th, 50th, 90th, the 17th kathisma, and the entire Psalter. In the summer, Mother sat in the courtyard, sewing and embroidering, at the same time receiving visitors. Mother gave almost all of her money to the monastery. Mother often advised to read the 90th Psalm.

Several times in a dream, Mother saw the Mother of God. This vision was clear, accompanied by reverence and an all-encompassing love for the person. The Mother of God appeared first in the form of a strict, tobacco-colored clothing, nun, then in the form of a young, unusually attractive girl. “Pray to me,” she said, and although it was not immediately given to Mother to know that the Mother of God was visiting her, her heart trembled with every visit, and was ready to flutter out of her chest with happiness.

Father Artemy, a strong spirit, instructed Father Nikolai, both during his life and after death, appearing in a dream to Schema Nun Manetha, as he himself explained, to strengthen the faith of Father Nikolai. So, once Father Nikolai said a daring word to some person. Not knowing about this incident, Mother Manetha saw Father Artemy in a dream, who said: “Tell Father Nikolai not to dare to be rude to people, but to be gentle and patient, otherwise what example does he set for them? He will be guilty if he turns a person away from the Church, and even hurts his soul." In the future, Father Nikolai admitted that there really was such a case and repented of his insolence.

Mother attended the Saint Nicholas Church in the city of Gomel, and regularly began to receive the Holy Mysteries of Christ. The rector of the parish at that time was Father Vasili Kopychko. Once the Mother Mantha saw how an untidy man approached Father Vasili, and the thought slipped through her that she would not want to receive Holy Communion after this person. And at the same moment, Father Vasili called Mother to the Holy Chalice, saying: "And now Schema Nun Manetha will receive Holy Communion for the healing of her soul and body."

Often at night, Matushka Manetha was visited by evil spirits in the form of various people, threatening her or demanding from Mother not to help Father Nikolai or other spiritual children. Mother chased away the enemy messengers with her woolen prayer rope, who immediately disappeared. Mother suffered many attacks from people. She met those who hated the Orthodox faith to her face, although some of them later repented of their actions.

Once Mother Manetha woke up very alarmed. She saw Father Artemy on a cloud, and in his hands was a blue kerchief, to which the demons were drawn. Father Artemy fought them off, saying that repentance was brought for the sin of theft, but the enemies did not retreat. Then Mother Manetha remembered that she did not confess the forgotten sin of childhood, when she took the neighbor's kerchief as a girl and sewed a dress for the doll out of it.

To successfully find a spouse for marriage, Matushka advised to turn to the Mother of God and Saint Nicholas, to read twelve times "Theotokos, Virgin, rejoice" and "The Symbol of Faith" in the morning and evening. A girl took this advice, and God immediately gave her a good husband. Everyone who listened to the advice of Mother Manetha was happy in marriage, then they came to thank her.

There were cases when Mother Manetha testified to people about a secret. So, going to visit Mother Manetha, people bought eggs for themselves on the way, laid something aside for Mother, and put the rest under a bush so as not to demonstrate the presence of these products. Having received their instruction, they got ready to leave, and Mother said to them: "Do not forget to take your eggs under the bush."

Mother did not like proud people; her heart was disposed towards the humble. So, one day Tatiana (later Mother Evanthia) was going to visit her. As she walked, she hesitated. Two girls, who were also going to see Mother, began to assure Tatiana that she would not get to Mother, because she does not accept just anyone. Tatiana was upset, but she really wanted to see Mother. She began to pray to herself, and decided not to return back. “God willing, maybe she will,” she thought, letting in front of her those two girls who confidently walked to Mother by the right of their acquaintance with her. Mother greeted them with a chill, and sent them to peel potatoes. And Tatiana was asked to pray with her, then, after listening carefully, she gave saving advice.

Somehow an accident happened at that time. A daughter had disappeared from her parents. They couldn't find her for three months. For help, they came to Mother Manetha. She listened to them and advised to order an Akathist to the Most Holy Theotokos, during which they would be kneeling down, praying earnestly to reveal what happened to her daughter. People from everywhere gathered in the church for the prayer service, they prayed tearfully. The next day, a man came to the distraught parents and told them how he had killed the girl and revealed where he had buried her. 

One day in January 1984, the already very sick Mother Manetha asked to be taken outside to get some fresh air. Suddenly, from somewhere, birds flew in and began to sing so wonderfully. “Birds pray to the Heavenly God,” said Mother with joy. And at night in a dream, Father Artemy appeared to her and said that at the very moment when the birds were singing, she should have died. Then Mother began to ask Father Artemy about the time of her death, but he did not answer, because God did not want to reveal it, otherwise everyone who knew Mother would want to say goodbye, but she could not afford it. But everyone who had been close to Mother lately was on duty in turn at her bedside. She gave each of them an order on the occasion of her death.

Mother Manetha fell asleep in the Lord on February 25th, 1984. Twenty-three years later, on August 11th, 2007, she was glorified as a saint, and her holy relics now rest in Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral in Gomel, Belarus. Her annual feast is celebrated on August 11th.