St. John of Kronstadt’s power of healing
All of St. John of Kronstadt’s earthly suffering was also tied in with the fact that he dared to selflessly help people with his power of healing, expelling demons from them or the malignant illnesses that the latter sent upon them. St. John, who possessed the power of forbidding demons to dwell in people, acquired unique experience in the following: (1) testing the power of God and the grace of priestly resources and the Holy Fathers’ prayers of exorcism against the demons; (2) identifying the presence of demons in a person on the sole basis of external appearance, behavior, and in private conversation with him; (3) cleansing people of demons, thus voluntarily drawing upon himself the inevitable physical and mental suffering resulting from the demons’ revenge; (4) becoming convinced, as he gained practice, that in actuality the Lord helped people to combat demons through him not when he himself wished it, but only when he was called upon by God through the sick person’s faith in him as a healer, for such faith also came from God.
Varied and instructive were the methods practiced by St. John for the expulsion of demons and the comprehensive healing of all attendant illnesses and sorrows. But a common factor in them was the healing prayer composed by the saint: “O Lord, Thou said that whatever we asked for in Thy name, Thou would do it for us Thyself, and Thou also said that the heavens and earth would pass, but Thy words would not pass, and that not a single stroke or iota of the law would pass. Therefore, I entreat Thee in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, forgive Thy servant (name) all his sins, both voluntary and involuntary, and heal him.”
St. John always read this prayer so fervently, as though he did not even ask, but demanded from God forgiveness of the sick person’s sins. St. John traveled all over Russia in response to summons from the sick, but most frequently he read the healing prayer from afar, as soon as he received their telegrams. In such cases, the turning point in the illness usually occurred at the time of the reading of the healing prayer.
In 1904, at a meeting with the clergy of the city of Sarapul, St. John described to them how he arrived at the daring to pray for the healing of all the sick people of Russia (and later – of the whole world). One time in Kronstadt batyushka was asked to pray for an ailing man. St. John prayerfully gave the man over into God’s hands and asked that His holy will for the sick person be fulfilled. When the sick man got well as a result, this became widely known, and the faithful insistently began to ask batyushka to pray for the health of various sick people. At first he refused out of a humble realization of his unworthiness and sinfulness, but the faithful forced their pastor to once again pray for another sick man. This was also successful, and afterwards St. John no longer refused his help in such cases.
As to what the blessed pastor of Kronstadt experienced in all of this, and how difficult it was to earn from God forgiveness of sins and healing, – St. John himself described it thus: “The Lord, as an artful physician, subjects us to various trials, sorrows, illnesses, and misfortunes, in order to purify us like gold in the furnace. A soul that is hardened in various sins does not easily undergo cleansing and healing, but has to be forced to a great extent, and only through lengthy experience in patience and suffering does it become accustomed to virtue and begins to love God, from Whom it was alienated after becoming attached to all kinds of mortal sins. Such is the purpose of the trials and tribulations sent to us by God in this life.”
During personal contact with various sick people in difficult and hopeless cases, St. John was often drenched in sweat during prayer, or was subjected to attacks from those possessed by demons. In the majority of cases, quick and complete healing usually occurred right away. For Orthodox people St. John was accustomed to pray for help solely by himself, while in the case of other believers or non-believers, he forced the sick person’s relatives who had appealed to him to pray jointly with him. For complete healing of those possessed by demons, he forced the unfortunates to look him straight in the eye and to make the sign of the cross independently several times. To the healing prayer St. John frequently added a special moleben, took out particles for the sick during the liturgy, gave them communion, and also sent them items that belonged to him or food blessed by him.
There were times when he could not help people for whom he was asked to pray (due to the latter’s unbelief), but he readily helped those who asked him themselves, if he saw God’s will in that. In such cases he simply made them the recipients of divine mercy without providing any explanation.
In several confirmed cases St. John was even able to resurrect the dead, and on one particular occasion he returned to life a corpse that had already begun to decompose, just as did our Lord Jesus Christ in resurrecting Lazarus who had been dead for four days. After the saint’s repose, his miraculous healings of people did not cease, but continued as a result of praying to him, prayerfully touching objects that had belonged to him, and also during his appearance to sick people in dream visions. The saint saved not only those who were dying from grave illnesses, but also those who found themselves in difficult circumstances of life; he helped establish successful family life, delivered people from ruinous passions, and also saved many Russian people during the time of the brutal Red terror, turning many of the persecutors, moreover, onto a path of repentance and atonement for their godlessness.
In healing some of the illnesses, the saint used symbolic actions – embraced and drew the sick person to himself, struck the place of illness from the outside, etc. The possessed ones he healed by sprinkling them with holy water, pressing a cross to their forehead, giving them holy water to drink and prosfory sanctified in their name to eat, and finally giving them the Holy Mysteries. The possessed ones who were brought to him spewed out blasphemies and curses at the saint, spit upon him and the cross he presented to them, tried to beat him up, but his humble prayer for them before the altar inevitably succeeded in the end.
However, there were cases where instead of his usual help the saint either foretold the sick person’s unavoidable death or refused help completely. The most prominent of such cases was the repose of Tsar Alexander III, which the saint at first tried to put off by laying his hands on the Sovereign’s head. Prior to his death the Tsar was tormented by the most severe headaches. The laying of St. John’s hands caused the headaches to disappear, and thus the saint spent many hours near the dying anointed Sovereign, but could not prevent his repose. Such was the will of God.
It was noted that the saint could not prevent the death of sick people in cases where it was ordained by God not so much for the sins of these individuals, who were known for their righteousness, but for the sins of all the people, as in the case of the Tsar’s repose, or for the mortal sins of parents when their children died. The saint also could not prevent death in cases where the sick person lived among sinful surroundings and did not have enough willpower to combat them. In such a case the grave illness with its attendant suffering served as a purifying factor for the salvation of the soul, while a continued sinful life was displeasing to God. In these cases the saint even refused to pray for healing.
These days she is a small hunched old woman in a black velvet head covering and a long monastic robe. She is 84 years old, but she still moves around energetically, leaning on a cane, and does not miss a single church service. Her name is Mother Ludmila.
Many years ago she was a tall and slender novice, but all those around her regarded her with pity: her lungs were covered with caverns (cavities appearing in an organ in place of degenerating tissue), and she was living out her last days – so said the famous Tallinn physician to whom the Mother Superior had taken her for a visit.
Patiently the young novice awaited her death.
One bright spring day Father John of Kronstadt arrived at the convent. All the sisters were filled with joy. Finding a convenient moment, the abbess brought the sick novice to him.
– Bless our sick one, dear batyushka – she requested.
Father John looked at the young girl attentively and mournfully shook his head:
– Oh, how sick, how sick!
And without taking his intent gaze away from the sick girl, he touched her chest and made a gesture as though gathering together some unraveled material. He gathered it together, clamped it with his fingers, and even twisted them to the side, to make sure everything held tightly. Then he touched another place on the chest, and shaking his head, repeated the same gesture, then moved his hand further on, and in this manner, mournfully sighing and praying, he pulled together some kind of wounds that were invisible to those around him. Then he blessed the sick girl and said very simply:
– Well, thanks be to God! You will live, and you will live a long time; you will be sick, but that is nothing.
No one paid much attention to the strange actions of the great priest, but everyone noticed that after his departure the sick novice began to get well.
A year after this incident, the Mother Superior went to Tallinn and took along with her the recuperating novice, in order to have her checked out by the doctor who had prophesied her imminent death.
The elderly physician was greatly surprised to see his patient on the mend. After a thorough examination, he asked permission to X-ray the lungs, and looking at the X-ray, he shook his head:
– I don’t understand anything at all! Your lungs were riddled with holes, but some mighty hand has repaired them, drawing the lethal caverns together and covering them over with scars. You should have died a long time ago, but are alive and will continue to live. My dear child, you have been the recipient of a great miracle!
Conversion of an unbeliever
My father looked upon Father John of Kronstadt with great prejudice. He attributed the priest’s miracles and extraordinary popularity to hypnosis, hysteria, ignorance of those around him, etc.
We lived in Moscow, and father was a lawyer. I was four years old at that time, an only son, and named Sergey in honor of my father. My parents loved me passionately.
Father often went to St. Petersburg to take care of his clients’ affairs. This time, too, he went there for two days and stayed with his brother Konstantin as usual. He found his brother and sister-in-law in great agitation over the illness of their daughter Elena. She was extremely sick, and although she was getting better, they had invited Father John to serve a moleben, hourly expecting his arrival.
Father laughed at them and drove away to court, where his client’s case was being heard. Returning at 4 P.M., he saw a sleigh with a pair of horses in front of his brother’s house and a huge crowd of people. Realizing that Father John had arrived, with great difficulty he pushed his way through to the front door, and upon entering the house, he went through to the room where batyushka was already serving the moleben. Father stood aside and began to watch the famous priest with curiosity. He was greatly surprised when Father John, having briefly read the commemoration list placed in front of him with the name of the ailing Elena, stood on his knees and with great fervor began to pray for some unknown but terribly ill infant Sergey. He prayed for him for a long time, then blessed everyone and left.
– He’s simply crazy, – my father said with indignation after batyushka’s departure. – He was invited to pray for Elena, but he spent the entire moleben praying for some unknown Sergey.
– But Lenochka is almost well, – timidly rejoined his sister-in-law, wishing to defend the priest whom the whole family esteemed.
During the night father departed for Moscow. Entering his apartment on the next day, he was amazed at the upheaval reigning within, and upon seeing my mother’s drawn face, he became alarmed:
– What happened here?
– My dear, no sooner had your train departed for Moscow than our Serezha fell ill. He had fever, convulsions, vomiting. I invited doctor Peter Petrovich, but he couldn’t understand what was happening with Serezha and asked that a concilium be called. I wanted to telegraph you right away, but couldn’t find Kostya’s address. The three doctors did not leave Serezha the entire night and finally admitted that his situation was hopeless. You can imagine what I went through! No one slept, because he was continually worsening; I was in total shock.
And then suddenly, after 4:00 in the afternoon, he began to breathe evenly, his fever went down, and he fell asleep. Then he became even better. The doctors can’t understand anything and neither can I. Now Serezha is only weak, but he’s already eating, and he’s in bed at the moment, playing with his teddy bear.
As he listened to mother’s story, father dropped his head lower and lower: so this was the terribly ill infant Sergey for whom Father John of Kronstadt had prayed so fervently the day before.
Healing of a tumor
Father and mother had two of us: my sister Nastenka and myself. My sister and I were great friends, but our natures were totally different: she was drawn to boyfriends and married early, while I dreamed of a convent. I especially wanted to enter the Ioannov convent, which was under the patronage of Father John of Kronstadt. Batyushka himself often visited there, and I loved batyushka and had venerated him from childhood. He used to come to our house, too, even though we were quite humble folk: my father worked as a bank courier.
And so my dream came true: I was accepted into the Ioannov convent. And soon afterwards the following happened to me: a tumor appeared on my neck, small at first, then growing to the point where it became hard to lower my head, and I began to feel unwell. I showed the tumor to Mother Superior, she became concerned and said that she would take me to the doctor.
Two days later, however, Father John arrived at the convent in the evening. We welcomed him warmly and straightaway went to church to sing a moleben; such was the custom that upon batyushka’s arrival, he served a moleben before anything else. As I was going in with the choir singers, the abbess stopped me, led me over to Father John, and said:
– Dear batyushka, please pray for Varvara, she has become sick, – and with these words she raised my head covering and showed him the tumor.
Batyushka looked at it attentively, then passed his hand over it and said:
– That’s all right, God willing it will go away. Go in, Varyusha, and sing!
We sang the moleben, then batyushka talked with us for a long time, then I was called to help in the refractory, and I returned to my room much later than usual. I started undressing, took off my head covering, and tried to smooth out my tumor as I was wont to do; I pressed my hand, but there was nothing there! I ran to the mirror and saw that my neck was completely smooth. I couldn’t believe my eyes, since the tumor was the size of a fist! I could barely wait until the morning and hurried over to the abbess. She looked at my neck, made the sign of the cross, and only said:
– Thank our dear batyushka.