"A Prodigal Saint"
- Has anybody here picked up _A Prodigal Saint: Fr. John of Kronstadt
and the Russian People_? I'm several chapters in, and so far, it's
It was written by Nadieszda Kizenko, a professor at SUNY/Albany, and
published by Penn State Press (in collaboration with the Harriman
Institute at Columbia University). She uses numerous primary and
secondary sources, from St. John's diaries, to the police files kept on
him and his followers, to the nearly ten thousand surviving letters
housed in the Central State Historical Archive of St. Petersburg.
Personal memoirs and radical critiques contemporary to St. John were
also utilized. The numerous credits include Holy Trinity Seminary, St.
Vladimir's Seminary, the St. Petersburg Theological Academy, and even a
However, this is a *historical* study of St. John, and his
religious/political role in Late Imperial Russia----not a hagiography.
I'm several chapters in, and so far, it's marvellous. I'll update you
all when I finish it.
My prayers for a blessed Feast for you all,
- --- In email@example.com, "R. Lebedeva" <rlebedeva@h...>
> Has anybody here picked up _A Prodigal Saint: Fr. John of
> and the Russian People_? I'm several chapters in, and so far, it'sAt the direction of my spiritual father, I read this book shortly
after it came out. It was quite impressive, although towards the
latter part it became a little bit heavy. There is a review of the
book by Fr Alexey Young in a recent Orthodox America (2 back, I think)
which has some comments that are very similar to my own impressions.
Here are some of my comments to my spiritual father (the confessional
parts have been edited out)
Bless. I bought and read the book you mentioned on St John of
Kronstadt. I will try and give you some of my reactions as you
requested. This life is initially disturbing. To see the failings
and weaknesses of someone who you initially look to as an example of
holiness and spiritual strength can be disconcerting. Some of Fr
John's character traits are those which, when I see them in others,
repulse me, such as his emotional fanaticism and his almost paranoid
resentment of others in authority. And yet, once the initial shock is
past, this picture is richly enlightening for I can see his struggle
more clearly and he challenges me to look critically at my own life
and characteristics, especially in the ways in which we differ, and
ask myself if I am correct in my assumptions of the spiritual life or
even of the daily life of the Christian in the world. Perhaps I am
insufficiently "fanatic"; perhaps I am insufficiently strict with
myself (actually there is no doubt of it!); perhaps I am
insufficiently concerned with changing the world; perhaps I do not
allow myself to be moved or touched on a deep soulful level and so any
one of these might be a contributing factor to my own sinfulness.
As I actually finished the book, I was struck with his ongoing
struggle with what he considered to be his greatest passions (which
now escape me as I do not have the book in front of me). I grasped a
deeper understanding of how the passions affect us. They are not mere
temptations but more like addictions. (I am going to have some
difficulty with words here as the concept is not yet clear in my head
- but the more I try, the clearer it will become)
... big long edit - sorry for the "disjointedness" that this creates,
but this part of my note dealt with confessional issues, comparing my
sins with Fr John's...
In the past, I would have struggled with the temptations presented
even by the knowledge of (the existence of a particular temptation),
but this time I realized that this was the compulsion, the attachment
brought on by my particular passionate struggle. Rather than struggle
with the temptation, I was able to simply "detach" and go my way
recognizing the event as a function of my "sickness" (or addiction, if
you will). Knowing this, that no matter how much I try to avoid such
things, they will pop up out of nowhere because of this "attachment",
then allows me also to cease struggling to avoid the exposure
(although neither do I seek it out) but rather to detach when the
exposure comes (as it surely shall); shrug my shoulders and say to
myself, "Oh well, I am still sick. But I do not have to acquiesce to
I don't know if I got this across or not, but seeing St John's
struggles also helped me see my own in a different light. Even now,
as I write, the idea of attachment (which is a new word in this
telling) seems right and I will ponder that a bit more as well.
I hope you find the book equally as helpful.
Pr. David Moser
St Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church (ROCOR)
- What language it was written on, Russian or English?
Subdeacon Kirill (ROCOR)
--- "R. Lebedeva" <rlebedeva@...> wrote:
> Has anybody here picked up _A Prodigal Saint: Fr.
> John of Kronstadt
> and the Russian People_? I'm several chapters in,
> and so far, it's
> It was written by Nadieszda Kizenko, a professor
> at SUNY/Albany, and
> published by Penn State Press (in collaboration with
> the Harriman
> Institute at Columbia University). She uses numerous
> primary and
> secondary sources, from St. John's diaries, to the
> police files kept on
> him and his followers, to the nearly ten thousand
> surviving letters
> housed in the Central State Historical Archive of
> St. Petersburg.
> Personal memoirs and radical critiques contemporary
> to St. John were
> also utilized. The numerous credits include Holy
> Trinity Seminary, St.
> Vladimir's Seminary, the St. Petersburg Theological
> Academy, and even a
> few Archbishops!
> However, this is a *historical* study of St. John,
> and his
> religious/political role in Late Imperial
> Russia----not a hagiography.
> I'm several chapters in, and so far, it's
> marvellous. I'll update you
> all when I finish it.
> My prayers for a blessed Feast for you all,
Do You Yahoo!?
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>It is written in English by a Russian-American historian, and published
> What language it was written on, Russian or English?
> Subdeacon Kirill (ROCOR)
by Penn State Press. I picked up my copy at my local university book
- Father, bless.
>Thank you, Father, for your impressions. I'm finding it difficult to
> I don't know if I got this across or not, but seeing St John's
> struggles also helped me see my own in a different light. Even now,
> as I write, the idea of attachment (which is a new word in this
> telling) seems right and I will ponder that a bit more as well.
> ...end quote...
> I hope you find the book equally as helpful.
put the book down.
Perhaps there are some who will be scandalized by its content, but
hagiographies are often not able (nor meant) to be clear about the
internal struggles that saints face. As the author notes, certain
views/traits of a saint may, in other times, be downplayed due to their
"political incorrectness", and the saint cast in different roles for
different purposes. I see more clearly how I, myself, have been guilty
of this. Seeing this small glimpse of St. John as a *Russian* among
other Russians, in a time of political and social turmoil, is very
eye-opening (and edifying) for me as an American convert. I thank God
(and St. John) that he was such a prolific---and honest---diarist.
Please forgive my own disjointedness---I'm still digesting all of this!
- --- In firstname.lastname@example.org, "R. Lebedeva" <rlebedeva@h...>
> > What language it was written on, Russian or English?
> > Subdeacon Kirill (ROCOR)
> It is written in English by a Russian-American historian, and
> by Penn State Press. I picked up my copy at my local universitybook
> store.The author is Nadezhda Kizenko, a daughter of Father Boris Kizenko,
priest of the St. Vladimir Memorial Cathedral in Jackson, NJ.
She is an extremely well-spoken and intelligent person and very nice
too. She is also apparently an excellent teacher. My niece took a
class (Russian history, I believe) under her at SUNY Albany and
enjoyed it very much.