The Miraculous Intercession of Saint John of Shanghai & San Francisco
It is necessary to remember that God is the living God, giving life to all; that the Mother of the Lord also lives; that the angels and saints likewise live, and that they hear us in God. Saint John of Kronstadt
Seryozha Glushkov was born in Irkutsk in 1978. Due to the disastrous ecological environment of the city, he suffered from childhood from a complicated illness of the bones and joints. He spent two years in a hospital and underwent three operations. None were successful. His leg muscles atrophied, his left leg bent into his chest, and he was obliged to crawl. According to specialists, there was no hope for improvement; the boy was doomed to be a cripple for life.
Refusing to accept such a diagnosis for her son, Seryozha's mother, Liudmila, appealed to the director of a local aluminum factory to sponsor treatment for Seryozha abroad. All the workers in the factory signed an agreement releasing funds for this purpose, and, in May 1993, Seryozha and his mother arrived in the United States.
Here began a new series of trials. The hospital in Brooklyn, where Seryozha was to have been treated, declined to accept him, and he was sent to Children's Hospital in Washington D.C. There he underwent two operations; the second one lasting twelve hours. From being under anesthesia for so long, complications developed. Lying in a cast, Seryozha became very thin. His left leg was now straightened out, but doctors gave little hope that he would ever walk.
Meanwhile, the people who were in charge of arranging their stay in the US, began pressuring Liudmila. They took her passport; they told her that her visa had expired, that funds for treatment had run out, and that she and Seryozha had to return at once to Irkutsk. Mother and son were in despair. Some Latin-American workers in the hospital saw Liudmila's grief and put her in touch with a Russian woman, who gave her the phone number of the St. John the Baptist Cathedral there in Washington. Neither Liudmila nor Seryozha were baptized. Like so many in the former Soviet Union, the family had had no contact with the Church. Nevertheless, in hopes of receiving some assistance, Liudmila called and then went to the cathedral where she was to meet with Matushka Maria Potapova.
The cathedral in Washington was founded by Saint John in 1949. In anticipation of his glorification, his icon was painted on the right-hand column at the back of the church, where it greets all those who enter. When Liudmila approached Matushka Maria Potapova with her misfortune, Fr. Victor was serving a panikhida for Vladika John. It was clear to Matushka Maria that the woman's situation was desperate and, not knowing what could be done, she told Liudmila that only God could help her and Vladika John, and she briefly explained that Vladika John had spent his whole life helping the sick and homeless. She gave her a candle and told her to pray. Liudmila, who had never been to church, never prayed, unburdened her soul before the Saint and begged his help.
Here began a whole series of events that seemed to unfold of themselves, with one miracle after another. When Father Victor and Matushka Maria went to see Seryozha, and confronted the hosts, it became evident that Liudmila was being deceived. To avoid a scandal, the hosts agreed to postpone Liudmila and Seryozha's departure and arrange therapy for Seryozha. Their visas were extended and not long afterwards Father Victor and Matushka Maria took Liudmila and Seryozha into the parish house.
On September 11, 1993, on the cathedral's patronal feast, the Beheading of St. John the Baptist, Bishop Hilarion came with the wonder-working Kursk Icon of the Mother of God. At the moleben before the Icon, when Seryozha prayed fervently to the Mother of God and to Vladika John, the feeling of despair which had haunted him for several years, inspiring thoughts of suicide, suddenly left him to be replaced with a burning faith and love for God. After this, his life changed. He never tired of sitting through the services; he began to be interested in icons and iconography, in the lives of saints, and in the church services.
In October of that year, mother and son were baptized. After his baptism, Seryozha did not miss a single Divine Liturgy; every Sunday he would have confession and receive the Holy Mysteries.
Seryozha developed a great love for Vladika John. He prayed to him a great deal, and after he was baptized, Vladika John appeared to him in a dream, leaving the boy with a feeling of joy such as he had never before experienced. It was evident that Vladika, who was soon to be glorified, had taken Seryozha into his care.
Once, during Great Lent, funds were very low. Matushka Maria needed to buy food, not only for Seryozha and Liudmila but for another houseful of poor people in her charge. She went to church, bought a large candle and, placing it in front of Vladika's icon, told him of her urgent need. She said nothing about this to anyone else. After the service, a woman handed her a check for $500.00-"to feed the poor."
Seryozha had bad teeth, twenty-seven cavities. One of them developed an abscess, and required a root canal. It was complicated by the condition of Seryozha's bones, and he had to go to a specialist. The fee was $900.00. Where was the money to come from? Matushka Maria sat in the waiting-room trying to figure out what financial arrangement she could make. Seryozha, well aware of the situation, was sitting in the dentist chair, praying to Vladika John. Suddenly, the dentist, who was seeing Seryozha for the first time and knew nothing about him, announced that he was treating him free of charge.
Meanwhile, Seryozha's health did not improve. He was given crutches but could not manipulate them properly. When he was discharged from the hospital, the doctor said he would never be able to walk, and that even extensive and costly therapy would not give substantial results.
Seryozha's right knee was deformed, and his right hip was bent forward and gave him constant pain. Finally, one orthopedic clinic agreed to treat him. A whole series of X rays was taken in order to make an artificial hip. An operation was scheduled for early July but Seryozha was anxious to go to the glorification of Saint John in San Francisco, and asked that the operation be postponed.
While the relics were still below in the sepulchre, Seryozha was there beside them. At the glorification, he sat in a wheelchair at the front of the cathedral and was there for every service. The day after the glorification, Seryozha went with other members from the Washington parish to visit the Old Cathedral, where the rector, Abbot Anastassy (Newcombe) received all the pilgrims. He told them of the case of a girl who suffered from a bad knee. There in the altar they had Vladika John's mantia, and, after the mantia was laid over the girl, she was miraculously healed. Fr. Victor asked that the mantia be brought out. It was placed over Seryozha's shoulders, and Fr. Victor served a moleben. Everyone prayed, especially Seryozha, who later told Matushka Maria that he immediately experienced a feeling of warmth and lightness, and the pain in his right hip-so intense that it made him want to cry out-left him. It never returned.
Returning to Washington, his mother noticed that Seryozha was standing straight. When they went to the hospital for another examination before the operation, the surgeon gasped in astonishment, "It's absolutely incredible! Your condition has improved. It's simply not possible in your case." Seryozha told him everything, after which the surgeon decided not to operate on the hip, and performed only the operation on the knee. Before the operation, Seryozha took a few steps in the church.
Seryozha's father and two brothers were still in Irkutsk. One parishioner offered to pay the way for one of his brothers, Victor, to come for a visit. Permission, however, was denied on grounds that Liudmila and Seryozha's visas had expired. Seryozha prayed fervently to Vladika John, and a man unexpectedly took it upon himself to make the necessary arrangements. As a result, last summer, Victor arrived. He was baptized by Bishop Hilarion.
With the expiration of their visas, Liudmila told Vitya (Victor) that she had decided to return with him to Russia, leaving Seryozha in America. Her husband, Anatole, left alone with ten year-old Maxim, found the separation very trying. Vitya burst into tears and ran out, saying that he did not want to leave. He went to the church to pray. Two days later, Vitya had a dream. He saw Vladika John lying in his reliquary. Suddenly, the relics came to life, and Vladika John, vested all in white, got up. Vitya felt no fear, just great joy. He went up to Vladika: "But you died!" "No," replied Vladika, "I am alive." And suddenly he was in a room reading to Seryozha and Vitya from the Lives of Saints. Then, Liudmila, Anatole and Maxim came in, and they all got into a car, with Vladika at the wheel.
Another night, Vitya felt Vladika's presence and heard him say that all would be well. And so it turned out. Quite unexpectedly, a diplomat, the husband of a woman who had helped them before, took on their case. Seryozha's father and younger brother were granted visas without any complications, and arrived in this country on 1 January. They, too, were baptized.
The family is reunited and Seryozha's health has improved dramatically. He walks to school and even participates in sports. He stands through the church services, and serves in the altar. He wants to become a monk. Truly, wondrous is God in His saints!
From an account, in Russian, by
Matushka Maria Potapova
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