Seraphim of Sarov (1754-1833) is a true image of piousness, one of the greatest Russian Orthodox Saints venerated in the Catholic Church as well. He was canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church in 1903, while Pope John Paul II referred to him as the Saint.
He was born July 19, 1754 (old calender) in a rich merchant family of the Moshnins in Kursk. His baptized name was Prokhor. When he was eight years old he fell from a bell tower but survived & remained unhurt. Then being about ten years old he got seriously ill & dreamed with the Virgin Mary who promised to cure him. Rather soon after this dream there was a Cross procession passing by his house. His mother carried the boy to a wonderworking icon of the Theotokos, Our Lady of Kursk that healed the boy.
In 1776 he made a pilgrimage to the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra, (one of the most important Russian Orthodox holy places), where he met an esteemed aged nun Dosifeia who blessed his religious path & directed him to the Sarov Monastery he joined in 1778. However he got ill again & nobody could cure him for three years. This way his spirit fortified into his body preparing him for great pious deeds. In 1786 he was tonsured & given the religious name Seraphim.
Seraphim of Sarov was a rather pious monk & preferred a hermit life. With this purpose he built a small wooden hermitage in the forest next to his monastery & moved there. He made a little vegetable garden, lived on forest fruits, vegetables & practised eating of Aegopodium herb. His strict monk way of life included fasting only fortifying his spirit. It is known that Seraphim made friends with wild animals. He even could hand-feed a bear. There are plenty of his pious images depicting this scene.
Once he was attacked by a group of thieves who injured his head with the handle of his own axe. The thieves had come seeking for gold, but there was nothing of the kind in his simple hermitage. Seraphim passed this trial without any resistance, but it made him hunched back for the rest of his life. As soon as he recovered by his brothers monks he spent 1000 nights on a rock in a continuous prayer with his arms raised to the heaven. This deed is considered to be one of his famous miracles & it is very praised in the Eastern Orthodox Church.
Since 1825 he gave up his solitary lifestyle & began admitting pilgrims & healing people. Besides, he obtained a gift of prophecy. He welcomed visitors with joy. He was very kind with everybody who came to him. He spoke much about the faith, taught people how to improve their spiritual path towards God but never wrote anything. He died in 1833.
Books with his quotes & teachings were made by Hieromonk Sergej of the Sarov Monastery, however their authenticity is yet to be discussed. One of the most famous quotes by Seraphim of Sarov is as follows: “Acquire a peaceful spirit, and thousands around you will be saved.” Be it so, especially in our dark times…yet.