Sergius of Radonezh (1314 – 1392) is one of the most important Saints of the Russian Orthodox Church & highly venerated among people. His personality has played a great role in the spiritual union of the Russian Orthodox Church. As well he was a monastic reformer of the Medieval Russia & the founder of the religious branch of the Old Believers.
Born to Kirill & Mary belonging to a noble family near Rostov the boy was named Bartholomew. Rather soon his family moved to Radonezh, a village not far from Moscow. He was an intelligent boy but could not read. He prayed God all day long to help him. Once searching for lost horses in a field he encountered with a starets (a monk hermit) who blessed him giving a piece of prosphora to the boy. Since that day Bartholomew was able to read. This event fortified the boy’s faith & he made a decision to serve God.
After his parents’ death he left the heritage to his youngest brother Pjotr & left the secular life. Together with his eldest brother Stephane they settled in a deep forest. There they built a wooden hermitage & a church later consecrated by the Metropolitan Theognostus. Soon after that the brother Stephan became the father superior of the Epiphany Monastery in Moscow & already monk named Sergius had to spend about two years in the wild. It was a hard time full of dangers & temptations but Sergius passed all the trials. He even made friends with a wild bear he fed with little bread he had.
Being a meek & a modest person, the monk Sergius did his best to hide his religious deeds while his glory was growing among people & other friars. More & more monks wished to follow him & his way of the spiritual life, so more & more of them begged him to become a priest & a father superior. Sergius was very reluctant to this idea but was forced to agree.
Gradually Sergius’ monastery was growing, more peasants began settling near it, so monks had some bread. There was a road to Moscow in the area, it led people with donations for the monastery’s needs. It allowed monks to give alms & to take care about ill people & pilgrims. Saint Sergius of Radonezh possessed a gift of seeing Saints & miraculous signs. All of them concerned his spiritual life or the friary.
Saint Sergius’ life in the wild & his written works are extremely important for the Russian Orthodox Monasticism, especially for hermits we call the Old Believers.
In 1940 the Pope Pius XII accepted canonization of Sergius of Radonezh, first of all, for the Greek-Roman Catholics.
Saint Sergius of Radonezh is celebrated on the 25th of September /8th of October.