How I met my future spiritual father
In the late 1980s, my mother and I lived in the Moscow region. My mother was a very religious person and often asked me to go to church with her and to read the Gospel every day; I always believed in God and did not prevent my mother from praying in Church, but I was very far from Church life myself.
However, every year, starting from childhood, I went to the Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra with her, usually on the feast of St. Sergius or Pentecost. We would get ready ahead of time, packing our bags: There were no cafes there in those years, and pilgrims brought their own food from home. My mother also told me about Fr. Naum, one of the elders of the Lavra.
Once, my long-time school friend Nadezhda’s daughter got seriously ill and no medicines could help. Then I remembered about the Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra and about Fr. Naum and told my friend about them, advising her to go there.
Nadezhda went, but Fr. Naum did not receive her and they advised her to go to Igumen Benedict (Penkov), also a Lavra confessor, who was already revered as an elder in those years. She spoke with Fr. Benedict and she told me about her trip when she got back. Fr. Benedict made such a strong impression on her that she suggested that I go see him with her.
We went to the Lavra a week later, and that’s how I met my future spiritual father.
I remember something that shocked me: I was a complete stranger to Fr. Benedict, and he showed such love for my soul, as if we were family. He seemed to see right through me, to understand me—I never experienced anything like that before, and it was very endearing. I started going to confession with him every week and became his spiritual child.
I gradually became convinced, like all his spiritual children: If something very bad ever happened in my life—I just had to tell Batiushka about it. If he prayed for you, even the most helpless situation would be worked out.
Fr. Benedict wasn’t even fifty then (he was a year older than me, born in 1939), but he had already acquired the gifts of spiritual discernment and clairvoyance—I was convinced of this personally many times over.
A story with a communal apartment
My mother and I lived in a communal apartment at that time. Our neighbor was a musician. He would practice every day, and very loudly at that, so there was no way you could call our life peaceful. He was on a waiting list for a separate apartment, and finally he was offered a one-room apartment.
To our horror, he refused: He considered himself worthy of a larger space and applied for a two-room. The administration didn’t think so, and his refusal threatened to keep our apartment communal forever. My mother and I were very upset.
I immediately went to Batiushka and told him everything. Three days later, our neighbor told me: “I haven’t slept properly for three nights and I keep thinking I shouldn’t have refused. I’ll go, I agree to take it.”
He went and got a writ.
I went back to see Batiuska. After talking to him, I realized he had spent three whole nights praying for us.
Fr. Benedict’s mother had been living at their dacha since the spring, which was an old wooden house with two rooms and a terrace. Once, we, several of Batiushka’s spiritual children, went to the dacha to help his mother. She had great pain in her legs and she was walking on crutches. Batiushka also came to see her.
We started cooking and setting the table. We started making a quick salad, but we found there were no potatoes in the house. We went and told Batiushka about it.
A little while later we heard a car horn near the gate. I went out and saw a truck. The driver offered me a sack of potatoes—about eighteen pounds.
I asked: “How much do we owe you?”
He replied: “You don’t owe me anything. I had extra potatoes.”
A full dish
We cooked lunch and sat down at the table. The potatoes were steaming on a large platter from which everyone served their own plate and then took the toppings. I was amazed to see that the potatoes weren’t running out. There should have already been a hole in the dish, but it was still full; a whole mound.
I looked at Batiushka, and he caught my eye and, smiling, asked me: “Aren’t they running out?”
And I answered in bewilderment: “They’re not running out, Batiushka…”
No one paid any attention to our dialogue, as if they didn’t hear it.
Abbot of Optina Monastery
In 1991, Batiushka was elevated to the rank of archimandrite and appointed as abbot of Optina Monastery. He arrived on January 20, 1991, and departed to the Lord on January 22, 2018—twenty-seven years of tireless labors and spiritual podvigs as the abbot of a huge monastery, which only the Lord can fully appreciate.
And we were happy to have witnessed his labors and prayers. I followed after Batiushka and for all these years I carried out a rather serious obedience in the monastery in my area of expertise.
I personally know two women who were cured of cancer by Batiushka’s prayers. They were both his spiritual children. One of them had young children, and we were very worried about her. She was prescribed chemotherapy—the doctors had no doubt about their diagnosis after the examination.
Batiushka served a moleben for her health. Many people came; we all knew and loved her, and I loved her like my own daughter. I knelt during the entire moleben. She was in the hospital at that time, and soon after the moleben I asked Batiushka to bless me to visit her. I called her before the trip. I was determined not to burst into tears during the conversation, but rather to support and encourage her.
She told me: “They examined me again—the diagnosis wasn’t confirmed.”
I burst into tears on the phone.
She started calming me down and asked me to give this joyous and exciting news to her mother. I called her immediately and she had the same reaction as me—she started sobbing.
These are just a few stories about my spiritual father that I wanted to share with the readers of OrthoChristian.com.