Reading people’s stories about the miraculous help of our beloved Matronushka, the uncovering of whose relics is celebrated on March 8, for a long time now I’ve wanted to tell about how Blessed Matrona of Moscow saved Irina Golikova from being drawn into parapsychology and spiritual death.
—Irina, tell us about your journey to the Church?
—I started going to Orthodox churches from the time my child was born. I bought books about how to behave properly in church, about the rituals, traditions, and so on. I did it all, but it didn’t touch my soul. Sometimes I would go to church; sometimes I wouldn’t go for half a year or a year. But I really came to the Church through my job. As a psychologist, I’m ready to help all those in need. Trying to achieve perfection in my profession, at some point I realized that I’d suddenly hit a wall, or a ceiling. I just wasn’t getting anywhere with it.
Looking for a way out led me to parapsychology. I got carried away with it like a new toy. I met interesting people—rather famous, popular people, who had made great achievements in this field. They predicted something for me. Calling themselves “healers,” they drew me in with the wonderful idea of helping people, saying: “We will learn to help people with supernatural powers; we will study angels, develop lucidity, clairvoyance; we will see sicknesses and heal people.” “Great! How interesting! Let’s heal people. I want to heal everyone,” I thought. Through courses and various outings, I learned to cheerfully communicate with them. I brought a ton of friends and acquaintances to them.
And then, something started happening with me, and I suddenly lost interest in life—complete apathy. It was as if some spark had been taken from my soul. For about a month, I was walking around like a robot. I didn’t want to do anything creative or do any work. I hadn’t had a TV for many years before that, but now I was spending whole days in a rented apartment sleeping, eating, and watching TV. A whole month passed this way. I called this terrible life the death of the soul, and I realized that I couldn’t have anything to do with these people anymore, because I had suffered because of them.
—How did you deal with this problem?
—I was praying silently when suddenly a clear thought came to me: “You have to go on pilgrimage to a monastery.” I thought: “Good idea.” The first monastery I found searching online was Holy Protection. It was a sign. Before that, I had gone to Matronushka’s relics without any special faith. Someone had taken me and told me to venerate them, saying it would be a good experience. But it wasn’t good. So I called the whole list of monasteries, but none of the other monasteries could take me. But in Holy Protection they said: “Come tomorrow morning. We’ll be waiting for you.” What’s called a “pilgrimage” at Holy Protection is called “working” at other monasteries. You live the monastery life and you work according to their schedule. Some people stay there for a month during a break; others might come for a year.
—I arrived at the monastery on February 15, on the Meeting of the Lord, in a completely ineffectual state. It was extremely cold and there was a huge line to the relics. I’m very afraid of the cold. For me, to be outside in winter is a catastrophe. But no sooner had I stepped onto the monastery territory than my joy for life returned. Colors reappeared! I was given an obedience outside near the field kitchen, where they were distributing hot oatmeal with tea and pastries. I immediately cheered up in a big way. Awesome! There were people around—I wanted to talk with everyone…
In the evening, in my cell, I mentally spoke with Matronushka: “Matushka Matrona, thank you very much. I asked for my interest in life to return, and it returned so quickly. It’s like a fairytale. I understand that I should thank you, work hard, but I don’t know how much. Tell me how much.” The answer came to me quite clearly: “Three months.” I was amazed: “Wow, a thought from Matronushka!” I prayed for several days, and they told me: “No one wants to go to our dependency, because it’s agricultural there—very hard work. It’s not handing out flowers. You’ll have to do some plowing there.” I said: “Send me to the front lines.” In fact, I wanted some solitude, because everything is very busy in the monastery. I wanted my soul to be cleansed, rested.
I went to the village of Markovo. There’s a big plot of land there. There were three of us then. Our cell was right under the altar of the church. The cell for workers is somewhere else now. We had all the right conditions for solitude, for studying spiritual literature. I love to read. I started out right away with The Ladder of Divine Ascent by St. John Climacus. I mainly read Patristic literature—instructions for monastics. Someone asked: “What are you reading? That’s not for you yet.” I said: “It’s what the Lord sent. Maybe I have enough brains.” Those three months were the foundation of my Church formation, and I haven’t parted with Matronushka since. I wear her icon and I pray to her.
—Does Matronushka help?
—She always helps. Of course, I have other beloved saints too, with whom I’ve also developed feelings of kinship. They’re like old friends whom I get together with.