Mother and Child


“I’ll have time to do it..”

Mothers of children from the pediatric cardiac surgery department go as a rule into the chapel at the regional hospital in single file, sometimes one at a time, which is easier for me. When asked what they should do before a child’s operation, I answer everyone the same thing: “You need repentance and prayer with all the energy of your faith, hope and love.”

One of the mothers, a nimble and lively young lady, lit many candles in anticipation of her baby's operation. When asked to go to confession, she answered without hesitation:

“Later. I’ll have time to do it. When I get home, I’ll immediately go to confession.”

“Okay,” I replied.

She suddenly darted out, noticing the doctor in charge, and saying something quickly hurried after her. When there is hope in medicine alone, the result may fall short of a mother’s expectations.

Several people came to confession the next Wednesday. As a result, their children spent the time after the operation more easily than the others. That mother showed up with the others every day, lighting candles and praying hard. A week later, unable to restrain herself, she came up to me.

“How are things?” I wondered.

“Very bad. There are no positive dynamics, and the child is on artificial respiration. If this goes on for another two days, the doctors will have to take him off the ventilator.”

“Well, have you made up your mind to go to confession?”

“Yes, yes!” she answered hurriedly, as if expecting my advice.

The next day the priest arrived. He baptized, heard confessions and talked, as usual. After thoroughly preparing for confession she repented with tears.

The mother disappeared for three days and came on the last day before discharge. Then she confessed, while lighting candles, with a happy smile on her face:

“I forgot to tell you: the next day after confession my daughter was on the mend. There were positive dynamics, and she was weaned off the ventilator. She began to breathe on her own.”

“Do you understand why?” I asked her.

“Surely. Now I do nothing without God. My life has been divided into ‘before’ and ‘after’ the hospital. I am on a straight road to church.”

Sitting on the fence

Praying earnestly and repenting, mothers left the pediatric cardiac surgery department with their babies after the ICU. And only one of them, despite her confession, continued to daily ask all the saints for mercy on her child, lighting candles and waiting. Waiting can be tiring, especially if your baby hasn't recovered its breath yet. Again unable to restrain myself, I beckoned to her and began to ask her many questions. We went through all the possible sins until it dawned on me:

“Have you ever visited fortune tellers or psychics?”

“What of that? Is it a sin? After all, they heal.”

“Well I never! Did you repent of it?”

“I didn’t think that it required repentance.”

Soon after a second confession they both were discharged from hospital.

There was another young woman whose child remained in a serious condition in the ICU after her first confession. A month of ordeals and experiences went by, and she finally admitted that after her daughter’s Baptism she had visited a sorceress, but she was afraid to tell the priest about it at confession. After a second confession they both were discharged from hospital.

There are sad cases when the mother doesn’t want to reform. Her life has become so tangled. She keeps postponing repentance until her heart sinks at a new diagnosis. Ribs knitted incorrectly after cardiac surgery, and ahead is a new surgical intervention in the small, fragile baby’s body. Doctors break a baby’s bones, but the mother refuses to repent and break her own ego.

Unwillingness to forgive

Another story. A young woman prayed fervently and implored help, standing by the icons, then confessed and took Communion, but her child remained in the same condition. Unable to restrain myself, I beckoned to her and without hesitation, tried to find out the cause of her problem.

“Did you commit this sin?”

“I did, but I have since repented.”

“Did you commit that sin?”

“No, I didn’t.”

We racked our brains over this for a long time until it dawned on me:

“Is there anyone who hurt you and whom you haven't forgiven?”

“Yes, I still bear a grudge against someone.”

“But how do you want the Lord to forgive you if you have not forgiven someone else? I know there can be great pain that we are unable to forget. I understand that we may not have strength. So go and ask the Mother of God to help you.”

The lady looked at me in surprise and went to the Iveron Icon of the Mother of God. She knelt down, prayed, and left silently without saying goodbye, apparently doubting my promise. The next morning she returned with such a radiant smile that I immediately realized how hard it had been for the poor woman from the pain caused by someone. She shouted joyfully right from the doorstep without greeting me:

“I’ve forgiven!!!”

“Now sign up for confession quickly!”

A couple of days later they both were preparing for discharge.


Hell on earth

Once a frustrated man came into the chapel. After sitting for a while, he bought candles and began to light them in front of each icon. The next day we started talking and it turned out that he knew our parish and our rector. He shared his grief with me. His twenty-five-year-old son was in the ICU in critical condition. No doctors could diagnose him. Some terrible infection was ruining his heart and spreading to his brain. The story shocked me and prompted me to ask a natural question:

“Does this happen?”

“Apparently, this happens since the doctors have detected it.”

I switched to the topic of mother and child, wondering:

“What about the mother? Is she unbelieving?”

“She’s a believer.”

“So what's the matter? Does she go to confession?”

“She doesn’t.”

“How can it be? Don’t understand... Doesn't she know how much depends on her?”

“She knows and understands everything and even better than me. But she can't forgive. She worked in a church shop, and the priest sacked her for something. So she can’t forgive him, and go to confession or even to church.”

I was dumbfounded. She didn’t want to overcome her pride for the sake of her child and allowed resentment to eat away at her heart, paralyzing her brain, like the virus in her son. While he was being brought by airplane and dying in the ICU, the mother continued to boil in her inner hell. I couldn’t forget this story for a long time. The man didn’t come anymore, and there was no one to tell me if the poor young man was saved or not.

It’s frightening when the ambitions of a mother are on one side of the scales, and the health, and sometimes the life of her child—on the other. At any age! Maybe in this God laid the foundation of the harmony of the Orthodox family—living for each other, self-sacrifice and self-denial for the sake of a loved one.

I always explain the fundamental truth to mothers who come to me. During childbirth the physical umbilical cord is cut, but the spiritual, invisible umbilical cord remains, and the connection is so strong it doesn’t obey any natural laws. That is why a mother's heart is so sensitive, her prayer is so strong, her curse is so terrible, and her sins and her child’s life are so interdependent. Here at the chapel of a huge regional hospital, where people from all over the Irkutsk region flock with their troubles and illnesses, I clearly observe the fulfillment in practice of everything that the Holy Scriptures and the Church Fathers tell us.

The huge gap of seventy years in spiritual life has brought irreparable harm to our people. Life without God has taught the Russian people to do with indifference things that had been unacceptable before the Revolution. As a result, the country was overwhelmed by drug addiction and crime. Women, wives and mothers began to kill their unborn babies all over the country and around the world by tens, hundreds, thousands and hundreds of thousands. Until quite recently no more than five women a day would come to our central gynecology hospital, but after ten years lines grew. Every day blood is shed and innocent babies are torn to pieces. This is in one hospital, but how many of them there are in the city and nationwide!

When women in their fifties are standing in front of me, asking for icons of Blessed Matrona of Moscow, St. Boniface of Tarsus and the “Inexhaustible Cup” Icon of the Mother of God with endless questions: “What should I do? How should I live? My son drinks / is a drug addict / my daughter sleeps with different men, drinks and only demands money…”, I ask them: “Did you have abortions?” And I see surprise in their eyes and hear the answer: “Who didn’t have them? Everyone did.” And I lose heart. There are rare cases when someone regrets what happened. At such moments I feel powerless to get through to at least one of them. But behind this misunderstanding are the ruined lives of children, and sometimes grandchildren, from generation to generation. But requests like these go on day after day:

“Give me an icon for good health, please.”

“And for my well-being.”

“And I have surgery tomorrow. Give me an icon so it will go well.”

I just have to explain:

“Dear women, do you remember that health cannot be bought for any amount of money? And you’ve decided to buy it for several dollars and acquire it without hard work! True, the Lord can perform a miracle even in an empty place. But our people are still waiting for a miracle without their participation in it. If you can’t even eat without hard work, then how tirelessly you must labor so the Lord can hear us and work a miracle—the forgiveness of our sins and the improvement of our lives, and then our healing.”

As St. Seraphim of Sarov said, take away the sin and the illnesses will go away, for illnesses are given to us for our sins.

Irina Dmitrieva
Translation by Dmitry Lapa


Stephanie 10/27/2022 6:18 pm
My husband sent this article to me. Our daughter was born early and had to be in the NICU twice. I did ask myself if there was something I did to cause her premature birth. It's hard to pinpoint. In any case, the words of a saint are serious. I'll put aside my feeble understanding to trust what a holy man says about my natural condition, especially someone who has struggled against himself to get closer to the Almighty Good God.
Editor10/14/2022 12:59 pm
Paul: This is not theology. This is simply the personal experience of a woman who works in a hospital church, her observations.
Paul10/14/2022 10:07 am
Like anonymous I’m not convinced by this theology. Yes certainly there are times our sins impact our health and of course it is because of sin that sickness exists. However, our Lord Jesus Christ corrected his disciples when they asked him who had sinned to make the man born blind - him or his parents. Linking all familial sickness with personal sin as this article claims can lead to false condemnation and shame.
anonymous 10/13/2022 9:05 pm
this may very well be the case I believe but what about the saints that fell ill? sometimes we have repented and we still have illnesses as a consequence for our past sins no?
Here you can leave your comment on the present article, not exceeding 4000 characters. All comments will be read by the editors of OrthoChristian.Com.
Enter through FaceBook
Your name:
Your e-mail:
Enter the digits, seen on picture:

Characters remaining: 4000

to our mailing list

* indicates required