We are used to the Gospel words: According to your faith be it unto you (Mt. 9:29). But I know two stories that showed that sometimes miracles in our lives occur against our will, as it were. This is how the Lord calls on us to reflect on our lives and think about changing them. Besides, sometimes saints themselves knock on our hearts to enlighten them.
A sick woman came to the chapel I work in to pray before her operation and order to be prayed for herself at forty Liturgies. She was from Bratsk1 and worked at a church. She brought another woman to the chapel who had just had an operation. We started talking with her, and she confessed:
“My wardmate at the hospital gave me a piece of dried bread before the operation.”
“Yes, yes, I gave her St. Seraphim of Sarov’s dried bread.”
“I ate it, and at the same moment all my pre-operation nerves ended. It was as though a wave of calm had swept over me. I calmed down, but I didn’t tell anyone. I decided not to reveal this until after the operation in case it had only seemed so to me. I went to the operation calmly and without fear, though earlier I couldn’t pull myself together from horror. And the operation went fine.
Then I joined in the conversation:
“When was that?”
“Do you know that Tuesday was January 15—the double feast of St. Seraphim of Sarov: the anniversary of his repose and the second uncovering of his relics?”
“No, certainly not! How could I know?”
Here the church worker also confessed that in the hustle and the fears of the days spent in hospital it had slipped her mind whose feast it was.
And that’s not all that struck me then. The sick woman who had eaten batiushka’s dried bread said that she was not baptized. Of course, there are many amazing things in my memory that took place, not only in the lives of baptized Orthodox people. The Lord is open to everyone, be they Muslims, Chinese, or representatives of other faiths and religions. He is also open to non-believers, whom I once was. But only the boundless love of the Lord and His faithful saint—St. Seraphimushka2 the “Mother of God’s servant”, as he called himself—could so obviously help a person who did not even think about faith at that moment.
I also recall the story of a journalist, who was then not religious and did not even think about Orthodoxy. Her little son got in trouble. When together with other boys he was playing with carbide (known to all boys) in the yard, it exploded and burned the boy’s eyes. He was rushed to hospital, and the doctors gave a disappointing diagnosis: “We are unlikely to save his eyesight—if only to save his eyes!” The poor boy had swollen burns instead of eyes.
His mother was frozen with grief. When she got home, she could hardly understand what she was doing. Suddenly she heard a tap. It turned out that an icon of St. Seraphim of Sarov that hung in her room had fallen off the nail. The woman picked it up and hung it in place, without even thinking about how the icon could fall off the nail. And it happened five times in a row. Finally, she paid attention to the unusual fall of the icon and burst into tears. I think I need not tell you what the woman then asked St. Seraphim of Sarov for.
The next morning, when she arrived at the hospital, she saw a neatly made-up bed. The most terrible thought flashed through her mind: “His body could not stand it and he died!” But then her son’s voice behind her brought her back to life:
She turned and saw her son’s eyes wide open with only pink spots around them. And it was the day after the burns from the explosion! The doctors were perplexed and threw up their hands: “We didn’t even have time to do anything. We have no idea how it happened!”
Thus, the woman became a Christian believer through sudden trouble and Father Seraphim, who came to her aid. In both cases, he showed his help and his presence in their daily lives. I would even say that he himself called both women to the Lord. The sick woman who came to my chapel bought a silver icon of St. Seraphim, a set from Diveyevo Convent, which also contained batiushka’s small dried bread crusts, some earth from the Holy Canal of the Mother of God, some holy water and holy oil. And I shared with her the advice of Diveyevo nuns on how to treat stomach diseases with the help of batiushka’s dried crusts, and how to “multiply” them. Once you eat a small dried crust with prayer to Seraphimushka, the pain disappears immediately.
You dry a baking sheet of dried crusts, then add a piece of blessed dried crust to them, and then you have a lot of blessed dried crusts! Share it, multiply them and teach others how to do it. And don’t forget the process of integrating into Church life! There’s no Christian life without it.
The sick woman assured me that she would get baptized and try to follow everything she would be taught in the Church. Besides, she comes from Kachug in the Irkutsk region, the birthplace of our great holy hierarch, Metropolitan Innocent (Veniaminov), where a church has been restored and a cultural center in honor of the holy archpastor has been opened. And with that we said good-bye to each other.