Miracles happen in our lives every day, but we don’t always notice them. However, there are times when no one can doubt the presence of the Lord in our lives. Here are some of the stories I have heard from fellow Orthodox Christians.
One man took communion of the Holy Eucharist for the first time in his life. As he had read earlier in some Orthodox books, he felt an amazing taste, which lasted in his mouth for a few days. The most incredible was the fact that on his way home from the church, he met six fighting men. The fight was fierce, and everyone else was avoiding them. The partaker went right through the fighting and – surprisingly – not only was he left untouched, but the fight itself stopped: as he was walking in the middle of the fighting men, they would turn around, calm down, and go in different directions. This is how the divine grace works.
There was an amazing incident with a priest. One day he went to another city to pay a visit, and he brought an icon of Nicholas the Wonderworker as a gift to the hosts. At night, the priest stayed in the apartment alone and saw that the icon of Nicholas the Wonderworker had suddenly come to life: another image of the same saint appeared behind the painted one. The priest knew that such special apparitions from God do not happen for no reason at all – and indeed, when he came home he found out that he had been appointed to minister in the church of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker. The saint took him under his protection.
There was also an interesting story involving a pilgrim. One day he was going on vacation to the south and due to the lack of tickets in Moscow he had to stay in the capital for three days, spent the nights at the railway stations, and was hiding in the subway from robbers; in general, he suffered a lot. So he had the idea to go to Sergiev Posad and venerate the relics of St. Sergius of Radonezh. The pilgrim had long respected this saint, but had never visited his relics. He made it to Sergiev Posad surprisingly fast and without any adventures. It was raining. There was a queue to the relics, and the floor in the church was wet from the water that flowed down from the pilgrims’ shoes. Three meters before the shrine, the pilgrim started bowing down and asking the saint for help, and was surprised to notice that the water on the floor smelled amazingly good but not like perfume or eau de cologne. The pilgrim thought, “Those strange people pour perfume all over the church.” But as he approached the relics, he felt that the scent intensified. When he was kissing the holy relics, he figured out that the saint’s relics were the source of the unusual pleasant odor. This was how Saint Sergius greeted the pilgrim.
Translated by The Catalogue of Good Deeds
Following are some of the miracles that I and my family have, totally by the Grace of God, experienced, including on our Journey to Orthodoxy. Glory be to God, with much thanks to Our Lord, His Mother and all the Saints! And Happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrate it!
Our #2 daughter spent a few years, as a novice, in St. Paisius Monastery, 1st in California, then when the monastery moved to Arizona. We had sent her there, after some serious teenage difficulties, in order to save her life, which it did. She did not find monasticism to be her lifelong calling, but through it she found great peace & healing, going on to marry, have children and, with her husband and family, to be strong and deeply involved in the Orthodox church, in Alaska.
One summer, we decided to drive from Indiana to Arizona to visit her, along with 3 of our other children. It was a long drive, but, overall, good, in a fairly large & decent rental car. It was also good to see more of America.
At one point, we were driving across New Mexico, later in the afternoon, heading towards Albuquerque, where we planned to stay overnight. Suddenly, looking up, I became aware of a huge figure in the clouds, made of clouds. It was very clearly a large man, in a full-length robe, looking very much like one of the Apostles. At his feet was a large eagle. It suddenly struck me it was a figure of St. John the Divine, the Apostle (my patron saint). I called everyone’s attention to it, all looked & remarked. We prayed to St. John for his blessing on our journey.
Much later, it was dark, & we began the long, steep descent, out of the mountains, that eventually led into Albuquerque. Suddenly, I noticed a tire warning light come on. Something about it concerned me. So I told my family what was happening, & that we needed to get off the freeway & see what was up. Suddenly, we saw an exit just ahead, with a gas station & rest stop on the other side of the freeway, to be reached by a bridge. The place also looked incredible, kind of like a castle. We slowed, exited, crossed the bridge, & stopped in the forecourt of the rest stop. Checking. I discovered one of our rear tires was completely shredded. It was only a miracle that we’d been able to stay on the freeway as long as we had, without losing control & careening down the steep mountain road to certain death.
We called the car rental company, & they arranged to bring a replacement vehicle to us, from Albuquerque. It would take awhile, so we made use of the rest stop. My better half started talking, inside, to the lady who owned the place, & they talked for quite a long time. It turned out that this lady had lived in Singapore, & knew, along with many others there, a most incredible story from WW2. It concerned my better half’s father. He was in the British army in WW2, & was in Singapore when it fell to the Japanese. He, along with a company of Gurkhas, was on the very last boat to leave Singapore. The boat got stranded, temporarily, on a sand bar, which kept it from being sunk by Japanese artillery fire. They got free and made their escape
Later, they came across a large group of nurses & children stranded on the shore, having run from the Japanese, & now out of options. My father-in-law, & the Gurkhas, volunteered to get off the boat, to make room, so the nurses & children could escape. He was now the non-comm officer in charge, as his commanding officer had been killed in the fighting during the escape from Singapore. He and the Gurkhas then began what became a fabled heroic journey (widely known, later, in that part of the world) as they walked out of Burma to India, taking 2 years to do so. My father-in-law got bad malaria & bad PTSD from all that they went through. They obviously became skilled gorilla fighters in order to survive. He never gave details of what they went through, though his few hints indicated an unimaginably horrible experience (including finding later, the nurses & children that he & his men had sacrificed for, slaughtered in the jungle). It was known that he was a hero, but never decorated, due to the death of his commanding officer.
So, the full story was told to my better half, as we waited for our replacement car. We had again escaped certain death, & heard an amazing story of wartime heroism. In the most unlikely, unexpected & remote place. God most definitely works in mysterious ways, & is most definitely also glorified in His Saints!
When I was in the Order (the Holy Order of MANS), I spent about 1 1/2 years in Detroit, MI in the missionary sub-Order for men, the Brown Brothers of the Holy Light. There was a separate sub-Order for women, the Immaculate Heart Sisters of Mary. The Order was semi-monastic, the 2 sub-Orders were more intensely so. Western-style monastic robes were worn, except when outside at secular work. A stricter cycle of daily prayers, with Communion, was followed, the vow of celibacy was given (usually on a yearly, renewable basis), in addition to the pre-existing vows (given for life) of Obedience, Chastity, Poverty, Humility & Service. Extra, intense devotion to the Mother of God was also followed.
I greatly loved the increased & enhanced devotion to Our Mother, with Whom I already felt a close connection, plus Her protection. I felt Her help in everything, everywhere. I was given an obedience to go out & apply for a particular job (ambulance work). I tried hard, but the openings had closed. I was then told to go out, look for work.and keep looking, until I found something. So, I “pounded the pavement” for 3 days, trying multiple businesses, to no avail. On the afternoon of the 3rd day, feeling like “now what?”, I was downtown, & a bus suddenly pulled up next to me. I felt strongly to get on that bus, & stay on it to the end of the line. So I did. On the bus I met another brother from our Abbey, who was going to apply at a large restaurant down by the Detroit River. He invited me to join him in applying there. So, at the end of the line, we got off & went into the place. When the manager came, I thought he called us both at the same time, to come back & be interviewed. He suddenly turned on me in extreme anger, saying he meant only my colleague. Feeling hurt & embarrassed, I apologized & quickly left. Walking outside, I looked across the wide river, & saw an incredible sight………mysterious-looking buildings that almost seemed to be floating on the water. Intrigued, I made the long trek over the bridge to investigate.
It turned out to be the Detroit Boat Club, the oldest boat club in America. Curious, I walked into the service entrance & right into the assistant manager. He asked: “May I help you?” I said: “Yes, please. I want to work here.”
He said: “Step right this way,” & took me straight up to the manager’s office, where I was hired on the spot. Thus began my approach to the skilled trades, which, years later, led me (again, with Our Mother’s help) to plumbing. At the Detroit Boat Club, I became a plumber’s helper, an electrician’s helper, carpenter’s helper, general maintenance guy & a purchaser. It was in many ways a great blessing.
Several months later, I was offered the position to head up & re-open a joint church & city initiative, to loan tools, do minor home repairs. & teach basic home maintenance. This was located in a very rough part of the inner city. One day, I was out passing out flyers for the re-opened program to local businesses, homeowners & churches. I was at a Catholic church that refused to talk to me or let me in. Suddenly, I was aware of 2-way radio traffic right behind me. Turning around, there was a police squad car right there. Not at the time knowing any better, I walked right up to the police, to talk & explain, & found myself staring down the barrels of 2 .357 Magnum pistols (I never had guns, but knew about them). My mind went completely clear & a narrative started in my mind: “Those are not standard police-issue pistols. They’re .357 Magnums. These guys are scared & you just surprised them. One wrong move & you’re dead.” I suddenly remembered everything I’d been taught about what to do & what not to do in such situations, & started calmly & steadily talking & explaining everything , with no sudden or unexplained moves. The driver was white, his partner was black. The black officer suddenly saw the humour in the situation, & it was all he could do not to burst out laughing. Anyway, they both put down their guns, said: “Okay, stay out of trouble,” floored it & shot off down the street. Whew……lesson learned!
I had further adventures in Europe. One time, with my family, I was visiting a US airbase in Germany, on federal radio business, & at the base gate was interviewed at the wrong end of a 50-cal. machine gun, 2 M-16 rifles, & an armed officer. We got it all sorted out & proceeded. Also in Germany, more than once I had close encounters with heavily-armed GSG-9 spec ops, like when trying to enter places like the Bundestag, again on federal radio business. In London, I had a close encounter with a large group of police who, thinking I was a bad guy, were clearly ready to beat the daylights out of me. After a nice chat, the Jamaican lady officer in charge saw the humour of it all, & quickly defused the situation. Also in London, I was once at a Christmas play with my 2 oldest daughters, & 2 blocks away, the IRA was blowing up the front of Harrods. When we came out of the theater after the play, the whole area was in chaos, emergency responders & armed police everywhere. They bombed the rail line once in the town we later lived in, north of London. I often had to take detours driving to plumbing jobs in London, due to IRA bomb threats. Sometimes, leaving home in the morning, I wondered whether I’d be coming back. I quickly learned to keep a very low profile in Neasden, the Irish part of London where the IRA safe houses were. & where their “hard men” (IRA soldiers) walked the streets.
In Spain, we were able to avoid armed checkpoints by the Guardia Civil, but we were nearly killed by Basque terrorists while returning from pilgrimage to Garabandal. That story is recounted elsewhere. The Mother of God has saved me/us many, many times.
So, back to Detroit. MI, and my time there with the Brown Brothers of the Holy Light. During my time there, I also became heavily involved with the local chapter of the American Red Cross. I got certified in 1st Aid & CPR, plus 5 levels of Disaster Services relief work. Some of the other brothers did so as well. So much so that the Red Cross stationed one of their Disaster Relief vans at the Abbey, so we could be one of their rapid response units. On one occasion, we were summoned one night because a very large propane tanker had overturned in one of the Detroit suburbs, forcing the evacuation of a huge suburban area. If the tanker had ever exploded, it would have leveled the huge evacuated area. Fire crews were there, spraying the tanker down with water, to keep it cool enough to not explode, until special equipment was brought in to right it. Our job was to load up lots of coffee, water & sandwiches, & take all that to the frontline responders. We were extremely close to the tanker. It was very nervy, but God had everything under control, & it all ended well. That being said, though we kept our cool while there, we were relieved when we finally were able to leave the site! Another time, during an unusually cold winter (snow was covering most of all of the Lower 48 states), we got a call one night to take a big box truck full of blankets to an emergency evacuation shelter in Ohio, south of us. We loaded up & set out on the long journey. One big problem emerged……….the truck wasn’t insulated or windproof…….and the heater didn’t work well. I was driving, heavy snow everywhere, plus ice, plus it was dark, & lighting was poor. Despite having on winter boots, clothes & gloves, I started to freeze. I couldn’t feel my feet, lower legs, hands, face, & I was going into hypothermic shock. There was no place to stop or turn around…. we had to keep going……..our supplies were desperately needed. (The conditions in Ohio were so bad, the National Guard was going out in halftracks to rescue people & get them to the emergency shelters). So……in desperation, I cried out to the Mother of God to help me, to save me. Within seconds, all parts of my body got warm again (& stayed that way), the hypothermic shock went away, my mind cleared, & we were able to safely & easily complete our mission. Glory be to God, and, again & again, huge thanks to Our Mother!