On April 1, the Orthodox Church celebrates the canonization of St Simeon of the Pskov Caves . This holy elder died a little more than 60 years ago, but he still lives in the memory of believers as an example of amazing meekness and simplicity, as well as great ascetic deeds and Divine gifts. Elder Simeon dealt with demons, healed diseases and saw a man’s heart with the kind of naturalness and ease that showed how close he was to God. This is confirmed by several recorded cases when the venerable was visited by angels and the Mother of God. In this article, we would like to share just a few of these amazing stories.
The Holiness That Made Devils Tremble
Demoniac Nina was one of the parishioners in a St Petersburg church. Nina was an attractive, well-dressed woman praying quietly at services, but before Communion, she turned into a different person. It took several strong men to lead Nina to the Chalice, while she resisted, screaming in a low voice, “Leave me alone! I am not coming out!” After communion, the unconscious woman had to be carried.
St Simeon was her last hope. When they brought Nina to the elder, the demon yelled inside her, “Oh no, not Sim. That guy burns!” When the elder asked her name, the same demonic voice answered, “Nina”. With the blessing of Fr Simeon, Fr Athenogenes read prayers over Nina to cast out the demon, who was acting so violently that the woman had to be tied down.
Interestingly, while Nina was still sick, the demon could feel when the holy elder was approaching her. One evening the church service was disturbed by Nina’s sudden scream “Sim is coming!” and everyone saw her rush from side to side in search of a place to hide and ignoring the elder’s cell-attendant, saying that Father Simeon was ill and would not come for the service. And indeed, the elder soon appeared at the church door.
Finally, through the prayers of the elder, the unfortunate woman was healed and was able to freely partake of the Holy Mysteries. The elder warned her however that the last demon would be gone only after her death.
Healing by Prayer and Touch
Evdokia Pavlova, an elderly lady cured by the saint, once shared that she had been suffering from an eye disease for about 15 years when she met Fr Simeon. She went to many doctors, but they could not help. Her pains were becoming stronger, and eventually leucomas began to appear in the woman’s eyes, threatening her with complete blindness. A few of Evdokia’s friends who were church-goers and knew Fr Simeon suggested that she went to see the elder in Pechory. Abundant torrents of tears began to obscure the woman’s eyes the minute she entered the cell of the venerable. “What are you crying so bitterly about?” Fr Simeon asked as he ran his hand over her eyes and face. The woman told Father Simeon the story of her incurable illness. Then the elder ran his hand over her eyes once more and said, “Look how clean your eyes are – and they don’t hurt at all!” Since that day, Evdokia has never been seriously ill again. The doctors could only shrug their shoulders, marvelling at this miraculous healing.
St Simeon’s Absolution of Sins
It was in the 1950s when Antonina from Petersburg came to the elder at the Pechory monastery. Entering with prayer into the hallway leading to the cell, she saw a group of people sitting next to the door in complete silence. One could barely hear Father Simeon talking to someone in his cell. The woman asked the strangers if they were also waiting to see the elder, but received no answer. Antonina thought with surprise that maybe they did not speak Russian. She tried to examine the faces of the visitors in the darkness of the room, illuminated only by a kerosene lamp. It was unclear if they were women or men. Their faces were gloomy, with lowered eyes, and reminded her of birds of prey.
Finally Antonina felt uneasy in this company and decided to move closer to the elder’s cell. She said a prayer and slipped inside, becoming an unwitting witness to a conversation between Father Simeon and a certain old woman.
The latter was lamenting and complaining about her children unwilling to support her financially. She was telling the elder that she was staying with one of her children and wanted to sue the rest. The elder admonished her, “Aren’t you fed, dressed and shod? Help your son that you are staying with as much as you can. Live your life and do not bother your children.” However, the old woman continued to grumble.
After a short silence, St Simeon said: “Do you want to see how many sins you have brought with you today?” It was evident that the old lady did not understand what sins the venerable was talking about. Then the elder led her to the exit. “Come, I will show you who is tormenting you. I will drive them away, so that you can rest and calm down.”
He opened the door so that all three of them could see the visitors in the hallway, as they continued to sit quietly with their heads bowed. Father Simeon repeated: “Do you see how many of them came with you?” And then he stamped his foot and shouted, “Get out of here!” The gloomy people disappeared in an instant. “Now you are free from your pursuers.” the elder said as he was blessing the old woman, “Go and live with God.”
Amazed by what she saw, Antonina forgot everything that she was going to ask the elder on that night.
Venerable Simeon is a vivid example of unshakable faith, true love for God and man. Together with other saints of the 20th century, he clearly shows us that the Lord is the same yesterday, today, and forever, giving us hope that by His grace the earth will not be left without holy intercessors today and until the end of times.