Lives of various saints are inspiring and life-giving sources nourishing the faith of every Christian. In today’s article, we would like to let you take a closer look at the wondrous Russian Saint Lavrentiy of Chernigov (1868-1950) and publish a few of his heartfelt quotes and instructive stories of his life.
The main occupation of St Lavrentiy from a young age and throughout his life was serving as a church choir director. When churches began to close in Russia after the 20th century revolution, the monk meticulously kept his sheet music and liturgical books, predicting that “all this will soon come in handy”. And so it happened. With the beginning of the Great Patriotic War, churches began to reopen, and in 1941 Father Lavrentiy resumed his ministry at the Trinity-Ilyinsky Convent (Chernigov, Ukraine), which he himself had established.
The heart of the saint was filled with love for God and people. Seeing this, the Lord counted St Lavrentiy worthy of the gifts of clairvoyance, working miracles and healing the afflicted. He was also blessed with lifetime veneration of his numerous spiritual children. Father Lavrentiy “read” every person like an open book, and always knew the right words to comfort and strengthen people’s faith.
From a young age, Saint Lavrentiy acquired the skill of the unceasing Jesus Prayer and taught others, saying, “The mind must be constantly adjusted to prayer, otherwise it goes astray”. He often compared prayer with breathing and instructed his spiritual children to inhale saying, “Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God” and to exhale with the words,“have mercy on me, a sinner”.
Speaking about attending services, the venerable taught, “If you need to leave the Liturgy, then leave after “Our Father”. If they have already brought in the Chalice, then stand in place with fear and pray, because the Lord Himself is present here with the Archangels and Angels. If you can, shed albeit a small tear about your unworthiness“.
Father Lavrentiy was very demanding in liturgical life. For example, he was very indignant when the readers omitted any kathisma. He used to say, “It is better for the sun to stop shining than for us to stop reading the kathisma“.
Grieving about some priests lacking experience, he said. “I feel sorry for inexperienced priests who do not have enough time to read everything that they should. In the age to come, they will have to carry behind their backs those prayer notes, not read during the proskomedia. If they knew any better, they would arrange the unread notes neatly in piles, crossing themselves with fear and saying,“Remember, O Lord, all those whose names are written here and not read due to the weakness of human nature”. Then the merciful God would not charge them. But they are inexperienced and leave the notes scattered all over their window sills. They will be held accountable for this“.
The saint taught his monastic spiritual children the following way of keeping peace and love among themselves: “If a sister is“hot-tempered” and cannot restrain herself, then before raising a scandal, take off your cassock, put your rosary away and then start proving your case. If you do this, you will never fight with one another”.
Using God’s Gifts to Help the Neighbor
Father Lavrentiy treated every endeavour with great love. When in 1941 work began on the restoration of the Trinity Monastery, the holy father personally took part in all the repairs. He gave instructions to stove-makers, craftsmen who laid the floor and the roofers. When the workers complained about the poor quality of the boards, the priest replied, “20 years will be enough for them, and then we’ll see what God provides”. The plasterers had to work in the cold season. One day the plaster froze; an old assistant worker said, “Strength is needed here!” Father Lavrentiy was nearby and taught him a lesson in faith. He crossed the material lovingly, and it immediately became soft and appropriate to work with.
Nun Athanasia of the Trinity monastery once fell ill. Her legs hurt badly. Then Father Lavrentiy who came to visit her said, “We still have our whole life ahead of us, don’t we?” The nun was surprised, and the elder added, “Let’s be patient, sister”. Soon the sister began to recover.
One of the saint’s spiritual daughters once brought her friend to confession. The confession took longer than it was expected. When it ended, the shocked woman was in tears and shared with her friend what the elder had revealed to her.
When it seemed that the confession was already over, Elder Lavrentiy suddenly asked her,
– Have you ever killed anyone?
The perplexed woman replied,
– I cannot kill a fly, father,
– Try to remember well.
– Are you joking, father? How could I have committed such a crime?
– Think again. It was a long, long time ago.
And then a long-forgotten scene rose before her eyes. She remembered the house where she spent her childhood. She was playing with a young neighbor boy on a high porch. She pushed him; the boy rolled down the stone steps and no longer moved. She did not understand then that he was dead, and no one told her about it.
Father Lavrentiy resolved her from this involuntary sin. Tears of repentance and consolation streamed from the woman’s eyes. This sin could affect the fate of her soul at the aerial toll houses, but thanks to the holy elder, she repented of it in time.
As a rule, Father Lavrentiy never stayed for the sacrament of the wedding. Only one case is known when the saint made an exception and prayed for a newly wedded couple. Later, the elder shared that they were an example of true virginity, and that he saw the Holy Spirit passing between them during the Sacrament.
When Fr Lavrentiy moved to the Domnitsky Monastery, which he had also founded, he said, “Well, some may live here for eight years, and others will stay longer”. This was how he predicted his death. These words were understood only after the venerable deceased.
The relics of St Lavrentiy currently rest in the Trinity Cathedral of the monastery in Chernigov bearing the same name.
Venerable Father Lavrentiy, pray to God for us.