Venerable Manefa of Gomel is a late 20th century saint who, as we have already written , healed others, while herself enduring terrible pain. Her serious bodily illness did not prevent her from being active and good-natured. In times of war and flourishing atheism her living faith and love for people nourished everyone who came to her from near and far places. Manefa first became known as a good dressmaker. In course of time, people began to seek her help and advice in everyday life, relying on it in overcoming sorrows and illnesses. St Manefa was always glad to help those coming to her with deeds and prayer, complementing her beautiful garments with most practical advice, consolation and healing.
The Path Foretold
The monastic path that the Lord had prepared for the meek and prayerful Maria was revealed to her by various people long before her tonsure. Once when Maria was home alone while her parents were working in the field, an old man came to their house begging for alms. The girl donated a piece of salo to him. Meeting the girl’s mother on his way back, the old man said to her, “Your nun gave me some salo”. Later another old man said to Maria, “The time will come when cucumbers will be sown here in four rows, and you will become a nun”. Indeed, in the following years the nearby river dried up, with vegetable gardens appearing in its place, and Maria became nun Manefa.
Clairvoyance and Exposing Vices
Once the Lord sent schema-nun Manefa a spiritual son, a deeply religious officer Nikolai Malichev, who arrived in Gomel after the war. When he asked her for healing, she looked at him intently and firmly said, “You will be a priest.” After that, Nikolai left his job and settled next to the clairvoyant eldress. Soon, choosing the monastic path in life, he was ordained a hieromonk. Thanks to Father Nikolai’s labors, St Manefa’s house eventually turned into a small monastery, where he became the confessor. There were two more nuns, Anna and Fotina, living in the monastery besides the eldress.
St Manefa would often lovingly expose her visitors’ secret thoughts and deeds. Once a woman came to the eldress, carrying in her bag a wit of expensive fabric meant as a gift to her. For some reason, she then changed her mind about presenting it. After a conversation with St Manefa, the woman was about to leave when the eldress asked her with a smile, “Aren’t you going to show me the fabric?” The woman felt ashamed and gave her present to the schema-nun. In such cases, Mother Manefa instructed her spiritual children that the first thought is from God, and the second one is from the devil. She taught that once you have decided to do something good, you need to do it boldly and without hesitation.
Spiritual and Practical Advice
St Manefa encouraged those weary from the difficulties of life with examples of holy martyrs, “My dear, how can we complain about our lot? God feeds us and gives us shelter. Nobody persecutes or tortures us. Remember all those who suffered for the faith; remember Jesus Christ!”
When necessary, mother Manefa would discerningly point towards a potential groom or bride when speaking with young people. The eldress recommended everyone who wanted to find a companion from God, to read “hail Mary” 12 times in the morning and in the evening, followed by the troparion to St Nicholas the Wonderworker. Everyone who acted on her advice always found happiness in marriage and thanked her.
Miraculous and Terrifying Visions
Several times St Manefa clearly saw in a dream the Mother of God saying, “Turn to Me in your prayers”. In her own words, the eldress felt awe and reverence during these visions.
From time to time evil spirits would approach the saint at night in the guise of various people, threatening and demanding that she stop helping Fr Nicholas and her other spiritual children. But the saint chased them away with just one wave of her well-used woolen prayer beads.
Also, during her short rest, the eldress was often visited in visions by her deceased confessor, hiero-schemamonk Artemy, continuing to instruct her and protect her from temptation. During these appearances he gave his instructions or advice to St Manefa or the people who visited her. He continued to be the only person with whom the saint shared her unbearable pains and frequent disagreements with Father Nikolai. The confessor would encourage St Manefa by saying, “All the saints had to practice patience and so must you. Drink holy water and be patient”. To that he added that Father Nikolai wasn’t able to cope without St Manefa’s help yet. Father Artemy also warned the eldress about her coming death, although he did not reveal her a specific date. He said that there was no God’s will for her to know that day, because she did not have the strength to accept everyone who wanted to come say goodbye to her. After that, all her loving spiritual children took turns keeping vigil at the eldress’ bedside until her death on February 25, 1984.
Even after her death, St Manefa does not leave without help those who come to her with faith and prayer. The multiple miracles taking place at her grave drew forth a rather speedy acquisition of her relics with the following canonization of St Manefa in 2007
Occurrences like the one that happened with Priest Mikhail Romanenkov, strengthens faith and reminds us of the saint’s prayerful presence in our lives. In early spring 2011, it was rather cold in the church, but when the priest venerated the reliquary with the incorruptible relics of the saint, he felt that warmth emanated from it. “It felt as if life invisibly continued in them” Fr Mikhail reflects.
The wonderworking relics of St. Manefa and her icon of the Mother of God “Seeking the Lost” are currently kept at Sts Peter and Paul Cathedral in the city of Gomel.