Thursday, January 2, 2014

St. Seraphim

We spent last weekend on retreat up at the monastery that we love: St. Andrew's Abbey.  While we were there, I told someone about my plan for a book about saints and animals, and she said, "Well, there's Saint Seraphim and the bear..."  So when I got home I looked him up.
Saint Seraphim was a Russian monk who lived in a monastery, but in order to spend more time alone in prayer, took to staying in a small hut in the forest near his monastery.   He died in 1833, so he began going to the forest about the same time that Russia was at war with Napoleon.  Now Bob and I are reading WAR AND PEACE, and the War in this case is that war with Napoleon.  The Peace in the novel is a story of the social comings and goings, loves and trials of some fictional  Russian aristocrats.  For me there is something of a cognitive dissonance in the realization that this peaceable, prayerful man is the historical person, and the scheming, hoping, worrying, planning, good and bad motives and activities of the Bolkonskis, Rostovs, and Bezukhovs is fiction.   Tsar Alexander (who makes several appearances in the novel) was one of the people who visited St. Seraphim at his forest retreat.
The account of the bear is not really a story; it is just that while St. Seraphim lived in his hut in the forest, he was visited by many forest creatures whom he welcomed, as he welcomed all beings created by God.  An abbess from a nearby convent came to visit him one time and was terrified to see a huge bear with him.  But Seraphim told her not to worry, the bear wouldn't hurt her.  The bear was seen with him on various occasions.  He fed the bear with his bread, and was brought gifts of honey from the bear as well.

This little picture is a 5"x 7" card that I painted to send to Tofu, to tell him about this lovely, holy man.  His feast day, it turns out, is today, January 2.

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