Thursday, August 29, 2013

Seraphim of Sarov (1754-1833)

Here is a compilation of commentary by Catholics and separated Eastern Christians on Seraphim of Sarov. Seraphim of Sarov cannot be a saint, unless before his death he saw the truth of the Catholic faith, was sincerely sorry for his sins, and sincerely desired to die a good Catholic, as Fr. Michael Müller says in his Familiar Explanation of Christian Doctrine, 108.

"The most Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes and preaches that none of those existing outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics, can have a share in life eternal; but that they will go into the eternal fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels, unless before death they are joined with Her; and that so important is the unity of this ecclesiastical body that only those remaining within this unity can profit by the sacraments of the Church unto salvation, and they alone can receive an eternal recompense for their fasts, their almsgivings, their other works of Christian piety and the duties of a Christian soldier. No one, let his almsgiving be as great as it may, no one, even if he pour out his blood for the Name of Christ, can be saved, unless he remain within the bosom and the unity of the Catholic Church" -- Pope Eugene IV at the Ecumenical Council of Florence, Bull "Cantate Domino"

"No man can find salvation except in the Catholic Church. Outside the Catholic Church one can have everything except salvation. One can have honor, one can have the sacraments, one can sing alleluia, one can answer amen, one can have faith in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, and preach it too, but never can one find salvation except in the Catholic Church" -- St. Augustine the Great of Hippo, Sermon to the People of the Church of Caesarea, 6 (Patrologia Latina 43:695), qtd. in John Randolph Willis, The Teachings of the Church Fathers (Ignatius Press, 2002), 60 <>. Latin: "Extra Ecclesiam catholicam totum potest praeter salutem. Potest habere honorem, potest habere Sacramenta, potest cantare Alleluia, potest respondere Amen, potest Evangelium tenere, potest in nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus sancti fidem habere et praedicare: sed nusquam nisi in Ecclesia catholica salutem poterit invenire."

Pope St. John Paul II of Rome, Crossing the Threshold of Hope (New York: Random House, 1994), 17-18 <>: "Much has been written about prayer, and further, prayer has been widely experienced in the history of mankind, especially in the history of Israel and Christianity. Man achieves the fullness of prayer not when he expresses himself, but when he lets God be most fully present in prayer. The history of mystical prayer in the East and West attests to this: Saint Francis, Saint Teresa of Avila, Saint John of the Cross, Saint Ignatius of Loyola, and, in the East, for example, Saint Seraphim of Sarov and many others."

Pope St. John Paul II of Rome, Apostolic Visit to Azerbaijan and Bulgaria, Pilgrimage to the Holy Monastery of Rila (3/25/2002): "Having been enabled to see the world through God’s eyes, and become ever more configured to Christ, religious men and women move towards the ultimate end for which man was created: divinization, sharing in the life of the Trinity. Grace makes this possible only to those who — through prayer, tears of compunction and charity — open themselves to the Holy Spirit, as we are reminded by another great monk of these beloved Slav lands, Seraphim of Sarov (cf. Colloquio con Motovilov III, in P. Evdokimov, Serafim di Sarov, Uomo dello Spirito, Bose 1996, pp. 67-81)." <>

Louis Monden, S.J., Signs and Wonders: A Study of the Miraculous Element in Religion (New York: Desclée, 1966), 306-307: "Let us study, for instance, the life of St. Seraphim of Sarov (died in 1833), the greatest miracle-worker of the 19th century. His biography, no doubt, presents an impressive number of facts which any Catholic would readily recognize as proofs of a supernatural intervention of God. He would, however, recognize just as readily that none of them qualifies as a major miracle, that is, one with an intrinsic apologetic value and of the kind we have so far found absent everywhere except in the Catholic Church. There are two particularly striking instances among the cures attributed to him: the cases of Michael Manturov and Judge Nikolai Motovilov. Both are cases of functional paralysis, which, judging by the way the illness and the manner of the cure are described, could have been cured, medically speaking, through spontaneous psychotherapy with religious motivation. At the Lourdes Bureau cases like these would not even be considered."

Martin Jugie, A.A., Le schisme byzantin, aperçu historique et doctrinal (Paris, P. Lethielleux, 1941), 447-460, esp. 457:

En 1903, la canonisation de l’ascète Séraphin de Sarov († 1833) fut due déjà a la violenté expresse de l’empereur Nicolas II et de sa femme l’impératrice Alexandra Féodorovna, malgré un obstacle qui paraissant insurmontable. Le corps de Séraphin, en effet, n’avait pas été trouvé conservé. Or, le grande miracle qui est à l’origine de la plupart des canonisations historiques est l’incorruption du cadavre. Lorsque l’historien Golubinskii, dans l’ouvrage signalé plus haut, prétendit que cette marquée de sainteté n’était pas obligatoire, la censure ecclésiastique le mit à l’index.1 Mais sous la pression du tsar, et surtout de la tsarine, l’opposition des milieux ecclésiastiques cessa. La condamnation portée contre l’ouvrage de Goloubinskii fut levée et l’on procéda solennellement, en 1903, à la canonisation du saint anachorète, célèbre par ses exploits ascétiques, son oraison, ses visions extatiques et ses enseignements spirituels.2 Cette canonisation, qui ressemblait à un coup de force de l’autorité impériale, fit scandale en Russie. En tout cas, il faut la considérer comme une exception dans l’histoire des canonisations russes officielles.

... 1. La famille impériale attribuait des grâces de guérison déjà l’attouchement du manteau du saint anachorète. L’impératrice insista pour le faire canoniser, espérant obtenir par son intercession la naissance d’un fils. Elle put bientôt se croire exaucée. Exactement un an après la canonisation de Séraphin, elle émit au monde le tsarévitch Alexis.
Aidan Nichols, O.P., Rome and the Eastern Churches (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2010), 134: "Again, Catholics of the Byzantine rite do, I believe, commemorate saints canonized by the Orthodox during the period of schism, and even dedicate parish churches to them, like the one recently erected under the patronage of Seraphim of Sarov (a nineteenth century Russian hermit) in Toronto, Canada, but I have not heard of Uniate veneration of an Orthodox saint instrumental in the making or continuance of schism, such as the fifteenth century Greek bishop Mark of Ephesus." Fr. Nichols's book was first published in 1992. For more info on the parish in question see <>.

-Seraphim's conversation with Nicholas Motovilov (

-2007 Ruthenian Typicon for Tuesday, January 2: "In the Russian Church, the Venerable and God-bearing Father Seraphim, Wonderworker of Sarov." For more info on this Typicon, see

-Servant of God Catherine Doherty (Ekaterina Fyodorovna Kolyschkine de Hueck Doherty: Madonna House Apostolate foundress) [8/15/1896-12/14/1985] - "She had a great love, of course, for the saints of Holy Russia (she had an icon of St. Seraphim of Sarov over her bed)" -- Fr. Robert Wild, Catherine Doherty, Servant of God: The Signifiance of Her Life for the Church, and the Present State of Her Cause for Canonization (Combermere, Ontario, Canada: Madonna House Publications, 2005) 47 <>; see also <> and note that Catherine was also a fan of the writings of Silouan the Athonite <>

-At St. Michael's Russian Catholic Church (266 Mulberry Street, New York, NY  10012) there is an icon of Seraphim of Sarov and he is commemorated as a saint in a liturgical setting on January 14. This parish links to <> as the official Russian Catholic calendar; I cannot track down any archived copies of January at <*/>

-The encyclopedia at the Russian Catholic website lists Seraphim as a saint with a feast day of January 14; see <> and the English translation at <>

Archimandrite Lazarus Moore, An Extraordinary Peace: St. Seraphim Flame of Sarov [a.k.a. Saint Seraphim of Sarov: A Spiritual Biography] (Anaphora Press, 2009), 238-239: "But if Father Seraphim spoke of the superiority of Orthodoxy to Old Ritualism, still more did he consider it superior to Roman Catholicism. 'He urged us,' we read in the Diveyev Chronicle, 'to stand firmly for the truth of the dogmas of the Orthodox Church, giving as an example St. Mark of Ephesus who showed unshakable zeal in defense of the Eastern Catholic [Orthodox] faith at the Council of Florence. He himself gave various instructions on Orthodoxy, explaining its essence and stressing that it alone contained the truth of Christ's faith in its integrity and purity. He also gave instructions as to how to defend it.'" Ibid. 242-243, on the vision allegedly experienced "in the early 1920’s, [by someone from] a noble family of Protestants in Alsace": "'Suddenly I saw [St.] Francis [of Assisi] himself coming towards me, and with him a little old man like a patriarch, bent but radiant,' she said indicating thereby his old age and venerable appearance. He was all in white. She felt frightened, but they came quite near her and Francis said; 'My daughter, you seek the true Church. It is there, where he is. It supports everyone, and does not require support from anyone.' The white Elder remained silent and only smiled approvingly at the words of Francis. … When she visited his room to see whether he was comfortably settled, she saw there a small Icon and recognized in it the Elder whom she had seen, in her light sleep, with Francis. Astonished and alarmed she asked: 'Who is he, that little old man?' 'St. Seraphim, our Orthodox saint,' answered the workman. Then she understood the meaning of the words of St. Francis about the truth being in the Orthodox Church."
Update 3/5/2016: I will try to find this in the Chronicles of :
(a) pre-1903:
(b) 1903-1927:

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