Saint Seraphim of Zhyrovichy: An Example of a True Orthodox Christian

Archimandrite Seraphim was born with the name of Roman in 1901 in a large peasant family. Despite the lack of money, the future archimandrite managed to get a quite decent education. When he was 21 he went to the Monastery of Zhyrovichy, where within a year, on April 1, 1923, he was tonsured as a monk and took his new name – Seraphim. In three more years he became a hierodeacon. In 1939 he became father superior of the monastery.

The defining moment for the future life of archimandrite Seraphim came in 1941. He and his friend Georgy Kudarenko were honored to perform a vital mission on the territory of occupied Belarus – to restore and reopen the churches which have been closed before the beginning of the second world war.

The missionaries interceded that the churches should be opened, they served the divine services, baptized children and performed funeral services. More importanlty they contimued to preach during the course of the their mission

Wherever Father Seraphim was, he gathered information about persecutions against the Orthodox Church in Belarus. According to his reports, there were no functioning churches in East Belarus (except from one in the city of Orsha), the clergy was exiled and a lot of priests were murdered. The churches were turned into theatres and clubs. Once, when the church was reopened in Vitebsk, people were so happy that began to cry, which nearly prevented the priests from serving.

The Divine Miracle

During such an important and difficult mission, the missionaries faced dangerous problems many times, but the Lord helped His servants and never left them. When Father Seraphim visited his native village on his way to Grodno, he told a story which happened to him. Once, he was suffering from a disease and his condition was getting worse each day, untill finally the illness became life threatening. Father Seraphim could not even climb on his bed without a low chair, and he hurt every time he tried to move. At one point when he was in bed, the Soviet aviation began to attack the city. Father Georgy was going to hide in the basement, but he did not want to leave his sick friend, who could not go down with him. So the priest decided to stay with his friend.

Suddenly Father Seraphim heard the voice ordering him to leave the room. The archimandrite stood up with great difficulty and went to the kitchen room. Then the voice ordered to call Father Georgy as well. When he entered the kitchen, the bomb hit their house. At that moment something mysterious happened. The shard of the bomb hit Saint Seraphim and opened the apostasies without causing harm to any organ. The gleet flew out from that wound, and soon Father Seraphim recovered completely. Thus the operation happened without human interference. God cured His servant himself.

When Father Seraphim and Father Gregory returned to Minsk, they continued to serve in the Holy Spirit Church, which they themselves had opened. Here, they also founded a monastery, which got its spiritual literature from the historical museum. Father Seraphim also visited hospitals, home for the disabled, and orphanages. The good shepherd was carrying the light of Gospel and God’s love everywhere.

Preaching at the cost of life

In 1944 the missionaries came to Grodno, where they visit hospitals and talk to the wounded people. On Spetember 6th they were both arrested. After five days of interrogation they were transported to a jail in Minsk. The prisoners continued to be brave during the interrogations. Father Seraphim did not conceal his views and replied to all the questions : “The Holy Rus’ was orthodox, our ancestors believed in God, and now we all can also reach happiness through our faith. We cannot let the godless to close our churches. And it is tragic that your fathers died without having communion and were buried without without a funeral service. It is no good, that your children lived without being baptised or married in church…”

The convicts were tortured severely, but their spirit remained strong regardless. There is a copy of the interrogation of Father Seraphim dated to December, 5, 1994:

Q: Now you may tell everything about your work on German secret service.
A: I have never been an agent of German secret service.
Q: Your evidence is false. You are concealing all the time that you were a German agent.
A: My evidence is true. I have never been a German agent.
Q: I offer you another opportunity to tell everything about your cooperation with German agents.
A: I have already told everything I can say on this account. I have no other evidence.

According to the protocol the interrogation begun at 1 p.m. and ended at 4:15 p.m. It lasted more those 3 hours but only those words were written. We can only guess what was happening during the interrogation…

The prisoners were on trial for 10 months. Finally they were sentenced to imprisonment for 5 years in a special concentration camp. A year after the conviction Archimandrite Saraphim passed away inside the camp. The official cause of death was cardiac failure, but the circumstances of death are still being investigated.

The feast of Saint Martyr Seraphim of Zhyrovichy is celebrated on September, 6 – on the day of the arrest which became the beginning of his path to martydom.