July 2 – John of Shanghai and San Francisco; Swithun

John Maximovich, Wonderworker of Shanghai and San Francisco (1896–1966), was born Mikhail in Ukraine, received the name John at his hierodeaconification by Metropolitan Anthony, and, after eight short years as an instructor and tutor, was bishopified and sent to Shanghai. (Inhale.) There he founded an orphanage, ignored the Japanese curfew (much to their indifference), and refused to have anything to do with the Soviet-tainted church. This so impressed the ROCOR Synod that he was archbishopified in 1946.

When the Communists took over China, the Russians there were forced to flee, and John went to Washington, D.C., to ask permission for his fellow refugees to emigrate to the States. It worked. He was then assigned to Western Europe, where he went around collecting saints’ lives (antique shops were apparently keen to get rid of them), re-introducing many pre-schism saints into the eastern calendar. He was then sent to San Francisco, where he brought peace to a divided community and completion to an unfinished cathedral. His political enemies tried to besmirch his name (is that a great word or what?) (“besmirch,” I mean, not “name”), accusing him of financial improprieties, but he was eventually exonerated. (So glad financial improprieties are no longer a problem in the Church.)

Vladika John (as he is still remembered) passed away while visiting Seattle as bodyguard to the Kursk Icon of the Theotokos. His body was flown to San Francisco, and rests in the Cathedral of the Holy Virgin, which is on Geary Street (all the sources point out the street the Cathedral is on, so I figured I’d better pass it along). He was canonized in 1994.

Swithun (ca. 800–862) (Swīþhūn) was tutor to King Egbert (of Wessex)’s son Æthelwulf (also called Adulphus, although by whom, it doesn’t say). Æth (nobody called him that) appointed him Bishop of Winchester, and he became known for his piety and his zeal in building and repairing churches (the general contractors loved him). He also gave rich banquets to which only poor folk were invited (no idea whether the general contractors liked this). He asked Æthelwulf to give one tenth of his land to the Church, and by golly he did.

A wonderworker, Swithun’s most famous wonderwork involved an old egg-woman crossing a bridge. She was accosted by a “reckless fellow” (or a group of workmen), and in the struggle every last one of her eggs was smashed. Fortunately for her (and the eggs), Swithun walked up at that moment. He asked to see the eggs, she showed him the gooey mess, he lifted up his hand in blessing, and they were made whole, “ever each one.”

But it is chiefly for events that occurred after his death (the nature of which none of our sources discloses) that he is remembered. He asked to be buried outside the cathedral, where his grave would be “subject to the feet of passers-by, and raindrops pouring from on high” (this doesn’t rhyme in Latin). His body was moved indoors in 971, accompanied by many miracles including an iron ring coming free from a stone without leaving a trace, a blind man receiving his sight, and many being healed of “divers sickness and maladies.” But before all this, according to a late legend, he declared his unwillingness to be moved by sending a 40-day downpour. The weather on the day of his translation (“St. Swithun’s Day,” July 15) is thus taken to be a harbinger, as recorded in this ancient bit of doggerel:

Saint Swithun’s day, if thou dost rain,
For forty days it will remain;
Saint Swithun’s day, if thou be fair,
For forty days ’twill rain nae mair.

He is the patron “against drought,” as seems fitting.