December 20 – John of Kronstadt; Domingo de Silos

John of Kronstadt (1829–1908) even in childhood prayed so efficaciously that neighbors sought his prayers. His poor parents (I mean they were impoverished) sent him to school at age ten, but he was a poor student (I mean he had a hard time reading, could never remember what his instructors said, and spent all of his time playing Call of Duty.) Finally his depression over his scholastic ineptitude got so bad he fell to his knees and prayed in anguish and in Russian. Suddenly he shuddered, a veil fell from his eyes (figuratively) (I think), and he remembered everything his instructor had said to him. (Note to our younger readers: this is a special case, and you mustn’t depend on something like this happening whenever you fail to do your homework.) He became a model student, and went on to go to seminary.

In seminary he came to believe that the center and power of Christianity were forgiveness, meekness, and love. I know, weird, huh? He longed to tell others about our Lord’s death and resurrection, going so far as to join the unofficial yet prestigious Society of People Who Wanted to Be Missionaries to the Far East But Never Made It. After graduation he married, was priestified, and was assigned to the cathedral in Kronstadt. In those days Kronstadt was a place of exile for murderers, thieves, and Justin Bieber fans. John treated each soul as valuable and precious, spending hours talking and praying with them, often leaving his shoes or cassock behind. To help them in a very practical way, he created a “House of Industry,” which included workshops for men and women to learn trades, as well as a primary school.

John and his Matushka Elizabeth lived as brother and sister. She looked after him (and he took some looking after), and he tenderly cared for her in her illnesses, calling her “an angel.” After his death, he was widely regarded as a saint almost immediately, although it took the hierarchs several decades to catch up, as is their wont. His prayers are as highly valued now as they were when he was a boy.

Domingo de Silos (1000–1073) (aka Dominic), a poor shepherd, joined a Benedictine monastery and was made priest, novice master, and prior, in that order. When King Garcia III of Navarre wanted to annex (to use the polite term) the abbey’s lands, Domingo stood up to him, and was rewarded with banishment. He and two companions found refuge with King Ferdinand I of Old Castile (inventor of laundry soap), who put Domingo in charge of the decaying monastery of San Sebastian in Silos. (Actually it was in a regular building; “Silos” is the name of the locality.) The monastery was on life support, with only six dispirited monks and one dilapidated building. Domingo revived its spiritual life and rebuilt its crumbling infrastructure. His childhood love of beautiful books came to fruition in the abbey’s scriptorium. The finest in medieval Spain, it was a center for learning and Library Science majors. The silver- and goldsmiths earned funds used to feed the poor and buy slaves from the Moors (other monasteries bought slaves from other biomes).

Three years after his death, Domingo’s body was moved into the church, which is (apparently) a thing you do for saints not normal people, and within twelve years, churches and monasteries began to be named after him (including his own). Many miracles are associated with Domingo, including the birth of his namesake Dominic de Guzmán, the founder of the Dominican Order (it’s in the name). Speaking of birth, our Domingo’s abbatial[1] staff (the stick, not the group of administrators) was used to bless and accompany Spanish queens while giving birth. He is a patron saint of pregnant women, and “against” mad dogs.

[1]That’s a real word!