St. John Maximovitch of San Francisco (1896-1966)

Br. Robert Lentz, OFM

Artist's Narrative:
Archbishop John Maximovitch was born in southern Russia and fled with his family to Belgrade during the Communist Revolution. He taught in the Russian seminary in Belgrade after he was ordained a priest-monk. He was consecrated bishop for the Orthodox diocese of Shanghai and tended his flock there during the dangerous days of the Japanese occupation during World War II. When the Russians fled from the Communist takeover in China, he helped get almost all the refugees into the United States.

In 1951 he was appointed bishop in western Europe, first in Paris and then in Brussels. The French remember him as "Saint John the Barefoot," since he never wore socks and often gave his sandals away to beggars. This was part of the behavior that marked him as a "holy fool," a special spiritual path in the Byzantine tradition. He gave little thought to his physical appearance, behaved in dramatic ways that sometimes embarrassed his peers, and barely slept or ate.

At the end of his life he became archbishop of San Francisco, where he had to bring peace to the contentious émigré community and finish building the monumental Russian cathedral at the western edge of the city. He foretold the time and place of his death, and his body has remained incorrupt to this day.

Before all else, St. John was a man consumed with compassionate love. He was known during his lifetime as a clairvoyant with the power to heal through his prayers. Thousands continue to seek his help, praying at the shrine that now holds his relics.

His feast day is July 2.


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