Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
July 2nd marked the Twentieth Anniversary of the Glorification of our Father among
the Saints, JOHN, Archbishop of Shanghai and San Francisco, the Wonderworker. We
are extremely blessed to have an icon of Saint John in our church, showing him beautifully
vested in his episcopal vestments.
The fact that he reposed only in 1966 and was glorified and listed among the saints
only 20 years ago reflects how close he is to us in time. His title when he reposed,
“Archbishop of San Francisco,” indicates how close he is to us in terms of physical
distance. And the example of his life, his dedication to his archpastoral ministry
as a bishop, his powerful intercession, and his title “Wonderworker” reveals that
he is spiritually present with us even today, even here in this corner of the Lord’s
Saint John’s incorrupt relics are enshrined at Holy Virgin Cathedral (Joy of All
Who Sorrow) on Geary Street in San Francisco. I recently had the opportunity to
pray before his relics and remember all of you as I asked his prayers and intercession
for our parish family. Perhaps there are some who are unaware of the life of this
modern-day bishop, saints, and wonderworker. I am presenting the following brief
biography with the prayer that Saint John will be an example of dedication to Christ
and an intercessor for all those who approach him asking his prayers.
With love in the Lord,
Life of Our Father Among the Saints, JOHN, Archbishop of Shanghai and San Francisco
Early Life Saint John was born Mikhail Borisovich Maximovitch in 1896 in the village
of Adamovka in the Kharkov Governorate (in present-day southern Ukraine). He came
from the same family of Serbian origin as that of St. John of Tobolsk whom he was
said to resemble in several respects. From 1907 to 1914 he attended Poltava Military
School. He received a degree in law from Kharkov Imperial University in 1918. His
family brought him to Belgrade in 1921, where in 1925 he graduated from Belgrade
University with a degree in theology.
In 1926 he was tonsured a monk and ordained a hierodeacon by Metropolitan Anthony
(Khrapovitsky), who gave him the name of John after his saintly relative. Later that
same year, he was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Gabriel of Chelyabinsk. For
several years afterward he worked as an instructor and tutor at the seminary in Bitol.
In 1934 he was ordained a bishop by Metropolitan Anthony and assigned to the diocese
Shanghai In Shanghai, Bishop John found an uncompleted cathedral and an Orthodox
community deeply divided along ethnic lines. Making contact with all the various
groups, he quickly involved himself in the existing charitable institutions and personally
founded an orphanage and home for the children of indigents. It was here that he
first became known for miracles attributed to his prayer, and as a public figure
it was impossible for him to completely conceal his ascetic way of life. Despite
his actions during the Japanese occupation, when he routinely ignored the curfew
in pursuit of his pastoral activities, the Japanese authorities never harassed him.
He was elevated to the rank of archbishop in 1946.
When the Communists took power in China, the Russian colony was forced to flee, first
to a refugee camp on the island of Tubabao in the Philippines and then mainly to
the United States and Australia. Archbishop John travelled personally to Washington,
D.C. to ensure that his people would be allowed to enter the country.
Western Europe In 1951 Archbishop John was assigned to the archdiocese of Western
Europe with his cathedral first in Paris, then in Brussels. Thanks to his work in
collecting lives of saints, a great many pre-Schism Western saints became known in
Orthodoxy and continue to be venerated to this day. His charitable and pastoral work
continued as it had in Shanghai, even among a much more widely scattered flock.
San Francisco In 1962 Archbishop John was once again reassigned by the Holy Synod
to the see of San Francisco. Here too, he found a divided community and a cathedral
in an unfinished state. Although he completed the building of Holy Virgin Cathedral
and brought some measure of peace to the community he became the target of slander
from those who became his political enemies, who went so far as to file a lawsuit
against him for alleged mishandling of finances related to construction of the cathedral.
He was exonerated, but this was a great cause of sorrow to him in his later life.
His untiring dedication to the wellbeing of his flock gained the admiration of all
those who came to know him.
Death and veneration On July 2, 1966 (June 19 Old Style) St. John died while visiting
Seattle at a time and place he was said to have foretold. He was entombed in a sepulchre
beneath the altar of the Holy Virgin Cathedral he had built in San Francisco dedicated
to the Theotokos, Joy of all who Sorrow on Geary Boulevard in the Richmond district.
In 1994 he was solemnly glorified on the twenty-eighth anniversary of his death.
His unembalmed relics now occupy a shrine in the cathedral's nave. His feast day
is celebrated on the Saturday nearest to the 2nd of July.
Holy Hierarch JOHN, pray to God for us!
Great Martyr and Healer Panteleimon
The Great Martyr and Healer Panteleimon was born in the city of Nicomedia into the
family of the illustrious pagan Eustorgius, and he was named Pantoleon. His mother
St Euboula (March 30) was a Christian. She wanted to raise her son in the Christian
Faith, but she died when the future martyr was just a young child. His father sent
Pantoleon to a pagan school, after which the young man studied medicine at Nicomedia
under the renowned physician Euphrosynus. Pantoleon came to the attention of the
emperor Maximian (284-305), who wished to appoint him as royal physician when he
finished his schooling.
The hieromartyrs Hermolaus, Hermippus and Hermocrates, survivors of the massacre
of 20,000 Christians in 303 (December 28), were living secretly in Nicomedia at that
time. St Hermolaus saw Pantoleon time and again when he came to the house where they
were hiding. Once, the priest invited the youth to the house and spoke about the
Christian Faith. After this Pantoleon visited St Hermolaus every day.
One day the saint found a dead child on the street. He had been bitten by a great
snake, which was still beside the child’s body. Pantoleon began to pray to the Lord
Jesus Christ to revive the dead child and to destroy the venomous reptile. He firmly
resolved that if his prayer were fulfilled, he would become a follower of Christ
and receive Baptism. The child rose up alive, and the snake died before Pantoleon’s
After this miracle, Pantoleon was baptized by St Hermolaus with the name Panteleimon
(meaning “all-merciful”). Speaking with Eustorgius, St Panteleimon prepared him to
accept Christianity. When the father saw how his son healed a blind man by invoking
Jesus Christ, he then believed in Christ and was baptized by St Hermolaus together
with the man whose sight was restored.
After the death of his father, St Panteleimon dedicated his life to the suffering,
the sick, the unfortunate and the needy. He treated all those who turned to him without
charge, healing them in the name of Jesus Christ. He visited those held captive in
prison. These were usually Christians, and he healed them of their wounds. In a short
time, reports of the charitable physician spread throughout the city. Forsaking the
other doctors, the inhabitants began to turn only to St Panteleimon.
The envious doctors told the emperor that St Panteleimon was healing Christian prisoners.
Maximian urged the saint to refute the charge by offering sacrifice to idols. St
Panteleimon confessed himself a Christian, and suggested that a sick person, for
whom the doctors held out no hope, should be brought before the emperor. Then the
doctors could invoke their gods, and Panteleimon would pray to his God to heal the
man. A man paralyzed for many years was brought in, and pagan priests who knew the
art of medicine invoked their gods without success. Then, before the very eyes of
the emperor, the saint healed the paralytic by calling on the name of Jesus Christ.
The ferocious Maximian executed the healed man, and gave St Panteleimon over to fierce
The Lord appeared to the saint and strengthened him before his sufferings. They suspended
the Great Martyr Panteleimon from a tree and scraped him with iron hooks, burned
him with fire and then stretched him on the rack, threw him into a cauldron of boiling
tar, and cast him into the sea with a stone around his neck. Throughout these tortures
the martyr remained unhurt, and denounced the emperor.
At this time the priests Hermolaus, Hermippus and Hermocrates were brought before
the court of the pagans. All three confessed their faith in the Savior and were beheaded
By order of the emperor they brought the Great Martyr Panteleimon to the circus to
be devoured by wild beasts. The animals, however, came up to him and licked his feet.
The spectators began to shout, “Great is the God of the Christians!” The enraged
Maximian ordered the soldiers to stab with the sword anyone who glorified Christ,
and to cut off the head of the Great Martyr Panteleimon.
They led the saint to the place of execution and tied him to an olive tree. While
the martyr prayed, one of the soldiers struck him with a sword, but the sword became
soft like wax and inflicted no wound. The saint completed his prayer, and a Voice
was heard from Heaven, calling the passion-bearer by his new name and summoning him
to the heavenly Kingdom.
Hearing the Voice, the soldiers fell down on their knees before the holy martyr and
begged forgiveness. They refused to continue with the execution, but St Panteleimon
told them to fulfill the emperor’s command, because otherwise they would have no
share with him in the future life. The soldiers tearfully took their leave of the
saint with a kiss.
When the saint was beheaded, the olive tree to which the saint was tied became covered
with fruit. Many who were present at the execution believed in Christ. The saint’s
body was thrown into a fire, but remained unharmed, and was buried by Christians
. St Panteleimon’s servants Laurence, Bassos and Probus witnessed his execution and
heard the Voice from Heaven. They recorded the life, the sufferings and death of
Portions of the holy relics of the Great Martyr Panteleimon were distributed throughout
all the Christian world. His venerable head is now located at the Russian monastery
of St Panteleimon on Mt. Athos.
The veneration of the holy martyr in the Russian Orthodox Church was already known
in the twelfth century. Prince Izyaslav (in Baptism, Panteleimon), the son of St
Mstislav the Great, had an image of St Panteleimon on his helmet. Through the intercession
of the saint he remained alive during a battle in the year 1151. On the Feast of
the Great Martyr Panteleimon, Russian forces won two naval victories over the Swedes
(in 1714 near Hanhauze and in 1720 near Grenham).
St Panteleimon is venerated in the Orthodox Church as a mighty saint, and the protector
of soldiers. This aspect of his veneration is derived from his first name Pantoleon,
which means “a lion in everything”. His second name, Panteleimon, given him at Baptism,
which means “all-merciful”, is manifest in the veneration of the martyr as a healer.
The connection between these two aspects of the saint is readily apparent in that
soldiers, receiving wounds more frequently than others, are more in need of a physician-healer.
Christians waging spiritual warfare also have recourse to this saint, asking him
to heal their spiritual wounds.
The holy Great Martyr and Healer Panteleimon is invoked in the Mystery of Anointing
the Sick, at the Blessing of Water, and in the Prayers for the Sick.
The Feast of the holy Great Martyr and Healer Panteleimon is the patronal Feast of
the Russian monastery on Athos. The forefeast starts eight days before the Feast.
Each day after Vespers, Moliebens are sung with Canons in each of the eight tones.
Thus, each day has its own particular Canon. The second day of the Feast is the monastery
feastday. On this day a general Panikhida is served after Vespers in memory of the
founders and benefactors of the monastery, and kollyva (kutia: wheat or rice boiled
with honey) is blessed and distributed.
The verses of the Ninth Ode of the Canon of the Great Martyr and Healer Panteleimon
from the manuscript of the Athonite service are reprinted in the “Journal of the
Moscow Patriarchate” insert into lives values (0, 1975, No.3, pp. 45-47).