Walking with the Saints
Sergius of Radonezh was born as Bartholomew sometime between 1314 and 1322, in town called Rostov, North East of Moscow. His parents were of the Nobility and it is said that as a baby, the Lord had already chosen Bartholomew as God’s own. In fact, the baby is said to have begun fasting on certain days refusing milk from his mother. Also, if his mother used oil in their food, he would refuse milk on that day as well. As a young boy, Bartholomew struggled with his studies and struggled in learning how to read. One day, as Bartholomew was tending to their horses, he met a traveling Monk who was praying. The monk greeted Bartholomew and asked him what he wanted, to which he replied that he wanted more than anything to read. With that the monk offered up a blessing and prayer for Bartholomew’s ability to read. Then he took a piece of bread out of his bag and gave it to Bartholomew to eat. After, the family received the Monk in to their home to stay, but before they were to eat the Monk remarked that first they should be spiritually nourished and asked Bartholomew to read the psalter. Bartholomew read with ease to the amazement of his parents and the Monk said that Bartholomew would be “great before God”. This story has been later interpreted as actually an angelic visit.
Bartholomew would take the Monastic name of the Holy Martyr Sergius in 1337. Sergius’ reputation was his love for work. In fact his first years of his monastic life were as a hermit in the forest for which he built his own cell with his bare hands. Sergius worked and worked and combined with his steadfast rule of fasting a prayer, other monks became enamored with him and joining him there at Holy Trinity.
The first years of the monastery were difficult with little bread or wine or lights and grumbles about the strict rules of the monastery, but Sergius’ practice of prayer invited him to find endless joy in the work and the life of the monastery.
Amongst all the miracles and deeds attributed to Sergius, of which there are quite a few, there is an interesting theme that arises out of the life of Sergius. It is said that he was not the most learned p. erson, not the greatest preacher and never wanted any advancement. Even as Sergius began to heal people, take in orphans and even make friends with a bear, and his reputation spread, Sergius wanted nothing of human glory. Sergius was content, and happy to live the austere and simple aesthetical life of a monk. Sergius’ example inspires us to put away things that distract us from what God is saying to us and focus on engaging people and working together to help others.
While this is not an admonishment of people who study or are an expert areas of life, Sergius is an inspiration of a man who gave so freely of his whole life to serve God and people, taking nothing for himself, so that God could be glorified through him. What devotion and sacrifice that must have taken.