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The Crabtree

A World Where Everything Matters: Shevkunov's Everyday Saints

Someone has said that if a book isn't worth reading two or three times, it's not worth reading once. I'm trying to stick to that when I allocate the precious little time I have for reading these days. One book in particular has quickly gone into second read status: Everyday Saints and Other Stories, a work by Archimandrite Tikhon (Shevkunov), the abbot of the newly revived Sretensky Monastery in Russia.

What I love about the book would be difficult to say in a single paragraph. Although outwardly it tells the story of this man's life, and others' lives, in the Soviet Union and later the Russian Federation—things like growing up in and suffering under Soviet rule, coming to faith in Christ, life in an Orthodox monastery—inwardly it reveals the depth and complexity of the Russian character, culture, and soul.

The book is profoundly inspiring in a few ways. The author really does portray sanctity, but in a way that doesn't diminish the humanity of his subjects. Because of this, his stories often bring great comfort. Sometimes Orthodoxy can appear so exotic or intimidating—strange hats and smoke and ancient men who lived on bread crumbs. This book puts the reality of Christ and His unsurpassed love for real people in plain view. While generally the book is sober because it's about the real meaning of life, he's not afraid to use a holy book to make his readers laugh and be cheerful. This made me think of that other great exemplar of holiness whom God sent to Russia: the venerable hieromonk and wonderworker Seraphim of Sarov, who radiated spiritual joy and real, unfeigned, gentle, humble, sacrificial love for God and His people.

One last thought. Books really are methods of conveyance—modes of transportation. Sure, they convey ideas, but most of all they should carry readers into the world from whence the book has its origin. This one does just that, but what sort of world is it? The Translator's Introduction bears excerpting:

Welcome to a world where everything means something, and everything has a reason. A world of tradition and honor, yet of humor; of rigor, yet of profound compassion; of hard work performed with devout reverence, yet of ease and profound inner contentment. A world of modesty, yet majesty. A world of monasteries and cathedrals and convents, of bishops, of monks and nuns, of prayer, and of contemplation. This is a world where the Divine is present in everyday life; where every action, every thought, and every feeling has consequences; where uncanny "coincidences" are commonplace. Where we are not alone, bereft of plan or purpose, in an empty and meaningless universe. This is a world where everything matters...

Pick one up for yourself and a friend. You won't be disappointed.

Monkrock

By Ron Wall

Just as the film Ostrov (The Island) set records for attendance several years ago in Russia, so too is Archimandrite Tikhon’s new book Everyday Saints and Other Stories.

A clergyman of the Russian Orthodox Church, Moscow Patriarchate, Archimandrite Tikhon (Shekunov) is the Abbot of the Sretensky Monastery in Moscow, and the Executive Secretary of the Patriarchal Cultural Council of the Moscow Patriarchate. He is also a member of the Presidential Council on Culture and the Arts for the Russian Federation.

Just published in the United States, the book is a huge success in Russia with over a million printed copies and several million electronic versions sold since its publication in 2011 in Russia. Thanks to the superb English translation from Russian by Julian Henry Lowenfeld, Archimandrite Tikhon’s stories read like a conversation among friends. Five hundred pages aren’t enough to contain the riches in these stories. It’s that good of a book.

A former film student, Archimandrite Tikhon begins by telling the story of how he joined the Pskov Caves Monastery, the years as being a novice and the people he’s met along the way. He writes with a deep-seated gladness and humor for all he has been given and for all those he comes into contact.

He writes in the preface:

In this book I want to tell you about this beautiful new world of mine, where we live by laws completely different from those in “normal” worldly life—a world of light and love, full of wondrous discoveries, hope, happiness, trials and triumphs, where even our defeats acquire profound significance: a world in which, above all, we can always sense powerful manifestations of divine strength and comfort.

Woven throughout the book are examples of how during the Communist era, the Russian Orthodox Church did not capitulate or succumb to government pressure but rather stood against the forces of evil whenever and wherever she could. In fact, proceeds from the sale of the book will be used to build a memorial cathedral in Moscow dedicated to the victims of communist repression in Russia.

Inspiring, enlightening and edifying, Everyday Saints and Other Stories is a book that should be read by every Orthodox Christian.

Eternal Orthodoxy

Everyday Saints and Other Stories'

[For the interested, this post will tell a bit about the book, give links to excerpts, and explain how these things show the state of Russian Orthodoxy today.]

Today, I happily received (and happily began reading) a copy of the book Everyday Saints and Other Stories, written by Archimandrite Tikhon Shevkunov. If you are unaware, this is the Number One Bestselling book in Russia, that is being sold already in the millions, and in which translations have been made in English and Greek, while others are on the way. Remarkably, it's has been noticed that it's droves of readers are people from all walks of life.

In its recent publication (lt. 2011), it became quickly beloved by the Russian people--something remarkable for the West to behold, considering such a great amount there would no doubt not be too interested in the topic of the book. Maybe some would want to call it flighty or imaginative, however, upon reading such a book, would discover that it has been written with a steady hand.

In fact, the stories within weren't written in the air, but are actual real happenings. They stand, bearing witness to the reality hard for modernity to grasp: that 'miracles' are not extraordinary occurrences, but only natural to the God-loving. And these testify to the soberness of the Orthodox soul to the understanding that "God is with us."

The American Conservative

Rod Dreher (excerpt)

I was e-mailing the other day with a Christian writer friend who asked why it is that the elite publishing industry, and the media who report on them, are so fascinated by religion-related books that trash religious belief — but ordinary people are so hungry for books about faith that give them hope? My friend recommended a Russian Orthodox book called Everyday Saints and Other Stories. It’s a translation of a book by a Russian abbot who tells stories and anecdotes about monks and monk-priests he has known in his years in the monastery. It’s not written in a hagiographic style, or a syrupy-pious way. The prose is clear, and the stories he tells are, well, everyday accounts of flawed but spiritually deep men struggling towards holiness, and succeeding, in spite of themselves. I’m allergic to pious goop, but am really enjoying this book, because it makes me want to pray more, to be more serious about the presence of God among us, to try harder to treat people more mercifully, and, ultimately, to have more hope. Plus, the stories are really interesting, from a world really exotic to modern people, especially Americans. The author, a monk who was a filmmaker before he entered religious life, knows how to tell a story well.

Like Mendicant Monks…

Being Told What to Read

No one, including yours truly, likes it very much, but without it, our respective worlds would become incredibly cramped and selfishly narrow. I am personally very grateful tonight for some Russian friends who have been telling me for years to read Russian books by Russian authors, even if I have to succumb [temporarily] to the English translations. For a long time, I fought every Dostevsky novel, every Gogol compendium, every maddening Chekov anthology. Even now that I am married to a Russian, I still resist. But little by little, by obeying the advice of my Russophile friends, my resistance is wearing thin.

And tonight, my commencement of a bestseller that just came out in English but has been flying off the shelves in Russia is making me glad that I adhered to their harassment. Everyday Saints and Other Stories was originally Unsaintly Saints in the Russian edition. I was warned before I began it that it would take up every available moment of my spare time. All that I can say is that I am happy I began it during Christmas break…

Holy Nativity Orthodox Church

Fr. Michael

I'm still working my way through Everyday Saints. I recommended this book a few posts back. Now about 4/5ths of the way through, my praise for the collection of stories has not dwindled. However, I do not want to praise Everyday Saints in this post so much as I want to talk about humility: humility as it is evidenced in the life of one of the "everyday saints" Archimandrite Tikhon tells about.

In a set of stories called "His Eminence the Novice," Fr. Tikhon tells the life of, and of his experiences with, Bishop Basil Rodzyanko. The bishop refers to himself as a novice monk because he was tonsured a monk only shortly before he was made a bishop. This often happens when a married priest loses his wife and the Church needs a bishop. Orthodox Bishops are chosen from among the monastics, so it has become the practice in many Orthodox jurisdictions, when the hierarchs want to consecrate a widowed priest a bishop, to tonsure him a monk shortly before making him a bishop.

Fr. Vladimir (Bishop Basil's name as a priest), took his tonsure (at the age of sixty-six) very seriously. Therefore, he was troubled. He said to his spiritual father that he understood poverty and chastity very well and willingly embraced them, but obedience would be difficult. A little worried, his spiritual father asked him to clarify what he meant.

"Well I mean," Father Vladimir reasoned, "instead of starting me out as a simple monk, you're immediately making me a bishop. In other words, instead of being a novice and obeying the commands of others, my job will mean that I'm the one who will have to command and make decisions. How then do I fulfill the vow of obedience? To whom will I be a novice? Whom will I obey?"

His spiritual Father, Metropolitan Anthony Bloom, after a moment's thought replied: "You will be in obedience to everyone and anyone whom you meet on your journey through life. As long as that person's request will be within your power to grant it, and not in contradiction with the Scriptures."

Father Vladimir was very pleased by this commandment.

Others, however, were not very pleased with this commandment because once consecrated Bishop, Bishop Basil was a very difficult bishop to manage. While obeying little old ladies and people on the street, he would often be very late to important meetings with important people. He would find himself on long journeys to small churches, blessing houses or doing other smaller liturgical acts usually done by a junior priest--in obedience to the "anyone" who asked him.

Fr. Tikhon, who sometimes traveled with Bishop Basil and witnessed first hand many of his adventures, reflects on the meaning of a life lived in obedience to anyone:

Gradually I began to grasp that it was through this humble vow of service and obedience, remaining a novice even upon attaining the rank of a senior cleric, that our sovereign Bishop Basil taught himself how to sensitively hear and to obey the will of God. Because of this his entire life was nothing more nor less than one constant search for the knowledge of the will of God, one mysterious yet absolutely real conversation with our Saviour, in which He would speak to mankind not with words, but with the circumstances of this life, while granting unto His listeners the very greatest reward there is--a chance to be His instrument in this world.

In my opinion, this sort of humility lived regardless of one's position in life is evidence of saintliness in the world today. St. Benedict in his Rule for monks says that obedience is the first step in the ladder of humility. Even in today's world, humility is attainable. Bishop Basil has proved it. Humility will always be attainable so long as there is someone, anyone, to obey.

The Pearl of Great Price

Veronica Huges, author of The Pearl of Great Price:

Everyday Saints and Other Storiesis one of the best books I have ever read. It has sold over a million copies in Russia. The author is a hieromonk, (priest/monk) in the Eastern Orthodox Church in Russia. His book is a collection of stories about the remarkable people/everyday saints he has had the opportunity to meet on his monastic journey starting with his early years as a film student, his conversion and call to the monastic life in Communist Russia. His stories and encounters are remarkably candid, lovingly humorous and profoundly moving. You will not be able to put this book down and shed a few tears along with way.

Gladsome Light

Fr. Vasile

The recent book of Archmandrite Tikhon, “Everyday Saints and other stories”, is one of those books that fulfill the prophecies on their back covers: it was impossible to put down and I felt very sorry when it ended. What is so special about this spiritual book, that made it into a major bestseller and almost a pop phenomenon in Russia, is that it brings the elements of faith right where they belong: in real life. I’ve read many books about the unmatched spiritual battles of the saints from the desert of Egypt or other elders from similarly remote places of the earth, and I was very moved and strengthened in my faith by all of them. At the same time, however, they sometimes felt far away, foreign, inapplicable to our decaying secular life. Archmandrite Tikhon’s stories uncover very similar battles but in the much more familiar battleground of our hometowns, showing us what we already knew, but somewhat forgot, that all great saints, before becoming so great, started their lives just as ordinary folks, like you and me.

There is a very interesting peculiarity In Orthodox iconography related to perspective. The typical vanishing lines into the horizon of classical perspective are not only neglected but daringly reversed in iconography. Through this optical resolve, the viewer is transformed from a seeker, looking into God’s world, into the very object of God’s vision. We can go as far as to say that, in a way, through icons, God is looking at us and what He sees is also icons, icons of Himself in each and every one of us. For the God of Love each of His children is a possible saint; this is how He has created us, with this great potential ready to be fulfilled.

Elder Teofil, of blessed memory, from the Sâmb?ta Monastery in Romania, used to say that if a novice, when entering into a monastery, does not want from all his heart to become a saint, he has nothing to do in a monastery. Of course this is not to say that monks should be as vainglorious as to spend their lives seeking out the spiritual gifts of miracles or foretelling or healing or any of the sort, but it is to say that they should be drawn towards perfection, towards fulfilling the words of the Scriptures, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)

This call, however, hardly applies only to monks. During Christ’s time on earth, there were no monastic communities, only common folks pressing around Him in throngs, eager to receive the teachings of life. The call for perfection is a universal call for all those trying to follow Him on the path towards salvation, monastics and lay people together.

Looking closer at this commandment though, we soon realize that it appears to be, at least superficially, an impossible task. How can I, a sinner, become as perfect as God, the only sinless One? It is a commandment of the Lord nonetheless, so there should be a way to do it.

A first possible way is given to the apostles: “What is impossible with men is possible with God.” (Luke 18:27) Perfection, deification is not an attribute of man’s efforts but of God’s grace. He is the one who fulfills our imperfect deeds and makes us fit for His Kingdom; but not against our will and not without our active participation.

Another way of looking at it is to admit that God’s perfection can never be achieved; after all, He is of a different essence than us, He is the Maker and we are His creation. But this does not mean that the commandment should be neglected, that we should not try with all our heart to be more God like; it only means that our efforts should never stop, that our spiritual life should be a never-ending quest to better ourselves and achieve more of God’s impossible-to-reach likeness. It is not only the end that should interest us, but it is just as important to pay close attention to the journey. The end gives us purpose, while the journey is our life. How well we fare on this journey is the decisive factor for our place in the Kingdom.

During the extraordinary journey of life, very few of us will reach the heights of sainthood; this is God’s choice, but it is well within our reach to become “everyday saints”, people of God striving with every inch of our being to find more ways of becoming God-like, making the faith real in our lives, bringing in this way the Kingdom of God on earth.

LETTERS:

Fr. Protodeacon Joseph

I received the book for Christmas and could not put it down. It has strengthened my faith and increased my love for the Church. I am a deacon with a desire to serve God and His Church as a monastic, possibly someday if the Lord wills it.

I highly recommend this book, it is changing my life already.

Michael E. Polnik, MA

Hello!
It is Christmas afternoon and I just started reading Everyday Saints, it was a present from my mother. I am sure I will never speak with the author, but I had to thank someone!! So...thank you for this text! Blessed Nativity to you and your ministry!

Yours,
Michael E. Polnik, MA

Sent from my iPhone, please excuse brevity and typos

Isaac:

I am an American Orthodox convert blessed to have been told about this book. Despite being a busy attorney with a wife and two young children, I read all 490 pages of Everyday Saints over the course of a little more than a week. At many points it was simply impossible to put the book down, and each time I came away from it with spiritual inspiration to really live and suffer for God as the Orthodox of Russia have.

One practical effect the book has had on me: I'm no longer even remotely tempted to break the Wednesday or Friday fasts of the Church, seeing that Mother Frosya and the Diveyevo nuns even kept this commandment amidst their cruel imprisonment with meager rations on which to survive. May God save us through such latter-day strugglers of piety.

My mother, also a convert to Orthodoxy, is now reading the book, and I have persuaded two of my friends to purchase it as well. From the power and eloquence of the storytelling, I feel as though I know so many of the people in this book, along with the Archimandrite Tikhon of Sretensky. May God give him other books to write, and may they also be translated into English!

Gary Paterson:

I agree with Isaac above, this book opened door that I thought I'd closed for good and thank God closed some doors that I'd stupidly opened! I used my heart to read it, and my mind woke up, and I thank all those people in Russia for all the love and hard years of work and suffering that they endured for their faith. This book will change lives, and now can include me!

Thank You Archimandrite Tikhon.

From Facebook:

Amy Clonch Thornton

Thank you, thank you, thank you, for this book! †

Lisa Moffit Corazza

The face of "difficult" Father Nathaniel captured my attention from the bookstore table at church last Sunday, and I have been trying to savor this book ever since...attempting to limit myself (sometimes unsuccessfully) to only one or two chapters a day. I know that I will be so disappointed when it's done. A beautiful book...can't wait to share it!

Sue C Nova

I find myself weeping as I read. I feel the love and devotion and it's overwhelming at times. Such true beauty.

Sascha Keßler

What a book. I'm amazed......Hope someone wants to publish it in German language !!!

Laura Brown
This is a really interesting book--I've recommended it to more people than I have any other book in the past decade. I'm not alone in considering purchasing copies for several friends and relatives!

Dustin Gabel, Spokane, Washington
I was recommended this book by The Very Rev. Abbot Tryphon of All Merciful Saviour Monastery near Seattle. I love this book and am very grateful to have been told about it. I can only read it during the day because if I try to read it at night I wont get any sleep, it's very hard to put down. May God grant Archimandrite Tikhon and the brotherhood many years! Thank you for this amazing gift, I will cherish it always!

Pedro Waked
‎"Everyday Saints and Other Stories" is the best book I have ever read...

Keith Taylor
I really would like to read this book. I have heard nothing but good about it.

From Amazon.com:

5.0 out of 5 stars

“Fantastic!”

By Sky

Explains the worldview of the Orthodox Church via short stories. Priceless and non-threatening for the non-Orthodox. I would recommend this book for anyone.

5.0 out of 5 stars

“Thank you, Archimandrite Tikhon”

By Tsenova

It is real pleasure to read this book. I "met" amazing people! Congratulations to archimandrite Tikhon and thanks, batiushka! We needed this book :)

5.0 out of 5 stars

“A must read book”

By G Shaft

A must read book, very inspiring, takes its readers away from this materialistic and fake wolrd we are living in. Glory be to God.

5.0 out of 5 stars

Exciting reading for people with interest in religion,”

By Dr. K. Baumann

The stories are well translated into English and a pleasure to read. Recommended for people with interest in religion and philosophy.

5.0 out of 5 stars

A must-to-read-book”

By N. Marja "Medjugorje pilgrimer" (Luleå, Sweden)

In a world with filled with all kind of trends, this is a book which describes a wonderful reality. These persons have experienced something far more valuable than world ever can give.

I will recommend this book to everybody.

5.0 out of 5 stars

Entertaining, life changing, time well spent

By Jake&Larissa's Yiayia

Great stories, life lessons. Book is bigger than I thought. Something for everyone.

Own it and go at your own pace. Worthwhile nighttime reading to children or for adults.

5.0 out of 5 stars

A gem!!!”

By Irina G Schey (Los Angeles, CA United States)

I could not put this book down. A great book for a modern day beginner in Orthodox faith, as it is easier to read.

5.0 out of 5 stars

“Spiritually profitable book

By Maksim

I really rested reading this book. It is written with a wonderful sense of humor. I read it in Russian, and not sure if this will be adequately preserved in translation. But this book is more than a mere entertainment. It has important spiritual lessons.

5.0 out of 5 stars

“Mystical

By Dr. Dale L. Whitman

This is a wonderful, mystical, Holy Spirit inspired book in the Russian Orthodox tradition. I would recommend spending time with this one.

5.0 out of 5 stars

“A classic for all Orthodox

By Yuma (Charlottesville, Va.)

I bought this book on the recommendation of a priest and I have not been disappointed! It is written/translated very well and describes various aspects of Orthodox spiritual practice while viewing its fruits as embodied in mostly current saints who live in Russia. It does a marvelous job of conveying why this ancient form of Christianity is so appealing to many disenchanted Catholics and Protestants. I particularly liked the stories about the late, famous Father John Krestiankin and his legacy as a spiritual father. The book is well printed and nicely illustrated. It is easy to see why it is a best-seller in Russia and I can't recommend it enough. Consider it the perfect Nativity, name's day, or Pascha gift.

5.0 out of 5 stars

“Fascinating Reading

By George

I couldn't put this book down. The spirituality of the people in this book shines through the actions of their everyday life.

5.0 out of 5 stars

“Wonderful reading

By Greg "Greg" (US)

Wonderfully human book. Whether religious or atheist, this book will make you smile and wonder. One of the few books I would recommend for just about anyone. I read this in the course of three days—couldn't put it away.

5.0 out of 5 stars Unsaintly Saints, December 16, 2012

By Kristofer Carlson "Kristofer Carlson" (Norfolk, VA)

The Russian title of this book is "Unsaintly Saints", a title which is indicative of the subjects of this book. As the author of this book is careful to point out, no one described in this book is (or is likely to be) a canonized saint. Yet God works in and through them, despite their all too human foibles and weaknesses. Some of the stories are quite simple; others remarkable, and still others cautionary. As my priest says, this is hagiography (saint's biographies) for the 21st century.

5.0 out of 5 stars

“It is a great book

By anyagoro

This book can be interesting to many readers. I recommend it to everyone. It is well written, describes wonderful stories, real stories.

5.0 out of 5 stars

Excellent”

By aSwan

Must have book for all Russian Orthodox Christians. Stories of Soviet period monastic life at Pskov Cave Monastery and Elders

5.0 out of 5 stars

“What a journey!”

By Poshik S. (Washington DC)

It is after midnight, and tomorrow is work, and I am reading this amazing book and cannot put it down. The world so incredible, so tantalizing that coming back to reality is like a punishment. Why do I have this odd feeling as if I read this all a very long time ago and just forgot? And why is strange life of a monk does not seem strange at all whereas our own everyday reality is a bizarre, pointless encounter of a hamster in a wheel?

Opening and reading this book is truly a blessing. What blessings may come when I finish reading it?

5.0 out of 5 stars

“This is an amazing book!”

By Stanislav Godin

I first read a few chapters on the Sretensky Monastery web site and couldn't stop reading. This is not about 2000 or 100 years ago but about now. The people from these stories either lived during our lives and died recently or they still live now. We can all relate to them. This book is about God's revelation in the people's lives. And, it is about people who are looking for the Truth in life and who find this Truth (The Sun of Truth as orthodox call Christ). As you follow these stories you will notice how these lives change.

5.0 out of 5 stars

“Everyone's getting it for Christmas.”

By Andrew P. Cuneo

From the front cover photo of "Difficult Fr Nathanial" to the anecdotes about the spoiled Muscovite in western jeans who joyfully becomes a monk, each short chapter is a peak in to the paradise of the Pskov Caves Monastery. I plan to order a box of these books and give them out to my daughters' teachers, our neighbors and coaches and family members for Christmas.

5.0 out of 5 stars

“Excellent”

By Texas Seraphim (Fort Worth, TX)

A wonderful book that shares warmth and joy in Christ. It reminds me of Anton Chekhov--you keep reading it and you can't put it down until it is finished.

5.0 out of 5 stars

“Excellent”

By aSwan

Must have book for all Russian Orthodox Christians. Stories of Soviet period monastic life at Pskov Cave Monastery and Elders

5.0 out of 5 stars

“Ancient Spirituality for the Modern World.”

By Theophilus

Everyday Saints is beautifully written work about several Russian Orthodox elders and ascetics, many of whom struggled against Soviet persecution of the Church. Typically, such a book might be written in a drier style, but this book is wonderfully written in the first person perspective by an author who witnessed all of the magnificent wonders described in the book.

Although the setting is contemporary, the spirituality and wisdom are ancient, leaving the reader with a real sense that holiness is possible today if we struggle to imitate Christ and fight against the world.

This is an instant spiritual classic that will be read for generations. Highly recommended.

5.0 out of 5 stars

“Absolutely amazing book”

By guero64

It is hard to describe the effect this book has on you. On the surface it is just a collection of stories by a modern-day Russian monk. But each story transforms you. You will be a different person by the time you finish the book.

Goodreads:

Erik Simon rated it 5 of 5 stars

Such a peculiar book that rating it seems irrelevant, but first, how I came to it:

Two blocks from my home is a small, Russian Orthodox Church. (Years ago, the neighborhood I live in was very Russian; indeed, Tolstoy's granddaughter lived in the house caddy-corner to mine via our back yards.) Every year, this church has a Russian festival, and every year I swear I'm going to attend, and this year I actually did, largely with fantasies of bigos and stuffed cabbage, fantasies which, unlike most, actually came to fruition. I took my son, wanting him to experience the different food, music and culture, and I was so enthralled that I spent the bulk of my weekend there--eating many meals, talking with so many people, touring the opulent little church (Tolstoy's great-grandson was my guide), winning a raffle for a gift basket themed Russian tea, and buying stuff from the giftshop, including beautiful handcrafted ornaments, a matryoshka doll (nesting doll), and this book.

"I don't want a bunch of whitewashed faith stuff," I told the babushkas in the gift shop helping me. "I don't want something that goes on and on about how wonderful your church is and hooray for God! I want something real," I told them, "some real history of your church--its warts, its struggles, its triumphs. Whaddya got?" And the women handed me this book, which has sold millions of copies in Russia and has recently been translated into English, nicely translated, I would add.

First, let me say this: if you're judgmental against religion, don't read this. But I would also quote my own character from his eponymous novel, Don Prophet, "I cannot abide those morons who say they don’t believe in organized religion. It’s every bit as dumb as those religious folks who don’t believe in science. You may not believe in everything organized religion is doing or has done, but that doesn’t mean organized religion doesn’t exist and hasn’t had a major impact in our world."

But this strange, fascinating, wonderful, disturbing book goes beyond what any one person might think about the Russian Orthodox Church. It is a motley collection of writings by a film student who became a monastic monk and lived in one of Russia's oldest and most peculiar monasteries. The book relates bizarre tales of monks and priests and abbots (some of them abusive, some of them drunks, some of them with the power of reading your mind, which I've learned is a big deal in this church, the ability to read your mind), of the church's survival under Stalin, of the process of faith among the Orthodox. It's a severe religion, Russian Orthodoxy, but then it has been nurtured in a severe land--severe climate, severe government, severe people. And it's a religion which, while indulging much mysticism, brooks little doubt or even a believing dissent.

It's a book of stories, stories about famous directors, famous generals, famous martyrs, famous priests and nuns, exorcisms, thieves, Boris Yeltsin--and all how they relate to this one man from this one monastery. And it is strangely, strangely fascinating.

Suzanne Brecht rated it 5 of 5 stars

I finished this book last night, and wish it were longer. Anybody have recommendations for another book like this one?

Maureen E rated it 5 of 5 stars

Shelves: biography-and-autobiography, orthodox, non-fiction, simply-superb

This is probably the Orthodox book I’ve appreciated most in the last several years. Clear, approachable, and humorous, it’s one I’ll be returning to again and again.

Nancy rated it 5 of 5 stars

A wonderful, delightful and inspiring book. It provides insight into Russian lives and faith in a way few Americans have known. One book I never wanted to end.

Meg rated it 5 of 5 stars

So far, this book is everything it promised and more. I'll have more to say when I finish it, but it's tough to put down!

George Ampolga rated it 5 of 5 stars

A lot of wonderful, inspiring stories. Highly recommended!

"I greet the readers of this book in the English-speaking world with all my heart" A review by Antonio Mennini, Apostolic Nuncio to Great Britain.Over the years of my ministry in Russia I have been very touched by what I have many times encountered, and what is described in this book—the simple, almost child-like religiosity that is not necessarily impeccable, but by virtue of its very inconsistency and imperfection is even more disarming. It is rather a seeking and contemplation of Jesus in everyday life. The gift of sanctity borne in Russian people often expresses that “everyday holiness”, reflected particularly in fools-for-Christ and startsy or “elders” (monks with a special religious experience, who possess the gift of spiritual guidance and prophecy).
Review of the French Edition of Everyday Saints
Review of the French Edition of Everyday SaintsOn April 3, Archimandrite Tikhon (Shevkunov) presented the French edition of his best-selling book, Everyday Saints and other Stories in Paris, at the libairie La Procure.

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