St John of Shanghai and San Francisco (1896- 1966) – 20cm x 25cm – £600

Tamara Penwell's icon of Saint John of Shanghai and San Francisco

If, like myself you ever had difficulty finding miracles in modern-day life you ought to get acquainted with St John Maximovitch the Archbishop of Shanghai and San Francisco, the Wonderworker. Of a very small stature, not much bigger than a child, and looking not a little like a garden gnome, in every other way than his looks, he was a giant.

Born in the Russian “back of beyond”, in the village of Adamovka near Kharkov (present day Ukraine), John Maximovitch gained university degrees in law and theology and at the age of 30 became a monk. He was irritated when he was told that he was to be ordained to be a bishop. He argued that he couldn’t hold that kind of position in the Church because he had a speech defect, only to be told that so did the Prophet Moses.

As bishop, John Maximovitch was appointed to serve the Russian community in Shanghai. He was the only Russian hierarch in China who did not submit to the Soviet-controlled Russian Orthodox Church. When China became communist the Russian community of Shanghai was forced to flee. Bishop John supported and protected his flock, first of all by prayer but also in every other way. He even managed to persuade the US authorities to allow his people enter the country. (The resemblance to the Prophet Moses does not end here.)

Wherever and with whomever John Maximovitch found himself, his natural impulse was to unite the divided, to build and strengthen, to save, protect and support and above all to bless.

There are countless accounts of his extraordinary deeds, which can be found online. To him were credited great gifts of prophecy, clairvoyance and healing, yet he was remarkably humble, child-like and loved by children.

The power of God is effective when a person asks for the help from God, acknowledging his own weakness and sinfulness. This is why humility and the striving towards God are the fundamental virtues of a Christian  [St John of Shanghai and San Francisco].