St. Sergius is one of the three prominent saints of Russia. He was born early in the 14th century, the child of boyars who became impoverished. He was one of three sons. His brother, Stefan was a monk, and upon their parents death, Sergius (Bartholomew) joined him, but persuaded him to move to a more isolated area. Deep in the Forest at Makovets hill, they built a small cell and a wooden church.
His brother left for Moscow, but Sergius remained and took vows as a monk. Others were attracted to him and his way of life, and other cells began to be built around him. They eventually persuaded him to become their father superior and he was ordained to the presbyterate. All the monks, including Sergius lived by their own labour. Eventually they founded a guest house, and eventually a town and villages grew up around Holy Trinity Monastery. The Patriarch of Constantinople granted him a monastic charter. Sergius’s followers founded some 400 monasteries across central and northern Russia. In imitation of Sergius (and indeed like the Benedictines) they chose the most isolated places to live in to preserve their solitude, but also helped to build communities through their hard work. Sergius not only contributed to the building up of Christianity through Russia, but helped develop towns and civilasion as well.
He did bless Dmitri Donskoy before his battle with the Tartars, but not until being certain that all peaceful alternatives had been tried. When the Metropolitan of Russia, Alexius asked him to take his place, he declined, saying he had never worn gold in his life, so how could he do it, now that he was old. It is also said that like St. Frances and several other saints, that he had a special relationship with animals.
Sergius was truly a holy man of God, who led by example. May God grant our church leaders who would do likewise.
Collect: Father, as you raised up Sergius to inspire the Russian people in their faith, grant that we like his monks would seek to serve our neighbours that they too would come to know you as Lord and Saviour, who lives and reigns with Ruach haKodesh, one God in glory everlasting. Amen. (white)