Saint Silouan and the Wisdom of a Married Man


Following such interesting discussion of the necessity of monasticism, I offer a small story from the life of St. Silouan of Mt. Athos in which he comments on the spiritual wisdom of his peasant father (a married man). Truly, we are all called to different stations in life, but in every place, those who love God and seek Him, find Him and with God, they find wisdom.

This excerpt is from the Elder Sophrony’s St. Silouan the Athonite.

Young, strong, handsome, and by this time prosperous, too, Simeon [later to become the monk Silouan] revelled in life. He was popular in the village, being good-natured, peaceable and jolly, and the village girls looked on him as a man they would like to marry. He himself was attracted to one of them and, before the question of marriage had been put, what so often happens befell late one summer evening.

Next morning, as they were working together, his father said to him quietly,

‘Where were you last night, son? My heart was troubled for you?’

The mild words sank into Simeon’s soul, and in later life when he recalled his father the Staretz [elder] would say,

‘I have never reached my father’s stature. He was absolutely illiterate – he even used to make mistakes in the Lord’s Prayer which he had learned by listening in church; but he was a man who was gentle and wise.’

They were a large family – father, mother, five sons and two daughters – all living in affection together. The elder boys worked with their father. One Friday they were out harvesting and it was Simeon’s turn to cook the midday meal. Forgetting that it was Friday, he prepared a dish of pork for their lunch, and they all ate of it. Six months later, on a feast-day in winter, Simeon’s father turned to him with a gentle smile and said,

‘Son, do you remember how you gave us pork to eat that day in the fields? It was a Friday. I ate it but, you know, it tasted like carrion.’

‘Whyever didn’t you tell me at the time?’

‘I didn’t want to upset you, son.’

Recalling such incidents from his life at home, the Staretz would add,

‘That is the sort of staretz I would like to have. He never got angry, was always even-tempered and humble. Just think – he waited six months for the right moment to correct me without upsetting me!’

About Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is a retired Archpriest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present: Christianity in a One-Storey Universe, and Face to Face: Knowing God Beyond Our Shame, as well as the Glory to God podcast series on Ancient Faith Radio.





10 responses to “Saint Silouan and the Wisdom of a Married Man”

  1. fatherstephen Avatar

    Here the great saint and holy elder clearly stands in awe of the wisdom of his own father – which he acknowledged was greater than his own. A comment on the wisdom of his father, and on the humility of a saint.

  2. rdreusebios1 Avatar

    Fr. Stephen,l
    How amazing! I just began reading Archimandrite Sophrony’s work this morning and was very touched and amazed by this very passage. Thank you for a wonderful response to the concerns of many re: The monasticism Thread!
    Christ Is Risen!

  3. Trevor Avatar

    I thought it was weird enough to see this post after reading the passage myself yesterday evening; now I see that rdreusebios1 also started the book yesterday. Spooky!

  4. Alyssa Avatar

    Thanks Father! I, too, just started reading this biography in the past two weeks and I love this passage. How great!

    I do wish there were more stories/biographies of the married faithful/saints. If anyone has recommendations, please send them along.

  5. Alyssa Avatar

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  6. Theron Avatar

    If only I could come that close to a father for my own children.

    There is a book by Dr. David and Mary Ford of St. Tikhon’s Seminary entitled Lives of the Married Saints. I have never read it but its on my list of books to buy.

    God Bless

  7. Fatherstephen Avatar

    Excellent suggested reading, Theron. I know the book but couldn’t remember the title.


    How kind.

  8. Barnabas Powell Avatar

    Valuable story. It just goes to show that the depth and breadth of the faith will always be bigger than our discussions about the faith.

    Father, thanks for the post.


  9. Margaret Avatar

    Lives of the Married Saints is excellent! I have only read a few stories while at the Alektor Cafe and Door to Paradise Bookstore here in Nashville, but the stories have been a blessing and an encouragement to my married state. (My husband has enjoyed it, too.) Now that I am reminded of it, buying it seems the best idea!

  10. NSP Avatar

    Fr. Freeman (and anyone else who knows this topic),

    Sorry about resurrecting such an old comments thread, but I had a question about the book “St. Silouan the Athonite,” and I thought I’d post it in the comments section of a post mentioning it.

    I notice on Amazon and on other online stores that there is the book titled “St. Silouan the Atonite” (504pgs) by St. Sophrony, which combines a biography of St. Silouan and some of his collected teachings/writings.

    However there are also two other books also written/compiled by Elder St. Sophrony titled “The Monk of Mount Athos” (124pgs) which appears to be a biography of St. Silouan and “Wisdom from Mount Athos” (127pgs) , which appears to be a collection of the writings of St. Silouan.

    All these three books seem to have been translated by the same person as well.

    So my question is, is the book titled “Saint Silouan the Athonite” just a combination of the content in the two other books, or do the other two books contain completely different material?

    The book “St. Silouan the Athonite” seems to have been published (1999) between the other two books. (1997 & 2001), which is why it is a bit puzzling. Also, Amazon doesn’t have the “look inside” available for these books, which makes it difficult to get an idea of their contents.

    I tried to find the answer on the internet, but am unable to find any conclusive information. So I thought I’d ask here, because for sure I would get the right answer.

    If I wanted to read about St. Silouan, would I get any new material by buying the two shorter books as well or would the bigger book contain the content of the other two plus some extra material?



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