Raising a Saint – St. Silouan on his Father

candlesMost of us would be satisfied to raise children who remain faithful believers. It is not always an easy thing and every parent who has such a child should rejoice constantly. There is no method to raise a child to be a saint, for God alone gives the grace that results in the mystery of such wonderful lives. However that may be, I am often struck in reading the writings of St. Silouan by his stories about his father. It would seem that the most fundamental spiritual lessons are not ones he gained from an Elder, but from the simple peasant that was his father – but a simple peasant with the faith of a saint. A small example:

Let us not be distressed over the loss of worldly goods, such losses are a small matter. My own father taught me this early in life. When some misfortune happened at home, he would remain serene. When our house caught fire and the neighbors said, ‘Ivan Petrovich, your house is burnt down!’ he replied, ‘With God’s help I’ll build it up again.’ Once we were walking along the side of our field, and I said, ‘Look, they’re stealing our sheaves!’ ‘Aye, son,’ he answered me, ‘the Lord has given us corn and to spare, so if anyone steals it, it means he’s in want.’ Another day I said to him, ‘You give a lot away to charity, while some who are better off than we are give far less.’ To which he replied, ‘Aye, son, the Lord will provide.’ And the Lord did not confound his hope.

From St. Silouan of Mount Athos

There is no better way to teach a child Christianity than to actually live it – truly and from the heart. You cannot teach what you do not live.

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.





9 responses to “Raising a Saint – St. Silouan on his Father”

  1. fatherstephen Avatar

    Many years to our parents still living – Memory eternal for those who sleep.

  2. Damaris Avatar

    I’m grateful to my parents for many things, but especially for their equal acceptance of all kinds of people. We lived in several continents when I was a child, as well as in the US; people of every color and language were unself-consciously welcomed by them and treated with affectionate respect. We children were blessed by their example. I think my parents were unusual for their generation.

  3. Damaris Avatar

    (Given the context of the post, I should also assert that they did not raise a saint! That’s my shame, not theirs.)

  4. easton Avatar

    thank you for this father, i reflect on my father often. i didn’t realize all of the spiritual teachings he taught me until he was gone, and i was more mature. he taught us to LOVE life, the beauty of nature and the universe, the love of music always playing in our home, everything from classical to the beatles, and the most important thing, he spent lots of time with us!!

  5. Sean Avatar

    “You cannot teach what you do not live.”


    Once again, Father, you are spot on.

  6. Robert Avatar

    What strikes me reading that quote is the simplicity, the purity, and yet such profound wisdom. Serenity in the midst of calamity: you can’t fake this. It would seem to me to go much deeper than philosophizing (i.e. putting things into perspective or looking for the silver lining in the clouds), it is in a different category altogether as this tells us who and what a person is in his very being. As you said Fr. Stephen that is truly the only way to teach.

    I worry about our kids, our inability to teach them (due to our shortcomings), and the incessant pull of the spirit of this age. And perhaps even worse: the Church is not always a shining example – how do I explain current ecclesiastical events without it all seeming a big farce – kids have highly sensitive and accurate hypocrisy detecto-meters. The “respect the office, not the person” doesn’t seem to hold much water. Of course none of these troubles are new. But this stuff troubles me, as we struggle our way through this and I have my doubts about the right way to navigate our family through these perils.

  7. fatherstephen Avatar

    Many times it is the example of a single life that makes the difference for a child. They detect hypocrisy, but they also understand heroes. Be a hero (spiritually). Nothing prevents any of us from that. If we do that, our children will have what they need, by God’s grace. I don’t mean anything splashy. Live the life at personal cost – act as if you actually believe in God. They will see and know (by God’s grace).

  8. jennyjuliana Avatar

    I worry about our 5-year-old son, as well. I am not a good example at all. Forget serenity in the midst of calamity; at this point, I would just love to be able patiently hear the same story for the 274th time after a long day at work.

  9. steve Avatar

    Though I believe in God, I do not behave as a believer in most occasions in front of others and they learn by my eexample. My children show me this every day, for if I were a true believer my children would be examples of my faith. Though I see in their faces and behavior my own shortcomings and failures. My heart is pained to see my teenager acting selfishly and not with love for the other person, because I see my self so clearly and I don’t like what I see. I don’t like mirrors its painfull.Lord have mercy.

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