St. John (Maximovitch) of Shanghai and San Francisco is the primary patron saint for anyone living on the West Coast, whether they know it or not— regardless of archdiocese, ethnicity or, God forgive us, political orientation within Orthodoxy. St. John is the only known saint who spent a significant portion of his life present here with us on the West Coast. He is our local saint, our nearest father. He shepherded not only Orthodox immigrants and their children, but also American inquirers and converts specifically.
Along with overseeing the shepherding of American converts and researching the Orthodox heritage of Americans (British, Irish, German, French, and so forth), St. John also saw to the preparation and offering of liturgical services in English (something much resisted during his life). One of his last episcopal directives before his repose was to begin the English services, even though the preparations were not completed.
Being so close to San Francisco, having the opportunity to venerate St. John frequently and also to meet people who have sought his intercession, we have been blessed with witnessing his answering of prayers both within and outside our own parish. The healing of cancer and diabetes, solution of family and marital problems, reclaiming of straying youth, finding good cars, homes, and jobs when needed, protection from dangers and evils, and most importantly, spiritual growth—we have seen all of these and more with our own eyes.
Truly, like Christ, he is a loving shepherd of the Orthodox flock and a powerful intercessor in times of need. It was to St. John we turned after searching for a new building for almost four years and finding nothing suitable. It was his prayers that aided our desire to be a stable and healthy community and to be in close enough contact with the local population to do good works and to bear witness to Orthodox life and faith as best we could. In thankfulness for his care, we dedicated our side altar to him.
St. John is a meek and humble yet powerful intercessor. He does not force his way into our lives, but if you invite him, be ready! The spiritual adventure he will open up to you will be more than you expected. The love of Christ is not just sufficient for us; it is in excess of any imaginable need—and so it is with his saints.
I was recently flipping through a secular book on the Romanov royalty when a particular photo caught my eye. It was of a funeral in France for one of the members of the extended imperial family, and there in the corner, kind of zooming across the royal-family-in-mourning scene, was St. John, censer in hand, with a sober yet joyful expression on his face. The caption under the photo didn’t mention him, nor did the text. To me, the context of that photo was a perfect expression of his life: unobtrusive, unrecognized, humble, quiet, oblivious to the worldliness of the moment, focused joyfully on doing only what he was called to do, aiding in the salvation of his fellow man.
Through the prayers of St. John, Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and save us.