“I KNOW THE POWER OF THE PRAYERS OF ST JOHN OF SHANGHAI”
Protopriest Peter Perekrestov
Protopriest Peter Perekrestov is the Senior Priest of the Cathedral of the Mother of God “Joy of All Who Sorrow” in San Francisco, CA, and the author of many publications about St John of Shanghai.
My father was born in Yugoslavia to a military family to a Russian father and Slovenian mother. He found himself in Tripoli, then moved to Canada after the war and graduated from college with a degree in hydrology, after which he went into the dam-building industry.
My mother was born in the USSR to a Cossack family, and though she was always a believer, she had to hide the cross around her neck. Her father was drafted into the Red Army but disappeared. Many years later we had a funeral service for him. After World War II, she found herself in a displaced-persons (DP) camp with her family, then moved to Canada, where she met my father. My brother and I were born in Montreal; my brother is now a Hegumen and serves at a parish.
I studied at Holy Trinity Seminary in Jordanville, NY.
What is God’s Will for Us?
When my matushka Elena and I were still young, we lived in Toronto, where I served as deacon and worked as a draftsman, and my wife ran a youth choir. Two friends of mine from San Francisco were at my wedding; the priest at the Cathedral of the Mother of God “Joy of All Who Sorrow” had recently died, in 1979, Protopriest Nikolai Dombrovsky. Our friends recommended us to Archbishop Anthony of San Francisco and Western America. He asked Vladyka Laurus about me, who gave me a good recommendation, and so Vladyka Anthony invited me to San Francisco. At the time, Vladyka John of Shanghai had not yet been canonized to the sainthood, and his body was interred in a crypt under the cathedral. Matushka Elena and I, still young and foolish, made a pro- and con-list about moving, we didn’t think whether this was God’s will. We tried to figure everything out ourselves…
Vladyka Anthony Prayed as Though He Stood in God’s Presence.
After Pascha, 1980, we came to San Francisco to scout it out. I had already visited once with my spiritual father, Archimandrite Cyprian (Pyzhov), and was impressed by the large, busy cathedral.
The evening before we were set to leave, Vladyka Anthony invited us over to talk about our move. The doors to his residence were always open—anyone could visit him at any time. He lived alone, didn’t have a car or a secretary, or even a cell-attendant—he was a schema-monk, a real ascetic.
Vladyka sat us down, started cooking and serving, and when my Matushka offered to help, he replied: “No, you sit, I’ll do it…”
Then he said “Let us pray,” after which we ate. I later asked my wife about it, and she said “I’ve never seen a bishop talk to God like that. He prayed as though he stood in God’s presence. I would go anywhere with such a bishop!
Being Russian is Not Citizenship But a Way of Life
Vladyka Anthony was a highly-spiritual person, I remember him very well, his words and motions. People like this were unique to ROCOR—they preserved Holy Rus, her language and spiritual traditions, which they passed on to new generations.
Being Russian is not citizenship but a way of life. You might be born in Moscow, graduate from Moscow State University, and still not be Russian in spirit.
The Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia will turn a hundred years old in three years, and it is remarkable that the Russian spirit has been passed down through so many of its generations in foreign lands. There is a backbone of old emigres whose grandchildren and great-grandchildren preserve the Russian culture and Orthodox Christian faith.
We’ll Know What Good Christian Parents We Are When We See How Our Grandchildren Are Reared.
Sometimes I read articles by some young clergymen or their matushkas about how to be happily married and properly rear children. I think that before offering such advice, we need to live life and see the results of our own marriage and child-rearing, not when they are little, but when as adults they begin rearing their own children. In the rite of Matrimony in the Orthodox Church are these words: “Let them behold their children's children as newly planted olive trees round about their table.” The Church wishes to see many grandchildren surround the newlyweds.
The fruits of our labors as Christian parents will not only be seen in our children but our grandchildren.
Generally we don’t move from one parish to another in our Church. I have been at my first parish, the cathedral, for 38 years.
Imagine a priest who formed a wonderful community, friendly and close-knit, still, the results of his efforts can only be gauged after his death. Just like a father: while he is alive, he is in control of his children, but after his death things can go sour. Your children are a continuation of yourself, your parish is your offspring.
And it isn’t always the case that a happily-married couple can give advice to couples which are unhappy. If my car always runs well, it is hard for me to offer advice on how to fix a broken one.
How To Find the Golden Mean.
I can say that I’m not the kind of priest I would have liked to be. I have many regrets, mistakes of my youth, that I didn’t live like I could have, I could have adhered more closely to spiritual rules, but for 40 years of service I have witnessed several generations of clergymen, and can now say to my parishioners—if you behave a certain way, there will be consequences.
With the years you begin to understand cause and effect, and the Lord teaches you discernment.
I can now say with a heavy sigh that when we are young, we have zeal but no spiritual experience, and when we are older, we have experience but little zeal. How do we find balance, the golden mean?
I Cannot Pray Without Vladyka John.
People come to our cathedral, asking to me, a priest, to pray, as a long-time clergyman of the cathedral and a friend of St John of Shanghai and San Francisco the Miracle-worker, who built our cathedral, whose relics abide there now.
What can I tell them? I am unable to pray myself… Well, I can make a prostration, I ask Vladyka John, and he prays. He stands at the Throne of God and intercedes for all those who turn to him in prayer for help. His prayerful help is the most important thing—I am simply the conduit which relates to him the pleas of our parishioners.
You might say that I, Fr Peter Perekrestov, without Vladyka John, am like Samson without his hair. I have served beside Vladyka for 38 years, and I know the power of his prayers… That is why whenever I go on a trip, even for just a few days, it is hard for me to pray without him.
Holy Hierarch John, pray to God for us!
Protopriest Peter’s books are available on the sretenie.com website.