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Being filled with love for God and man, they are responsive to man's needs, interceding before God and helping those who turn to them." Thus describing the ancient Saints, Vladyka John simultaneously summarized his own spiritual attitude which made him one of the greatest Saints of our time.Childhood Michael Maximovitch, the future Archbishop John, was born on June 4, 1896, in the village of Adamovka in the province of Kharkov in southern Russia.Vladyka arrived in Shanghai in late November, on the Feast of the Entrance of the Mother of God into the Temple, and found a large cathedral uncompleted and a jurisdictional conflict to resolve.The first thing he did was to restore Church unity.He was known to spend nights on end standing motionless, with lifted arms, deep in prayer. The young Maximovitch was known to have a veneration for this holy hierarch.Today Archbishop John may be seen to resemble the holy man of Kharkov in at least three respects: he was known not to have slept in a bed for forty years; he knew beforehand of his death; and before his glorification in 1994 his relics rested under a cathedral in a special grave-chapel where panikhidas were sung almost daily and the Psalter read over his coffin by those asking for his help.In 1926 Metropolitan Anthony tonsured him a monk and ordained him hierodeacon in the Milkov Monastery, giving him the name John, after the future archbishop's own distant relative, Saint John (Maximovitch) of Tobolsk. More than once he was heard to say, "If you wish to see a living saint, go to Bitol to Father John." For, indeed, it began to become evident that this was an entirely extraordinary man.
He paid special attention to religious education and made it a rule to be present at the oral examinations of the catechism classes in all the Orthodox schools in Shanghai.He at once became a protector of various charitable and philanthropic societies and actively participated in their work, especially after seeing the needy circumstances in which the majority of his flock, refugees from the Soviet Union, were placed.He never went visiting for tea to the rich, but he was to be seen wherever there was need, regardless of times and weather.Evidently his emulation of saints was apparent even at that age, since Archbishop Anthony of Kharkov, one of the great Church figures of that time (later Metropolitan Anthony Khrapovitsky, the first Chief Hierarch and founder of the Russian Church Abroad) took special pains to become acquainted with him, and then kept the youth close to him and guided his spiritual formation.Belgrade In 1921, during the Civil War in Russia, the future archbishop, together with his parents, his brothers, and his sister, was evacuated to Belgrade, where he and his brothers entered the University of Belgrade.
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When she saw him the next day he informed her that the situation was worse than he had thought: it was him they wished to make bishop!