St Sergius of Radonezh

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Patron of Moscow and all Russia. Born in Rostov of a noble family in 1315, about 100 years after the Tartars conquered Russia. His family lost everything when he was 15 years old, in the civil war between Moscow and Rostov. Forced to flee, they settled at Radonezh, living as poor peasants 50 miles north of Moscow.

After the death of their parents, Sergius and his brother Stephen went to live as hermits in wild forests outside the town. They built a log cabin and a tiny wooden church dedicated to the Holy Trinity. Eventually the elder brother found the harsh conditions and lack of food too hard to bear and left.

Sergius stayed in the wilderness and was professed a monk by a local abbot. But his hopes of staying alone did not work out. More and more people came to him for advice and prayers. Many begged to join him. Russian monasticism had virtually died out under Tartar rule. The new community that grew around Sergius was to form the nucleus of a new and vibrant religious life in Russia. He never turned anyone away.

In 1380 Dimitri Donskoi, Prince of Moscow, came to him for advice about how to free Russia from the brutal Tartar occupation. Sergius said that if the Russian troops had faith, their country would be freed. Dimitri believed him and his army was victorious over the Tartars.

The saint now devoted himself to bringing peace to the divided country, reconciling rival factions. In 1378 he refused to be consecrated Patriarch of Moscow.

"Since the days of my youth I have never worn gold," he said. "Now that I am an old man, more than ever I cling to my poverty."

Sergius cared for his community and founded another 40 before he resigned as abbot and died peacefully shortly afterwards, in 1382.

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