|Xenia with army coat and bricks|
Holy Mother Xenia of St. Petersburg (Russia)
Born in 1730, Xenia Grigoryevna Petrova was a young woman when she married Colonel Andrey Fyodorovich Petrov. The wife of a military officer in the capital was not unduly hard, and though Andrey Fydorovich may have been at least occasionally inattentive, her life is clear evidence that she loved him. His death following a night's alcohol-fueled carousing with fellow officers left her a twenty-six year old childless widow. Oddly, her main concern seems to have been for the salvation of his soul, since he died, to draw from Hamlet, "unshriven... in a drunken stupor... engaged in an act that has no taste of salvation to it." (Act III, Scene III)
|Moving bricks at night|
At that point, she took to the road. Whether she entered a single convent or wandered from monastery to monastery is uncertain. It is clear, however, that for eight years she was out of town, strengthening her religious convictions. When she returned to St. Petersburg, she had become a complete Fool for Christ, i.e. one whose behavior causes derision among others, but whose sincere self-abnegation and focus on salvation is eventually recognized as holy labor. When those who recognized her called her by name, she insisted that she be called Andrey (apparently because she was working to absolve his sins). She lived on the streets of the poorest neighborhoods, but still gave away money and food that was given to her. Eventually, her generosity to the poor was recognized, but she still had other good works she performed in secret.
|Call me Andrey|
After her death, her grave became a very popular site for pilgrimage. Soil from the grave became a popular relic, so the sexton had to keep filling in the grave site. To solve this problem, he laid a massive stone over the whole grave. In time, the stone disappeared, chip by chip, as the pilgrims took small chunks as relics. The Soviets had a better solution -- a ten-foot high fence all around so that no one could take soil, leave flowers, or venerate the saint. Since the fall of a more famous wall and the end of the USSR, that wall too has come down.
Xenia made herself a stranger in her own city, and as with many strangers, she found the people hostile to her. Yet eventually they accepted her. Then they tried to support her. Finally, they were inspired by her. Did this not eventually become a good example of the hospitality relationship denoted by her name?