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173. March 1975. St. Herman of Solovki

Dear Maria [Kraft],
Greetings in our Lord Jesus Christ.

We are glad to hear that John was somewhat better when he returned home, [word missing] you ask if he can stay with us for the whole school year. I will tell you right away that this is quite impossible and would do him no good at all. We could have someone so young stay with us longer than a week or two only on condition that he were extremely mature and could be trusted far beyond his years. We observed John closely when he was here, and he does not come up to this standard. Unfortunately, we do not have the possibility to be nursemaids for difficult children, and the conditions of the local school will not help him either. The only way we can help him is the way we told him before he left: if he strives to do better at home and school and act more mature, it will be possible for him to visit us for a short time later on, and then we will observe his behavior again. For any child to obtain benefit from staying with us, he must look up to his visit as a reward for good behavior, and not something he can receive automatically. It is better that our monastery remain for John a place where he might one day receive help when he really needs it, rather than a place where he learned to take the Church for granted because we were too kind-hearted to deprive him of it for his misbehavior. Let John at least preserve the idea of our monastery as a “last hope” in the difficult years that lie ahead of him.

We realize that raising your three boys is very difficult for you. But that is the Cross God has given you, and I must tell you frankly that you can scarcely receive your salvation in any other way than by trying your best to raise them up well. Spiritual life begins when things seem absolutely “hopeless” — that is when one learns to turn to God and not to our own feeble efforts and ideas. Let the boys go to church in the Convent next door — the contact with the Church atmosphere has an unseen effect that is much more important than any outward deficiencies in icons, etc.

Please pray for us.

With love in Christ our Saviour,
Seraphim, monk

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