Saint Seraphim of Sarov

Feast Day: January 2nd

& July 19th – the Uncovering of his Holy Relics


The Life of Saint Seraphim: No matter what time of the year it was, he would greet everyone with the words, “Christ is Risen, my joy!”…

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Prayers

Akathist Hymn

Apolytikion: Thou didst love Christ from thy youth, O Blessed one, and ardently desiring to work for Him alone, thou didst struggle in the wilderness with constant Prayer and labour; and having acquired love for Christ with compunction of heart, thou didst prove to be the beloved favourite of the Mother of God. Wherefore, we cry to thee: Save us by thy Prayers, O Seraphim, our Holy Father.

Kontakion: Having left the beauty of the world and what is corrupt therein, O Saint, thou didst settle in the Monastery of Sarov. And having lived there an Angelic life, thou wast for many the way unto Salvation. Wherefore, Christ hath Glorified thee, O Father Seraphim, and hath enriched thee with the Gift of Healing and Miracles. And so we cry to thee: Rejoice, O Seraphim, our Holy Father.

Prayer: O Great Saint of God, Our Venerable and God-Bearing Father, Seraphim! Look down from the Glory that is above, upon us who are humble and weak, burdened with our many sins, and ask thy help and consolation. Bend down to us in thy loving kindness, and help us to carry out God’s Commandments without stain, firmly to keep the Orthodox Faith, to approach God in heartfelt contrition for all our sins, to make progress in Christian devotion and to be worthy of thy Prayers before God. Yea, O Saint of God, hearken unto us, who Pray to thee in faith and love, and despise us not who seek thee as our defender: now, and at the hour of our departure, help us and defend us by thy Prayers from the wicked assaults of the devil, lest evil powers should have dominion over us; but let us be granted, by thy help, to inherit the bliss of Heavenly Mansions. For we place our hope in thee, o kind-hearted Father: be thou indeed our guide to Salvation, and bring us to the Unwaning Light of Eternal Life, by thy good intercession before the Throne of the Most Holy Trinity, so that we may Glorify and hymn with all the Saints, the Name worthy of adoration, of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, for ages of ages. Amen.


One day the mother of young Saint Seraphim went with him to the construction site of a Church her husband had begun building. The seven year old fell from the scaffolding of the seven-story bell tower, and remained unharmed through God’s protection and Our Most Holy Mother of God.

“The greatest marvel of all is that our Father, the God of all wisdom and power, Who presides over the universe, is our Father. Even to me poor Seraphim.”

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While still a young child, Saint Seraphim became very sick. Our Most Holy Mother of God appeared to him in a dream promising she would visit and heal him. Not long after, there was a Church procession with the Kursk Root Icon of the Sign passing by his home. Saint Seraphim’s mother carried her son outside, he venerated the Holy Icon, and became well.

“If the Lord allows sicknesses to test people, then He’ll also give the strength of patience. If people bear their illness with patience and gratitude to God they’re Crowned as Martyrs and strivers. Just as wax doesn’t become soft unless it’s heated enough to bear a stamp, so the Soul can’t accept the stamp of Virtue unless it’s been tried with labours and sicknesses.”

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Young Saint Seraphim wanted to devote his life entirely to God and live in a Monastery. His mother gave him her blessing for this, and she also gave her son a copper Cross, as a blessing for his life as a Monastic. Saint Seraphim wore this Cross for the rest of his life.

“We must let the Holy Spirit into our hearts. Everything good that we are doing for Christ’s sake renders us the Holy Spirit, but most of all it is achieved through a Prayer, which is always in our hands.”

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Saint Seraphim was Ordained a Monk and a Deacon.

“In spite of our sinfulness, in spite of the darkness surrounding our Souls, the Grace of the Holy Spirit, conferred by Baptism in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, still shines in our hearts with the Inextinguishable Light of Christ… and when the sinner turns to the way of repentance the Light smooths away every trace of the sins committed, clothing the former sinner in the garments of incorruption, spun of the Grace of the Holy Spirit. It is this acquisition of the Holy Spirit about which I have been speaking.”

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In the Monastery, Saint Seraphim fulfilled all his obediences with zeal and love. He was humble and Prayerful while he kept busy spiritually and physically, as though serving the Lord Himself.

“Every success in anything, we should refer to the Lord and with the Prophet saying, ‘Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to Your Name give Glory.’ (Psalm 1113:9)”

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“And he who wants more Grace, must prepare himself better for temptations.”

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When Saint Seraphim was a young Monk, he once again became extremely sick and was healed by the Mother of God when she appeared to him, together with the Holy Apostles Peter and John the Theologian. The Most Holy Mother of God, tenderly pointing to the Holy Monk, said to Saint John, “He is one of our kind.”

“A lofty and sound Soul does not despair over misfortunes, of whatever sort they may be. Our life is as it were a house of temptations and trials; but we will not renounce the Lord for as long as He allows the tempter to remain with us and for as long as we must wait to be revived through patience and secure passionless!”

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Saint Seraphim was blessed to often see Holy Angels serving the Divine Liturgy with the Priests. On Holy Thursday one year, he also saw our Lord Jesus Christ blessing all the people in the Church, and He then entered His Icon next to the Royal Doors.

“When mind and heart are united in Prayer and the Soul is wholly concentrated in a single desire for God, then the heart grows warm and the Light of Christ begins to shine and fills the inward man with peace and joy. We should thank the Lord for everything and give ourselves up to His Will; we should also offer Him all our thoughts and words, and strive to make everything serve only His good pleasure.”

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Wanting to further his spiritual efforts and devote himself to silence and Prayer, Saint Seraphim received the blessing to live alone, three and a half miles from the Monastery, in a remote part of the forest. He named his new home Mount Athos, and spent his time reading the Holy Gospel, the Holy Fathers and Service books. Saint Seraphim learnt many Church Hymns by heart, and sang them while cultivating a garden around his cell, and working in the forest.

“True hope seeks the Kingdom of God alone and is convinced that everything Earthly that is necessary for this transitory life will unfailingly be given. The heart cannot have peace until it acquires this hope. This hope pacifies it fully and brings joy to it. The most Holy lips of the Saviour spoke about this very hope: “Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).”

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“The Jesus Prayer is a golden thread that will not let a Christian go astray!”

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Saint Seraphim became friends with many animals, and he fed them from his hand. They would often come to him at midnight and wait for him to complete his Prayer Rule, then spend some time with him. He became very close with a bear, and often asked it to run errands for him.

Two Nuns from a certain convent once came to visit Saint Seraphim. Suddenly a bear lumbered unexpectedly out of the woods and frightened the visitors with his appearance. “Misha,” – said the Saint, – “why do you frighten the poor orphans! Go back and bring us a treat, otherwise I have nothing to offer my guests.” Hearing these words, the bear went back into the woods, and two hours later he tumbled into the Holy Elder’s Cell and gave him something covered with leaves. It was a fresh honeycomb of purest honey. Father Seraphim took a piece of bread from his bag, gave it to the bear, pointed to the door – and the bear left immediately.

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Saint Seraphim wanted to increase his asceticism so he remained on a large rock in the forest, alternating with a smaller one in his cell, and Prayed here, standing and kneeling with his arms raised in Prayer, entreating “O God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” Saint Seraphim Prayed in this way for 1000 days and nights, only resting for a short time.

“It is up to us to add labours in order to ‘go from strength to strength’ (Psalm 83:7), and to come ‘to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ’ (Ephesians 4:13), so that the words of the Lord may be fulfilled in us: ‘But they who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall grow wings like eagles; and they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint’ (Isaiah 40:31). Only then will our present joy (which now visits us little and briefly) appear in all its fullness; and no one will take it from us, for we shall be filled to overflowing with inexplicable Heavenly delights.”

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 One day Saint Seraphim was severely beaten by three robbers while working in his garden. He did not fight back, but rather Prayed for them and forgave them. Saint Seraphim was badly injured and healed by Our Most Holy Lady the Mother of God, he did however remain bent over, and for the rest of his life he walked leaning on a stick or a small axe.

“It is necessary to always endure everything, no matter what happens, for God’s sake, with gratitude.”

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“All condemnation is from the devil. Never condemn each other. We condemn others only because we shun knowing ourselves.”

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“When despondency seizes us, let us not give into it. Rather, fortified and protected by the light of faith, let us with great courage say to the spirit of evil: ‘What are you to us, you who are cut off from God, a fugitive for Heaven, and a slave to evil? You dare not to do anything to us: Christ, the Son of God, has dominion over us and over all. Leave us, you thing of bane. We are made steadfast by the uprightness of His Cross. Serpent, we trample on your head.'”

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Countless people would flock to Saint Seraphim to receive his Blessing, his guidance, and his Miracles.

“The Lord seeks a heart filled to overflowing with love for God and our neighbour; this is the Throne on which He loves to sit and on which He appears in the fullness of His Heavenly Glory. “Son, give me thine heart” (Proverbs 23:26), for in the human heart the Kingdom of God can be contained.”

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Regardless of the time of year Saint Seraphim always greeted everyone with the words, “Christ is Risen, my joy!” His love for Christ shone in his heart and overflowed to everyone around him.

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Many times Saint Seraphim would hide in the bushes, in order to maintain his silence and Pray to God. Children would often find him crouched behind some bushes. He especially loved children, and when they found him he would rise to play with them and speak with them about God.

“The sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit is peace lived and joy, for God creates joy wherever He is.”


Saint Seraphim once had a now famous conversation with his Spiritual child Nicholas Motovilov. Nicholas had a life-long question, about the aim of the Christian life, of which he had never received a satisfactory answer for. Saint Seraphim told him “The true aim of our Christian life consists in the acquisition of the Holy Spirit of God.”

Then Father Seraphim took me very firmly by the shoulders and said: “We are both in the Spirit of God now, my son…”

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Saint Seraphim was great in his Ascetic struggle. One day he was asked why he often carried a knapsack filled with stones. He humbly replied, “I am troubling him who troubles me.”

A certain brother, seeing his Ascetic life, asked him for his own edification: “Why don’t we , Father, lead a strict life as the ancient Ascetics did?” “Because,” replied the Saint “we have no determination to do so. If we had the determination, we should live as those Fathers did who, in olden times, shone with labours and piety; because God gives His Grace and help to the faithful and to those who seek the Lord with all their heart now just as He did before. For according to the Word of God, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, and for ever (Heb. 13:8).

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“Establish yourself in God and then you will be helpful to others.”

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“Joy, radiant joy, streams from the face of him who gives and kindles joy in the heart of him who receives.”

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“During the time that the body of one fasting becomes thin and light, the Spiritual life attains to perfection and reveals itself through Miraculous manifestations. The spirit then performs its actions as if in a bodiless body. External feelings are as shut out, and the mind, renouncing the worldly, ascends to the Heavenly and becomes completely immersed in the contemplation of the Spiritual world. Yet not everyone can take upon himself strict rules of abstinence from everything, nor deprive himself completely of all that serves to relieve infirmities: “He that is able to receive it, let him receive it” (Matthew 19:12).”

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“When the Spirit of God descends upon a man and overshadows him with the fullness of His outpouring, then his Soul overflows with a joy not to be described, for the Holy Spirit turns to joy whatever He touches. The Kingdom of Heaven is peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”

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Towards the last few years of his life, Saint Seraphim devoted himself to the Spiritual and physical care of the Nuns at the Diveyevo Monastery of the Holy Trinity. Through his Prayers, Saint Seraphim would receive guidance from the Most Holy Mother of God regarding this Blessed Sisterhood and Monastery.

“And I will tell you what, remember this: Happy is everyone who will stay for twenty-four hours in poor Seraphim’s Diveyev, from morning till morning, for the Mother of God, the Heavenly Queen, visits Diveyev every twenty-four hours.”

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When he was asked one day, in what does a perishing sinner differ from a righteous man who is saving his Soul, a Saint, Saint Seraphim answered: “Only in his resolve… Our Salvation is in our will, in our firmness, in the steadfastness of our resolve to be Godly to the end. The Lord does not give His Spirit by measure, nor does He give His Grace by measure; He gives everything, and He gives Himself. But we receive Grace and make use of God’s gifts to the measure of our readiness to receive what He gives – and that means what He gives, and not what we want – and bring forth the fruit that He expects from us.”

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The year before his Blessed Repose, on the Feast Day of the Annunciation, Saint Seraphim saw Our Most Beloved Queen of Heaven once more. She came to Saint Seraphim together with Saint John the Baptist, Saint John the Theologian, and the Virgin Martyrs Saint Barbara, Saint Katherine, Saint Thekla, Saint Marina, Saint Irene, Saint Eupraxia, Saint Pelagia, Saint Dorothea, Saint Makrina, Saint Justina, Saint Juliana, and Saint Anysia. The Most Holy Mother of God spoke for a long time with Saint Seraphim, and she entrusted the Sisters of the Diveyevo Monastery to him. At the end of their conversation, Our Most Holy Mother of God said to Saint Seraphim, “Soon, my dear one, you shall be with us.”

“The only valuables on Earth are good works done for Christ: These win us the Grace of the Holy Spirit.”

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Saint Seraphim Reposed in the early morning of January 2nd, 1833. He was found kneeling before his Icon of the Most Holy Mother of God, with his arms crossed on his chest.

“Oh if you only knew what joy, what sweetness awaits a righteous Soul in Heaven!”

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July 19th 1903 – the Uncovering of the Holy Relics and Glorification of Saint Seraphim of Sarov.

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In Geelong Victoria, at the Holy Monastery of the Mother of God Quick to Hear, we are blessed to have the Holy Relics of Saint Seraphim, and a Cave dedicated to him. On his Feast Day we celebrate Vespers and the Divine Liturgy in his Cave.

“When I am dead, come to me at my grave, and the more often the better. Whatever is in your Soul, whatever may have happened to you, come to me as when I was alive and kneeling on the ground, cast all your bitterness upon my grave. Tell me everything and I shall listen to you, and all the bitterness will fly away from you. And as you spoke to me when I was alive, do so now. For I am living and I shall be forever.”

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Below is a photo of the Cell of Saint Seraphim and his most beloved Tenderness Icon of the Mother of God. Saint Seraphim Prayed before this Icon night and day, and would anoint people who were sick with the oil from the candle that burned before this Icon, and they received healing. Saint Seraphim called this Icon Joy of all joys, and would Pray to Our Most Holy Mother of God often saying “Fill my heart with joy, for you have received Joy and can heal all sorrow.” It is also before this Icon that Saint Seraphim received his Spiritual children in his cell. He would give the chair to his visitor to sit on, and he would sit on the tree stump.

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Below are some personal belongings of Saint Seraphim including his shoes, his axe, and his most precious Cross from his mother.

“Acquiring the Spirit of God is the true aim of our Christian life, while Prayer, fasting, almsgiving and other good works done for Christ’s sake are merely means for acquiring the Spirit of God.”

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Icons


A cartoon about the life of Saint Seraphim


Quotes by Saint Seraphim of Sarov

The reading of the Word of God should be performed in solitude, in order that the whole mind of the reader might be plunged into the truths of the Holy Scripture, and that from this he might receive warmth, which in solitude produces tears; from these a man is wholly warmed and is filled with Spiritual Gifts, which rejoice the mind and heart more than any word.

But do not be troubled or sad. The Lord sometimes allows people who are devoted to Him to fall into such dreadful vices; and this is in order to prevent them from falling into a greater sin – pride. Your temptation will pass and you will spend the remaining days of your life in humility. Only do not forget your sin.

At around their thirty-fifth year, that is half-way through our Earthly life, people have a great struggle to remain true to themselves. At that age, many of them don’t remain virtuous, but go astray and follow the path of their desires.

There is nothing better than peace in Christ, for it brings victory over all the evil spirits on Earth and in the air. When peace dwells in a man’s heart it enables him to contemplate the Grace of the Holy Spirit from within. He who dwells in peace collects Spiritual gifts as it were with a scoop, and he sheds the light of knowledge on others. All our thoughts, all our desires, all our efforts, all our actions should make us say constantly with the Church: ‘O Lord, give us peace!’ When a man lives in peace, God reveals Mysteries to him…

Those who wish to please God go through many sorrows.

No spiritual exercise can be compared with silence.

As every sickness has its treatment, so every sin has repentance.

God shows us His love for man not only in those instances when we do good, but also when we affront Him with our sins and anger Him.

Silence is the cross on which we must crucify our ego.

Without having freed itself from the world, the Soul cannot love God sincerely. For worldly things, in the words of Saint Antioch, are as it were a veil for the Soul.

It sometimes happens that a person in despondency thinks to himself that it would be easier for him to be destroyed, or to be without any feeling and consciousness than to remain any longer in this unaccountably tormenting state of mind. One should try to get out of it as quickly as possible. Beware of the spirit of despondency, for it gives birth to every evil.

Heaven and hell begin on Earth.

We have to try to be free from unclean thoughts, especially when we Pray to God. Because it’s not possible for there to be a stench mixed in with a fragrance.

We should so train ourselves that the mind, as it were, swims in the law of the Lord by which we must guide and rule our life.

Do not forget to send gifts to those who hurt you.

When a person accepts anything Godly, then he rejoices in his heart, but when he has accepted anything devilish, then he becomes tormented.

Cheerfulness is not a sin. It drives away weariness, for from weariness there is sometimes dejection, and there is nothing worse than that.

We do well if we don’t comply with sinful thoughts, which come from the devil. Because the evil spirit is able to exercise effective influence only over impassioned people. If you’re without passions, he can try to get at you only from afar.

If in Prayer it happens that the mind is caught up by distracting thoughts, then one should bow down to Our Lord God and ask for forgiveness, saying: I have sinned, O Lord, in word, deed and thought, and all my senses.

A sign of Spiritual life is the immersion of a person within himself and the hidden workings within his heart.

The body is a slave, the Soul a sovereign, and therefore it is due to Divine Mercy when the body is worn out by illness: for thereby the passions are weakened, and a man comes to himself; indeed, bodily illness itself is sometimes caused by the passions.

My joy put your trust in God and ask for His help, but know how to forgive your neighbour – and you will be given all that you ask.

The Grace of True Communion is so great that it is imprinted on all the people who receive Communion.

When a child smiles in a dream, an Angel plays with him.

Whatever you do, do it gently and unhurriedly, because Virtue is not a pear to be eaten in one bite.

Where there is God, there is no evil. Everything coming from God is peaceful, healthy and leads a person to the judgement of his own imperfections and humility.

The Lord personally gives us the Commandment to love one another, so that, by consoling one another with mutual love, we may lighten the sorrowful and narrow way of our journey to the Heavenly country. Why did He descend too us from Heaven, if not for the purpose of taking upon Himself our poverty and making us rich with the riches of His Goodness and His unutterable generosity? He did not come to be served by men but to serve them Himself and to give His life for the Salvation of many.

We should not be put off in the Spiritual life by any power of the enemy. On the contrary, we should depend on the Words of God: “Do not fear with their fear and do not be troubled, for God is with us. Sanctify the Lord your God and He shall be your fear” (Isaiah 8:12-13).

Bear it in silence when an enemy offends you, and open your heart to the Lord.

One must not be content with progressing from disbelief to belief, but rather, one must strive to progress from belief to a better understanding of the Truth that he believes.

We should be prepared to put up with everything, happily, for the sake of God. Our life is but a moment compared to Eternity and therefore, as Saint Paul says: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the Glory that will be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18).

As fire purifies gold, so sorrow that is in accord with God purifies a sinful heart.

The door of repentance is open to all, and you do know who will enter it first – you, who are judging, or the one who is being judged by you.

The person who has entered onto the path of silence must constantly remember why he has done so. This is so that the heart may not be turned away from its purpose toward something else.

The devil is like a lion, hiding in ambush. He secretly sets out nets of unclean and unHoly thoughts. So, it is necessary to break them off as soon as we notice them, by means of pious reflection and Prayer.

Just as our Lord is solicitous about our Salvation, so too the murderer of men, the devil, strives to lead a man into despair… Judas the betrayer was fainthearted and unskilled in battle, and so the enemy, seeing his despair, attacked him and forced him to hang himself; but Peter, a firm rock, when he fell into great sin, like one skilled in battle did not despair nor lose heart, but shed bitter tears from a burning heart, and the enemy, seeing these tears, his eyes scorched as by fire, fled far from him wailing in pain.

It is very useful to spend time reading the Word of God in solitude and to read the whole Bible with understanding. In return for this exercise alone, without the addition of any other virtuous deeds, the Lord grants man His Mercy and fills him with the gift of understanding. When a man provides his Soul with the Word of God, the he is granted the understanding of what is good and what is evil.

Bear sorrows for the sake of the Heavenly Kingdom. Without sorrows there is no Salvation. On the other hand, the Kingdom of God awaits those who have patiently endured. And all the glory of the world is nothing in comparison. My joy! I implore you to acquire a peaceful spirit.

One should nourish the Soul with the Word of God: for the Word of God, as Saint Gregory the Theologian says, is Angelic bread, by which are nourished Souls who hunger for God. Most of all, one should occupy oneself with reading the New Testament and the Psalter, which one should do standing up. From this there occurs an enlightenment in the mind, which is changed by a Divine change.

Of course, every good deed done for Christ’s sake gives us the Grace of the Holy Spirit, but Prayer gives us this Grace most of all, for it is always at hand, as an instrument for acquiring the Grace of the Spirit. For instance, you would like to go to Church, but there is no Church or the Service is over; you would like to give alms to a beggar, but there isn’t one, or you have nothing to give; you would like to preserve your virginity, but you have not the strength to do so because of your temperament, or because of the violence of the wiles of the enemy which because of your human weakness you cannot withstand; you would like to do some other good deed for Christ’s sake, but either you have not the strength or the opportunity is lacking. This certainly does not apply to Prayer. Prayer is always possible for everyone, rich and poor, noble and humble, strong and weak, healthy and sick, righteous and sinful.