Why didn't St Seraphim of Sarov become a Catholic?

Okay, the title seems a bit specific, I know.

But the general point is… why do all these great saints and holy men, who seem to seek God with all their hearts, not be lead to the true Church?

Are we to say, that in this case, St Seraphim of Sarov, the great Eastern saint, was lead to the Catholic Church but refused, rejected it? Or was he ignorant of it? Surely not! Such a holy man… I do not quite understand why Our Lord would not lead him to this Church. Can we only conclude that he did not listen well enough to Our Lord? Or God thought he might be better off as an Orthodox? Really?

Good Question.

St. Seraphim of Sarov is a good example, as even Pope John Paul II has spoken of him as a saint.

This question, however, deals specifically with the relation between the Catholic Church and Orthodox Church. Certainly the Church teaches that all Orthodox Christians are fully initiated Christians, because they have all valid sacraments and are in a valid particular Church, even if it is separated from the rest of the Catholic Church.

It is a question of “Does God obligate Orthodox Christians to individually return to the Catholic Church by leaving the Orthodox Church, or merely to work for the reunification of the Catholic and Orthodox Church?”

It would be hard to argue that the latter is not the de facto position today.

In any case, clearly St. Seraphim was born far removed from any schism of his Church from the Catholic Church. He, like all, has an obligation to seek the truth, but given the unique position of the Orthodox Church(Being a Valid particular Church), it appears difficult to determine how far this obligation actually extends.

1 Like

The question for those outside of a body that has retained its status as a Church, that is, protestants, is a different matter.

You ask why someone in a Russian Orthodox monastery in the old Russian Empire did not convert to Catholicism. How exactly would this monk have learned of Catholicism? Do you think that he could have walked down the street to a Catholic parish?

its like st nick. When the first break away from the cathoilic church happened I read he went with the other side. So in the end is he a catholic saint or not. In the end catholic or not he was a good man.

Being a good man is not merely enough to get into Heaven.

Also, St Nicholas (assuming of Myra) was not an Arian, and in fact even punched Arius in the face in front of the Emperor and the other bishops convening at Nicea, in fervor of the apostolic faith.

They weren’t ignorant. Russia was not an intellectual wasteland, and he was an educated man. He knew what Catholicism was. Catholics existed in Russia at the time. A contemporary of his, Vladimir Solovyov converted to Catholicism, or in the very least wrote a book dealing with the subject.

What was St Nick if not Catholic?

Appealing for ignorance on St Seraphim’s part seems quite the long shot…

Have you considered that, perhaps, they are already in the true Church?

Taken from the book “St Seraphim of Sarov” by Archimandrite Lazarus Moore.
In the early 1920’s, sometime after St. Seraphim’s repose, a noble family of Protestants in Alsace began to take great interest in venerating the Saints and the Sacraments. Their small town was divided in two, half Protestant and half Roman Catholic, and all shared a church in which they took turns having services. It was the finding of Sabatier’s book on Francis of Assisi that caused this renewed interest in the Protestants, and although the family remained Protestant they became increasingly dissatisfied with it and longed for more —spellbound by the book, as it were.

One afternoon, a wife in this family was reading the book in her garden, stricken with sickness in some fashion. On account of the lovely day, the full bloom of the garden and her general tiredness from being ill, she fell into a light sleep where she had a vision. St. Francis of Assisi (Roman Catholic) himself appeared to her with a little old man who was bent over but radiant. Upon coming quite close, St. Francis said to this wife, ‘My daughter, you seek the true Church. It is there, where he is. It supports everyone, but does not require support from anyone.’ The old man to whom Francis was pointing remained silent, only smiling.

Some weeks later this wife had hired a Russian workman to tend her garden. Visiting his room to ensure he was comfortably settled, she noticed a small icon in his corner with a picture of the man who was with St. Francis in her dream. ‘Who is that old man?!’ she asked, quite astonished and alarmed. “‘Saint Seraphim, our Orthodox Saint’ answered the workman. Then she understood the meaning of the words of St. Francis about the Truth being in the Orthodox Church.”

1 Like

The Orthodox is not a separate Church - it is a schismatic, possibly heretical part of the Catholic Church.

I do not know the extent of St. Seraphim’s knowledge of Catholicism, but I suspect he was not entirely unaware of its existence; however, Solovyov was born twenty years after St. Seraphim died, so I would not call them contemporaries.

I think that if he was interested in Orthodoxy he would be asking the same question except about Mother Teresea or St. John of the Cross. I think it’s generally a question about those outside the true Church.

None of us can judge the heart of man. Some appear holy, but may have some secret sin we cannot see, whihc causes the impediment to grace. Some who appear more sinful, may be open to grace, but have many impediments not of their own fault. It’s best not to past judgment on this person either way.

:hmmm:something here doesn’t add up.

St Francis was Born ~1182. That’s 80 + years after the great schism from the Catholic Church took place. Francis received a message from God to rebuild His Church. Francis is a Catholic and the Church spoken of is the Catholic Church.

Now a Protestant, also seperated from the true Church, has a message from St Francis in the 1920’s where Francis comes to her and says, the Church is the Orthodox Church and Seraphim of Sarov just happens to be next to him in this dream, and is aggreeing with Francis?

I gotta tell ya, since Jesus dispises division from what He establishes John 16:12-15 , And both the Orthodox and Protestants are seperated from the Catholic Church, this dream of the Protestant, fails the credability test.

John 17:20-23 is the passage I meant to give. Our Lord wants perfect unity. No division of any kind.

St Seraphim of Sarov regularly confessed belief in the one holy catholic and apostolic Church. One does not need to become what one already is.

The Roman Catholic Church recognises that the various Orthodox churches are true local churches within the one Church.
Just the other week, Pope Francis proclaimed the Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Saint Gregory of Narek to be a Doctor of the Church, even though this saint was never in communion with Rome.
Doing this shows that Rome considers St Gregory of Narek to truly be Catholic. In like manner, St Seraphim is truly Catholic.

Rome recognises the validity of Orthodox bishops and as such, Christians under their authority are required to be obedient. This may mean not being in visible unity with Rome for reasons beyond one’s own control. Yet Rome no longer seeks to cause Orthodox Christians to translate into Catholic jurisdictions. An Orthodox Christian who seeks to do so is viewed in a way similar to a Catholic wishing to change which bishop sie is under (e.g. due to relocation). The only noticeable difference is that the Orthodox person must wait a period of time before being enrolled under a Catholic bishop. This is so the person takes the time to consider whether the change is meet seeing it may well result in excommunication from the Orthodox bishop (although this doesn’t happen in every jurisdiction). Hope that made sense.

Schisms on earth due to the failings of men do not effect the unity of the Church triumphant where all wounds are healed by the Lord.

1 Like

Wow! I never knew that…

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.