Holy Fool-for Christ St. Xenia of St. Petersburg

[January 24, 2016]

Today is the feast day of St. Xenia of St Petersburg (1732-1803), a beloved saint of relatively recent times. St. Xenia’s husband died after a night of drinking, leaving her a childless widow at 26. Now freed from all earthly attachments, she took on the very challenging spiritual discipline of being a Fool for Christ. She gave away her home and all her possessions, and became a homeless wanderer. Grieving for her husband, who had died without having made his confession, she word only his red-and-green military uniform (when it wore out, she clothed herself in rags of those colors).

St Xenia disappeared from St Petersburg for 8 years (perhaps visiting monasteries and spiritual elders), and then reappeared in the poor section of town, where she continued her impoverished life, at first mocked by those who thought she was insane. But her spiritual gifts began to manifest themselves, as she was used by God for miraculous healings and was granted knowledge of the future, and in time the became greatly beloved.


A detail of her story I always liked: she owned nothing but her ragged clothing and her walking stick, and when she went to visit someone she would say, “Here is all of me.”

St. Xenia spent her nights praying in a field, making prostrations. Also, she helped in consstruction of a church; workmen would arrive in the morning to find that loads of bricks had been carried to the top of the structure. They posted a watchman and found that it was the tiny, elderly St. Xenia. She is very much beloved today, all around the world, and prayed to especially by those seeking a job or a spouse.

The Doxasticon of St. Xenia (Tone 8):

He who put on tattered swaddling bands, for our salvation,
was drawn by the spiritual beauty of her who wore the rags of voluntary poverty;
for though Xenia wandered the streets of St. Petersburg by day,
she was ever abiding in the field keeping watch over her soul by night,
singing doxologies with the angelic armies and weeping for the sinful world.
And crowned on high, she now rewards with mercy, comfort, and grace
those who keep her august memorial with faith.

About Frederica Mathewes-Green

Frederica Mathewes-Green is a wide-ranging author who has published 10 books and 800 essays, in such diverse publications as the Washington Post, Christianity Today, Smithsonian, and the Wall Street Journal. She has been a regular commentator for National Public Radio (NPR), a columnist for the Religion News Service, Beliefnet.com, and Christianity Today, and a podcaster for Ancient Faith Radio. (She was also a consultant for Veggie Tales.) She has published 10 books, and has appeared as a speaker over 600 times, at places like Yale, Harvard, Princeton, Wellesley, Cornell, Calvin, Baylor, and Westmont, and received a Doctor of Letters (honorary) from King University. She has been interviewed over 700 times, on venues like PrimeTime Live, the 700 Club, NPR, PBS, Time, Newsweek, and the New York Times. She lives with her husband, the Rev. Gregory Mathewes-Green, in Johnson City, TN. Their three children are grown and married, and they have fourteen grandchildren.

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