The Monk Gregory (Grigorii) of Pel'shemsk, Vologda

Commemorated on September 30

      The Monk Gregory (Grigorii) of Pel'shemsk, Vologda, was born in the city of Galich, Kostroma governance. He was descended from the line of the Lopotov nobility. When the youth reached age 15, his parents wanted him to marry, but they died, not having succeeded in the wished for marriage. Young Gregory distributed to the poor the inheritance left him and entered a monastery of the MostHoly Mother of God, situated on the shore of Lake Galich. The hegumen of the monastery regarded the new monk with mistrust because of his youth and noble parentage. Therefore he put Gregory into obedience under an experienced elder. With great humility the Monk Gregory served all the brethren. After a certain while he was vouchsafed the dignity of priest. Soon afterwards for the Monk Gregory was affirmed his fame as pastor, and many began to arrive for spiritual guidance and counsels. The Galich prince besought the monk to be godfather for his children. Burdened by fame and the nearness of his kinsfolk, the monk departed to Rostov for veneration of the relics of Saint Leontii (Comm. 23 May), and he settled in the monastery of the Monk Avraamii (Abraham, Comm. 29 October). But here also quickly spread reports about the ascetic feats of the saint. The monks of the Saviour (Yakovlev) monastery turned to the Rostov archbishop Dionysii (1418-1425) with a request to assign the Monk Gregory to head their monastery. Out of humility the monk accepted the guidance over the monastery, but after two years he secretly left the monastery and withdrew into the Vologda forest. In the Sosnovetsk wilderness he became acquainted with the Monk Dionysii of Glushitsk (Comm. 1 June). When the Lord prompted the holy ascetic to found his own monastery, the Monk Dionysii gave approval to the intent of his friend. With a cross on his shoulders the Monk Gregory crossed over the River Pel'shema and erected the cross in a forested thicket at the river bank. The first monk in the new monastery was the priest Alexei, in monasticism Alexander. In 1426 was built at the monastery a church in honour of the MostHoly Mother of God. Its icons were written by the Monk Dionysii, and the Monk Gregory himself copied the sacred texts for the monastery. Gradually the number of monks increased, the monastery spread out and became all the more known. The Monk Gregory concerned himself over the nurturing of piety at the monastery, and at the same time he shared in the destiny of his fatherland. In the year 1433 he went to Moscow in order to prevail upon the Galich prince Yurii Dimitrievich, who had seized the Moscow principality from Vasilii Vasilievich the Dark, to return Moscow to prince Vasilii. Prince Yurii obeyed the monastic elder. But in 1434 the son of prince Yurii, Dimitrii Shemyaka, began to ravage the Vologda lands, belonging to Great-prince. The Monk Gregory, distraught over the discord and violence, set out to Dimitrii Shemyaka and turned to him with bold words. "Prince Dimitrii, – said the monk, ‑- thou doest deeds not Christian. Better it were that thou had gone into a pagan land to a vile people not knowing God. Widows and orphans cry out against thee to God. How many people from thee wilt perish from hunger and cold, and if soon thou cease not the fratricide, the bloodshed and violence, then soon thou shalt lose both glory and princedom". After this bold denunciation, Shemyaka gave orders to thrown the holy elder off a bridge. For several hours the monk lay there unmoving. But his denunciations produced the desired effect, and Shemyaka soon quit Vologda. The courage of the monk but heightened the veneration of him. Before his end, he communed the Holy Mysteries, spoke a guidance to the brethren, and appointed as hegumen of the monastery his fellow ascetic Alexander. The Monk Gregory reposed on 30 September 1442 and was buried in the monastery founded by him.

© 1996-2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos.