Yandex Metrika
A new martyr who resisted apostasy with his example and good works

Saint Philosophus Ornatsky: sharing in the ways of the Apostles

saint philosophus ornatsky

Philosophus Ornatsky (1860 – 1918) came from the family of a village priest in Russia’s Novgorod Governorship. His father gave him his name in honour of the Holy Fathers of the ancient Church who fearlessly preached Christ among the Pagans. In 1885, Philosophus graduated from the Saint Petersburg Religious academy with the degree of Candidate of Theology and went in his father's footsteps. He accepted his ordination and served as a parish priest until he was elected to the Duma in 1893.

The beginning of his service to the church coincided with the tragic death of Tsar Alexander II at the hands of revolutionary assassins. To him, it was a symptom of a destructive social ill: the abandonment of the Russian traditions and Orthodox faith by significant sections of the Russian society, especially its educated classes. Ornatsky wrote: “The structures of our lives are being shattered to the core. Religion and faith have been declared irrelevant and obsolete, and service to man is taking the place of service to God.” Estrangement from the faith and searching for truth outside it were becoming widespread throughout Russian society. Philosophus dedicated his life to opposing these trends with his example, preaching, almsgiving, and enlightenment work.

Father Philosophus directed the construction of hostels, orphanages and almshouses across Saint Petersburg. In 1895, he established religious enlightenment courses for the workers of the fabric pleaching plant. He presided over the establishment of a technical college that gave its students general secondary education and a profession. He became its headmaster and teacher of scripture knowledge.

In 1900, he headed a commission on reforming the teaching of Catechism in the secondary schools of the Ministry of Education. Despite the near-universal teaching of the subject, its contribution to moral education and religious enlightenment was poor. He advocated for a reform that would transform the teacher's role from an instructor to shepherd and increase curriculum flexibility. He also called for the publication of a study bible to supplement the textbook.

Father Philosophus had a large family. He was a father of ten children. Their lifestyle was very modest, and Philosophus had to supplement his income with tutoring to support the family. He also presided over the construction of churches. In this role, he managed large sums of money, but he never succumbed to the temptation to divert a single rouble. When World War 1 began, he moved from his large dwelling to make room for a hospital for the wounded and went to live in a small condominium.

In Saint-Petersburg, many sought friendships with him. Saint John of Kronstadt (14 July) shared his views on church life and was one of his closest friends. They were also related: Philosophus’ younger brother was married to his niece. Saint John of Kronstadt was a frequent and welcome visitor to the home of the Ornatskys.

The February Revolution that brought down the monarchy and installed the Provisional Government began a time of upheaval and great trouble for Russia. All segments of the Russian society were affected, including the clergy. Some advocated "democracy” and “renewal", and others became schismatics. As a gifted speaker and preacher, he opposed the distortion of the faith by the renewalists and liberals.

The Bolsheviks, who succeeded the Provisional Government, considered his speeches too incendiary and took revenge. On 19 July 1918, three armed security officers came to his house and ordered him to go with them. They assured him that it was only a formality, and two of his sons agreed to accompany him. Eventually, all three were executed. Father Philosophus went to the execution with calm, reading aloud the prayers for the departure of the soul.

In August 2000, the Archbishop's Council of the Russian Orthodox Church glorified Philosophus and his sons Boris and Nicholai for veneration as saints. Named in honour of the saints of the early church, Father Philosophus repeated their exploit, giving testimony of his faith in Christ.

June 12, 2023
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