A brave soldier turned saint

Venerable Joannicus: A life in God that brought forth abundant fruits

November 16, 2021

Venerable Joannicus

Venerable Joannicius the Great was born in 752 AD to a poor peasant family in the Roman region of Bithynia. He never had a formal education, but his closeness to God gave him the wisdom to offer spiritual guidance to others and write worship texts. He made a brilliant career in the Roman Army, but forsook it for the sake of a long life of prayer and asceticism, dying peacefully at age 94.

He reached adulthood during the reign of the Roman Emperor Leo IV, who had all able-bodied men drafted into the imperial army. As a soldier, he was brave and fearless. He was a menace to the enemy and had earned deep respect among his peers. Quickly, he became an officer and received an invitation to the personal service of the emperor. He declined, and asked the emperor for leave to retire from the army and dedicate his life to the service of God

For several years, he lived in a monastery practising obedience and prayer before venturing into the wilderness of a desert for three years, with no other visitors but a shepherd who brought him food once a month. He acquired fame for his spiritual guidance, miraculous healings and friendship with animals.

A monk who questioned the saint’s miracle-working powers once came to visit him, and as they were eating at the table, a bear broke into their cell. Joannicus talked to the bear, and it lay at his feet. To his flabbergasted visitor, he explained, "Man was made in the image of God, and at his creation, animals looked at him with veneration, and man had no fear of them. No animal can harm us if we live by God’s law.”

The relics of Saint Joannicus are found at the Monastery of the Pantocrator on Mount Athos. Multiple miracles have been attributed to them. To the church and the faithful, he left his famous prayer to the Holy Trinity, “The Father is my hope, the Son is my refuge, the Holy Spirit is my protection.”

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