As a little boy, Nikolai Anisimov particularly loved going to church when the bishop was serving. "Dear Lord," he prayed, "please make me a bithop." His prayer was heard. After laboring as a missionary in far away Kamchatka, he became not only a bishop, but a metropolitan.
Kolya's father was a military man; he was rather stern and had no affection for Kolya, favoring his older brother, Hilary. On birthdays and at Christmas, for example, Hilary would receive a big, beautiful present, while Kolya would only get a coin. This hurt Kolya, but at the same time it caused the boy to seek consolation from God, his Heavenly Father. When he grew older, his mother explained that when Kolya was born his father had wanted a girl, and he took out his displeasure on his son. In later years their relationship improved, but it was hard for Kolya as he was growing up.
Kolya's mother was very pious and she supported his religious inclination, which was preserved and even intensified during his school years. What money he received he spent on paper icons of various saints. He would read the short Life printed on the back, and on the saint's feastday, he would put the saint's icon in his icon corner and feel that on that day that saint was his special protector.
When Kolya reached school age, his family moved from Vyatka, where he was born, to the city of Kazan. His grandmother, however, remained in Vyatka, and the family usually spent summers there with her.
It was during one of these summer visits that Kolya's mother became gravely ill. When the doctors pronounced her case to be hopeless, Kolya was inconsolable. But just then he learned that Fr. John of Kronstadt had come to Vyatka. Kolya had heard that Fr. John was a man who worked miracles by his prayers, and his heart lit up with hope. "If Batiushka prays for Mama," he thought, "surely she will get well." But how was he to get through to Fr. John? Wherever he went, he was met by great throngs of people. Kolya decided to go to the archbishop. Maybe he could help. The archbishop advised him to bring his sick mother to the service, but she was much too sick and too weak to leave their house.
Kolya did not give up. He went to the chief of police and succeeded in obtaining a pass allowing him access to those houses which Fr. John was scheduled to visit. Thanks to this piece of paper, Kolya was able to get past the crowds and into one house where Fr. John was serving a moleben. An elderly abbess there noticed the tearful boy, and relayed his request, but everywhere the answer was the same: Fr. John has a very tight schedule and cannot possibly fit in any more houses. Nevertheless, the kind abbess made note of the boy's address.
Kolya's mother grew weaker and weaker. That day and the next, Kolya followed Fr. John wherever he went, but he always hurried home, afraid that his mother would die without him.
After all his vain attempts to have Fr. John come to his mother, Kolya was riding home in a horse-drawn cab when he met a whole line of carriages. Someone recognized him and shouted, "Your house! Batiushka's going to your house!" The cabby urged his horse along at top speed in order to overtake Fr. John. When they reached his house, Kolya raced in to announce that Fr. John would be there at any moment. He quickly prepared a table for a moleben. Within a few minutes, Fr. John arrived, followed by a crowd of people, filling the room. "Where is the sick woman?" asked Batiushka. When she was brought into the room, Fr. John took her head and pressed it to his chest. "Poor slave of God, Antonina." He then began the moleben. He prayed with that great boldness which made such a profound impression on those present. "Never in my life have I felt so clearly the power of prayer as I did on that holy and unforgettable occasion," Metropolitan Nestor wrote later. Before leaving, Fr. John told the family to have a priest come straightway and give the sick woman Holy Communion. They did so, and Kolya's mother had a long confession and received the Holy Mysteries. That same day she got out of bed, and soon recovered completely.
When Kolya was in high school, his father was transferred back to Vyatka. He wanted Kolya, after graduating to continue his education at a military academy, following the example of his older brother. This did not appeal to poor Kolya at all. The one consolation was that the military academy was in Kazan, which meant that he had some hope of occasionally seeing his beloved spiritual father, his "abba," Archimandrite Andrei.
The time came for exams. Kolya went up to the blackboard, where he was to solve some mathematical problem. His mind drew a blank, and he wrote: He that dwelleth in the help of the Most High shall abide in the shelter of His wings (Ps. 90). The examiners were flabbergasted. "What?! Don't you know anything else?" "Nothing," answered Kolya. He was expelled on the spot. Then he ran to his abba, and there he remained until he was sent as a missionary to Kamchatka.
Adapted from a longer biography in Nadezhda #7
See Metropolitan Nestor, Missionary to Kamchatka
A delightful, dramatized life of Metropolitan Nestor has been produced in Russian for children by Your Story Hour. Originally a radio broadcast, it is available on audio tape from the producers ($8.10 + $10.60 for UPS, ppd.): P.O. Box 15, Berrien Springs, MI 49103.[../../_private/oabot.htm]