Several years ago I was introduced to the figure of Saint Seraphim of Sarov ((1759-1833). He was a monk, priest, hermit and ascetic. He was known for his wisdom and humanity. In the Orthodox church he held the title of “startsy,” that is, a charismatic elder (in the strict sense of the word) “anointed” by the Holy Spirit with the gifts of prophesy, healing, discernment of God’s will. Saint Seraphim, you might say, was a spiritual father.
There is a story about Saint Seraphim that gives an interesting side to the man. It reads something to this effect,
“Two nuns from a
certain convent once came to visit Saint Seraphim. Suddenly a bear lumbered
unexpectedly out of the woods and frightened the visitors with his appearance.
“Misha,” – said the saint, – “why do you frighten the poor orphans! Go back and
bring us a treat, otherwise I have nothing to offer to my guests.” Hearing
these words, the bear went back into the woods, and two hours later he tumbled
into the holy elder’s cell and gave him something covered with leaves. It was a
fresh honeycomb of purest honey. Father Seraphim took a piece of bread from his
bag, gave it to the bear, pointed to the door – and the bear left immediately.”
I wonder if Saint Seraphim is invoked by those who have troubled bears? I am sure his guidance would be helpful.