Rarely are we privileged to see the making of a saint, but it is just what this book gives us for John of Kronstadt (1829-1908), a major figure in the religious life of Late Imperial Russia. So popular was Father John during his years of ministry that Kronstadt became a pilgrimage site replete with peddlers selling souvenir photographs, postcards, and commemorative mugs. A Prodigal Saint follows Father John's development from activist priest to venerated spiritual leader and, after his death, to his elevation to sainthood in 1990. We see both the inner life of an aspiring saint and the symbiotic relationship between a living icon and his followers. Father John represented a fundamentally new type of religious behavior and a new standard of sanctity in Late Imperial Russia. He ministered to the poor of Kronstadt, creating shelters and employment programs and participating in the temperance movement. In the process he acquired a reputation for prayerful intercession that soon spread beyond Kronstadt. When he was asked to minister to the dying Alexander III in 1894, his fame became international as he attracted correspondents from the United States and Europe. In his later years he allied himself increasingly with the radical right, which has had momentous implications for the Russian Orthodox Church in the twentieth century.
Nadieszda Kizenko is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Albany. She has contributed articles to Russian Review, Pravoslavnaia Rus', PSALM Notes, Russkoe Vozrozhdenie, and Peace and Change.