St. Maria of Paris
How can St. Maria intercede for us?
St. Maria was someone who experience many of the very same temptations and struggles which we may face in our lives. She did not practice the Faith in her youth and was swept away by political ideology, both of which are temptations many young Orthodox Christians experience today.
She had to learn to love the “least of the brethren” around her, in the faces of the poor, the homeless, alcoholics, the mentally ill, and during the Holocaust, the Jews. Mother Maria was persecuted by those in power in order to do what she knew was right, by working with Fr. Dimitry to forge baptismal certificates for Jews. Through all of her earthly sufferings, St. Maria is all the more fit to intercede at the throne of the Lord on our behalf.
She can be prayed to during times of temptation, doubt, faithlessness, and persecution for our faith.
The Life of St. Maria
Mother Maria was born in Latvia in 1891. Like many of the pre-Revolutionary Russian intelligentsia, she was an atheist and a political radical in her youth, but gradually came to accept the truths of the Faith. After the Revolution, she became part of the large Russian émigré population of Paris. There she was tonsured as a nun by Metropolitan Evlogy, and devoted herself to a life of service to the poor.
With a small community of fellow-believers, she established “houses of hospitality” for the poor, the homeless, the alcoholic. She was also known to visit Russian émigrés in mental hospitals. In 1939, Metropolitan Evlogy sent Fr. Dimitry to serve Mother Maria’s community. Fr. Dimitry proved to be a partner, committed even unto death, in the community’s work among the poor.
When the Nazis took Paris in 1940, Mother Maria, Fr. Dimitry, and others in the community chose to remain in the city to care for those who had come to count on them. As Nazi persecution of Jews in France increased, the Orthodox community’s work expanded to include protection and care of the most helpless. Fr. Dimitry was asked to provide forged certificates of baptism to preserve the lives of Jews and always complied. Eventually, this work led to the arrest of Mother Maria, Fr. Dimitry, and their associates.
Mother Maria was sent to Ravensbruck concentration camp, while Fr. Dimitry was sent to Buchenwald. After great sufferings, they both perished, along with others from their community who followed them.
It is believed that Mother Maria’s last act was to take the place of a Jewish woman who was being sent to death in the gas chambers, voluntarily dying in her place.
Mother Maria and her companions were glorified by the Patriarchate of Constantinople in 2004.
Feast Day: July 20th
- As a young woman, St. Maria was caught up in the ideologies of her day and lost her faith in Christ. How do we safeguard ourselves from becoming caught up in the passing ideologies of our day? How do we discern how to engage in civil society and culture while still remaining faithful to St. Paul’s advice in his letter to the Colossians, “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ”?
- The work of St. Maria and her associates to forge baptismal certificates for Jews in Nazi controlled France brings up the interesting question of civil disobedience for the sake of one’s moral duty. How do their actions in this situation correlate to a situation in our lives as Orthodox Christian college students? When might we be called to civil disobedience for the sake of the Gospel?
- Consider this quote from St. Maria, “Our neighbor’s cross should be a sword that pierces our soul. To co-participate, co-feel, co-suffer, with our neighbor’s destiny – this is love.” What do you think this quote means? What does it look like to love our neighbor according to St. Maria’s definition?
Learn her Troparion
“Through the sufferings which the saints have endured for Your sake, O Lord, we beseech You to heal all of our infirmities, O Good Friend of Man.” (Mode 1)
Pray to her
O Holy Saint Maria of Paris, after years of doubt you found the pearl of great price. Understanding this gift of True Faith to be more precious than all else, you took up the monastic life to carry your neighbor’s Cross without fear of earthly consequences. Instill in our hearts also this unshakeable, curious Faith which you held in your heart to the point of martyrdom. Through your intercessions and the prayers of all the saints, may Christ our God have mercy upon us and save us, Amen.
St. John Maximovitch