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    RUSSIA CELEBRATES A HOLIDAY COMMEMORATING BLESSED XENIA OF ST. PETERSBURG

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    MOSCOW, February 6 (RIA Novosti, Olga Lipich) - On Sunday, the Russian Orthodox Church celebrates a holiday commemorating the Blessed Xenia of St. Petersburg, who is considered a Holy Patroness of St. Petersburg (the Russian capital in 1712-1918).

    Traditionally, the Orthodox believers in St. Petersburg hold festive prayer ceremonies in the Church of the Smolensk Icon of the Mother of God and in the Blessed Xenia Chapel at the Smolensk cemetery. Blessed Xenia participated in the construction of the church and is buried at the Smolensk cemetery.

    Blessed Xenia lived in St. Petersburg at the end of the 18th century-early 19th century. She was the wife of imperial chorister, Colonel Andrei Petrov. Widowed at the age of 26, she "called upon herself the highest feat of spiritual perfection, that of being a fool for Christ's sake [faked insanity]," according to the church legend of her life story.

    She gave away literally all that she possessed to the poor, clothed herself in one of her late husband's old uniforms and linens and thereafter refused to respond to the name of Xenia Grigorievna, answering instead only to the name of her late husband, Andrei Feodorovich. The rest of her life (45 years), she spent on a long pilgrimage of wandering through the streets of the poorer district of St. Petersburg known as the Petersburg Borough (Peterburgskaya Storona).

    According to legend, gradually people began to realize that the ragged old woman was no mere beggar but someone who possessed the God's gift of clairvoyance, and after her prayers God helped people to overcome difficult situations in life.

    Lifetime and afterlife miracles glorified Blessed Xenia and she was canonized in 1988.

    People pray to the Blessed Xenia of St. Petersburg to heal physical and spiritual ailments, and plea for her help in family matters (for example, it is believed that she helps young women to find their future husbands and get married). According to tradition, manybelievers write little notes with their supplications and put them in the crack of the wall of the Blessed Xenia Chapel at the Smolensk cemetery.

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