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St. Petka, the Wondrous Healer and Serbian Patron Saint

Centuries are passing, and the story of the saint continues to inspire the hearts of the faithful, strengthening the faith, taking us back, ever again, to its very essence. All those who received her help tell the same story about a woman in a black cloak. The miraculous visions of St. Petka (St. Parascheva of the Balkans, or St. Parascheva the New, which we celebrate on October 27) are happening to this day - the saint helps in sickness and trouble, but also warns those who sin. She saved many lives and directed them to the right path of faith.

It is well known about the cult of St. Petka in Serbia. Many families celebrate her as their patron saint (according to the number of families in Serbia, St. Petka is in fifth place - behind St. Nicholas, St. John the Baptist, St. George, and Archangel Michael). Numerous Serbian temples are consecrated to her, and there believers ask for her help and rescue when beset by diseases and other miseries.

„A Woman in Black“

According to the numerous collected testimonies, St. Petka appears not only in sleep, but also in reality. She is most often seen as a "woman in black" (while to Moldovans she appears more frequently in white clothes). The venerable Mother Parascheva usually comforts and soothes those who respect her and visit her churches. Sometimes she brings news about healings, but she also reports troubles and warns about breaking the fast on Fridays or working on Sundays.

The story from the village of Vitanovac near Kraljevo with a fortunate ending was preserved in an unusual way. A housewife went outside to wait for the bus with her husband, to wave at him showing not to leave the bus farther in the village, but to hurry home because of an obligation. It was a feast day. While waiting for the bus, a van hit the woman, threw her off the road, and she remained lying there without consciousness.

She woke up in the hospital while receiving a shot. After the nurse left, "a woman in black next to the bed" remained with her. "Your child was supposed to suffer, but you took her place," she said. "Don't sue the driver who hit you. When you get well, go to the church of St. Petka and light a candle... Why did you work on the feast day? And why do you work on Sundays?" When she fell asleep, the woman saw the inside of the church of St. Petka and the icons on the wall. When she came out of the hospital, she went to the church of St. Petka and told the story to the priest.

Miraculous Relics of St. Petka

Saint Petka, a historical figure canonised in the Orthodox Church, was one of the greatest missionaries of Christian faith. She is respected today throughout the Orthodox world, and members of other religions, believing in her healing powers, come to venerate her sacred relics resting in the city of Iasi in Romania. Women of all faiths especially venerate her and consider her their protector.

Saint Parascheva was born in Epivat, a small town not far from Constantinople, in Asia Minor, at the end of the 10th, or, according to other sources, at the beginning of the 11th century. Serbian bishop and saint Nikolaj Velimirović wrote that she was of Serbian origin. She spent many years in the Jordanian desert, fasting and praying in complete seclusion. In her advanced age, an angel appeared in her dream, and told her to come back to her homeland to spread Christian faith.

Miracles have occurred on her grave for centuries. Bulgarian Emperor John Asen transferred the relics of St. Paraskeva to his capital, Trnovo in 1238. When the Turks conquered Bulgaria, the relics were taken, by the command of Sultan Bayezid, to the Moldovan city of Iasi. Princess Milica of Serbia managed to acquire the saint's relics in 1396 and place them in the church of Ružica, at the Belgrade fortress Kalemegdan. It is said that they have been resting in the rock beside the Kalemegdan chapel and the spring of St. Petka since the time of Despot Stefan Lazarevic, and that the Orthodox and the Catholics as well as Mohammedans, the occupiers of Serbia during the time, came to venerated them. The cult of the saint in Serbia grew at the end of the 14th century, after the Battle of Kosovo and the start of the Turkish rule, when many intelligent and spiritual people found shelter in the Serbian country. Sultan Suleiman II transferred the relics of St. Parascheva in 1521 to Constantinople.

Finally, in 1641, Parthenius, the patriarch of Constantinople, handed over the relics to Moldovan prince Vasile Lupu, who took them to Iasi and laid them in the church of the Holy Three Hierarchs. The Saint's relics are found today in the beautiful Metropolitan Cathedral in the town of Iasi (with over 50 churches, it is known as areligious center and the most important place of pilgrimage on Romanian soil).

"The first and the greatest miracle of St. Petka is the mere fact that her body, which was buried for years, did not decompose. Her sacred relics really look like a body of a live person who had just fallen asleep"- the authors of the monograph Saint Petka - the Serbian Feast Day and the Protector of the Faithful note, emphasising that the grace of God has manifested itself through her relics for centuries, as seen in miraculous healings, the curing of multitudes who come to pray to her, regardless of their religion and nationality.

One of the recent testimonies is about a student of a music academy who was ill with leukemia. "After a lot of effort, the doctors said there is nothing else they could do for her. Then the parents, overwhelmed by pain, rushed to the miraculous healer, the relics of the saint, with strong faith, prayers and tears, to heal their daughter. For two months, the priests of the Cathedral and their parents, together with their daughter, prayed to God and the Most Holy for a healing. After ardent prayers, the girl was completely healed from leukemia, so that all the doctors were amazed, and at the start of the following school year she returned to the Academy for lectures."

Centuries are passing, and the story of the saint continues to inspire the hearts of the faithful, strengthening the faith, taking us back, ever again, to its very essence.

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