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John, the Fool for Christ's sake from modern Athens

Few can carry the cross of Christ, mockery, humiliation, ridicule and suffer hardships. But here is a man of God, our contemporary "fool for Christ's sake". Only after he passed away, people who knew him began to exchange stories about him and concluded that among them he was not a madman, but a great saint who could only become such by the great grace of Christ.

Fool for Christ John was the brilliance of Christ in an ordinary modern Athenian neighborhood, with its ordinary and everyday problems. He lived in a small modest apartment that he inherited from his mother; it was one of 20 apartments that made up that apartment building. He worked in a nearby bakery and would start his work at dawn. In that same bakery, he would always fill two bags with loaves of bread and dough rolls, and then he would rush to distribute them to the elderly, women and students in his neighborhood, and he would give most of his salary to the poor.

He was in the habit of ringing the doorbell freely, not only in his apartment building, but also in nearby ones. He would introduce himself to everyone and ask if he could help them in any way. "How are you this morning?" Do you have a problem that I can help you with? How are your children?" - asked Jovan. At first some people pushed him. The others would slam the door in his face, refusing to speak to him – clearly annoyed by his unexpected presence. But there were others who were actually waiting for Crazy John to come, to hear some nice words from him. In time he got to know them all; he knew their peculiarities, but also their character traits.

In the evening, the fool for Christ John would go to his modest home and pray there. He loved to read the Psalter; when someone asked him why he was reading, he would answer: "It's to drive away small pests (demons) from the neighborhood..." John, a Jew for Christ's sake, usually wore visibly damaged clothes. Many pitied him, seeing him in that condition, and would give him money. They would say:

Here, take this, madman, and buy yourself some pants and a normal shirt to wear.” He would thank them, and take the money. Then he would put the money in an envelope, add some of his salary to it, and slip the envelope under the necks of those he knew needed it.

One day, the fool for Christ did not come to work. The baker he worked for became worried because he never missed work, so he sent someone to pick up Jovan. They saw him cleaning gutters around the neighborhood, and he just replied, "I'm trying to find the two coins I lost this morning." But I can't remember which of these five drains they fell into, so I opened all five. And since I had already opened them, I thought I would clean them when I was already there."

As soon as he heard about the crazy idea, the baker thought of firing him. But later that afternoon, the sky began to darken. Black clouds gathered quickly and thunder started with a heavy downpour. The streets soon turned into rivers, washing everything in front of them – including the cars on the street.

The mayor visited the municipalities and noticed that only in the neighborhood where John lived there was no damage. The merchant, who had earlier mocked the local man for cleaning, told the mayor: "Mr. Mayor, you should go and thank the fool for Christ John who cleaned these drains this morning." His madness saved us, thanks to his mania to find two lost coins!”

John's neighbor told how he prevented her acquaintance from cheating on her husband. John came to the staircase of a house and began to sing church songs out loud. A young man was walking in front of the house, who soon left, and after that, the witness entered the house. Thinking that the poor guy was bothering her friend, the neighbor went to her…

The fool for Christ's sake John was sitting at the kitchen table, eating something the girl had served him. Her five-year-old son was standing next to him. Turning to the boy, the soothsayer began to tell him that one of the ten commandments of God is: Do not commit adultery!

"You know, George, adultery is not something that pleases God. Adultery opens the door to Satan, who then enters the home and wreaks havoc. Then families are torn apart, and diseases and pain and hatred enter through the window, and God's blessing, which is given in the Holy Sacrament of Marriage, is driven away. A man and a woman – like your dad and your mom – become one flesh in marriage, Georgie, one flesh... Adultery, it's like cutting off your hand!

The neighbor got annoyed at that and started yelling at him for saying such things to a child. Her friend intervened and said that it was all her fault. Namely, she met a young man in a café that she liked and they agreed that he should come to her house while her husband was on a business trip. At the agreed time, the young man did not come, but John, who pointed out the harmfulness of her intention.

After John's death, two girls that the neighbors did not know came to his neighborhood and were looking for him. "My name is Aretha, and my friend, Calliope, works with me at the Children's Hospital. A few years ago, we met Jovan the Clown. That's how we knew him, the one you call fool for Christ's sake John. He would come almost every Sunday afternoon, always with lots of toys. He would give them to the children and play with them. He loved them all, but he paid special attention to newborn babies who were raised alone in the hospital because their parents abandoned them. He would bring them clothes and toys and always leave some money for the nurses on duty, in case the children needed something and he wasn't around. Unlike you, we didn't think he was crazy. He entertained children like no other, as the best clown..."

"He was telling us: "Isn't it strange how people today care more about animals and don't pay attention to these little children? I am not saying that we should not love birds and animals. We should care about them too, but how much more should we care about the suffering humanity that is made in the image of God? We must all become modern-day Good Samaritans, and lay down our lives if necessary, to comfort our neighbor."

The fool for Christ John predicted his death. He left a letter in which he addressed people he knew personally. After he passed away, people who knew him began to exchange stories about him, and they concluded that among them he was not a madman, but a great saint who could only become such by the great grace of Christ.

Taken from the magazine "Pravoslavni put"

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