Hieromartyr Sergius Florinsky of Rakvere
Commemorated December 30
Saint Sergius was born on March 4, 1873 in Suzdal, where his father served as a priest. He graduated from seminary in 1893, and married Elizabeth Ivanovna Smolensk just before his ordination to the priesthood on March 5, 1900.
Saint Sergius was appointed to serve as a chaplain in the Russian army, where he was attached to the 151st Infantry Regiment of Pyatigorsk. Saint Sergius was honored by the military as a distinguished priest and gifted pastor who ministered to his regiment without pause. He helped to guide and support his soldiers through both the Russo- Japanese War and World War I.
His regimental commander, Colonel D. L. Ardaziani wrote that “Father Sergius is an exemplary pastor in all respects, an irreplaceable clergyman on the battlefield, and a fine man."
On June 22, 1917, Saint Sergius received a new appointment, to serve as a chaplain at the field hospital in Wesenberg (now Rakvere, Estonia). He served in the hospital until its closure on March 22, 1918.
Earlier, in January, the hospital refused the order handed down by the Bolshevik People’s Commissariat to dismiss all clergy from the military. At the request of the entire staff, he remained at the hospital until it was disbanded.
On December 16, 1918 the Red Army occupied Wesenberg. Three days later, Saint Sergius was arrested as a representative of the old reactionary regime and as a suspicious person in Eastland without a primary occupation. He was also accused of involvement with the anti-Bolshevik resistance. On December 20, he was interrogated, and on December 26, 1918, he was sentenced to death. To his interrogator, Saint Sergius said, “I am guilty of one thing, that I am a priest, and for this I sign my name."
On December 30, he was shot with other convicts in the woods of Palermo, where a memorial stone now stands. In total, more than 80 people were executed. After the departure of the Bolsheviks, all who were shot were reburied. Father Sergius was then buried in the town cemetery.
In 2002, Father Sergius was canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church as a martyr. During his exhumation in 2003, it was clear that most of his body did not decompose. The remains of the saint were recognized as holy relics, and were exhibited for veneration in the Church of the Nativity of the Theotokos in Rakvere.