Icon Linked to Czar Nicholas Is Focus of Wonders in poor Florida Parish
By Michael H. Brown
It is a tiny little church and it serves the poor in a place called Pahokee amid the fronds of towering royal palms and acres of water grass that waver in the breeze.
It is on Lake Okeechobee in south-central Florida and it is a poor place, a very poor place, with room for at most 75 of the faithful, a church that services migrant Mexican workers in the diocese of Palm Beach -- which, ironically, at least in parts, is one of the nation's wealthiest.
It is not in the wealthy sections of the Diocese of Palm Beach, at least not for our purposes today, that the miracles occur.
It is in Pahokee, and to give you an idea of the poverty: in the neighboring city of Belle Glade, the latest figures say that forty percent of all the city’s 5,472 households have incomes below $15,000. In Pahokee it is higher but still far below the national average.
This is in contrast, of course, to the yachts parked in front of mansions in West Palm Beach and the glimmer of cars in other parts of the diocese like Jupiter Beach with model plates that say things like "Rolls Royce" and "Bentley."
One day in the 1990s the pastor of this church, which is called St. Mary, and which is one of the diocese's oldest (besides the poorest), was strolling around those wealthy parts when he spotted beautiful angels in the window of what is known as the House of Kahn, which deals, as if most people would know, in "estate jewelry." This was Palm Beach. A priest from the poorest church -- really, a chapel -- amid all that wealth! His name is Father John Mericantante.
The House of Kahn buys and sells in major world capitals, according to its website, which adds, "They specialize in rare, one-of-a-kind jewels and works of art for the tastes and requirements of the serious collector, the astute investor, or the discriminating buyer. They also purchase jewelry from banks, executors of estates and private individuals."
Father Mericantane wasn't interested in all that. He was interested in those angels and walked in and began speaking to a Jewish woman named Adele Kahn who happened to be the owner. A Jew!
And there, inside, the priest noticed a gorgeous icon of the Blessed Mother (with Infant).
It was almost too dazzling for the eyes: a soled silver frame encrusted with pearls, diamonds, emeralds, sapphires, rubies, garnets. But it wasn't the jewels that caught the priest's eyes. It was "the simple sacred images of Mary and Jesus, looking out at us imploring us to notice them, to speak to them, to pray to them," the priest recalled.
It was also the history:
Father Mericantante was to learn (to his astonishment) that the icon had been painted by a Russian monk in the 16th century and once had been owned by Czar Nicholas II -- the saintly ruler of Russia who was forced to leave the throne and eventually murdered when Lenin rose to power in 1917!
This was an icon that had been on the cutting edge of history.
It was one of a number of precious icons held by the lineage of Russian czars, of which were said to hold miraculous powers.
In fact, at the very moment of the Czar's (or "Tsar's") abdication -- three o'clock on March 2, 1917 -- a miracle took place that attested to God's love for Russia.
In the village of Kolomenskoye, near Moscow -- according to a revelation of the Mother of God -- a search had been taking place for several days for another icon called "The Reigning Mother of God." This icon had gone at the head of the Russian army in 1812 as it drove Napoleon out of Russia.
But then this wonder-working icon had been forgotten and seemingly lost. No one knew about its fate. And only on March 1, 1917, a day before the abdication, did a pious widow by the name of Eudocia receive a revelation to search for the icon in the village of Kolomenskoye. She looked through both of the churches of the village, but did not find the icon. Then she asked whether they had any old icons.
They told her that there were some in the basement. She asked to go there, and she and a deacon went down into the basement. "And truly, there were many old, dust-covered icons there. They began to wipe them one by one. But they still did not find the icon they were looking for.
But when she came up to the icon "The Reigning Mother of God," Eudocia cried out: "That's her!" although it was still covered with a thick layer of dust which made it impossible to recognize. When they cleaned it, it was true: the wonder-working icon of the Mother of God had been found.
It depicted the Mother of God seated on a throne, her countenance both stern and sorrowful, an orb and scepter in her hands and the Christ-child giving a blessing in her lap, with God the Father looking down from above.
This icon soon miraculously renewed itself -- according to accounts -- and the robe of the Mary was seen to be blood red, something which had been foretold also in the dream. Services were written to this icon and many people made the pilgrimage to venerate it. Healings, both of physical and mental infirmities, began to take place before it. Found, there amid the dust...
Had the one now in House of Kahn in Palm Beach also been there?
We don't know. What is relevant is that Czar Nicholas was a very holy man who prayed incessantly and once requested to be a monk instead of leader of Russia and who had not only great devotion but an affinity for the poor.
This we know. We also know that he deeply venerated icons, and that he owned the one that had been handed down and was now -- when Father Mercantante came upon it, in the 1990s -- in a plush Palm Beach gallery.
It was an icon that had been witness to everything from Ivan the Terrible to Catherine the Great to the revolution of Communism -- at which time the icon, possessed by the dethroned and soon murdered Czar (an Orthodox saint), was smuggled to London in 1917, where it was sold to raise funds for the beleaguered Czar's survivors.
"Adele had obtained it in a funny way," Father Mericantante told Spirit Daily. "She was opening a store and the first day a friend came in with an icon he had obtained in London."
It was the icon of Mary, and this friend of the Kahns had given it to Adele when she and her husband had opened their shop to see if she could sell it.
At first they thought it was a joke, but right off a stranger came into the shop, put down a substantial down payment and then, mysteriously enough, never returned.
This the Kahns considered good luck, and decided to keep the treasure -- worth $350,000 on the market, but, really, priceless.
It was considered a "lucky charm" and indeed when the Kahns were later robbed, the thief spotted the icon in their safe but didn't take it because he thought it was "junk"!
And now we come to the present.
Starting in 1995, Adele began visiting St. Mary Church in Pahokee out there in the boondocks as a favor to Father Mericantante and bringing the icon with her. The first time was Christmas Eve. She brought it so that those poor Mexican migrants could venerate it. They really took to it.
In 2000, noticing the effect it had on the devout, and especially on Father Mericantante, Adele Kahn gave it to the church.
And that has been followed, says Father Mericantante, by what seem like miraculous intercessions.
It was during a Marian celebration that the priest got his first inkling of a charism as people came and prayed before the icon.
It seemed especially effective, he recalled, at bringing pregnancies to couples who were having trouble in that regard.
There were other indications of the miraculous, including when a parishioner named Evodio Saucedo claimed to see an apparition of Mary in the small church, an apparition that he said came out of the icon.
And so in this poor little church in Pahokee which no one ever heard of, is an icon once owned by an historical czar or "tsar" -- an icon that seems to have an anointing.
"We've gotten everything we've asked for," says Father Mericantante, clicking off a list of answered prayers:
When they needed a clinic, the money came for a clinic. When they needed a doctor, they suddenly got their doctor. When they needed a new building for an after-school program, that also arrived. When he prayed for $48,000 they needed to enlarge the clinic, the money came the next day.
Note that they were prayers of unselfishness.
How the Blessed Mother was honoring the poor!
When they needed $40,000 for a youth center, a man donated the money from a stock deal and they found a building next door for $39,500!
"I could go on for ever," says the priest.
Now, they are praying for a new church...
Meanwhile, the icon will remain with Father Mericantante wherever he ministers, and after he is gone, says the priest, it is the Kahns' request that it be given to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.
Oh, a fitting place, there where Christ was crucified; a fitting place for an icon that was owned by a holy tsar who has been canonized by his Church and who faced his own Golgotha.
[see also: St. Mary Church, map of parish, the tsar's incredible history, and a miracle with another icon linked to tsar's icons]
Return to archive page
You are at www.spiritdaily.org