“As A Child, I Dreamed Of Becoming A Saint”: How The Children Of Priests Live

A life 2023

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“As A Child, I Dreamed Of Becoming A Saint”: How The Children Of Priests Live
“As A Child, I Dreamed Of Becoming A Saint”: How The Children Of Priests Live
Video: “As A Child, I Dreamed Of Becoming A Saint”: How The Children Of Priests Live
Video: One man's fight to have the Church recognize children of priests - ENN 2019-02-21 2023, February

There are limitations in the life of priests which often concern loved ones. Their families are by definition more "traditional". However, there are many myths around church-going families - as if they cannot have anything worldly, for example, to live happily. We talked with people who grew up in the families of Orthodox priests about how their childhood went, what their parents forbade them, and how their religious upbringing influenced their future.


Yulia Dudkina



(name has been changed)


As a child, we went to services every Sunday, and often also on Saturday nights. From those times I have pleasant memories of the temple: there were beautiful vestments, something mysterious was happening. In addition, children were usually allowed to go forward, to the very altar. We went to one of the oldest Moscow parishes where my dad serves. This temple is not very remarkable in terms of architecture, but it is important for the history of Moscow, it is a place of prayer.

Of course, I knew that my dad had an unusual profession. Previously, he often walked down the street in a cassock. Then, as a child, I felt awkward about it. I understood that we are in many ways different from most other families: we did not have a TV, I did not understand well the conversations of my peers about games and consoles. My family and I often read together a short version of the evening prayer rule. Several times the Pope tried to introduce the tradition of reading the Gospel in the evenings, but it never caught on. But in the evenings he always read us books aloud - mostly Russian literature of the 19th century.

I studied at an Orthodox school, and all of my close friends were from churched families - this was a specific circle of the Moscow Orthodox intelligentsia. I didn't understand the whole social context, but I felt that my friends and I were not like everyone else. Sometimes it was unpleasant, and sometimes, less often, it caused a feeling of pride. At the same time, in non-church companies, I was often ashamed to say that my dad is a priest.

In the Orthodox school there were many things that seemed to me stupid, wrong or vile, I would forbid some teachers from teaching. At least in this school I didn't have to worry about my identity. I am still friends with many of my classmates.

At some point, I developed a strong rejection of the entire administrative structure of the ROC. Everyone knows about patriarch watches and Mercedes. Due to the origin, I know a little more about the inner workings of this structure and I understand that everything is even worse than it looks from the outside. But I have always realized that this is all superficial and has nothing to do with existential issues.

I have never had a rebellion against religion as such. I was lucky as a teenager to read The Brothers Karamazov, Lewis, Russian religious philosophers of the 20th century. I realized that you can be an intelligent, subtle, deep and uncompromising person and at the same time a real Christian. In addition, I was never forced to go to church or do something specifically Orthodox. The parents understood that forcing their children to believe in God was the best way to make them atheists. In the end, I had no reason to rebel.

Of course, we had religious and philosophical disputes. I asked my dad questions that seemed tricky to me: about free will, about predestination, about why God allows evil, about homosexuality. We discussed all this in detail. Dad explained a lot to me, and in some cases I destroyed all his arguments and he actually had to admit that I was right.

As for prohibitions, I had a lot of freedom in important issues: for example, I myself chose where and what I would study. But in everyday life I was heavily controlled, and at the first opportunity I moved out of my parents. Since then, we have been communicating normally.At one time, my dad had a phobia about sex before marriage, but in this sense, I rather quickly disappointed him. Otherwise, the Pope often reminded me that he is a priest and I should behave accordingly. But this "appropriate" was not particularly outside the scope of what parents usually tell their children.

I am currently working as an editor. My lifestyle doesn't quite match the way my parents live. I do not fast well, I do not go to church and receive communion too often (although I do it more or less regularly). I sometimes smoke weed and can get very drunk - they, of course, do not really like this, but it does not cause strong negative emotions either. I communicate with my parents rather well, although I do not tell them everything. But this is definitely not the worst relationship with parents in the world.



When I was little, my parents and I moved from Moscow to a village: my dad was sent there to restore the destroyed church. Our own house was three minutes from the church, and since childhood I was constantly there, and at the age of seven I began to sing in the kliros. There was a social service department next to our house, and there were activities for parish children: circles, classes. Before school, my friends and I went to preparatory courses, and there we were very well prepared for study. I even went straight to second grade, even though I was only six years old.

It was hard at school. Classmates laughed at me. I repeated what I was taught at home: as if God gives people children and he created all living things. And they said that children are born from the contact of a man and a woman, and man descended from a monkey. Now I understand that their point of view was scientific. But then I was very offended, it seemed to me that I could not convey the truth to them.

I always wore a long skirt, and I was pulled by it or dragged by the braids. Once several people attacked me and tried to undress. Because of the bullying, I felt uncomfortable in my clothes, but I could not change into pants. I was told from childhood that this is unacceptable, because the Bible says that a woman should not wear men's clothing. As a result, for the first time in my life I went out in jeans only last year. In the sixth grade, due to bullying at school, I switched to homeschooling. At the age of twelve, I almost stopped walking on the street with my peers. Dad used to say: "At the age of twelve, I did not go for a walk." I began to cook for the whole family, help with washing and ironing. Mom was seriously ill, so I took on a lot of things.

There was one strict prohibition in the family - disobedience. Until the age of fourteen, I was regularly punished with a belt. “Foolishness has become attached to the heart of a young man, but the corrective rod will remove it from him,” the Old Testament said. This means that children need to be punished before they break the wood. My parents respected the Old Testament very much, therefore, if I went for a walk without asking or did not put some things in place, I would be punished. Of course, it was impossible to drink alcohol and enter into a romantic relationship. With the guys, you could only "get to know each other within reasonable limits" - that is, without physical contact and preferably under supervision. One day at the age of fifteen, my parents found out that I was walking with a boy. They said, “We will sit you in different corners of the room, with your brother sitting in the middle. So communicate. " I still continued to see him - I pretended that I was going to ride a bike alone, while I was walking with the guy.

I was not allowed to start a social media page. Sometimes one of my friends created an account for me, but my mother found out about it and made me delete it. She said that you can get bad things on the Internet. Now, when I try to tell her about my views on life, she says that I "got it on social networks." She doesn't like it when I say that men and women are equal, and that divorce is a free choice for any woman. They believe that you should not divorce your husband, even if he beats you - this is permissible only if there is a threat to children.

Until I was twelve or thirteen, it didn't seem to me that punishments and prohibitions were normal. I liked going to church, and I even dreamed of becoming a saint. I took Orthodox education for granted. But then our relationship with our parents became tense. The fact is that since childhood I went to confession to my own father and theoretically this should not be. But in our village besides him there were only two priests, and he did not get along with them, so I should not have come to them either. And at the age of thirteen, I had thoughts and secrets that I did not want to tell my dad about. I started to hide something, and he told me that my confession became the same type and incomplete. Now I no longer liked everything connected with the church.

As a child, I thought that I would get married, have children and work in the church - my parents approved of this plan. But at the age of fourteen, I announced that I did not want to have a husband, but that I wanted to build a career. Around that time, we began to constantly quarrel and argue. I had a musical talent, and I wanted to go to another city to a music school, but my mother insisted that I stay. She didn’t want me to live in a hostel, because “bad stories happen” there. As a result, I studied as a nurse for three years, and then dropped out of this business and went to study to be a programmer.

Now I live in another city and go to a psychologist. Apparently, I have been in chronic depression since adolescence. I think this is because since childhood I have been living with a keen sense of guilt - it always appeared when I behaved "not like a Christian" or not like a "good daughter." I tried to discuss my emotional problems and childhood memories with my mother. But every time she started crying, saying that she “did her best,” and now I blame her. So now I'm just trying to accept things as they are and try not to conflict with my family.

I visit my parents twice a year for the holidays. It often seems to me that my dad looks at me with sadness and reproach. He said that children should be a continuation of their parents, and I did not become their continuation at all - and I chose for myself a life that was not at all the kind for which I was prepared.




My dad became a clergyman when he was already over forty - he worked as a doctor, was quite a mature and successful person. Prior to that, he was always interested in philosophy and world religions. She and her mother had many encyclopedias, they thoughtfully approached questions of faith, looked for themselves and eventually came to Orthodoxy. When I was little, my family and I went to church on weekends and church holidays. Once, when I was seven or eight years old, dad came home and said that the archpriest had offered him to become a priest. He agreed.

After dad passed the ordinance, he went to serve in the village church, and we went with him. Of course, my childhood was somewhat unusual. The profession of parents always leaves an imprint: for example, children of musicians from an early age know how to play melodies on the piano. Since childhood, I knew how the voices are sung, I could read in Church Slavonic, I understood how the services were arranged.

There are always not enough people in the village churches, so I helped my dad. I had a surplice - a garment that resembles a dress. During the service, I brought the censer to my father, accompanied him with a candle in my hands. In general, he played the role of an altar man - a layman who helps the priest. As I got older, I began to sing in the kliros and read prayers. On the one hand, I was a little tired; for a twelve-year-old child, a three-hour service can be difficult. On the other hand, I liked to sing, I liked the beauty and theatricality of the rituals. Now, when I find myself in the temple, I feel calm and peaceful - just like in childhood.

All church traditions and rituals were observed at home. We kept all the posts, on Christmas Eve we fasted more strictly than usual. Many people, even those who consider themselves believers, guess on Christmas Eve, but I knew from childhood that this was a pagan custom, and I never did it.Although we observed the fasts, I never felt deprived of anything: there were cereals, nuts, fruits at home. My parents could buy me a bar of dark chocolate. Sometimes there was frustration. For example, when on Holy Week my parents hinted to me that now was not the time to go to some kind of entertainment show. But at the same time, I always knew: fasting is the science of self-restraint. This is what we do for ourselves, not so that God does not get angry.

It is interesting that church education taught me non-conformism. From my childhood I saw that I was different from my classmates at school. I thought a lot about conscience and morality. I was taught that one must be kind, because it saves my soul, and by saving myself, I also save others. Of course, few of my peers thought about this. I knew from childhood that being different and having an opinion is not at all a bad thing. I was never afraid to be different from the rest. True, precisely because of this, in adolescence, we had disagreements with our parents. When I became interested in rock music, they didn’t like it very much, they hinted that it didn’t correspond to the Orthodox upbringing. But after all, they themselves taught me non-conformism, so I did not agree with them. However, it seems to me that such disagreements with parents happen not only in religious families. This is a generational conflict that could have happened not on the basis of religion.

At sixteen, I entered a music college and moved out of my parents. At this age, for some time I lost interest in the church - I was captured by secular life. But then I realized that it is not necessary to choose one thing: you can be a believer and play rock music, go to parties. In some ways, I rethought parenting, I abandoned some rigid rules. For example, in Orthodoxy, it is considered a sin to play in the theater. But after college of music, I still entered the theater institute. For myself, I realized that from the stage you can bring good to people, teach good is like a sermon. My parents also accepted my choice and were glad that I found something to my liking.

I still go to church, but I remember my childhood as happy. For some, my dad was primarily a priest, but for me - an ordinary person. By the way, I noticed that in the church many parishioners are afraid of priests or behave with some kind of servility. I don't have that: I can calmly talk to any priest and disagree with him in some way.


(name has been changed)


I grew up in the family of an archpriest and at school I always felt that I was different from my classmates. I was very modest, I never used foul language. If I was offended, I did not respond with aggression to aggression, I knew that it was not Christian. I was taught from childhood what is good and what is bad, according to the Orthodox commandments. Sometimes the guys in the class made fun of me, but I didn't think that something was wrong with me. I liked myself this way - calm and harmless.

In adolescence, classmates woke up a sexual interest, they began to constantly discuss various vulgarities: porn films, some kind of vulgarity. The girls were also fond of clothes and cosmetics, but this did not interest me at all, so I did not particularly communicate with my classmates. But Sunday school was really interesting for me. My parents and I lived in a small town, and the parish was small. All the parishioners' children knew each other and went to classes together. We played with them, talked about books and films. We all had the same upbringing, and we understood each other. In Sunday school, I met real friends with whom I still constantly communicate. We can say that we all grew up together in the church.

In childhood, in the classroom, we were told how the saints lived, retelling stories from the Bible, sometimes there were games and quizzes with sweet prizes. As we grew up a little, the lessons became more serious: the abbot of the church taught us the history of religion and liturgy.At the liturgy, we studied how a church service is arranged, at what moment different hymns are sung and why they are needed. In the history of religion, we were told about the origin of different religions - not only Christianity, but also Judaism, Hinduism and others. This subject was my favorite.

At the Sunday school there was a tourist club, circles, summer camps. We went there with families: parishioners, children, friends of children. We set up campgrounds in nature near monasteries: the adults were just relaxing, while the children had teams and counselors - just like in a regular camp. Once a week, each detachment went to weed the monastery garden. For this we were treated to cheese or preparations from the monastery kitchen, in the evening we ate it by the fire and sang songs with a guitar. I went to regular summer camps, not Christian ones. But there I always felt lonely, I wanted to return home. In the Sunday school camps, I knew that there were friends next to me.

Now many of those with whom we went to Sunday school have grown up and have left to study in different cities. But we continue to communicate on the Internet, and several times a year we meet in our church for festive meals. Regular meals are held every Sunday after the service - parishioners gather at a large table, eat, communicate. But twice a year - after Christmas and Easter - special, large meals are held. Everyone who has dispersed to different cities is trying to come to come to the temple and meet at the table.

There were no serious restrictions in my life. My parents and I observed the fasts, but my brothers and I were not forced to fast - we ate dairy products and eggs. They refused only meat, and in the strictest positions - from cartoons on weekdays. People have a lot of prejudices about the families of priests. Sometimes people ask me: "Can you wear jeans?" Of course you can, who will forbid me? And my mom wears them too. If I went to visit friends, I was calmly released. At seventeen or eighteen years old, I could well drink a little alcohol at a party, and no one told me anything about this. My parents trusted me and knew that I would not do too much.

Our family has always lived very amicably. Dad is fond of board games, and in the evenings we could play some long board game for several hours. I could always discuss anything with my mother. Even if I knew that I had done wrong, I could count on her understanding.

I haven't met the guys, but not because of any prohibitions, but simply because it didn't work out. For example, my fifteen-year-old brother has a girlfriend, and no one is against their relationship. But on this score, I also have my own convictions. I believe that it is not worth living together and entering into physical intimacy outside of marriage. I think this makes sense: the rush on some issues is bad for the relationship of many couples. It seems to me that people who need relationships just for the sake of relationships begin to live together outside of marriage. I value my soul too much to exchange it for this.

Now I live separately from my parents, but I continue to go to church and read prayers. My convictions have not changed, and I still try to maintain Christian morality. One day a man said nasty things to me, and I said nasty things to him in return. Most people will think that this is a completely normal reaction, but I was very unpleasant because of my own behavior, and I did not get any satisfaction from my aggression. I believe that Christianity is a very peaceful religion. When you want to quarrel with someone, offend a person, you think: "But this is not Christian." This often saves you from conflicts and big troubles.


(name has been changed)


My dad has always been an addicted person. His parents are atheists, and when he discovered Orthodoxy at the age of twenty-five, it was something new and surprising for him. He dropped out and decided to become a priest. As you know, the priest must have a mother, that is, it was necessary to get married. Dad met my mother - a very religious woman.They got married instantly, and a year later I was born. I suspect that my father started a family in the first place in order to get a dignity. By itself, family life was hardly of interest to him - he did not even meet his mother from the hospital when I was born.

Like many people who got married very quickly, my parents soon realized that they weren't right for each other. When I was little, they constantly quarreled, it even came to fights. There was a period when my father did not live with us at all. But all conflicts were kept in strict secrecy, in public, mom and dad pretended that everything was in order. A priest should not file for divorce, and my mother also thinks that it is impossible to divorce her husband. So despite their differences, they eventually got back together. I don't know if there is love and understanding between them - as far as I can remember, they often quarreled. At the same time, I did not see them hugging or holding hands.

The only question on which my parents were unanimous was my upbringing. From the first grade I was homeschooled: my mom and dad thought that “modern children” would have a bad influence on me. I was taken to church for all services. I didn't like it there, it was hard to stand for a long time, and they also forced me to be baptized and bow down. At the same time, as a daughter of a priest, I had to smile at the church workers and parishioners with whom dad was friends. They were unpleasant to me, and I had to pretend.

My sexual growth was a very painful issue for our family. From childhood, I was taught that relationships with guys are bad, dirty and indecent. Once, when I was fifteen, I was with a teacher and stayed a little late to talk to her daughters. They were watching some teen show where American teenage girls dated boys. I looked and thought: "How great!" I wanted so much too. Once, in a conversation with my mother, I carefully started talking about the fact that some girls at my age go out with boys. She screamed “You are not thinking about that!”, Called me a lecher - she often used this word. As a result, I began to feel constant shame for my own sexual interest in young people. Because of this, it is still difficult for me to build a romantic relationship.

Dad was especially sensitive to such questions. The thought that I might have a boyfriend drove him into hysterics. Sometimes it seemed to me that there was something abnormal in this - as if he was jealous of me for other men, not quite like a father. It was especially unpleasant that I was not allowed to communicate with my peers, but when I was a teenager, my father's male parishioners looked at me ambiguously in church.

I suffered a lot because I did not communicate with my peers. After all, I saw them on the street, when I walked to the teachers, somewhere I briefly crossed paths with them. They had jeans, mobile phones, the Internet - I also wanted all this. I wanted to walk with them, at least once to go out into the yard in the evening and chat with someone. I started making scandals at home: I came from the teachers and demanded that they let me go to a normal school. We quarreled terribly. In the ninth grade, my parents took me to a psychiatrist, and they prescribed me a bunch of sedatives - I became sleepy, I could no longer throw tantrums. But one day I drank a whole bunch of pills, so I had to be taken to the hospital and pumped out. From that moment on, my parents began to treat me a little differently. They seem to have realized that it's time to loosen up a little. At least they stopped constantly coming into my room and checking what I was doing.

Towards the end of school, my parents decided that I should study at a good university in Moscow, but they did not want me to live in a hostel. So my mother rented an apartment in the capital and moved with me. In fact, I think she just wanted to leave her dad. Life became easier: my mother went to work in her specialty, and I was sent to the eleventh grade in a normal school.It turned out that I really don't know how to communicate with my peers and, in general, am afraid of guys, so I had to learn to build relationships with people.

In the end, I entered Baumanka. Now I could pretend that I was lost at school until the night, and it became much easier to do my own thing. One day my mother and I came home for the holidays, and my father began to introduce me to some man. Later it turned out that he was the son of some very rich and influential priest from the south of Russia. After overhearing a couple of parental conversations in the kitchen, I understood why they were so protective of my virginity - they wanted to successfully marry me. At this point I started trying to find myself a boyfriend as soon as possible so that I could start living with him and ruin all their plans. And I succeeded in that, although in the end we broke up pretty quickly.

Now I live the way I want, and conflicts with my parents have almost disappeared. I think I forgave mom and dad. Probably, I would like my childhood to be different. But now you can't do anything, and I'm just learning to overcome the consequences of such upbringing. My family is very strange, but still it remains my family.

Photos: Valenty - stock.adobe.com (1, 2)

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