My interest in the saints deepened greatly in the 1970s and 1980s, once I had come into contact with the quite extraordinary spiritual and moral decadence of the Orthodox emigration of various nationalities. These immigrants included self-appointed ‘elders’, fraudulent gurus, so-called ‘Orthodox’ bishops who were not even Christians, bishops and priests who were simoniacs, criminals, perverts, bureaucrats, political appointees and who included the usual assortment of clerical narcissists. At least saints could provide positive models to counter the reality.
In those decadent days, and even much after, there were by and large four criteria for ordination to the priesthood if you were English (and indeed Western in general):
Be an adept of a sect or cult grouped around a bishop or priest (a self-appointed ‘starets’) with their various perversions, or else be an adept of some extremist sect based on a political ideology of left or right. Neither of these options had a future. Bishops and priests do not join political parties or tell people who to vote for (either publicly or privately), we only try to influence the course of events positively, in favour of the Church as the Body of Christ.
Be a freemason.
Be an Anglican vicar.
Be fluent in a foreign language e.g. Greek or Russian.
The first two criteria were spiritually and morally repugnant to me, the third not even conceivable, as I have never been an Anglican and have never had any desire to become one; Anglicanism is quite foreign to me as an Englishman, as it is to most Englishmen: there remained only the fourth criterion.
Hopefully, in the future, the criteria for ordination will become spiritual, that there is a group of Orthodox people in a certain place who put forward a man without canonical impediments who is not unwilling, and whose wife is not unwilling for him, to become a candidate for eventual ordination to the priesthood, once he has passed through all the necessary steps. The bad old days, when married men were excluded from consideration simply because they were married, or men were excluded from consideration because they had spiritual interests, as was the case in my youth, will be over. I thank all those who persecuted me; they made me more interested in the Lives of the Saints.