Venerable Joannicius of Devic

Saint Ioannikios (Janićije) was a Serb from Zeta, near the Adriatic Sea. He was the son of pious and God-fearing parents, and he lived during the reign of the last medieval Serbian ruler, Prince George Branković (1427-1458). From his youth, Saint Ioannikios loved solitude, and as an adolescent he left his parents and made his way to eastern Serbia, where he settled in a wooded area called Chrna Reka (Black River), a few miles from the Ibar River. He found a narrow cave where, according to Tradition, Saint Peter of Koriša (June 5) had struggled during the XIII century.

Saint Ioannikios built a cell and lived there for many years in solitude, fasting, and unceasing prayer. In time, people began coming to him from all over Serbia in order to hear his words, and to receive his blessing. Others were drawn to him because they wanted him to guide them in the monastic life. A community grew around him, and they built a church near his cell. However, when people heard about the holiness of his life, he fled to Drnica and hid himself in the thick forest of Devič. Once again, the Saint lived in solitude, weeping, fasting, struggling with demons, and devoting himself to the unceasing Prayer of the Heart.

One day Prince George brought his terminally ill daughter to him, and the Saint healed her. The Prince wanted to know what he could do to express his gratitude. Saint Ioannikios asked him to built a monastery at Devič and dedicate it to the Entrance of the a Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple (November 21). After a holy and God-pleasing life, Saint Ioannikios reposed on December 2, 1430, when he was almost one hundred years old. His grace-filled and wonderworking relics are kept at the monastery. After his death, many miracles have taken place there, and those who entreat him with faith are healed of their sicknesses and afflictions.

In this monastery there once lived a renowned and godly nun, Sister Euphemia, who is better known in the Kossovo region as Blessed Stoina. She built an Ispostnica (House of Silence) in honor of St. Ioannikios. She fell asleep in the Lord in the year 1895.

Saint Ioannikios still performs miracles, just as he did in his lifetime, five hundred years ago. A certain man from Hercegovina, whose name was Miloš wanted to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to venerate the holy places. Just as he was about to embark on his journey, Saint Ioannikios appeared to him in a dream and told him not to go to Jerusalem. "It would be better," the Saint explained, "if you went to Devič and cleaned my church, and put it in order, instead of going to Jerusalem."

Miloš followed the Saint's advice and went to the neglected Devič monastery, cleaned it up, restored it, and gave it new life. He became a monk and remained there until the end of his life.

During the First World War and the Austrian occupation, a Hungarian officer arrived at Devič with some soldiers. He made Igoumen Damaskene take him to the tomb of Saint Ioannikios, and asked him what was under the slab. "It is a holy place," the Igoumen replied.

"What sort of holy place?" the officer asked. "You have some valuables hidden under there, don't you?"

The officer ordered the soldiers to break the slab with pick axes. As they were completing their task, the officer was stricken with pain in the middle of his body. He lay down on a bed and died before that evening. The terrified soldiers abandoned their work and fled from the monastery.

Saint Ioannikios is also commemorated on April 26, the uncovering of his holy relics.