Hieromonk Seraphim Rose, né Eugene Dennis Rose (August 13, 1934-September 2, 1982), was a hieromonk of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia in the United States, whose writings have helped spread Orthodox Christianity throughout modern America and the West. Although not formally canonized, he is (prematurely) celebrated by some Orthodox Christians as a saint in iconography, liturgy, and prayer.
Born to Frank and Esther Rose in San Diego, Eugene was raised in California, where he would remain for most of his life. He was baptized in the Methodist faith when he was fourteen years old, but later became an atheist, losing all belief in God. Rated at genius level in formal IQ testing, San Francisco, he entered a beatnik phase in his life and practiced Buddhism.
During his junior year at college, Eugene acknowledged his homosexuality and began a secret sexual relationship with Finnish-born Jon Gregerson. Eugene came out to his closest friends after his mother discovered letters penned between her son and Gregerson. He wrote to Larry McGilvery on June 17, 1956, "My mother had discovered, rather illegitimately (I shall tell you of it later), that I am a homosexual; If you have not surmised the fact already, it is time you know of it." Eugene's mother disapproved in the early stages of what would become a decade-long relationship but Eugene's father accepted Gregerson. Gregerson said, "Once when we were in Carmel and we were leaving, his father took me aside. He said, 'I'm glad Eugene has a good friend like you.' He was a kind man." Eugene shed his identity as a gay man as he slowly accepted Orthodoxy, eventually ending his long relationship with Gregerson.
While studying under Alan Watts at the American Academy of Asian Studies after graduating from Pomona College in 1956, Eugene discovered the writings of René Guenon. Through Guenon's writings, Eugene was inspired to seek out an authentic, grounded spiritual faith tradition. Gregerson, a practicing Russian Orthodox Christian at the time, introduced his boyfriend to Orthodoxy. Just as Gregerson was choosing to abandon his Orthodoxy, Eugene was inspired to learn more about the faith. This culminated in Eugene's decision to enter the Church through chrismation in 1962.
Eugene joined a community of Orthodox booksellers and publishers called the Saint Herman of Alaska Brotherhood. The community eventually decided to flee urban modernity into the wildrness of northern California to become monks in 1986. At his tonsure in 1970, Eugene took the name "Seraphim" and studied for the priesthood during his first years in his rustic cell.
Following his ordination as hieromonk, Father Seraphim began writing several books, including God's Revelation to the Human Heart, Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future, and The Soul After Death. He also founded the magazine The Orthodox Word, still published today by the Saint Herman of Alaska Brotherhood. The collective body of work that Father Seraphim published was quickly proliferated throughout America upon Father Seraphim's death and later in Russia and Eastern Europe upon the fall of atheist Communism in those countries.
After feeling acute pains for several days while working in his cell in 1982, Father Seraphim was taken by his fellow monks to a hospital for treatment. When he reluctantly arrived at Mercy Medical Center near the town of Platina, he was declared in critical condition and fell into semi-consciousness. After exploratory surgery was completed, it was discovered that a blood clot had blocked a vein supplying blood to Father Seraphim's intestine], which had become a mass of non-functioning dead tissue. Father Seraphim slipped into a coma after a second surgery. Hundreds of people came to visit the hospital and celebrated the liturgy regularly in the chapel, praying for a miracle to save their beloved Father's life. Reaction from throughout the world was great, with thousands of prayers said for the ailing hieromonk. He died on September 2, 1982.
After being dead for several days and while lying in repose in a pauper's coffin at his wilderness monastery, visitors claimed that Father Seraphim did not succumb to decay and rigor mortis. His body remained supple while several claimed he smelled of roses. A cause for canonization was begun after Father Seraphim's burial. He eventually informally attained the title of Blessed after several miracles were attributed to him and now he awaits canonization into sainthood by an Orthodox synod.