When they returned home on vacations they would speak of their extraordinary instructor who prayed constantly, served the Divine Liturgy or at least received Holy Communion every day, fasted strictly, never slept lying down, and with true fatherly love inspired them with the high ideals of Christianity and of Holy Russia.
In 1934 it was decided to raise Hieromonk John to the rank of bishop, althought nothing was farther from his mind.
Evidently his emulation of saints was apparent even at that age, since Archbishop Anthony of Kharkov, one of the great Church figures of that time (later Metropolitan Anthony Khrapovitsky, the first Chief Hierarch and founder of the Russian Church Abroad) took special pains to become acquainted with him, and then kept the youth close to him and guided his spiritual formation.
Belgrade In 1921, during the Civil War in Russia, the future archbishop, together with his parents, his brothers, and his sister, was evacuated to Belgrade, where he and his brothers entered the University of Belgrade.
Such an ascetic practice is a very rare one; and yet it is not unknown to Orthodox tradition.
Archbishop Averky of the Jordanville Holy Trinity monastery, then a young hieromonk in Carpatho-Russia, witnessed the deep impression Hieromonk John made upon the seminary students.
He was a member of the Little Russian noble family of Maximovitch, to which St. He received at baptism the name of Michael, his heavenly protector being the Archangel Michael. He received his secondary education in the Poltava Military School, which he attended from 1907 to 1914.
Upon completing military school he entered Kharkov Imperial University in the faculty of law, from which he graduated in 1918, before it was seized by the Soviets.
Childhood Michael Maximovitch, the future Archbishop John, was born on June 4, 1896, in the village of Adamovka in the province of Kharkov in southern Russia.
He at once became a protector of various charitable and philanthropic societies and actively participated in their work, especially after seeing the needy circumstances in which the majority of his flock, refugees from the Soviet Union, were placed.
He never went visiting for tea to the rich, but he was to be seen wherever there was need, regardless of times and weather.
A lady who knew him relates how she met him at this time on a streetcar in Belgrade.
He told her that he was in town by mistake, having been sent for in place of some other Hieromonk John who was to be consecrated bishop!