What was the complicated apocalyptic event or situation in the Russian Orthodox Church? How did Fr. Seraphim Rose solve this problem?
The Soviet Union and all that. The Russian Church was overrun by communists, millions were dead, churches were destroyed. The Russian Church abroad (small A) was split several ways over differing views of the Russian hierarchy's legitimacy. The fall of the God-anointed Tsar and the Byzantine-style church-state relationship had a devastating effect on the Russian psyche. To contemporary Russians, it really seemed like the world and Church were falling apart and end times were approaching. St. John Maximovitch and others had these concerns and fears, and they unsurprisingly affected and inspired people like Fr. Seraphim to be the way they were. It was a serious time that produced serious men and women.
Fr. Seraphim didn't dream this all up in a vacuum, that's my point. He is a product of his time, just like we all are. Whatever extremes or liberties he took, I feel they are at least consistent and understandable given who his teachers were and what was happening in the Russian Church at the time.
I think this world is not dark. It is brighter than it has ever been.
There is much to be hopeful about. But talk to any Russian Orthodox person who was alive during the Soviet period and they will have much darkness to tell you about. And there is plenty of darkness in this world today, and our Lord told us it would be very dark by the End.
Especially among young people, positive role models are needed. Given our culture's obsession with "relevance" in Christianity, among departed saints you don't get much more relevant than a guy who lived in the upheaval of the 60s and did just about every bad thing you can think of—and yet made a total repentance; who then threw his energy into teaching and ministering to the rejects of society who lived on the dark fringes.
We need more like Fr. Seraphim. We all know the Church does not make saints, but sainthood makes a special example of a person in the liturgical life of the Church. To have a holy priest who lived as recently as the 1980s—who overcame and did so much—up there on the iconostasis and in the Menaion is a powerful thing.
What is it about his life story that makes him a saint?
Eugene Rose's lifestyle before he became Fr. Seraphim has a lot of parallels to St. Augustine's lifestyle before his conversion. Both men's lives in general seem to have a lot of parallels—yes, even the questionable teachings. But that's not a dealbreaker with other saints, so it shouldn't be here either.
His battle against the passion of homosexuality is particularly striking, and unique (at least among contemporary saints). I can't think of any other saints who are known specifically for overcoming that passion. It would be nice to be able to point to a bona fide saint and show homosexual Orthodox people that they are not alone. We have patrons for every kind of sin, but not really for this one. For people who struggle with this passion it would be nice to be able to point to a saint who "finished the race," and importantly, who lived in our day and time.
What sets him apart from Metropolitans Kallistos Ware or John Ziziulas or Fr. Peter Gilquist.
I can't say anything bad about any of these men. Having met him a few years ago, I think Fr. Peter is certainly among the saints now.
But I think Fr. Seraphim stands apart because of the example his life can provide to people, the positive impact his work has and does have (especially outside the US, where he is far less controversial), and his cultus. He is widely venerated as a saint already, which is grounds for the Church to engage in the glorification process.
I don't think the tollhouses should be an important factor in his glorification one way or the other. We don't make or reject sainthood on the basis of one's Theology 101 exam. Call it theologumenon and move on. Sainthood is based on God's work manifested in a person's life, and no one can deny Fr. Seraphim's good fruit.