Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

St. Herman of Alaska

Today,  the Lectionary tells me, is the Saint’s Day for Herman of Alaska, and here is the prayer they give:

Holy God, we bless your Name for Herman, joyful North Star of Christ’s Church, who brought the Good News of Christ’s love to your people in Alaska; and we pray that, following his example and admonition, we may love you, God, above all; through Jesus Christ, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, throughout all ages. Amen.

 

I love that these ikons show Saint Herman in a cold and snowy land, not too far from where I grew up. No, I am not Orthodox, nor Catholic, and I can appreciate the spirit and sacrifice it took to leave his homeland to come serve, and eventually die, far away from home.

 

 

Herman of Alaska (born 1756 or 1760 in Serpukhov, Russia – died December 13 or November 15, 1837 on Spruce Island, Alaska) was one of the first Eastern Orthodox missionaries to the New World, and is considered by Orthodox Christians to be the patron saint of the Americas. 

Herman was born in the town of Serpukhov near Moscow around 1756. Herman is his name in monasticism; his birth name is unknown. At 16, he entered the Russian Orthodox monastic life at the Trinity-St. Sergius Hermitage near St. Petersburg. Eventually he was tonsured a monk, though he was never ordained to the priesthood. A request was made for a mission into the Alaskan territory. Herman was selected to go, along with seven other monks.

Herman and the other monks arrived on Kodiak Island on September 24, 1794. The monks converted the native Aleuts, and as time progressed they found themselves protecting the natives from exploitation and abuse. Because of this moral stance the monks themselves were abused, arrested and physically threatened. In time, enduring hardship, inclement weather, illness and more, Herman stood as the only remainder from the original band of missionaries, the others either being martyred for their faith, dying of natural causes or returning to Russia.

Herman eventually built a hermitage on Spruce Island, about a mile and a quarter from Kodiak Island. A small chapel was built as well, along with a school and guest house. The local people would visit him often. He devoted his life to prayer and to performing those services he could do as a simple monk who had not been ordained to the priesthood.

He died on November 15, 1837, but was not buried on Spruce Island until December 13 because a priest could not come to serve the funeral, and was forgotten until the first investigation of his life in 1867 by Bishop Peter of Alaska. He was named a saint by the Orthodox Church in America on 9 August 1970.

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August 9, 2017 - Posted by | Alaska, Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith

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