Shrine of St. Frideswide, Christ Church Cathedral Oxford.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Feast of St. Herman of Alaska, 9 August.

St. Herman of Alaska icon.
St. Herman was born in 1756 in the town of Serpukhov, outside of Moscow, Russia. He joined a monastery in St. Petersburg where he experienced healing visions of St. Mary the Virgin and was later professed monk at the great monastery of Valaam. He was never ordained, but monks have a higher status and more involvement in most of the Orthodox Churches. In 1794, Herman traveled with seven other monks as missionaries with Grigory Shelikhov, a prominent Russian merchant, to Kodiak Island Alaska.

Herman converted many of the native Aleuts to the Orthodox Church and  became their patron and protector as he produced many miracles and defended them from the oppressive colonial government. Eventually he became the only remaining one of the monks as the others were arrested and martyred for speaking against the colonial government on behalf of the native peoples. Among his miracle he is said to have stopped a tidal wave from flooding one of the Aleut towns by placing an Icon of the the Theotokos (Greek for the Mother of God) on the beach which the waters did not pass. Herman built a hermitage on Spruce Island from which he often consoled the local community and many others who traveled to see him. He also built a chapel, a school and a garden which he maintained with the help of several orphans. Herman died on 15 November, 1837 and was made a saint on August 9 by the Orthodox Church in America. Many of Alaska's Native Americans are practicing Orthodox Christians as a result of the work of St. Herman and others.

Herman is important to the Church today for several reasons. He protected an oppressed people and persisted to preach the untainted faith even when threatened by oppressors who contradicted the faith. And also very relevant to the Church: He dedicated his life to bringing the good news of the risen Christ to thousands. Herman is an example to the Church were people are oppressed, to the Church that needs to reveal the extended hand of Christ, and to the Church where it struggles to maintain its faith. Our greatest want is to be with Christ...we must give other people the chance to love him also.

Prayer of St. Herman of Alaska:

Holy God, we bless thy Name for Herman, joyful north star of Christ's Church, who came from Russia to bring the Good News of Christ's love to thy native people of Alaska, to defend them from oppressors and to proclaim the Gospel of peace; and we pray that we may follow his example in proclaiming the Gospel; through the same Jesus Christ, who with thee and the Holy Spirit livest and reignest, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Veneration of St. Herman of Alaska.

-Episcopal Calendar of Saints.

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