August 9: Herman of Alaska, Missionary to the Aleut, 1837
August 9, 2010 11 Comments
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About this commemoration
Herman of Alaska, known in the Russian Orthodox Church as “St. Herman: Wonderworker of All America,” was the first saint to be canonized by the Orthodox Church in America.
Herman was born in Russia, near Moscow, in 1756. His baptismal and family names are unknown. He is known by his monastic name. Naturally pious from an early age, Herman entered the monastery at 17. He was never ordained. For many years he secured permission to live as a hermit, attending the liturgies of the monastery only on holy days.
In 1793, with a small group of colleagues, Herman set out to do missionary work in Alaska. They settled on Spruce Island, near Kodiak, and named their community “New Valaam” in honor of their home monastery. Herman lived and worked in the area for the remainder of his life.
He advocated for and defended the Aleuts against sometimes- oppressive authorities, particular Russian and European colonists with commercial interests. He cared lovingly and sacrificially for all who came to him, counseling and teaching them, and tirelessly nursing the sick. He especially loved children, for whom he often baked biscuits and cookies.
Even though Herman had minimal education outside of the monastic life, he was regarded among the native Alaskans as a great and compelling teacher. Over time he also developed a reputation as a teacher and possessor of wisdom among the more educated Russian and European settlers in the area. He so captivated his listeners that many would listen to him through the long hours of the night and not leave his company until morning. The people he served often referred to Herman as their North Star.
Herman died at Spruce Island on December 25, 1837, on the Gregorian calendar.
In the spring of 1969, the Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America proclaimed Herman a saint and he was glorified in a solemn liturgy on August 9, 1970, at Holy Resurrection Orthodox Cathedral on Kodiak Island, Alaska, with simultaneous rites taking place at other Orthodox centers.
Collect of the Day
Holy God, we bless your Name for Herman, joyful North Star of Christ’s Church, who came from Russia to bring the Good News of Christ’s love to your native people in 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 you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, throughout all ages. Amen.
Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 1:1–10
2 Timothy 1:3–7
Preface of Apostles
We invite your reflections about this commemoration and its suitability for the official calendar and worship of The Episcopal Church. How did this person’s life witness to the Gospel? How does this person inspire us in Christian life today?
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From Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.