St Herman, Spruce Island & the Alaskan Pilgrimage

This past Tuesday I returned to Anchorage from Kodiak, having spent four days with the monks at Archangel Michael Skete on Spruce Island.

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Our monk skipper departs after dropping us pilgrims off at the landing for the return to Kodiak.

 

I’m back on the road today for my return leg, and am just putting up this quick post before leaving for the Divine Liturgy at St George (Antiochian) near Portland OR, so, as usual, I beg your patience and ask you to watch for photo galleries on this blessed chapter in my ongoing pilgrimage to Orthodox Christian monasteries in  North America.

These are unedited photos, which I will rework and re-post as soon as I can, but they give a tiny glimpse of the holy wonder I experienced on Spruce Island:

For a delightful look at the annual St Herman Pilgrimage, see this video report by Indie Alaska.

As always, my heartfelt thanks for your prayers and support!

 

 

Documentary Film: ‘The Relics of Saint Herman’

The complete, 25 minute documentary, finally available for online viewing, and in much better quality!

This impressive and award-winning film was for years only able to be viewed in two 9-minute parts (the third and final part was apparently never uploaded), until PressValaam posted the complete video in January 2017, and in higher resolution.

I’m very pleased to be able to share this excellent film on our beloved “Apa”, Saint Herman, Elder and Wonderworker of Alaska!

St Herman of Alaska – ‘Source of Light and Inspiration’

Yesterday, December 13, was the Winter Feast of St. Herman, Elder and Wonderworker of Alaska.

The Eleventh Ikos[1] of the Akathist Service[2] to this first Orthodox Christian saint glorified in America[3] provides an inspiring summary of why Fr. Herman, a humble monk (not ever ordained to the priesthood) from Valaam Monastery in Russia who came to Alaska in 1794 with the first Orthodox mission, is so significant for Orthodox monastics on our continent, and indeed throughout the world:

IKOS XI

To all future members of the monastic order, you are a source of light and inspiration. For you foretold, O Venerable One, the founding of a monastery and of an Episcopal throne in this land. Today a choir of hierarchs and of monastics glorifies you in these words:

Rejoice, instructor of monastics and converser with angels;

Rejoice, most glorious founder of the ascetic way in our land;

Rejoice, foreseer of the growth of this great vineyard of Christ;

Rejoice, fulfillment of this prophecy to the coming generations;

Rejoice, giver of a true image of the monastic way;

Rejoice, for your love is made manifest to all;

Rejoice, our Venerable Father Herman of Alaska, America’s most glorious doer of wonders.

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Alaska’s annual St. Herman Pilgrimage includes Liturgy on Spruce Island

Alaska. St Herman. Pilgrimage. How I yearn for this!

Here is a great video of a recent St Herman Pilgrimage. Scroll down for the news announcement from the OCA website.

Alaska’s 47th annual St. Herman Pilgrimage to be held August 7-9

OCA.org, June 22, 2017:

Hundreds of faithful are expected to participate in the 47th annual Saint Herman Pilgrimage to Spruce Island, home of North America’s first saint, August 7-9, 2017.

Continue reading “Alaska’s annual St. Herman Pilgrimage includes Liturgy on Spruce Island”

St Herman, Elder & Wonderworker of Alaska

First Saint of the North American Thebaid

Herman of Alaska wBells

Saint Herman of Alaska, America’s first canonized saint, was an Orthodox Christian monk of holy life who lived in Valaam Monastery in Russia.

In 1794, along with nine other monastics he was sent to Alaska to evangelize the natives there. In time St. Herman would become the sole survivor of the original missionaries.

Throughout his long life he cared for the natives of the Kodiak area, nursing them in their illnesses, educating them, and defending them from the abuse of the Russian fur-traders. By his meekness and firm faith he won the love and respect of all who came to know him, and inspired many to follow Christ. Eventually settling on nearby Spruce Island, he lived a mostly eremitic life, while also establishing an orphanage for the children of parents who had died during epidemics.

By the power of God, St. Herman was able to see into the hearts of others, as well as into the future. He worked miracles during his life, such as stopping a forest fire and a tsunami by his prayers. To this day he remains a wonderworker, healing the souls and bodies of those who ask for his intercessions before the throne of God.

The Importance of St Herman for Orthodox Christians in America Today

When we really stop to reflect upon what Blessed Father Herman accomplished in Alaskaand what his significance is for us todaywe should be stunned by his humility, his selflessness, and his simple and pure dedication and obedience to his original mission to bring the Orthodox Faith to his new land.

The greater part of his forty-plus years in Alaska he lived alone, tirelessly caring for the native Alaskan peoples who, seeing the Love of Christ embodied in their beloved “Apa” (grandfather) became themselves pious and faithful Orthodox Christians. We should be similarly moved  and converted in our hearts by Elder Herman’s witness. As one monastic writer in North America has put it:

The first saints God raises up in a country contain a special message about what Orthodoxy must be like for that nation.  Thus, Sts. Boris and Gleb for Russia—the passion bearers.  And it is not a coincidence that Holy Russia begins with passion bearers and ends with passion bearers (the royal martyrs) and a whole host of New Martyrs!

So what is the lesson the Lord wants American Orthodox like us to learn from St. Herman? He was a meek and humble monk, not even a priest, but a strong witness against injustice and a confessor of the true Faith.  These are the qualities, I believe, that Orthodoxy in America must emulate.  But so far, we aren’t.  We are obsessed with jurisdictional administrative issues, while the inner life of the Church—which leads to repentance and deification through humility—is largely neglected at the official, organizational, level…

We need a ‘revival’ inspired by St. Herman!

— Schema-Hieromonk Ambrose (Young)

Therefore, let us persevere in our faith and in doing good, being inspired in the depths of our hearts by our beloved Elder and Wonderworker, St Herman of Alaska, that we may embody his teaching:

From this day,  from this hour,  from this minute,  let us love God above all, and strive to fulfill His holy will!

Continue reading “St Herman, Elder & Wonderworker of Alaska”