19th c. line drawing based on eyewitness descriptions.
19th c. line drawing based on eyewitness descriptions.
Updated for 2013!
2010 marked the 40th anniversary of the glorification of St Herman of Alaskajointly by the OCA and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) in 1970.*
In honor of this festal and historic occasion, we launched in August of 2010 this new page to collect in one place as many significant resources as possible regarding our beloved patron saint of Orthodoxy in North America. Scroll down for audio, videos, books (including children's titles), excerpts from St Herman's teachings on the Orthodox Way, online articles, icons and much more, all related not only to St Herman, but to his message for us today, which can be summed up in his rightly famous word:
"From this day, from this hour, from this minute, let us strive to love God above all, and to fulfill His holy will!"
As a special blessing, the final entry at bottom features the icon of St Herman by Archbishop Job of Beloved and Eternal Memory, which was painted and presented to the Holy Resurrection Church (Kodiak, AK) for the Glorification on August 9, 1970. This icon shows Fr Herman standing on Spruce Island with mainland Alaska in the background, holding his blessing cross (which is preserved along with St Herman's relics at Holy Resurrection Church), and has become one of the two main prototype icons for depiction of our patron saint of North America. Thus our beloved archpastor Job is eternally connected to the humble monk and saint of Spruce Island, whose spirit and example he certainly emulated. Memory Eternal, Vladyka Job!
* When the OCA announced it was going to officially enter Blessed Fr Herman into the List of Saints on August 9, 1970 (new calendar) in Kodiak, Alaska, the ROCOR Synod agreed to offer its "Amen" to this event by simultaneously canonizing St Herman in the Joy of All Who Sorrow Russian Cathedral in San Francisco on July 27 (old calendar). The OCA (formerly known as the "Metropolia") and ROCOR had worked together towards the glorification of St Herman as early as 1939 before the unfortunate split of the two Russian Churches in America. The decision by ROCOR to perform a joint canonization was hailed as "far-sighted" by one pious churchman closely involved who himself had labored for many years towards having Fr Herman declared a saint.
Troparion to St Herman (Tone 4) O blessed Father Herman of Alaska, North Star of Christ's Holy Church! The light of your holy life and great deeds guides those who follow the Orthodox Way. Together we lift high the Holy Cross you planted firmly in America. Let all behold and glorify Jesus Christ, singing His Holy Resurrection!
Kontakion to St Herman (Tone 3) The eternal light of Christ our Savior guided you O blessed Father Herman on your journey to America. Now you stand before the Lord of Glory - intercede now for your new land and its people, praying peace for the world and salvation for our souls.
The below two videos are from an award-winning documentary by Sean Bledsoe of Anchorage, Alaska: "The Relics of St Herman of Alaska." Mr Bledsoe is hoping to eventually make the DVD version available through Amazon.com. (Note: The third video of this 3-part series has not been posted as of yet.) To order directly from Mr. Bledsoe, you may email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other videos related to St Herman should appear after the video has completed. There are many worthy titles to view. And, continue scrolling down for books, articles, icons and more...
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.
Immerse yourself in the soul-vivifying life of St Herman through the books, articles and icons below!
This new title is translated from Russian and contains material not previously available in English, which only became accessible in Russia after the fall of communism. Through its use of primary sources such as letters and reports, St. Herman’s life and character is revealed with startling clarity, together with many aspects of the wider Russian ecclesiastic mission to America of which he was an integral part. The three appendices bring the story of New Valaam up to our own time, offer details of the saint’s canonization by both the OCA and ROCOR in 1970 and provide more biographical background to some of the eyewitnesses to the saint’s life. The primary text is supported by easily referenced endnotes and rounded off by an index.
Including new information about St. Herman! Presented here is a Life of St. Herman, originally commissioned by Abbot Damascene of Valaam and incorporating the latest research on the Saint’s early years, as well as a complete Vigil Service to the Saint, composed by the St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood and Archbishop Alypy (Gamanovich) of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.
Softcover, 48 pages, $9.
Father Herman, Alaska's Saint, by F.A. Golder St Herman of Alaska Press In 1914, F.A. Golder, a leading scholar on the American Northwest at the turn of the century, spent two weeks at Valaam Monastery located on Lake Ladoga (between present-day Russia and Finland). Golder went to Valaam to learn of this missionary monk who was sent to America to bring the Orthodox Faith to the natives of the land.
The present volume contains Golder's Life of St. Herman and a collection of the Saint's miracles, spanning from the time of his repose to our own times. Included is a contemporary pilgrim's description of Spruce Island, the site of St. Herman's labors, miracles, and repose.
72 pages, illustrated with paper-cut illustrations, paperback, $8.00
In this charming volume, author and illustrator Dorrie Papademetriou captures the divine spark that shone in the monk Herman and reflects it across the pages. The world of Apa ("grandfather") Herman and the Aleuts comes alive in vibrant illustrations while readers are warmed by the words of this human heart aflame with divine love.
Hardcover, full color, 8.5 x 11, 32 pp, Price: US $18.00
North America has not been left without the consolation of its own pilgrimage sites— Spruce Island, Alaska being the first. In the early nineteenth century, St. Herman, America’s first saint, made Spruce Island his home. There, he lived the ascetic life while serving as a father to the local native population. Through his prayers and miracles, St. Herman sanctified the island, leaving his grace-filled legacy for future generations.
Hundreds of pilgrims come to Spruce Island each year to visit the saint’s grave, drink from his holy spring, and ask his intercession before the Lord. Spruce Island, Alaska: A Pilgrim’s Guide is the first full-color guide to St. Herman’s beloved isle. It includes pictures and descriptions of all the holy sites on Spruce Island, a brief history of the Russian Mission to Alaska, and a brief Life of St. Herman. It is an indispensable guide for those planning a trip to Spruce Island or for those who just want to know more about America’s first saint.
SAINT HERMAN OF ALASKA, with simple, poetic text and beautiful paintings, draws us into the holy life of a beloved North American saint. Perfect for very young children and a treasure for all ages.
Paperback, Full Color, 28 pages, $9.95.
TWO UNIQUE TITLES! "A monk like me, fleeing the glory of men, will come and live on Spruce Island.” —St. Herman of Alaska
This prophecy was fulfilled 100 years later in the person of Father Gerasim (1888–1969), who lived a hermitic way of life on Spruce Island, Alaska, for 30 years, praying alone for the world. His standard was Christianity of the heart.
Father Gerasim, the desert-dweller chosen by St. Herman of Alaska to revive his monastic “heavenly abode,” left an abundance of letters, which serve as a testament of his solitary life on New Valaam—Spruce Island, Alaska... For thirty years he kept solitary vigil before the relics of St. Herman, receiving divine strength to endure to the end, and passing on his precious spiritual inheritance from Holy Russia. His words reveal that he knew God through a life of struggle and prayer, of constantly “standing before God.” It is this living Christianity that ignites the hearts of the searching people of our day and sheds the light of Christ into the darkness of this world.
Includes a preliminary Life of this righteous confessor, together with selections from his letters and three of his articles, all of which are largely autobiographical. From his words there emerges a warm, loving and endearing man, close to God’s creation. At the same time, we see him as a bearer of the holy tradition of Optina Monastery, a true knower of God to whom contact with the other world was a common reality.
A SPIRITUAL CLASSIC! Out of Print, but available used through Amazon.com. Possibly available to borrow from the Christ the Savior Library. Selections available online; see below following book description.
Little Russian Philokalia, Vol. III, St Herman of Alaska St Herman of Alaska Press
This priceless volume, originally published in 1988 by the St Herman Brotherhood, contains the Original Life of St Herman written in 1864 at the direction of Abbot Damascene of Valaam Monastery. Additionally, forty chapters cover the Treasury of St Herman's Spirituality, and his Complete Extant Letters are featured, which reveal his spirit through these "fragments of sanctity."
Color Cover, Illustrated throughout, 200 pages, originally $10.
We offer here a collection of links to other sites, a digest of resources on our beloved St Herman. Here you will find the Life of St Herman, OCA articles and photos of his glorification in 1970, the Akathist Hymn to the Saint, icons, and more. We hope this small effort of love and devotion for our Patron Saint of Orthodoxy in North America blesses you, and inspires you— "from this day, from this hour, from this minute!"
Wikipedia Article on St Herman: Very useful, and condenses a wide range of information about St Herman's joint glorification by the OCA and ROCOR, his impact on the Orthodox Church, and his veneration. Features numerous links to other resources.
OCA Resources on St Herman: Life, Chronology of Events in St Herman's Life, Liturgical Music Downloads, A Prayer to St Herman, Photos and Coverage of his Canonization in 1970, ecclesiastical messages from the OCA hierarchy surrounding St Herman's glorification. This significant collection rekindles the excitement and zeal sparked by the glorification of the first Saint of North America forty years ago!
Akathist to St Herman:(PDF Format) Suitable for home use, this moving prayer service highlights events from St Herman's life, and helps one absorb his spirituality even while asking his intercessions. Pray a section each evening with your children! Extensive Photo Collection from the Kodiak (OCA) Glorification of St Herman, including: pilgrimage to Monk's Lagoon and Spruce Island; Vigil, Hierarchical Liturgy and Procession at Holy Resurrection Church in Kodiak; St Herman's reliquary, klobuk, hand (blessing) cross, paraman (chains and cross) and more. Almost four dozen photos in all! (OrthodoxPhotos.com)
Our Parish Icon of Saints Herman and Innocent w/Relics
Our Parish Icon of Saints Herman and Innocent w/Relics
also by Fr Tregubov
also by Fr Tregubov
Updated August 7, 2012
Icons are windows into heaven, from where the saints intercede for us. St Herman's protection of the Alaskan natives—from fire, tsunami, and even ill-disposed Russian merchants—won their undying love, and helped convert them to faith in Christ. St Herman continues to watch over the faithful, on perhaps more than one occasion protecting our own Christ the Savior parish. Who can forget the Holy Friday night (Matins of Holy Saturday) just a few years ago, when a torrential rainstorm made it seem likely we would not be able to process outside the Church with the Epitaphios of the Lord. Fr. Steven was beginning to make plans for circling inside the Hall then back into the Church when a young person in the choir suggested, "We should pray to Saint Herman to help us! He stopped the tidal wave with his prayers..." Just as it came time for the procession, the thrumming on the roof seemed to die down, and as we exited from the back entrance of the Hall out to the street, not only had the storm stopped, but the sky had completely cleared, revealing the moon and stars, and a breeze had already begun to dry the pavement and sidewalk! Years earlier, a fire in the sacristy and altar area was extinguished, thus saving the church building. Perhaps this too was a sign of St Herman's protection of our parish...
With such a mighty intercessor watching out for his flock in North America, let us honor our Blessed Father Herman by keeping his icon in our homes, in our cars, on our computer screens, and above all in our hearts!
"A true Christian is made by faith and love of Christ. Our sins do not in the least hinder our Christianity, according to the word of the Savior Himself. He said: I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance; there is more joy in heaven over one who repents than over ninety and nine just ones. Likewise concerning the sinful woman who touched His feet, He said to the Pharisee Simon: to one who has love, a great debt is forgiven, but from one who has no love, even a small debt will be demanded. From these judgements a Christian should bring himself to hope and joy, and not in the least accept the torment of despair. Here one needs the shield of faith.
"Sin, to one who loves God, is nothing other than an arrow from the enemy in battle. The true Christian is a warrior fighting his way through the regiments of the unseen enemy to his heavenly homeland. According to the word of the Apostle, our homeland is in heaven; and about the warrior he says: we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places (Eph.6: 12)].
"The vain desires of this world separate us from our homeland; love of them and habit clothe our soul as if in a hideous garment. This is called by the Apostles the outward man. We, traveling on the journey of this life and calling on God to help us, ought to be divesting ourselves of this hideous garment and clothing ourselves in new desires, in a new love of the age to come, and thereby to receive knowledge of how near or how far we are from our heavenly homeland. But it is not possible to do this quickly; rather one must follow the example of sick people, who, wishing the desired health, do not leave off seeking means to cure themselves."
(From a Letter of St Herman, dated June 20, 1820)
~ ~ ~
The Importance of St Herman for Orthodox Christians in America Today
When we really stop to reflect upon what Blessed Father Herman accomplished in Alaska—and what his significance is for us today—we 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!"
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!"
In 1994 the 200th anniversary of Orthodoxy in America was celebrated — the bicentennial of the establishment of a Russian Orthodox mission on Kodiak Island, Alaska. On September 24, 1794, ten missionaries from the Valaam Monastery in the St. Petersburg (Russia) diocese, who had traveled for a year across 7,000 miles, finally reached their harsh new mission land in Alaska, or "Russian America," which had been a part of the Russian Empire until its sale to the United States in 1867. Only one of these original missionaries survived and remained in America—Holy Father St. Herman.
American Orthodoxy today owes a great debt to these ten missionary monks, most especially to the simple and humble ascetic monk, Father Herman. Truly the "North-Star of Christ’s Holy Church," and the last survivor of the original 1794 mission, he worked among the Alutiiq people for 43 years, teaching them by word and by the example of his holy life and great deeds. For most of those years he lived on Spruce Island—his "New Valaam"—teaching and caring for the natives as his beloved children, frequently defending them against the exploitation of the Russian fur traders. The people quickly grew to love him and came to him with all their problems. He lived the most ascetic life possible, eating and sleeping little, wearing the same ragged clothes year-round, feeding the birds and wild animals (even bears), and in continual prayer with his constant companions—God, the saints and the angels. When smallpox, brought by the European ships, ravaged the native Alaskans, Father Herman personally ministered to them, and brought all the orphans to his New Valaam, where he took care of them. He built an orphanage, school and chapel. He grew food in his garden, caught fish and baked cookies for the children. He taught them in his school, and showed them by his example how to live a godly life. Indeed, the children and adults loved their dear Apa (grandfather), and the native people have maintained their devotion to their beloved holy man until today. (Most native Alaskans are Orthodox). St. Herman was a clairvoyant wonder-worker, who saw into people’s hearts and into the future. Once, when a tidal wave (sunami) threatened the island, the saint put an icon near the sea, and said that the water would not come past the icon: it didn’t. Another time there was a similar experience with a forest fire.
He told the people that after his death outsiders would forget about him for 30 years. Indeed, 30 years later, in 1867, at the time of the sale of Russian America to the United States, Bishop Peter of Alaska began the formal investigation of St. Herman’s life, which led to the publication of his Life in 1894 and eventually, to his glorification in 1970. Blessed Father Herman has worked countless miracles since his repose in 1837, as he continues to guide those who follow the Orthodox way in America.
St. Herman's relics were brought from Spruce Island to the Resurrection Church on Kodiak at the time of his glorification on August 9, 1970. This Resurrection Church is the successor of the 1794 Resurrection Church founded by St. Herman and his fellow missionaries upon their arrival on Kodiak.
A beautifully carved wooden reliquary in the Resurrection Church contains the coffin with Father Herman's relics (photo to the right). On top of the reliquary are: a large icon of the saint (center); as well as the "paramon" cross and metal chains (on the left) that he wore (shown in the icon at the top); and his klobuk (monk's hat) (in the glass box on the right). Also to be found at this church is Father Herman's hand cross, which he is shown holding in the icon at the top.
This article was written by Jane M. deVyver, M.Th., Ph.D., and the photos are by the author. The icon at top left was painted/written by His Grace, Bishop Job of Chicago (formerly, Fr. John Osacky), and presented to Holy Resurrection Church by him at the time of the glorification of St. Herman on August 9, 1970. The second icon was painted/written by Fr. Theodore Jurewicz of Erie, PA, and is at St. Innocent Orthodox Church in Redford, MI; it contains a small particle of the holy relics of St. Herman.