Glorification of St. Herman of Alaska
St. Herman of Alaska, the first "American" saint, was the first to bring Orthodoxy to this continent.
He came to America as a young monk in 1794 as part of the original Russian Orthodox mission to
Alaska. He lived there until his repose, and for more than four decades taught the natives by word
and example. With his own severe asceticism a secret, he ministered to both physical and spiritual
needs of the people. And his memory is preserved, fresh and personal, among their descendents to
this day. Ironically, however, he is unknown to so many other Americans. By his prayers may we,
also, truly receive the Gospel he brought and follow the way that he taught.
"Although much time will pass after my death," Father Herman used to say to his disciples, "My
memory will not be forgotten and the place of my dwelling will not be empty. A monk, similar to me,
fleeing the glory of men, will come and will live on Spruce Island. And Spruce Island will not be
St. Herman of Alaska
"After my death," Father Herman used to say, "there will be a plague and many people will die from
it, and the Russians will join with the Aleuts." It is true that about six months after the death
of the Elder, there was a smallpox epidemic in Alaska that caused such an atrocious number of
fatalities that in several villages only a few people remained alive. This compelled the colonial
authorities consolidate the Aleuts: thus from twenty villages there remained only seven.
"My little one," Father Herman once asked Constantine Larionov, when he was no more than twelve
years old, "what do you think? Will the chapel which they are now building be abandoned?" "I do
not know Apa." answered the boy. "And really," said Constantine, "I did not understand the
question then, although the whole conversation remains lively in my memory." The Elder, being
silent for a while said "My child, remember that in time there will be a monastery here."
"Thirty years will pass after my death, all those who live now on Spruce Island will be dead, you
alone will remain alive, and you will be old and poor; then they will remember me," Father Herman
used to say this to his disciple, the Aleut Ignatius Aliaga. "It is remarkable," explains Ignatius,
"how a man similar to us could know all this these things way ahead of time! He was not a simple
man! He saw our thoughts and he would make us involuntarily open them up to him and receive
"When I die," the Elder would tell his disciples, "you bury me next to Father Ioasaph. Kill my
bullock at once. He has served me enough. Bury me by yourselves and do not tell of my death in
the harbor The inhabitants of the port (Kodiak) will not see my face. Do not send for a priest
and do not wait for one to come: your waiting will be in vain! Do not wash my body, place it on
the board, fold the arms on the chest, bind me in my mantle and with its edges cover my face and
my head with my klobuk. If someone should wish to say good-bye to me, let him kiss the cross
(in my hands); do not show anyone my face. After lowering me into the earth cover me with my
blanket." This blanket, as we have already mentioned, was the board that was always in his cell.
The time was approaching for the departure of the Elder. One day he called his disciple Gerasim to
his cell to light candles before the icons and to read the Acts of the Apostles. After some time
his face shone and he loudly pronounced: "Glory to Thee O Lord! " Then, ordering Gerasim to stop
the reading he said that it was pleasing to the Lord to prolong his life one week more. After a
week, again according to his order, the candles were lit and the Acts of the Apostles were read.
The Elder quietly leaned his head on the chest of Gerasim, the cell was filled with fragrance,
his face was shining - and then Father Herman was no more! Hence, he reposed with the sleep of
the righteous in the 81st year of his long-suffering life, December 13, 1837.
More on St. Herman of Alaska here:
Life of Valaam Monk Herman