Παρασκευή 1 Ιουλίου 2011

The Stories of the Saints of North America

Synaxis of All Saints of North America (click here)

From here
Δες πολλές πληροφορίες στα ελληνικά εδώ και εδώ.

By clicking on each of the individual saints above, you will be able to read his story.
Our church is dedicated to All Saints of North America: those individuals who lived among us on this continent who have been recognized by our Church and its faithful as men of great holiness and faith. Some of them were the first to bring the Holy Orthodox Christian Faith to the Americas, and some gave their lives in martyrdom for their faith and their God. We invite you to learn more about these holy ones.
Holy Saints of North America, Pray to God for us

Troparion in Tone VIII

As a beautiful fruit of the sowing of Thy salvation, the lands of America doth offer to Thee, O Lord, all the Saints that have shone in her. By their prayers keep the Church and the world in profound peace, through the Theotokos, O Most-merciful One

Kontaktion in Tone III

Today the choir of the saints who pleased God in the lands of America doth stand before us in church and invisibly doth pray for us to God. With them the angels glorify Him, and all the saints of the Church of Christ keep festival with them; and they all pray together for us to the eternal God.

St. Herman of Alaska

Saint Herman of Alaska was born in 1756 or 1760 in Serpukhov in the Moscow Diocese of Russia. He took the name Herman when tonsured a monk in the Trinity-Sergius Hermitage, near the Gulf of Finland, about 10 miles from St. Petersburg. He then transferred to the Valaam Monastery on the islands of Lake Ladoga. He was allowed later to live in the wilderness, a hermit alone in prayer, returning to the monastery only for the services of holy days.
In 1793, Father Herman, with Father (later, St.) Juvenaly and others, were chosen to do missionary work in Alaska. By zeal and the grace of God, they brought to the Faith several thousands of Native Alaskans. However, as time went by, the missionary party was slowly cut down. Some drowned in a ship at sea. Father Juvenaly was martyred at the hands of fearful Alaskans. Eventually, only Father Herman alone, of the original party, remained.
Father Herman settled on Spruce Island, and named it, “New Valaam,” in honor of his beloved Valaam Monastery. He dug a cave out of the ground with nothing but his hands, and lived there until a cell could be built, in which he then lived until his death. He grew his own food, not only for himself but for all he cared for, digging the earth, planting, carrying heavy loads of seaweed to fertilize the earth. He was a great ascetic; he was always barefoot even in these lands of the far North, and wore only a deerskin smock, a podrasnik and a patched rassa (inner and outer cassock), and his klobuk (monastic hat). He slept very little, and only on a wooden bench with no cushion, used bricks for a pillow, and covered himself with no blankets, but only a board.
He advocated for and defended the Aleuts against sometimes oppressive authorities. 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.
He was a great and compelling teacher, not only to Aleuts but also to highly educated and “free-thinking” Russians and Europeans who happened to travel there, and this humble monk humbled these “great ones” by his knowledge and wisdom, converting many to the true Faith. Often Aleuts were so captivated that they stayed up with him all night, not leaving until dawn.
Icon from here
The elder was given great spiritual gifts by God. He often foreknew the future, telling people of events that would happen many years later, and which were shown to have come true. By his prayers, God averted forest fires from crossing a line Father Herman made, and stopped a flood from rising past the position where Father Herman had placed an icon of the Mother of God and prayed.
Father Herman reposed in the Lord in his sleep on the 25th day of December (December 12th on the ancient Calendar of the Church), in 1837. He continued to work miracles after his death, answering the prayers of the faithful in intercession for them before God.
Holy St. Herman, pray to God for us.
St. Herman is commemorated on December 12 on the calendar of the ancient Church (December 25 according to the New Style calendar).

Troparion in Tone IV:

O venerable Herman, ascetic of the northern wilderness and gracious advocate for all the world, teacher of the Orthodox Faith and good instructor of piety, adornment of Alaska and joy of all America: entreat Christ God, that He save our souls.

Kontakion in Tone VIII:

O beloved of the Mother of God, who received the tonsure at Valaam, new zealot of the struggles of the desert-dwellers of old: wielding prayer as a spear and shield, thou didst show thyself to be terrible to demons and pagan darkness. Wherefore, we cry out to the: O venerable Herman, entreat Christ God that our souls be saved!
For more reading about St. Herman:

St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco

St. John Maximovitch of Shanghai and San Francisco was born on June 4, 1896, in Adamovka, in Russia’s Kharkov province, and was baptized Michael, in the name of the Archangel. As a child, he was familiar with a local monastery where lay the miracle-working relics of a holy Archbishop, who had been venerated in life for his extreme asceticism, often having gone without sleep at all, spending nights standing motionless in prayer. Like him, St. John also became a great ascetic, and when he died, he had not slept in a bed since he took his monastic vows 40 years previously, only sleeping for an hour or two on the floor. He ate only once a day, at 11 PM. During the first and last full weeks of Lent he did not eat at all, and for the rest of the fast, he ate only prosphora from the altar. He often walked barefoot even on the coldest days.
He was consecrated Bishop on May 28, 1934, by renowned Metropolitan Anthony Khrapovitsky, though St. John was so humble that he had been sure up until the last moment that he had been called by mistake, and that surely another hieromonk John was wanted, because he had a speech impediment, and felt he could not serve. The response he received was that the Prophet Moses had, as well.
He was assigned to the Diocese of Shanghai, China. He worked there to restore unity among local Serbian, Greek, and Ukrainian believers, to build a cathedral and numerous other churches and hospitals. He visited the sick and those in prison, and was would go to anyone critically ill at any time of day or night to pray at the bedside, and many reported miraculous healings. He gathered sick and suffering children from the streets of Shanghai and cared for them in an orphanage he established, ultimately serving 1500 children altogether. He was known for his ability to see the future, providing services to people who seemed in excellent health, for example, whom he foresaw were imminently to die. He appeared at the bedside of one who was dying and had prayed for him to come, though the hospital staff had refused to call for him. He served the Holy Mysteries to a woman dying of rabies, and immediately after doing so, she had a fit, foaming at the mouth, and spitting up the Holy Gifts. Knowing that the Holy Gifts cannot be thrown away, St. John immediately picked them up and swallowed them, himself, even though rabies is extremely contagious and routinely fatal. He said, “Nothing with happen; these are the Holy Gifts!” and he spoke the truth.
St. John also served in the Phillipines when the Russians had to flee China, later in Paris and Brussels, and finally San Francisco. His last years included much suffering, with conflicts and slanders, and Vladyka was even subjected to having to testify in court, but in the end, the truth triumphed. He foreknew the time and place of his death, and on June 19, 1966, in the presence of the miraculous Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God of the Sign, he reposed in the Lord. Many people reported his visitation in dreams and visions, filled with joy and bathed in light. In 1994, a commission of the Church found that his relics were incorrupt, and many people since, praying before his relics, have found healing and consolation.
Holy St. John, pray to God for us.
St. John is commemorated on June 19 on the calendar of the ancient Church (July 2, on the New Style calendar)

Troparion in Tone V:

Lo, thy care for thy flock in its sojourn prefigured the supplications which thou doest ever offer up for the whole world. Thus do we believe, having come to know thy love, O holy hierarch and wonderworker John. Wholly sanctified by God through the ministry of the all-pure Mysteries, and thyself ever strengthened thereby, thou didst hasten unto the suffering, O most gladsome healer. Hasten now also to the aid of us who honor thee with all our heart.

Kontakion in Tone IV:

Thy heart hath gone out to all who entreat thee with love, O holy hierarch John, and who remember the struggle of thy whole industrious life, and thy painless and easy repose, O faithful servant of the all-pure Directress.
For more reading about St. John:

St. Innocent

The icon from Outreach Alaska.

St. Innocent was born in 1797 to a poor family in a remote village in a rural area of Irkutsk Province in Russia, and named Ioann (John). He was orphaned at the age of six, and assigned to the seminary at Irkutsk at nine. Shortly after he arrived, the relics of St. Innocent of Irkutsk were found, whose name and apostolic ministry young Ioann later would inherit. He was a hard working and outstanding student, who also was seen as humble and kind, and for these qualities he was given the name of Veniaminov after the late Bishop Veniamin of Irkutsk who was beloved by the faithful.
After he was ordained to the priesthood, he spent a year as a parish priest in Irkutsk, and then volunteered to go into missionary work in Alaska, though many other clergy were afraid to do so, because they had heard it was a wild country filled with dangerous savages. His wife broke into tears when she heard the news of this mission, but was unable to dissuade him, so at age 26, he and his family traveled over 2,000 miles, taking over a year to complete this arduous journey, and arrived finally in the Aleutian Islands in 1824.
He built a church with his own hands, traveled to remote areas by kayak, dog sled, even reindeer. He learned six dialects of the native language and developed the first written alphabet for the native Aleuts. He translated the Bible and other sacred books into their language. Years later, he also translated scriptural books into other Alaskan native languages. He also studied all aspects of the local area, and wrote ethnographic, geographical and linguistic works for which he later was elected an honorary member of the Russian Geographical Society and Moscow Royal University.
He returned to Russia to seek more resources and support for the Alaska mission, where, after his wife died, he took monastic vows and the name Innocent, after Bishop Innocent of Irkutsk. He was later consecrated Bishop, and was assigned to the new see of Kamchatka-kurils and the Aleutian Islands, to which he returned, tirelessly building churches, guiding priests, seeking to bring the Gospel and the Holy Orthodox Church to native peoples of Alaska. He encouraged the use of English, and the use of indigenous clergy.
He was later made Archbishop, and later, having returned to Russia, ultimately became Metropolitan of Moscow, where he continued his missionary zeal, establishing and guiding an Orthodox Missionary Society. He is perhaps especially remembered for his zeal to bring the gospel to the world. The apostolic preaching of Metropolitan Innocent spread to a vast territory including Alaska and Chukotka, the Aleutian, Kurils and Commander Islands, eastern Siberia, the Amur region, Kamchatka and the Far East. Metropolitan Innocent brought the light of Christian faith to the Aleutians, Koloshes, Kurils, Eskimo, Kenai, Chugaches, Kamchadals, Oliutores, Negidales, Mongols, Samogirs, Golds, Gulyaks, Koryaks, Tungus, Chukcha, Yakutians, and Kitians.
The preaching of the gospel was a primary achievement in the life of Metropolitan Innocent and occupied a special place in his apostolic service. The metropolitan had a great homiletic gift and was a remarkable preacher. He never missed an opportunity to preach and talk to people and tirelessly instructed his clergy to do the same.
Holy St. Innocent, pray to God for us.
Our Father among the saints, St. Innocent, Metropolitan of Moscow, Enlightener of Siberia & America, is commemorated on March 31.

Troparion in Tone III:

O holy hierarch Innocent our father, thou who wast first to teach the tribes which before lay in heathen darkness, and first to show them the way to salvation, who didst labor as an apostle in the enlightenment of Siberia and America: Entreat the Master of all, that He grant peace to the whole world and great mercy to our souls.

Kontakion in Tone IV:

Thou wast a true and truthful teacher; for, having thyself done what the Lord commanded, thou didst thereby teach and instruct in piety those who came to thee, didst enlighten unbelievers to recognize the true Faith, illumining them with holy baptism. Wherefore, thou rejoicest with the apostles, receiving the honor of an evangelist of Christ.
For more reading about St. Innocent:

St. Herman St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco St. Innocent St. Juvenaly St. Tikhon St. Peter the Aleut

St. Juvenaly

Saints of Alaska. Saints Herman, Innocent, Peter and Juvenaly, flanked by Saints Demetrios and Nicholas (from History Notes concerning Orthodox Christianity and the Alaska Church)

St. Juvenaly was the protomartyr (first martyr) of the Americas, dying as a martyr at the hands of natives in Alaska in 1796. He was born in 1761 in Ekaterinburg, in the Ural Mountains of Russia, and was named Jacob Govouchkin. When he was tonsured a monk, he took the name Juvenaly, after St. Juvenal, Patriarch of Jerusalem in the fifth century. He was ordained a hieromonk (a priest/monk), and lived for some time in the Konyavesky Monastery on Lake Ladoga in Russian Finland.
In 1793, Father Juvenaly and Father (later, St.) Herman, and others were assigned to be missionaries in Alaska, and they trekked 8,000 miles across Russia, Siberia, and the Pacific Ocean, arriving at last on Kodiak, Alaska on September 24, 1794. They worked with immense zeal, and within two years, more than 12,000 Alaskans had embraced the Christian Faith.
Father Juvenaly began missionary work on the mainland the next year, baptizing more than 700 Chugach Sugpiag Indians, later many Athabaskan Indians, then moved northwest toward the Bering Sea, but then disappeared. Although nothing is known for certain about the circumstances of his death, local oral traditions among Alaskan peoples tell of the martyrdom of a priest, which appears to have been Father Juvenaly, who apparently frightened some Eskimos who did not understand his gestures in making the sign of the cross, and, by the immediate order of a Yupiat shaman, Father Juvenaly was killed by arrows and spears.
His missionary activity was brief, but zealous and energetic, and showed immense success in a short time in bringing the saving Gospel to the native peoples of Alaska.
Holy St. Juvenaly, pray to God for us.
St. Juvenaly (with St. Peter the Aleut) is commemorated in the Synaxis of the First Martyrs of the American Land on Dec. 12 according to the calendar of the ancient Church (December 25 on the New Style calendar).
Thy martyr, O Lord, Holy Hieromartyr St. Juvenaly of Alaska, through his suffering, an incorruptible crown did obtain from Thee, our God; for, rejoicing in Thy strength, he laid low his tormentors and did beat off impotent affronts of the demons also; at his intercessions save our souls.

For more reading on the life of St. Juvenaly:
Martyr Juvenaly of Alaska
America’s New Saints - Protomartyrs Juvenal and Peter the Aleut
Icon from here
 St. Patriarch Tikhon

Saint Patriarch Tikhon was the great and holy Patriarch of the Russian Church during the last days of Holy Russia, and the terrible and fateful days of the Revolution. Father Alexey Young (now Monk Ambrose) quoted one of his biographers, and a contemporary of his:
Icon from here
The Saint's English language biographer Jane Swan,has written: "It is difficult to assess the greatness ofTikhon....His spiritual growth was far beyond that of the ordinarymortal." This finds agreement with the opinion of the Saint'scontemporary, Prof. Pavel Zaichenko: "in speaking about BishopTikhon, I am seized with reverent trepidation This was a giantamong Russian Orthodox hierarchs; he was truly worthy of the honorand respect of the entire Christian world.”
He was born in 1865 to a rural priest, Ioann Belavin, and he spent his early years close to peasants and their labor. His father had a vision of his (deceased) mother, who prophesied that one of his sons would die young, another would be unfortunate throughout his life, and another would be a great man; all proved to be true.
He graduated from the St. Petersburg Theological Academy, and later took monastic vows, taking the name of St. Tikhon of Zadonsk. He was consecrated Bishop in 1897 in the Kholm diocese, and a year later, he was appointed Bishop of the Aleutian Islands and Alaska in 1898, and his cathedral was in San Francisco. He blessed the construction and consecrated the cathedral of St. Nicholas in New York City. But he did not spend all of his time in cathedrals of large cities. He also traveled by kayak and dogsled across wilderness lands, encouraging missionary development not only by clergy and missionaries, but lay people as well. His parishes grew from 15 to 70, and there grew two seminaries, a third was founded in Alaska, as well as a school for women with an affiliated orphanage.
Throughout his ministry, he remained the same simple, kind, gentle, open man he always had been, and was loved by people everywhere he went, and mourned when he left.
In February of 1907, he was called back to Russia, where, as Father Alexei said, “… his Golgotha and his glory awaited him.” In accepting the will of the Church when elected Patriarch in 1917, he referred to the scroll that Ezekiel had to eat, on which was written, “Lamentations, mourning, and woe.” Please read Father Alexey’s moving account in the first reference below.
Holy St. Tikhon, pray to God for us.
Patriarch St. Tikhon is commemorated on October 5 according to the calendar of the ancient Church (October 18 according to the New Style calendar) with the other Holy Hierarchs Of Moscow.

Troparion in Tone IV:

O primates of Russia, true preservers of the Traditions of the apostles, unshakable pillars, instructors in Orthodoxy, Peter, Alexis, Jonah, Philip, Hermogenes & Tikhon: entreat the Master of all that He grant peace to the whole world and great mercy to our souls.

Kontakion in Tone III:

Piously did ye live among holy hierarchs; and ye guided the people toward divine knowledge, and were well pleasing unto God. Wherefore, ye have been glorified by Him with incorruption and miracles, as disciples of the grace of God.
For more reading about the life of St. Tikhon:
St. Tikhon of Moscow Patriarch of Moscow and Apostle to America
Saint Patriarch Tikhon - His Missionary Legacy to Orthodox America, by Father Alexey Young, in Orthodox America


St. Peter the Aleut

St. Peter the Aleut was a native of Kodiak Island, who became the third martyr for the Orthodox Faith in America. He was a fur-hunter, baptized into the Faith by Russian missionaries.
Spain was in possession of California in those days, and was deeply suspicious of Russian encroachment from the North. In 1815, the Spanish governor ordered an immediate halt to Russian trading and trapping in the region, and the arrest of nearly one hundred Russians and Aleuts who had not yet left the area.
The prisoners were treated as slaves, and some, notably Peter, were tortured in order to try to force them to accept the Roman Catholic faith, even though he confessed the Holy Orthodox Christian Faith. An eyewitness account stated that a Spanish priest ordered that Peter’s fingers be cut off, one joint at a time, eventually cutting his hands completely off, and then that he be disemboweled. Peter died of his torture, without ever renouncing the Orthodox Faith.
Holy St. Peter the Aleut, pray to God for us.
St. Peter the Aleut (with St. Juvenaly) is commemorated in the Synaxis of the First Martyrs of the American Land, Dec. 12 on the calendar of the ancient Church (December 25 on the New Style calendar).
Thy martyr, O Lord, St. Peter the Aleut, through his suffering, an incorruptible crown did obtain from Thee, our God; for, rejoicing in Thy strength, he laid low his tormentors and did beat off impotent affronts of the demons also; at his intercessions save our souls.
For more reading on the life of St. Peter the Aleut:
Other Saints of N. America

Icon from here

 St Jacob (Netsvetov) of Alaska 

Commemorated on July 26

Father Jacob (Netsvetov) of Alaska was born of pious parents in 1802 on Atka Island, Alaska. His father, Yegor Vasil'evich Netsvetov was a Russian from Tobolsk. His mother, Maria Alekseevna, was an Aleut from Atka island. Yegor and Maria had four children who survived infancy; Jacob was the first born, followed by Osip (Joseph), Elena, and Antony. Yegor and Maria were devoted to their children and, though of meager means, did all they could to provide them with the education which would help them in this life as well as in the life to come. Osip and Antony were eventually able to study at the St Petersburg Naval Academy in Russia, becoming a naval officer and a shipbuilder, respectively. Their sister, Elena, married a successful and respected clerk for the Russian-American Company. But Jacob yearned for a different kind of success, a success that the world might consider failure for "the righteous live forever, their reward is with the Lord" (Wis. Sol. 5:15). And so, when the family moved to Irkutsk in 1823, Jacob enrolled in the Irkutsk Theological Seminary and placed all his hope in Christ by seeking first the Kingdom of God (Mt. 6:33).

Jacob was tonsured as a Subdeacon on October 1, 1825. He married a Russian woman (perhaps also a Creole) named Anna Simeonovna, and in 1826 graduated from the Seminary with certificates in history and theology. On October 31, 1826, he was ordained to the Holy Diaconate and assigned to serve the altar of the Holy Trinity-St Peter Church in Irkutsk. Two years later, on March 4, 1828, Archbishop Michael, who had earlier ordained Father John Veniaminov (St Innocent), elevated the godly deacon Jacob to the Holy Priesthood. This, however, was no ordinary ordination. As if he were a new Patrick, hearing the mystical call of his distant flock, Father Jacob yearned to return to his native Alaska. And the all-good God, who (satisfies the longing soul and fills the hungry soul with goodness" (Ps.107:9) heard the prayer of his servant.

Archbishop Michael provided Father Jacob with two antimensia: one for the new Church which would be dedicated to the glory of God in honor of St Nicholas the Wonderworker in Atka, and one to be used for missionary activity. On May 1, 1828 a molieben for travelers was served, and Father Jacob, his father, Yegor, (now tonsured as reader for the Atka Church), and his matushka, Anna, set out for Alaska.

Who can tell of the perils and trials associated with such a journey? Travel in those days was never easy, either overland or over the waves of the sea. Nevertheless, aided by prayer and confidence in God's providence, the Netsvetov family arrived safely in Atka over a year later, on June 15, 1829. The new assignment for the newly-ordained Father Jacob would also prove to be quite a challenge. The Atka "parish" comprised a territory stretching for nearly 2,000 miles and included Amchitka, Attu, Copper, Bering and Kurile Islands. But this did not deter the godly young priest, for when he was clothed in the garments of the Priesthood, he was found to be "clad with zeal as a cloak' (Is. 59:17), and so he threw himself wholly into his sacred ministry. His deep love for God and for his flock was evident in everything that he did. Both in Atka and in the distant villages and settlements which he visited, Father Jacob offered himself as a "living sacrifice" (Rom 12:1). Having "no worry about his life" (Mt. 6:25 ff), the holy one endured manifold tortures of cold, wet, wind, illness, hunger and exhaustion, for to him life was Christ (Phil 1:21). Showing himself as a "rule of faith," his example brought his people to a deep commitment to their own salvation. Being fully bilingual and bicultural, Father Jacob was uniquely blessed by God to care for the souls of his fellow Alaskans. [More here!!]

St Raphael, Bishop of Brooklyn (+ 1915)
Commemorated on February 27

Proclamation on the Glorification of Our Holy Father Bishop RAPHAEL (30-Apr-2000) Our holy Father Raphael was born in Syria in 1860 to pious Orthodox parents, Michael Hawaweeny and his second wife Mariam, the daughter of a priest of Damascus. The exact date of Raphael's birth is not known, but he estimated it to be on or near his Name Day, the Synaxis of the Holy Archangels Michael and Gabriel and all the Bodiless Powers of Heaven (November 8). Due to the violent persecution of Christians, at which time their parish priest, St Joseph of Damascus (July 10) and his companions were martyred, the Hawaweeny family was forced to flee to Beirut for their safety. It was here that the future saint first saw the light of day, and not in the city of his parents. Indeed, as the child's life unfolded, it was evident that he would have no continuing city in this world, but would seek the city which is to come (Heb 13:14).

On the Feast of Theophany in 1861, he was baptized with the name Rafla, and later that spring the family was able to return to Damascus. The child attended elementary school, where he did very well, but in 1874 it appeared that Michael Hawaweeny would no longer be able to afford his son's tuition. Fortunately, help came from Deacon Athanasius Atallah (later Metropolitan of Homs), who recommended to Patriarch Hierotheus of Antioch that Rafla be accepted as a student of the Patriarchate in preparation for the priesthood.

He was such a good student that he was selected to be a substitute teaching assistant in 1877. The following year he was appointed as a teacher of Arabic and Turkish. On March 28, 1879 he was tonsured as a monk by Patriarch Hierotheus, and served as His Beatitude's personal attendant.

Since the Balamand Seminary had been closed in 1840, Patriarch JOACHIM III of Constantinople invited the Patriarch of Antioch to send at least one deserving student to study on scholarship at the School of Theology at Halki, and Saint Raphael was the one who was selected to go.

On December 8, 1885, he was ordained to the diaconate at the school chapel. In July of 1886, the young deacon received his Certificate of Theology, and returned to his homeland in the hope of serving the Church there. Patriarch Gerasimus of Antioch was impressed with Deacon Raphael, and often took him along on his pastoral visitations of his parishes. When His Beatitude could not be present, Deacon Raphael was asked to preach the Word of God to the people.

Deacon Raphael was not satisfied with the extent of his knowledge, and thirsted to learn even more. This did not stem from personal pride or ambition, but came from his fervent desire to benefit others. Truly, the words of King Solomon could be applied to Saint Raphael: "Give an opportunity to a wise man, and he will be wiser; instruct a just man, and he will receive more instruction" (Proverbs 9:9). Therefore, he asked Patriarch Gerasimus to permit him to do graduate studies at a school in Russia, promising to return and serve as the Patriarch's Russian-language secretary. The Patriarch gave his blessing, and Deacon Raphael was accepted as a student at the Theological Academy of Kiev.

In 1889 Patriarch Gerasimus ordered the young deacon to take over as head of the Antiochian representation church in Moscow. He was ordained to the holy priesthood by Bishop SYLVESTER, the rector of the Academy, at the request of Patriarch Gerasimus. A month later, he was raised to the rank of archimandrite by Metropolitan IOANNIKII of Moscow, and was confirmed as head of the Antiochian representation church. After two years, Archimandrite Raphael was able to reduce the representation's 65,000 ruble debt by 15,000 rubles. He also arranged for twenty-four Syrian students to come to Russia to further their education, hoping that they would return to Syria and teach others.

When Patriarch Gerasimus resigned in order to accept the See of Jerusalem, Archimandrite Raphael regarded this as an opportunity to free the Church of Antioch from its domination by foreign hierarchs. Burning with love for the Church of Antioch, and wishing to restore the administration of the church to its own native clergy and people, Archimandrite Raphael began a campaign of writing letters to some Antiochian bishops and influential laymen. He also wrote articles in the Russian press, drawing attention to the plight of Antioch. His courageous efforts did not meet with success, however, and there was a price to pay for his outspoken criticism.

In November of 1891 Metropolitan SPYRIDON, a Greek Cypriot, was elected as Patriarch of Antioch. Many Arabs believed that he had purchased the election by distributing 10,000 lira to several notable people in Damascus. Archimandrite Raphael refused to commemorate the new Patriarch during services at the representation church. As a result, he was suspended from his priestly functions by Patriarch SPYRIDON. Saint Raphael accepted his suspension, but continued to write articles in Russian newspapers in defense of the Antiochian cause. The Patriarchs of Antioch, Constantinople, Alexandria, and Jerusalem successfully petitioned the Tsar to forbid Russian newspapers from publishing his articles. With this door closed to him, Saint Raphael began to publish his writings in book form.

Eventually, Patriarch SPYRIDON wrote to the Assistant Overprocurator of Russia, a friend of Saint Raphael's, asking him to persuade Father Raphael to ask for the Patriarch's forgiveness. He did so, and the suspension was lifted. Saint Raphael was allowed to transfer from the jurisdiction of Antioch to the Church of Russia, and to remain there. He went to Kazan, taking a position as instructor in Arabic studies at the theological academy. He remained there until 1895 when he was invited by the Syrian Orthodox Benevolent Society of New York to come to that city to be the pastor of the Arab Orthodox community.

When the holy Apostle Paul had a vision of a man entreating him to come to Macedonia to help them (Acts 16:10), he set off on a great missionary journey. When Saint Raphael heard of the needs of his countrymen who were scattered in a strange land, he crossed the ocean to labor in yet another foreign country. [More here!!]

Saint PHILARET, Metropolitan of New York & Eastern America

THE HOLY HIERARCH PHILARET (in the world George Nicolaevich Voznesensky) was born in the city of Kursk on 22nd March / 4th April, 1903, into a pious Orthodox family. His father, the Archpriest Nicolas Voznesensky, was from a family of priests, and he was a zealous pastor and great man of prayer. Subsequently he was tonsured a monk with the name Demetrius, and became a Bishop (later Archbishop of Hailar).

There were five children in the family of Lydia and Nicolas Voznesensky, two sons and three daughters. From his very infancy the young George grew up in an atmosphere of Christian love and church-centredness. When he was about six or seven, he already loved to play “at services.”

In 1909, the Voznesensky family moved to the Far East, to Blagoveshchensk on the Amur. There George completed the eight-year grammar school course. As soon as the government in Priamur fell into the hands of the atheistic and theomachistic powers, the family of the future hierarch re-settled in Harbin. At that time Harbin was a provincial Russian town, where the old patriarchal traditions and church life were being maintained. In the town there were 26 Orthodox churches, which, on the church festivals, overflowed with the faithful.

In Harbin, George continued his education at the Polytechnic Institute. At this time he became acquainted with the works of the holy hierarch Ignatii Brianchaninov. The teaching of the Saint concerning the Christian life and concerning the constant remembrance of death evinced in the soul of the young man a real spiritual conversion. From this time on, life in the world ceased to interest him. In 1930, George was ordained to the order of the diaconate, and in 1931 a priest. In the same year, Father George completed the pastoral-theological course, and he received the monastic tonsure with the name Philaret in honour of Saint Philaret the Merciful, which, as it were, fore-ordained the course of his earthly life as a Christian: the heart of Vladyka Philaret was a heart of mercifulness.

Gradually in the House of Kindheartedness, where Father Philaret had received the monastic tonsure, a monastic community was formed. Daily services, the reading of the Holy Fathers, instructing the children in the orphanage and in Harbin’s schools in their catechism - such was the daily round that occupied the brethren. The spiritual guide of Hieromonk Philaret in those years was the Most Blessed Metropolitan Antony (Khrapovitsky) who, although he did not know him personally, nonetheless had a particularly heartfelt bond with him. Singling him out from among the number of the brethren, the Staretz-Metropolitan had a specially warm love for him and corresponded with him to the very end of his life in 1936.

Father Philaret truly had a merciful heart. He was accessible to all, he comforted and guided each one who came to him. Everything he had, and sometimes even his clothes, he would give away to those in need. Possessed of a great love for the word of God, Fr Philaret knew the whole Gospels from memory. One of the places in the Sacred Scriptures that the future hierarch loved best were the words of the Lord which denounced the lukewarmness of Christians in their faith. He loved to repeat that love for God, for Christ, must come in the first place: “Deny yourself and all that is close to your heart, and follow after Christ! This is the main thing!” The reverence of his serving and the sermons of this true pastor filled the churches with worshippers. The name of Father Philaret was known far and wide to the very borders of the Harbin eparchy. In 1933 he was appointed Hegoumen, and in 1937 Archimandrite. [More here!!]

Saint Olga of Alaska
From here. Site here

Sometimes I find after reading about the life of a particular saint, that their holiness seems so unattainable, because their lives are so different from mine that I walk away discouraged. This is not the case with Blessed Olga of Alaska. Little Olga, or Olinka, was born to the Michael family on February 2, 1916. Olga grew up in the northern Eskimo village of Kwethluk, Alaska, surrounded by traditional Yup’ik charity. From her heart, this same charity overflowed naturally to all others, regardless of race or religion.
Olga knew a mother's sorrow first hand. She was a mother of 13, although 5 had died. Mother Olga was a midwife and healer and was known for her foreknowledge of who was pregnant even before they did. Often situations of abuse would be made known to her within the privacy of the steam bath or as the village midwife. In the heat of their sorrow, Matushka would heal, revive and console these souls, like a cool stream on a hot summer’s day. Blessed Olga still reaches out and heals those in suffering no matter their religion or nationality by her prayers. Recently there was an account of her appearing with Theotokos and healing an abused woman and there are others that she is quietly healing and consoling today.
Although her life seems ordinary, her love for God and neighbor was extraordinary. Olinka was aware of Jesus in all the people she met. Her children remember her giving away their clothes before they had outgrown them. She used to say to them, "If you see your dress on someone else, please don't mention it or say anything about it." To neighbors, she was quick to lend a helping hand, no matter how difficult the task. People remember her stopping whatever she was doing in order to help with just about anything. Mother Olga would often finish a snow boot sole or haul wood and water to make a steam bath to share with her blind friend. She knew the needs of communities far away and would send them traditional fur boots and parkas as donations to be raffled. This knowledge of their need was given her directly through prayer.
Mother Olga was steadfast and faithful. She had an arranged marriage and lived in a three room house with no running water, no sewer connection and no furnace. Olinka carried water every day for her family, but the real water was the overflowing stream of her deep prayer life. Through her prayers, her husband, Postmaster Nicolai Michael became Father Nicolai. He was the first Eskimo priest from her village of Kwethluk, where there was an amazing overflowing of seminarians. Kwethluk’s population in those days was about two hundred. In her life time, more than twenty men set out for seminary to become readers, deacons and priests. There is no other generation in Alaska yet that has had such an anointing to serve God. To put that in perspective, one man of every 10 families came to serve the Lord. To equal that kind of human tithe, we would have to turn out at least 35 seminarians here at our parish. Matushka Olga was literally the fountain of holiness in her community.
Olga was a hidden treasure, who out of a life of deep and continuous prayer gathered into her soul the sweet dew of grace. She was very humble and unassuming; very quiet. Visitors to her house, while her husband was the priest in Kwethluk, say that she was almost invisible, so gentle and complete was her sense of hospitality and service. Bishop GREGORY told me once that although he knew her, and had been served his favorite dish, Salmon Pie, she was so quiet and reserved that he did not know of her blessedness. Her closest friends were not at all surprised.
Mother Olga was gentle and kind in manner. She never criticized her
children and gave them great freedom and respect. Similar to Maria Montessori, Blessed Olga's way was to understand what children were capable of doing and let them become responsible for themselves. She believed in not forcing them to conform to her set of rules whenever possible and never used shame to discipline them. She was merciful and loving not just to those outside of her family, but to her nearest and dearest. This too is a very Yup'ik way.
After a year's reprieve from cancer, Blessed Olga fell asleep in the Lord on November 8, 1979 at the age of 63. The first known appearance of Blessed Olga occurred in 1995, in New York, to a suffering woman, a complete stranger, who was not Orthodox. This sufferer had been beseeching the Mother of God for help. In answer to her plea, Theotokos appeared with Blessed Olga, who then healed her. With that miracle, veneration naturally began, and 2 years later a visiting priest, Fr. Michael Oleksa spontaneously revealed Matushka Olga to us with a teaching on her life. Soon after that an unofficial version of her Moleben and Magnification were written in thanksgiving. Later His Beatitude Metropolitan JONAH visited Kwethluk the week of July 31, meeting with all her surviving children. While there he served a Panakahida at her gravesite and venerated the first icon of her as part of her ongoing canonization process.
By her simple piety, honesty, humility, and her gift of Yup’ikness, Blessed Olga provides a contemporary example to all of us of holiness. Blessedness is not attained only by those who live in caves, dwell deep in the woods, or in a monastery. In the little village of Kwethluk, faithfully living out the Holy Mystery of Marriage, day by day participating in the Orthodox way of life, God manifested in Mother’s soul all the fruits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Because of this grace, Matushka Olga is called the “Northern Light of Alaska” and the heavens agree. Once after Vespers on Nov 8th, the night was aflame with a color display of the Aurora Borealis in all its variety of reds, greens, and blues. As we came out of church that night all were amazed by this display in the sky and it filled our souls with awe and joy. God blessed us for faithfully attending Great Vespers and the heavens declared on her day of repose, “What a mother we have in Blessed Olga!”
To learn more about St. Olga, please see Saint Olga of Alaska.

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