On the second Sunday after Pentecost, it is the custom of the Orthodox Church to celebrate the saints who have come from the local region. Many of our readers are from North America, and will therefore remember the Saints of North America on that Sunday. Regardless of where in the world we live, it is important that we learn about our “local” saints and teach the children in our care about them, as well, so that the children know that even in our part of the world there are people who have followed Christ successfully. The process of teaching our children about these saints can influence our lives towards godliness, as well!
Here are a few details about North American saints:
St. Herman of Alaska – the first saint glorified on the “new” continent, he lived on Kodiak Island for many years and worked with superhuman strength, including lifting a log that would’ve taken 4 people to lift it. He is commemorated on December 13.
St. Juvenaly – came to the “new land” in the late 1700s, to help teach the natives about Christ. He was killed by a hunting party who was afraid of him because he was a stranger. He died blessing his killers with the sign of the cross. The local shaman was fascinated by St. Juvenaly’s cross, and put it around his neck; however whenever he tried to cast one of his spells while wearing the cross, he found himself unable to complete the spell, and, in fact, hovering several feet above the ground. The shaman took off the cross and warned his people not to harm anyone dressed like St. Juvenaly. St. Juvenaly is commemorated on Sept. 24.
St. Peter the Aleut – was a Kodiak native baptized into the Orthodox Faith by St. Herman’s group of missionaries. St. Peter refused to convert to Roman Catholicism, despite having his fingers cut off one joint at a time… During his tortures, he said, “I am a Christian. I will not betray my faith.” He is commemorated on Sept. 24.
St. Innocent – volunteered to come to the “new land” as a missionary, even though it meant bringing his young family along to a place that was considered unsafe. He learned the Aleut language and culture, to better find a way to tell the people about Christ and His Church. He even developed a written language for the Aleut people, and translated the Liturgy, parts of scripture, and other important Christian things so that the Aleuts can worship in their native language. He is commemorated on March 31.
St. Jacob – born in Alaska, St. Jacob was the first Native American ordained to the priesthood. He worked very hard among the native peoples of Alaska, creating the written form of the Unangan language and translating the Scriptures and other Orthodox writings into the language. He was sent (in his early forties) as a missionary to the southwest Alaskan tundra, where he ministered to the Yup’ik Eskimos and Athabaskan peoples. He is commemorated on July 26.
St. Alexis – a Uniate priest, St. Alexis was refused by the Roman Catholic Church when he was sent to America from his native Hungary. He found a home in Orthodoxy, and brought 15,000 other Uniates with him over the course of his life. Life was not easy for him: in addition to his work as a priest, he worked as a baker to provide for his needs, because his parish was very poor. Despite his meager income, St. Alexis still gave to the poor and shared with other needy clergy members, while helping to build churches and seminaries. He is commemorated on May 7.
St. Rafael – was born in Lebanon, schooled in Russia, recruited as a missionary to America, and could serve the Divine Liturgy fluently in 4 different languages. When he was ordained as the first Orthodox Christian bishop in America, he had already declined ordination as a bishop in Lebanon twice, because of his commitment to the people of America. It was he who insisted that services be served in English so that the young people would understand it and not leave the Church. He helped to write the English language service book and assisted in establishing 30 congregations. He is commemorated on the Saturday before the Synaxis of the Bodiless Powers of Heaven (sometime between November 1 – 7).
St Tikhon – was a bishop in Poland and Russia in addition to the USA. In his 9 years in America, however, he started the first Orthodox Christian seminary; founded the first monastery; and established many parishes. Back in Russia during the difficult time of the Bolshevik Revolution, St. Tikhon both tenderly cared for wounded soldiers and fiercely led his flock, encouraging them to maintain their faith in the face of persecution. He is commemorated on March 25.
St. John (Kotchurov) – was born in Russia, but always felt called by God to be a missionary. He was sent to Chicago, where he established Holy Trinity Cathedral. He and his family later returned to Russia, where he was killed by the Bolsheviks for leading his people in a walk while praying for the salvation of Russia. He is called the “First Hieromartyr of the Bolshevik Yolk and Missionary of America.” He is commemorated on October 31.
St. Alexander – came to the United States from Russia to help with the Church. He was a very good speaker, and also helped to translate publications like “The Word” into English for those who did not speak Arabic. He went on to serve as a priest in Finland and back in Russia before the Bolsheviks finally caught up with him and martyred him for his pastoral activities. He is commemorated on December 4.
St. Nicholas of Zica – was brilliant, with five doctoral degrees from universities in different countries. He was a missionary to the United States, then returned to his native Serbia, spent time in Dachau as a prisoner, was not allowed to go back to his native land because of his faith, and ended up as a refugee in America, teaching at St. Tikhon’s monastery and caring for the faithful until he departed this life. He is commemorated on March 18.
St. John Maximovitch – born in the Ukraine, St. John fled to a Serbian monastery to become a monk and then a priest. He was sent to China as a bishop of the Russian Church in Exile. He later served as archbishop of Paris and Brussels, then was sent to San Francisco. St. John loved everyone, and prayed so often and so well that people would often find him deep in prayer, glowing with holy light, and hovering 6″ off the ground. He was sometimes seen at different places at the same time, without there being any way on earth that he could have been transported between the locations. He worked hard to make sure the Church was a place of worship, not just a social/ethnic gathering place. His incorrupt body can be seen in his cathedral in San Francisco. He is commemorated on July 2.
Find more about each of these saints at http://www.antiochian.org/north-american-saintsand at http://prayingwithmyfeet.blogspot.com/2012/06/all-saints-of-north-america.html.
Each of these saints were people who emulated Christ, many of them doing so in the face of adversity. They were successful in following Christ, setting an example for the rest of us, regardless of where in the world we live. May they intercede for us, that we, too, may be faithful!