The Shaman and the Saint

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NATIVE AMERICANS MET ORTHODOXY

The Shaman and the Saint

St. Innocent, Equal to the Apostles had an illustrious career – he began as a simple missionary priest to the Aleut people of Alaska, and wound up as Metropolitan of Moscow. But even though he was an important and influential man, he was humble and unassuming, very aware of his failings and his temptations. Because of this, St. Innocent managed to miss meeting angels.

St. Innocent’s first parish was a series of islands spread over 1700 miles of the Bering Sea. He and his family settled on Unalaska Island, and he made a point of traveling by kayak and ship to as many islands and villages as he could during the year to attend to the needs of his parishioners.

In April of 1828, some people from Unimak Island arrived in Dutch Harbour. They had come to ask him if he would visit them. Unimak is about four hundred miles north east (as the crow flies) from Unalaska. He told the delegation that he’d be happy to come with them, but on the way, he wanted to stop at Akun Island, which lies halfway between Unalaska and Unimak.

We have to remember that in 1828, the telephone hadn’t been invented yet. Mail service was nonexistent, except when the company ships brought parcels and letters from Russia or Sitka, and in any case, the Aleut people, until St. Innocent arrived, hadn’t needed a written language, so they didn’t read or Continue reading “The Shaman and the Saint”

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Saint John (Ivan) Smirennikov the Aleut of Alaska (+19th ce.)

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Saint John (Ivan) Smirennikov the Aleut of Alaska (+19th ce.)

This Aleut Orthodox tribal elder was known as a local ‘shaman’ who cured illness and told fishermen where to find large catches, just as shaman had done throughout the Arctic since time immemorial.

St. Innocent arrived at Akun Island on June 12, 1828 (O.S.), on a trip from Unalaska to Unimak Island, some 400 miles to the east. This was nearly four years after St. Innocent had first arrived in Alaska. St. Innocent was surprised to note that the people of the island were waiting for him at the shore, dressed in their finest clothing. The islanders greeted him by name, even before he introduced himself to them. When he asked them why they were waiting for him and how they knew his name, he was told that their shaman had informed them of his coming. St. Innocent thought this strange, but as he went about his work on the island, he put the incident out of his mind. However, as the days progressed, it came to his attention that one of the elders of the island, who had diligently come to services, and had prepared for and received Holy Communion, was unhappy with him. St. Innocent, wishing to avoid all misunderstandings, called to meet the man, known as Ivan Smirennikov.

The meeting took place, and Smirennikov expressed dissatisfaction that St. Innocent hadn’t asked why the islanders called him a shaman, even though the title bothered Smirennikov. As it turns out, Smirennikov had been baptized by Hieromonk Makary, and after his departure, he told St. Innocent, he had continually been visited almost daily for thirty years by two bright figures, who taught him in the ways of the faith. He, in turn, shared this with the rest of the village. These figures would also sometimes tell him things that were going to happen, which is how the islanders knew that St. Innocent would be arriving and his name. St. Innocent was first curious to meet these two, and he asked Smirennikov if he could meet them as well, and while Smirennikov went to ask if this was permissable, St. Innocent thought the better of it, reasoning that there was no way that demons would spend thirty years instructing someone on matters of the Faith. Furthermore, he considered himself unworthy to come into the presence of these spirits, and that Smirennikov had demonstrated enough to him for him alone that he did not need to meet these spirits to believe.

Before leaving Akun, St. Innocent wrote all these things down, and had them attested to, in writing, by Smirennikov and by his translator, a man by the name of Ivan Pankov. Also, he instructed the Akun islanders to no longer call Smirennikov a shaman. He then sent a copy of his experiences and Smirennikov’s testimony to his bishop, Bishop Michael (Byrudov) of Irkutsk. A reply was eventually received; blessing St. Innocent to go and meet the spirits, should they still be appearing to Ivan Smirennikov on St. Innocent’s next visit to Akun. Unfortunately, by the time St. Innocent visited Akun again, the elder Smirennikov had reposed, and the Angels of Akun appeared to no one else.

Source:

http://arizonaorthodox.com/saints-north-america/ivan-smirennikov-aleut-elder/

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Geloof is kracht, geen troost – Hellen Keller, VS (blind en doof) ╰⊰¸¸.•* Dutch

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Hellen Keller, VS (blind en doof):

“Geloof is kracht, geen troost”.

Faith is strength, not comfort – Hellen Keller, USA (blind & deaf)

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Hellen Keller, USA (blind and deaf):

“Faith is strength, not comfort”.

Saint Jacob Netsvetov of Alaska (+1865) – The evangelizer of the Yup’ik Eskimo & Athabascan peoples of Alaska

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Saint Jacob Netsvetov of Alaska (+1865)

The evangelizer of the Yup’ik Eskimo & Athabascan peoples of Alaska

July 26

 

Saint Jacob Netsvetov, Enlightener of Alaska, was a native of the Aleutian Islands who became a priest of the Orthodox Church and continued the missionary work of St. Innocent among his and other Alaskan people. His feast day is celebrated on the day of his repose, July 26.

Father Jacob was born in 1802 on Atka Island, part of the Aleutian Island chain in Alaska. His father, Yegor Vasil’evich Netsvetov, was Russian from Tobolsk, Russia, and his mother, Maria Alekscevna, was an Aleut from Atka Island. Jacob was the eldest of four children who survived infancy. The others were Osip (Joseph), Elena, and Antony. Although not well off, Yegor and Maria did all they could to provide for their children and prepare them to live their lives. Osip and Antony were able to study at the St. Petersburg Naval Academy and then were able to become a naval officer and ship builder, respectively. Elena married a respected clerk with the Russian-American Company. Jacob chose a life with the Church and enrolled in the Irkutsk Theological Seminary.

On October 1, 1825, Jacob was tonsured a sub-deacon. He married Anna Simeonovna, a Russian woman perhaps of a Creole background as was he, and then in 1826 he graduated from the seminary with certificates in history and theology. With graduation he was ordained a deacon on October 31, 1826 and assigned to the Holy Trinity-St. Peter Church in Irkutsk. Two years later, Archbishop Michael ordained Jacob to the holy priesthood on March 4, 1828. Archbishop Michael had earlier ordained John Veniaminov (St. Innocent) to the priesthood. With his elevation to the priesthood, Father Jacob began to yearn to return to his native Alaska to preach the Word of God.

Upon departing, Archbishop Michael gave Father Jacob two antimensia, one for use in the new church that Father Jacob planned to build on Atka, and the other for use in Father Jacob’s missionary travels. After a molieben, Father Jacob and his party set off for Alaska on May 1, 1828. The travelers included Father Jacob, Anna his wife, and his father Yegor who had been tonsured reader for the new Atka Church. This journey, which was always hard, took over year to complete, which was completed on June 15, 1829.

Father Jacob’s new parish was a challenge. The Atka “parish” covered most of the islands and land surrounding the Bering Sea: Amchitka, Attu, Copper, Bering, and Kurile Islands. But, he was to meet the challenge as clothed in his Continue reading “Saint Jacob Netsvetov of Alaska (+1865) – The evangelizer of the Yup’ik Eskimo & Athabascan peoples of Alaska”

Video: WWII Evacuation Memorial – St. Paul Island, Alaska, USA

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WWII Evacuation Memorial – St. Paul Island, Alaska, USA