Photos: Alaska, USA



Glorification of the Venerable Herman of Alaska,

Wonderworker of All America



Venerable Herman of Alaska, Wonderworker of All America. A spiritual mission was organized in 1793, made up of monks of the Valaam Monastery. They were sent to preach the Word of God to the native inhabitants of northwestern America, who only ten years before had come under the sovereignty of Russia. St Herman was among the members of this Mission.

St Herman came from a family of merchants of Serpukhov, a city of the Moscow Diocese. His name before he was tonsured, and his family name are not known. (The monastic name is given when a monk takes his vows). He had a great zeal for piety from youth, and at sixteen he entered monastic life. (This was in 1772, if we assume that Herman was born in 1756, although sometimes 1760 is given as the date of his birth.) First he entered the Trinity-Sergius Hermitage which was located near the Gulf of Finland on the Peterhof Road, about 15 versts (about 10 miles) from St Petersburg.


At the St Sergius Hermitage there occurred the following incident to Father Herman. On the right side of his throat under his chin there appeared an abscess. The swelling grew rapidly, disfiguring his face. It became difficult for him to swallow, and the odor was unbearable. In this critical condition Father Herman awaited death. He did not appeal to a
physician of this world, but locking his cell he fell before an icon of the Queen of Heaven. With fervent tears he prayed, asking of Her that he might be healed. He prayed the whole night. Then he took a wet towel and with it wiped the face of the Most Holy Mother, and with this towel he covered the swelling. He continued to pray with tears until he fell asleep from sheer exhaustion on the floor. In a dream he saw the Virgin Mary healing him.

When Herman awoke in the morning, he found to his great surprise that he was fully healed. The swelling had disappeared, even though the abscess had not broken through, leaving behind but a small mark as though a reminder of the miracle. Physicians to whom this healing was described did not believe it, arguing that it was necessary for the abscess to have either broken through of its own accord or to have been cut open. But the words of the physicians were the words of human experience, for where the grace of God operates there the order of nature is overcome. Such occurrences humble human reason under the strong hand of God’s Mercy.


For five or six years Father Herman continued to live in the St Sergius Hermitage, and then he transferred to the Valaam Monastery, which was widely scattered on the large islands in the waters of the great Lake Ladoga. He came to love the Valaam haven with all his soul, as he came to love its unforgettable Superior, the pious Elder Nazarius, and all the brethren. He wrote to Father Nazarius later from America, “Your fatherly goodness to me, humble one, will be erased out of my heart neither by the terrible, unpassable Siberian lands, nor by the dark forests. Nor will it be wiped out by the swift flow of the great rivers; nor will the awful ocean quench these feelings. In my mind I imagine my beloved Valaam, looking to it beyond the great ocean.” He praised the Elder Nazarius in his letters as, “the most reverend, and my beloved father.” (Batushka) and the brethren of Valaam he called, “my beloved and dearest.” The place where he lived in America, deserted Spruce Island, he called “New Valaam.” And as we can see, he always remained in spiritual contact with his spiritual homeland, for as late as 1823, that is after thirty years of his life within the borders of America, he wrote letters to the successor of Father Nazarius, the lgumen Innocent.

Father Barlaam, later lgumen of Valaam, and a contemporary of Father Herman, who accepted his tonsure from Father Nazarius, wrote thus of the life of Father Herman.

“Father Herman went through the various obediences here, and being ‘well disposed toward every thing’ was in the course of events sent to Serdobol to oversee there the work of quarrying marble. The Brothers loved Father Herman, and awaited impatiently his return to the cloisters from Serdobol. Recognizing the zeal of the young hermit the wise elder, Father Nazarius, released him to take abode in the wilderness. This wilderness was in the deep forest about a mile from the cloister: to this day this place has retained the name ‘Herman’s.’ On holy days, Father Herman returned to the monastery from the wilderness. Then it was that at Little Vespers he would stand in the choir and sing in his pleasant tenor the responses with the brethren from the Canon, ‘O Sweetest Jesus, save us sinners. Most Holy Theotokos, Save us,’ and tears would fall like hail from his eyes.”


In the second half of the 18th century the borders of Holy Russia expanded to the north. In those years Russian merchants discovered the Aleutian Islands which formed in the Pacific Ocean a chain from the eastern shares of Kamchatka to the western shares of North America. With the opening of these islands there was revealed the sacred necessity to illumine with the light of the Gospel the native inhabitants. With the blessing of the Holy Synod, Metropolitan Gabriel gave to the Elder Nazarius the task of selecting capable persons from the brethern of Valaam for this holy endeavor. Ten men were selected, and among them was Father Herman. The chosen men left Valaam for the place of their great appointment in 1793. (The members of this historical mission were: Archimandrite Joseph (Bolotoff), the Hieromonks, Juvenal, Macarius, Athanasius, Stephan and Nectarius, Hierodeacons, Nectarius and Stephen, and the monks Joasaph, and Herman.)

As a result of the holy zeal of the preachers the light of the evangelic sermon quickly poured out among the sons of Russia, and several thousand pagans accepted Christianity. A school for the education of newly-baptized children was organized, and a church was built at the place where the missionaries lived. But by the inscrutable providence of God the general progress of the mission was unsatisfactory. After five years of very productive labor, Archimandrite Joasaph, who had just been elevated to the rank of bishop, was drowned with his party. (This occurred on the Pacific Ocean been Kamchatka and the Aleutian Islands. The ship, Phoenix, one of the first sea-going ships built in Alaska, sailed from Okhotsk carrying the first Bishop for the American Mission and his party. The Phoenix was caught in one of the many storms which periodically sweep the northern Pacific, and the ship and all hands perished together with Bishop Joasaph and his party.) Before this the zealous Hieromonk Juvenal was granted the martyr’s crown. The others died one after another until in the end only Father Herman remained. The Lord permitted him to labor longer than any of his brethren in the apostolic task of enlightening the Aleutians.


In America Father Herman chose as his place of habitation Spruce Island, which he called New Valaam. This island is separated by a strait about a mile and a quarter wide from Kodiak Island on which had been built a wooden monastery for the residence of the members of the mission, and a wooden church dedicated to the Resurrection of the Savior. (New Valaam was named for Valaam on Lake Ladoga, the monastery from which Father Herman came to America. It is interesting to note that Valaam is also located on an island, although, this island is in a fresh water lake, whereas, Spruce Island is on the Pacific Ocean, although near other islands and the Alaskan mainland.)

Spruce Island is not large, and is almost completely covered by a forest. Almost through its middle a small brook flows to the sea. Herman selected this picturesque island for the location of his hermitage. He dug a cave out of the ground with his own hands, and in it he lived his first full summer. For winter there was built for him a cell near the cave, in which he lived until his death. The cave was converted by him into a place for his burial. A wooden chapel, and a wooden house to be used as a schoolhouse and a guest house were built not too distant from his cell. A garden was laid out in front of his cell. For more than forty years Father Herman lived here.


Father Herman himself spaded the garden, planted potatoes and cabbage and various vegetables in it. For winter, he preserved mushrooms, salting or drying them. The salt was obtained by him from ocean water. It is said that a wicker basket in which the Elder carried seaweed from the shore, was so large that it was difficult for one person to carry. The seaweed was used for fertilizing the soil. But to the astonishment of all, Father Herman carried a basket filled with seaweed for a long distance without any help at all. By chance his disciple, Gerasim, saw him one winter night carrying a large log which normally would be carried by four men; and he was bare footed. Thus worked the Elder, and everything that he acquired as a result of his immeasurable labors was used for the feeding and clothing of orphans and also for books for his students.

His clothes were the same for winter as for summer. He did not wear a shirt; instead he wore a smock of deer skin, which he did not take off for several years at a time, nor did he change it, so that the fur in it was completely worn away, and the leather became glossy. Then there were his boots or shoes, cassock (podrasnik), an ancient and faded out cassock (riasa) full of patchwork, and his headdress (klobuk). He went everywhere in these clothes, and at all times; in the rain, in snowstorms, and during the coldest freezing weather. In this, Father Herman followed the example of many Eastern Ascetic Fathers and Monks who showed the greatest concern for the welfare and needs of others. Yet, they themselves wore the oldest possible clothes to show their great humility before God, and their contempt for worldly things.

A small bench covered with a time-worn deerskin served as Father Herman’s bed. He used two bricks for a pillow; these were hidden from visitors by a skin or a shirt. There was no blanket. Instead, he covered himself with a wooden board which lay on the stove. This board Father Herman, himself called his blanket, and he willed that it be used to cover his remains; it was as long as he was tall. “During my stay in the cell of Father Herman,” writes the creole Constantine Larionov, “I, a sinner, sat on his ‘blanket’-and I consider this the acme of my fortune!” (‘creole’ is the name by which the Russians referred to the children of mixed marriages of native Indians of Alaska, Eskimo and Aleuts with Russians.)

On the occasions when Father Herman was the guest of administrators of the American Company and in the course of their soul-saving talks he sat up with them until midnight. He never spent the night with them, but regardless of the weather he always returned to his hermitage. If for some extraordinary reason it was necessary for him to spend the night away from his cell, then in the morning the bed which had been prepared for him would be found untouched; the Elder not having slept at all. The same was true in his hermitage where having spent the night in talks, he never rested.

The Elder ate very little. As a guest, he scarcely tasted the food, and remained without dinner. In his call his dinner consisted of a very small portion of a small fish or some vegetables.

His body, emaciated as a result of his labors, his vigils, and fasting, was crushed by chains which weighed about sixteen pounds. These chains are kept to this day in the chapel.

Telling of these deeds of Father Herman, his disciple, the Aleut Ignaty Aligyaga, added, “Yes, Apa led a very hard life, and no one can imitate his life!” (Apa, Aleutian word means Elder or grandfather, and it is a name indicative of the great affection in which he was held).

Our writing of the incidents in the life of the Elder deal, so to speak, with the external aspects of his labor. “His most important works,” says the Bishop Peter, “were his exercises in spiritual endeavor in his isolated cell where no one saw him, but outside the cell they heard him singing and celebrating services to God according to the monastic rule.” This witness of the Bishop is supported by the following answers of Father Herman, himself, “How do you manage to live alone in the forest, Father Herman? Don’t you ever become lonesome?” He answered, “No I am not there alone! God is here, as God is everywhere. The Holy Angels are there. With whom is it better to talk, with people, or with Angels? Most certainly with Angels.”


The way in which Father Herman looked upon the natives of America, how he understood his own relations with them, and how he was concerned for their needs he expressed himself in one of his letters to the former administrator of the colony, Simeon Yanovsky.

He wrote, “Our Creator granted to our beloved homeland this land which like a newly-born babe does not yet have the strength for knowledge or understanding. It requires not only protection, because of its infantile weakness and impotence, but also his sustenance. Even for this it does not yet have the ability to make an appeal on its own behalf. And since the welfare of this nation by the Providence of God, it is not known for how long, is dependent on and has been entrusted into the hands of the Russian government which has now been given into your own power, therefore I, the most humble servant of these people, and their nurse (nyanka) stand before you in their behalf, write this petition with tears of blood. Be our Father and our Protector. Certainly we do not know how to be eloquent, so with an inarticulate infant’s tongue we say: Wipe away the tears of the defenseless orphans, cool the hearts melting away in the fire of sorrow. Help us to know what consolation means.”

The Elder acted the way he felt. He always interceded before the governors in behalf of those who had transgressed. He defended those who had been offended. He helped those who were in need with whatever means he had available. The Aleuts, men, women and children, often visited him. Some asked for advice, others complained of oppression, others sought out defense, and still others desired help. Each one received the greatest possible satisfaction from the Elder. He discussed their mutual difficulties, and he tried to settle these peacefully. He was especially concerned about reestablishing understanding in families. If he did not succeed in reconciling a husband and wife, the Elder prevailed upon them to separate temporarily. The need for such a procedure he explained thus, “it is better to let them live apart, or believe me, it can be terrible if they are not separated. There have been incidents when a husband killed his wife, or when a wife destroyed her husband.”

Father Herman especially loved children. He made large quantities of biscuits for them, and he baked cookies (krendelki) for them; and the children were fond of the Elder. Father Herman’s love for the Aleuts reached the point of self-denial.


A ship from the United States brought to Sitka Island, and from there to Kodiak Island, a contagious disease, a fatal illness. It began with a fever, a heavy cold, and difficult respiration, and it ended with chills; in three days the victim died. On the island there was neither a doctor nor medicine. The illness spread rapidly through the village, and then throughout the nearby areas. The disease affected all, even infants. The fatalities were so great that for three days there was no one to dig graves, and the bodies remained unburied. An eyewitness said, “I cannot imagine anything more tragic and horrible than the sight which struck me when I visited an Aleutian ‘Kazhim’. This was a large building, or barracks, with dividing sections, in which the Aleuts lived with their families; it contained about 100 people. Here some had died, their cold bodies lay near the living; others were dying; there were groans and weeping which tore at one’s soul.”

“I saw mothers over whose bodies cold in death crawled a hungry child, crying and searching in vain for its food…My heart was bursting with compassion! It seemed that if anyone could paint with a worthy brush the full horror of this tragic scene, that he would have successfully aroused fear of death in the most embittered heart.” Father Herman, during this terrible sickness which lasted a whole month, gradually dying out towards the end, visited the sick, never tiring. He admonished them in their fear, prayed, brought them to penance, or prepared them for death. He never spared himself.


The Elder was concerned in particular for the moral growth of the Aleuts. With this end in mind a school was built for children-the orphans of the Aleuts. He himself taught them the Law of God and church music. For this same purpose he gathered the Aleuts on Sunday and Holy Days for prayer in the chapel near his cell. Here his disciple read the Hours and the various prayers while the Elder himself read the Epistle and Gospel. He also preached to them. His students sang, and they sang very well. The Aleuts loved to hear his sermons, gathering around him in large numbers. The Elder’s talks were captivating, and his listeners were moved by their wonderous power. He himself writes of one example of the beneficial results of his words.

“Glory to the holy destinies of the Merciful God! He has shown me now through his unfathomable Providence a new occurence which I, who have lived here for twenty years had never seen before on Kodiak. Recently after Easter, a young girl about twenty years of age who knows Russian well, came to me. Having heard of the Incarnation of the Son of God and of Eternal Life, she became so inflamed with love for Jesus Christ that she does not wish to leave me. She pleaded eloquently with me. Contrary to my personal inclination and love for solitude, and despite all the hindrances and difficulties which I put forward before accepting her, she has now been living near the school for a month and is not lonesome.”

“I, looking on this with great wonder, remembered the ‘words of the Savior: that which is hidden from the wise and learned is revealed to babes.” (Matt. 11:25)

This woman lived at the school until the death of the Elder. She watched for the good conduct of the children who studied in his school. Father Herman willed that after his death she was to continue to live on Spruce Island. Her name was Sophia Vlasova.

Yanovsky writes about the character and the eloquence of the talks of the Elder thus:

“When I met Father Herman I was thirty years old. I must say that I was educated in the naval corps school; that I knew many sciences having read extensively. But to my regret, the Science of sciences, that is the Law of God, I barely remembered the externals—and these only theoretically, not applying them to life. I was a Christian in name only, but in my soul and in reality, I was a freethinker. Furthermore, I did not admit the divinity and holiness of our religion, for I had read through many atheistic works. Father Herman recognized this immediately and he desired to reconvert me. To my great surprise he spoke so convincingly, wisely—and he argued with such conviction- that it seemed to me that no learning or worldly wisdom could stand one’s ground before his words. We conversed with him daily until midnight, and even later, of God’s love, of eternity, of the salvation of souls, and of Christian living. From his lips flowed a ceaseless stream of sweet words! By these continual talks and by the prayers of the holy Elder the Lord returned me completely to the way of Truth, and I became a real Christian. I am indebted for all this to Father Herman he is my true benefactor.”

“Several years ago,” continues Yanovsky, “Father Herman converted a certain naval captain G. to Orthodoxy from the Lutheran Faith. This captain was well educated. Besides many sciences, he was well versed in languages. He knew Russian, English, German, French, Italian and also some Spanish. But for all this he could not resist the convictions and proofs of Father Herman. He changed his faith and was united to the Orthodox Church through Chrismation. When he was leaving America, the Elder said to him while they were parting, “Be on guard, if the Lord should take your wife from you then do not marry a German woman under any circumstance. If you do marry a German woman, undoubtedly she will damage your Orthodoxy.” The Captain gave his word, but he failed to keep it. The warning of the Elder was prophetic. Indeed, after several years the Captain’s wife did die, and he married a German woman. There is no doubt that his faith weakened or that he left it; for he died suddenly without penance.”

Further on Yanovsky writes, “Once the Elder was invited aboard a frigate which came from St Petersburg. The Captain of the frigate was a highly educated man, who had been sent to America by order of the Emperor to make an inspection of all the colonies. There were more than twenty-five officers with the Captain, and they also were educated men. In the company of this group sat a monk of a hermitage, small in stature and wearing very old clothes. All these educated conversationalists were placed in such a position by his wise talks that they did not know how to answer him. The Captain himself used to say, ‘We were lost for an answer before him.’

“Father Herman gave them all one general question: ‘Gentlemen, What do you love above all, and what will each of you wish for your happiness?’ Various answers were offered … Some desired wealth, others glory, some a beautiful wife, and still others a beautiful ship he would captain; and so forth in the same vein. ‘It is not true,’ Father Herman said to them concerning this, ‘that all your various wishes can bring us to one conclusion—that each of you desires that which in his own understanding he considers the best, and which is most worthy of his love?’ They all answered, ‘Yes, that is so!’ He then continued, ‘Would you not say, Is not that which is best, above all, and surpassing all, and that which by preference is most worthy of love, the Very Lord, our Jesus Christ, who created us, adorned us with such ideals, gave life to all, sustains everything, nurtures and loves all, who is Himself Love and most beautiful of all men? Should we not then love God above every thing, desire Him more than anything, and search Him out?’ ”

All said, “Why, yes! That’s self-evident!” Then the Elder asked, “But do you love God?” They all answered, “Certainly, we love God. How can we not love God?” “And I a sinner have been trying for more than forty years to love God, I cannot say that I love Him completely,” Father Herman protested to them. He then began to demonstrate to them the way in which we should love God. “if we love someone,” he said, “we always remember them; we try to please them. Day and night our heart is concerned with the subject. Is that the way you gentlemen love God? Do you turn to Him often? Do you always remember Him? Do you always pray to Him and fulfill His holy commandments?” They had to admit that they had not! “For our own good, and for our own fortune,” concluded the Elder, “let us at least promise ourselves that from this very minute we will try to love God more than anything and to fulfill His Holy Will!” Without any doubt this conversation was imprinted in the hearts of the listeners for the rest of their lives.

“in general, Father Herman liked to talk of eternity, of salvation of the future life, of our destinies under God. He often talked on the lives of the Saints, on the Prologue, but he never spoke about anything frivolous. It was so pleasant to hear him that those who conversed with him, the Aleuts and their wives, were so captivated by his talks that often they did not leave him until dawn, and then they left him with reluctance;” thus witnesses the creole, Constantine Larionov.


Yanovsky writes a detailed description of Father Herman. “I have a vivid memory,” he said, “Of all the features of the Elder’s face reflecting goodness; his pleasant smile, his meek and attractive mien, his humble and quiet behavior, and his gracious word. He was short of stature. His face was pale and covered with wrinkles. His eyes were greyish-blue, full of sparkle, and on his head there were a few gray hairs. His voice was not powerful, but it was very pleasant.” Yanovsky relates two incidents from his conversations with the Elder. “Once,” he writes, “I read to Father Herman the ode, ‘God,’ by Derzhavin. The Elder was surprised, and entranced. He asked me to read it again. I read it once more, “Is it possible that a simple, educated man wrote this?” he asked. “Yes, a learned poet,” I answered. “This has been written under God’s inspiration,” said the Elder.


“On another occasion I was relating to him how the Spanish in California had imprisoned fourteen Aleuts, and how the Jesuits were forcing all of them to accept the Catholic Faith. But this Aleut would not agree under any circumstances, saying, ‘We are Christians.’ The Jesuits protested, ‘That’s not true; you are heretics and schismatics. If you do not agree to accept our faith then we will torture all of you.’ Then the Aleuts were placed in cells until evening; two to a cell. At night the Jesuits came to the prison with lanterns and lighted candles. They began to persuade the Aleuts in the cell once again to accept the Catholic Faith. ‘We are Christians,’ was the answer of the Aleuts, ‘and we will not change our Faith.’ Then the Jesuits began to torture them, at first the one while his companion was the witness. They cut the toes off his feet, first one joint and then the other joint. And then they cut the first joint on the fingers of the hands, and then the other joint. Afterwards they cut off his feet, and his hands; the blood flowed. The martyr endured all and steadfastly insisted on one thing: “I am a Christian.’ In such suffering, he bled to death. The Jesuit promised to torture to death his comrades also on the next day.

But that night an order was received from Monterey stating that the imprisoned Aleuts were to be released immediately, and sent there under escort. Therefore, in the morning all were dispatched to Monterey with the exception of the martyred Aleut. This was related to me by a witness, the same Aleut who was the comrade of the tortured Aleut. Afterwards he escaped from imprisonment, and I reported this incident to the supreme authorities in St Petersburg. When I finished my story, Father Herman asked, ‘And how did they call the martyred Aleut?’ I answered, ‘Peter; I do not remember his family name.’ The Elder stood up before an icon reverently, made the sign of the Cross and pronounced, “Holy newly-martyred Peter, pray to God for usl”


In order to express the spirit of Father Herman’s teaching, we present here a quotation from a letter that was written by his own hand.

“The empty years of these desires separate us from our heavenly homeland, and our Love for these desires and our habits clothe us, as it were, in an odious dress; it is called by the Apostle ‘the external (earthy) man.’ (I Cor. 15:47). We who are wanderers in the journey of this life call to God for aid. We must divest ourselves of this repulsiveness, and put on new desires, and a new love for the coming age. Thus, through this we will know either an attraction or a repulsion for the heavenly homeland. It is possible to do this quickly, but we must follow the example of the sick, who wishing for desired health, do not stop searching for means of curing themselves. But I am not speaking clearly.”

Not desiring anything for himself in life; long ago when he first came to America having refused, because of his humility, the dignity of hiero-monk and archimandrite; and deciding to remain forever a common monk, Father Herman, without the least fear before the, powerful, strove with all sincerity for God. With gentle love, and disregarding the person, he criticized many for intemperate living, for unworthy behavior, and for oppressing the Aleuts. Evil armed itself against him and gave him all sorts of trouble and sorrow. But God protected the Elder. The Administrator of the Colony, Yanovsky, not having yet seen Father Herman, after receiving one of those complaints, had already written to St Petersburg of the necessity of his removal. He explained that it seemed that he was arousing the Aleuts against the administration. But this accusation turned out to be unjust, and in the end Yanovsky was numbered among the admirers of Father Herman.

Once an inspector came to Spruce Island with the Administrator of the Colony N. and with company employees to search through Father Herman’s call.

This party expected to find property of great value in Father Herman’s call. But when they found nothing of value, an employee (of the American Company), Ponomarkhov, began to tear up the floor with an axe, undoubtedly with the consent of his seniors. Then Father Herman said to him, “My friend, you have lifted the axe in vain; this weapon shall deprive you of your life.” Some time later people were needed at Fort Nicholas, and for that reason several Russian employees were sent there from Kodiak; among them was Ponomarkhov; there the natives of Kenai cut off his head while he slept.


Many great sorrows were borne by Father Herman from evil spirits. He himself revealed this to his disciple, Gerasim. Once when he entered Father Herman’s cell without the usual prayer he received no answer from Father Herman to any of his questions. The next day Gerasim asked him the reason for his silence. On that occasion Father Herman said to him, “When I came to this island and settled in this hermitage the evil spirits approached me ostensibly to be helpful. They came in the form of a man, and in the form of animals. I suffered much from them; from various afflictions and temptations. And that is why I do not speak now to anyone who enters into my presence without prayer.” (It is customary among devout laymen, as well as clergy, to say out loud a prayer, and upon hearing a response ending with Amen, to enter and go to the icon in the room to reverence it, and to say a prayer before greeting the host).


Herman dedicated himself fully for the Lord’s service; he strove with zeal solely for the glorification of His Most Holy Name. Far from his homeland in the midst of a variety of afflictions and privations Father Herman spent several decades performing the noblest deeds of self-sacrifice. He was privileged to receive many supernatural gifts from God.

In the midst of Spruce Island down the hill flows a little stream into the sea. The mouth of this stream was always swept by surf. In the spring when the brook fish appeared the Elder raked away some of the sand at its mouth so that the fish could enter, and at their first appearance they rushed up the stream. His disciple, lgnaty, said, “it was so that if ‘Apa’ would tell me, I would go and get fish in the streaml” Father Herman fed the birds with dried fish, and they would gather in great numbers around his call. Underneath his cell there lived an ermine. This little animal can not be approached when it has had its young, but the Elder fed it from his own hand. “Was not this a miracle that we had seen?” said his disciple, Ignaty. They also saw Father Herman feeding bears. But when Father Herman died the birds and animals left; even the garden would not give any sort of crops even though someone had willingly taken care of it, Ignaty insisted.

On Spruce Island there once occurred a flood. The inhabitants came to the Elder in great fear. Father Herman then took an icon of the Mother of God from the home where his students lived, and placed it on a “laida” (a sandy bank) and began to pray. After his After his prayer he turned to those present and said,“Have no fear, the water will not go any higher than the place where this holy icon stands.” The words of the Elder were fulfilled. After this he promised the same aid from this holy icon in the future, through the intercessions of the Most Immaculate Queen. He entrusted the icon to his disciple Sophia; in case of future floods the icon was to be placed on the “laida.” This icon is preserved on the island to this day.

At the request of the Elder, Baron F. P. Wrangel wrote a letter to a Metropolitan (his name is not known) which was dictated by Father Herman. When the letter was completed and read, the Elder congratulated the Baron upon his attaining the rank of admiral. The Baron was taken aback. This was news to him. It was confirmed, but only after an elapse of some time, and just before he departed for St. Petersburg.

Father Herman said to the administrator Kashevarov, from whom he accepted his son from the font (during the Sacrament of Baptism), “I am sorry for you, my dear ’kum.’ It’s a shame; the change will be unpleasant for you.” In two years, during a change of administration Kashevarov was sent to Sitka in chains.

Once, the forest on Spruce Island caught fire. The Elder, with his disciple Ignaty, in a thicket of the forest made a belt about a yard wide in which they turned over the moss. They extended it to the foot of the hill. The Elder said, “Rest assured, the fire will not pass this line.” On the next day, according to the testimony of Ignaty, there was no hope of salvation (from the fire) and the fire, pushed by a strong wind, reached the place where the moss had been turned over by the Elder. The fire ran over the moss and halted, leaving untouched the thick forest which was beyond the line.

The Elder often said that there would be a Bishop for America; this at a time when no one even thought of it, and there was no hope that there would be a Bishop for America. This was related by Bishop Peter, and his prophecy was fulfilled in time.

“After my death,” said Father Herman, “there will be an epidemic, many people shall die during it, and the Russians shall unite the Aleuts.” And so it happened. It seems that about a half a year after his passing, there was a smallpox epidemic; the death rate in America during the epidemic was tremendous. In some villages, only a few inhabitants remained alive. This led the administration of the colony to unite the Aleuts; the twelve settlements were consolidated into seven.

“Although a long time shall elapse after my death, I will not be forgotten” said Father Herman to his disciples. “My place of habitation will not remain empty. A monk like me, who will be escaping from the glory of men, will come and he will live on Spruce Island, and Spruce Island will not be without people.” (This prophecy has now been fulfilled in its entirety. Just such a monk as Father Herman described lived on Spruce Island for many years; his name was Archimandrite Gerasim, who died on October 13, 1969. This monk took on himself the responsibility of taking care of the Chapel under which the Elder Herman was first buried. Metropolitan Leonty, soon after his elevation to the primacy of the Russian Orthodox Church in America, made a pilgrimage to Spruce Island, and the grave of Herman.


The Creole Constantine, when he was not more than twelve years old, was asked by Father Herman, “My beloved one, what do you think; this chapel which they are building now, will it ever stand empty?” The youngster answered, “I do not know, Apa.” “Indeed,” said Constantine, “I did not understand his question at that time, even though the whole conversation with the Elder remains vivid in my memory.” The Elder remained silent for some time, and then said, “My child, remember, in time there will be a monastery in this place.”

Father Herman said to his disciple the Aleut Ignaty Aligyaga, “ Thirty years shall pass after my death, and all those living on Spruce Island will have died, but you alone will remain alive. You will be old and poor when I will be remembered.” And indeed after the death of Father Herman thirty years passed when they were reminded of him, and they began to gather information and facts about him; on the basis of which his Life was written. “ It is amazing,” exclaims Ignaty, “ how a man like us could know all this so long before it happened! However, no, he was no ordinary man! He knew our thoughts, and involuntarily he led us to the point where we revealed them to him, and we received counsel from him.”

“When I die,” the Elder said to his disciple, “you will bury me alongside Father Joasaph. You will bury me by yourself, for you will not wait for the priest. Do not wash my body. Lay it on a board. Clasp my hands over my chest, wrap me in my mantia (the monk’s outer cloak), and with its wings cover my face and place the klobuk (monastic head covering) on my head. If anyone wishes to bid farewell to me, let them kiss the Cross. Do not show my face to anyone….”


The time of the Elder’s passing had come. One day he ordered his disciple Gerasim to light a candle before the Icons, and to read the Acts of the Holy Apostles. After some time his face glowed brightly and he said in a loud voice, “Glory to Thee, O Lord!” He then ordered the reading to be halted, and he announced that the Lord had willed that his life would now be spared for another week. A week later, again by his orders, candles were lit, and the Acts of the Holy Apostles were read. Quietly, the Elder bowed his head on Gerasim’s chest; the cell was filled with a sweet-smelling odor; and his face glowed, and Father Herman was no more! Thus he died in blessedness, he passed away in the sleep of a righteous man in the eighty-first year of his life of great labor the 25th day of December 1837. (It was the 13th of December according to the Julian Calendar, although there are some records which state that he died on November 28th and was buried on December 26th).

Those sent with the sad news to the harbor returned to announce that the administrator of the colony Kashevarov had forbidden the burial of the Elder until his own arrival. He also ordered that a finer coffin be made for Father Herman, and that he would come as soon as possible and would bring a priest with him. But then a great wind came up, a rain fell, and a terrible storm broke. The distance from the harbor to Spruce Island is not great — about a two hour journey — but no one would agree to go to sea in such weather. Thus it continued for a full month, and although the body lay in state for a full month in the warm house of his students, his face did not undergo any change at all, and not the slightest odor emanated from his body. Finally, through the efforts of Kuzma Uchilischev, a coffin was obtained. No one arrived from the harbor, and the inhabitants of Spruce Island alone buried the remains of the Elder in the ground. Thus the words which Father Herman uttered before his death were fulfilled. After this the wind quieted down, and the surface of the sea became as smooth as a mirror.

One evening, above the village Katani (on Afognak) an unusual pillar of light which reached up to heaven was seen above Spruce Island. Astonished by the miraculous appearance, experienced elders and the Creole Gerasim Vologdin and his wife Anna said, “It seems that Father Herman has left us,” and they began to pray. After a time, they were informed that the Elder had indeed passed away that very night. This same pillar was seen in various places by others. On the night of his death a vision was seen in another of the settlements on Afognak; it seemed as though a man was rising from Spruce Island into the clouds.

The disciples buried their father, and placed a wooden memorial marker above his grave. Father Peter Kashevarov, the priest on Kodiak, says, “I saw it myself, and I can say that today it seems as though it had never been touched by time; as though it had been cut this day.”

Having witnessed the life of Father Herman glorified by his zealous labors, having seen his miracles, and the fulfillment of his predictions, finally having observed his blessed falling asleep, “in general, all the local inhabitants,” Bishop Peter witnesses, “have the highest esteem for him, as though he was a holy ascetic, and they are fully convinced that he has found favor in the presence of God.”

In 1842, five years after the passing away of the Elder, Archbishop Innocent of Kamchatka and the Aleutians, was near Kodiak on a sailing vessel which was in great distress. He looked to Spruce Island, and said to himself, “If you have found favor in God’s presence, Father Herman then may the wind change.” It seems as though not more than fifteen minutes had passed, said the bishop, when the wind became favorable, and he successfully reached the shore. In thanksgiving for being saved, Archbishop Innocent himself conducted a Memorial Service (Panikhida) over the grave of the blessed Father Herman.







Elder Ephraim of Arizona, USA

A Russian video with subtitles in all language 

(turn on the subtitles)


In the summer of 1995 six monks arrived in the southern Arizona desert to establish St. Anthony’s Monastery, carrying with them the sacred, millenial heritage of the Holy Mountain, Athos. Since early Christian history, this steep and rocky peninsula in northern Greece proved to be a haven for ancient Egyptian, Cappadocian, and Constantinopolitan monastics. Thus, it enjoyed a direct link with the greatest monastic establishments of ancient Christianity, preserving intact the wisdom of the holy fathers and the sacred tradition of the ancient Church. Today, the Holy Mountain consists of 20 independent monasteries, and numerous sketes and hermitages, housing Orthodox Christian monks from all over the world.

Elder Ephraim, a disciple of Elder Joseph the Hesychast, having restored and repopulated four Mt. Athos monasteries and having established several men’s and women’s monastic communities throughout Greece and North America, transferred six Athonite monks to the Sonoran Desert to start a new monastery. Upon their arrival the fathers began with the necessary construction work, building first the main church, living quarters for the monks, the dining hall, and guest facilities. A vegetable garden, a small vineyard, citrus orchards, and an olive grove dot the landscape. An elaborate system of gardens, pathways, and gazebos with Spanish fountains truly render the monastery and its extensive grounds an oasis in the desert.

The monastery is dedicated to St. Anthony the Great, the father of monasticism, the renowned 3rd century anchorite. There are chapels dedicated to Saints Seraphim of Sarov, Demetrios of Thessalonica, John the Baptist, George the Great Martyr, Nicholas the Wonderworker, and Panteleimon the Healer. The main church is dedicated to Saints Anthony and Nectarios the Wonderworker.

The monastery follows the coenobitic rule of monastic life: a brotherhood of monks and novices holding all things in common follow a daily schedule of prayer and work under obedience to the abbot, their spiritual father. The monks’ daily program begins at midnight with personal prayer time and spiritual reading, followed by the cycle of morning prayers and the Divine Liturgy. After a light breakfast and a rest period, the monks begin their work day, attending to prayer and their tasks till evening. Tasks include, among others, construction, groundskeeping, vinedressing, gardening, woodworking, publishing, food preparation, and offering hospitality. The day ends with evening Vespers followed by dinner and Compline.





Ancient Faith Blogs




58 - 1

Coming to Orthodoxy – Orthodox Christianity


Dreaming - Photography by Ness Farmilo Torres Del Paine, Patagonia. #clouds #mountains #lake

Orthodoxy Today

Orthodox Christianity






Photos: Troy Polamalu, his wife Theodora &

their son Paisios called after Saint Paisios of  Mt. Athos, Greece


Polamalu was born in Garden Grove, California. He is of Samoan descent.

Troy Aumua Polamalu (born Troy Aumua on April 19, 1981), is a former American football strong safety who played his entire twelve-year career for the Pittsburgh Steelers of the National Football League (NFL). He played college football for the University of Southern California (USC), and earned consensus All-American honors. He was chosen by the Steelers in the first round of the 2003 NFL Draft. He was a member of two of the Steelers’ Super Bowl championship teams, and was the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2010.

Polamalu is married to Theodora Holmes and has two sons: Paisios, born on October 31, 2008, and Ephraim, born September 16, 2010. Theodora is the sister of NFL player and USC Trojans alumnus Alex Holmes.  He resides with his family in Pittsburgh during the football season and San Diego, California during the off-season.

Polamalu is well read in the history and theology of early Christianity, which ultimately led both him and his wife to convert to Orthodox Christianity in 2007. He makes the Sign of the Cross after every play. Among his spiritual activities was a 2007 pilgrimage to Orthodox Christian sites in Greece and Asia Minor. He seldom gives interviews, but when he does, he often speaks of the role his spirituality plays in his life. Polamalu has said that he tries to separate himself from his profession as much as possible, including not watching football games at home. He prays after each play and on the sidelines. His sons are both named after after Saint Paisios of Mt. Athos, Greece (+1994) and his Spiritual Father, Fr. Ephraim of Arizona.




Articles & videos about St Paisios of Athos (+1994)


The Mane Man



On this sunny So-Cal day, Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu graciously postpones his morning workout to ruminate about not just football – but life and what’s most important in it. I narrow our chat to three topics.

By Gina Mazza

Pittsburgh Magazine, August 2009

Football is a given: How was this year’s Super Bowl experience versus XL? Tomlin versus Cowher? Goals for the coming season?
Fatherhood is new in Polamalu’s life since the birth of his son, Paisios, named after a beloved contemporary Greek Orthodox monastic, Elder Paisios, on Oct. 31, 2008. Has daddy-dom been life-changing? Will he encourage his son to play professional sports? How’s that
beautiful new mom doing?

And last but not least: Faith. In order to properly meet Polamalu where he lives, this is the requisite, the grounding force that gives meaning to everything he does, every play he makes. Polamalu’s evident gratitude to the one who made him is marbled throughout our talk – from his training regime to his travels to Mount Athos, a monastic site in Greece, a place he calls “heaven on earth.”

While he has a reputation for being one of the NFL’s fiercest players, Polamalu would prefer “Tasmanian angel” over “Tasmanian devil” because his ball game is about glorifying God. “Football is part of my life but not life itself,” he says. “Football doesn’t define me. It’s what I do [and] how I carry out my faith.”

Whether shooting a Coke Zero commercial or running up the sand hills on Manhattan Beach to train – which he’s probably off to do after this interview – Polamalu, 27, is refreshingly modest and introspective, choosing his words as precisely as he picks his spots on the gridiron. He’s intense when the occasion calls for it, and reveals with ease the depth of his character while philosophizing about matters outside the huddle. At the same time, there’s a lightness about Polamalu that gives you the impression that he’s not taking himself or his high-profile lifestyle too seriously.

Even after the Steelers gave him the biggest contract in team history, more than $30 million, extending him through 2011, nothing major has changed in the Polamalus’ lives. They’re still in the same house. He still trains with the same trainer. The number of commercial endorsements has increased as his popularity has soared, but Polamalu is cautious not to let this encroach on family time. The Polamalus live simply and quietly.


Fr. Ephraim of Arizona, the Spiritual Father of Troy Palamalu


on Fatherhood…

Has becoming a father changed your life?

I think becoming a parent encourages people to change their lives, but even before I was a father, I had an interest in bettering myself as a husband and as a person. The intensity is greater when you have a child, but I’ve always tried to be conscious of myself. In that sense, not much has changed in how I view my life. Obviously there’s another member of our family. The cool thing is that I’m able to bring my son when I work out, so training takes a lot longer!

Eight months old and already training?

Yeah, he sits and watches me. I think it’s important for a child to see his parents work. One day, God willing, he’ll be able to see a nice house, a nice car, good food – things that I didn’t have growing up. It’s important for him to realize that these things are obtained first of all through the grace of God but also through hard work. I come from [a childhood] where I would put every condiment imaginable on my cheeseburger just so I could feel more full. There’s value in that struggle. Parents don’t want their kids to experience that, but honestly I want my kid to experience that. I think parents have a tendency to give their kids everything they didn’t have. In turn, they grow up lacking important qualities – like courage and perseverance. If you grow up with any type of wealth or anything that is just given to you, you [may] lack these qualities. But first of all, it’s most important for Paisios to have a spiritual foundation.

You view your parental role as being a role model spiritually as well?

As a parent, I don’t want to talk out of both sides of my mouth; I don’t want to act a certain way and be another way. Not everybody has a material struggle, but everyone has a spiritual struggle. So with my son, it’s important for him to first understand the spiritual struggle and, as a result of that, know how to [deal with] the physical struggles that he has in his life – whether it’s dealing with not enough or too much of something.

So it’s a matter of being an example?

I think talking is overrated. Anybody in the world can talk about doing anything. The hardest thing is to do it. It’s important for my son to understand, for example, why we pray, why we go to church. It’s important for him to grow up in an atmosphere of watching us do it, to understand that nothing is given to you in life. Everything must be worked at in order to be obtained – whether it’s something material or it’s salvation.

If Paisios had the calling to become an Orthodox priest and not a fullback, you’d be elated?

Of course. Obviously the [athletic] pedigree is there in my family and my wife’s [and] people give me a hard time: “Troy, man, what if your son’s not a good athlete, or he grows up and he’s not big?” But I say, “How big do you need to be in order to be a priest?”
You’re not saying, “I want my son to grow up and be an athlete.”

No, not at all. I would like him to play sports because there are important lessons to be learned through sports – those qualities of perseverance, courage, hard work and ethics.

How is your wife, Theodora, adjusting to being a mom?

Oh, she’s the best. It’s given me a whole new perspective on my wife. Obviously, she’s had a lot of responsibility in dealing with me and my inadequacies. But now, to watch her wake up every night and feed him . . . you know, as a mother, you kind of give up your whole life. Obviously, I’m able to still do what I do. I play football. I do things that surround football. I get to train.

Some dads are naturals and others don’t know how to react once the baby is home. Do you feel comfortable in this role?

Oh yeah. I want to feed him, play with him, do all those fun dad things. We go swimming in the ocean. He’s crawling, but he’s not surfing yet.

Do you do diapers?

Oh, I hand him off to Grandma for that.

What is your greatest wish for your child?

Without a question, my greatest wish would be for him to understand the spiritual struggle and to be a pious Orthodox Christian. That’s what I want for myself, as well. Sometimes parents want their children to be what they never were. And that’s one thing that I am gracious for Paisios to have: that he’s able to grow up in the Orthodox church around monastics and priests that I was never able to experience as a kid – to grasp that, not take it for granted and really culture that.

Do you and Theodora still find time to garden, even with your new addition?

Yes, we’re growing tomatoes, broccoli, sunflower seeds, oregano, basil, sage, peppermint.

Still growing orchids?

I’ve tried but I don’t have enough patience for orchids. They’re so sensitive. Here’s what happened recently: It’s funny, I spent all last year trying to nurse this orchid to health. Finally spring comes along and I thought, I give up, I’m putting it outside. A month later, I come back to Pittsburgh and guess what? I look outside and it’s blooming like crazy! I can’t do what only God can do.

on Faith…

How would you define the spiritual struggle you referred to earlier?

It’s the struggle of good and evil, and with that comes the struggle with greed, jealousy, materialism, sexual morality, pride, all these types of struggles that we face every day, in every second of the day.

Your faith continues to evolve. In the past few years, you formally converted to Greek Orthodox. Where do you worship?

My wife and I go often to a Greek Orthodox monastery in Saxonburg [Nativity of the Theotokos], a monastery in Arizona, and several parishes in Pittsburgh. We like the monastery because it’s most serene there and we can talk to the monastics. To see their daily struggles really fascinates me.

What intrigues you about the monastic life?

For me, faith is to be simple in this way. If anybody believes in God and believes in the Holy Bible, how can you be in any grey area? I’m talking about myself here, how can “I” think one way and do another way? To me, Christianity is very black and white. Either you take it serious or you don’t take it serious at all. The monks’ example to me is that they take salvation seriously in every facet of their lives. This is a model for me as a Christian and for my family on how to live our lives.

Can you give an example of what inspires you?

There are so many, and I don’t mean to imply that everybody needs to live like a monk in order to be saved. For the Greek Orthodox monks, examples would be: they wear beards to cover their face so they’re not vain; they don’t have mirrors because they don’t want to look at themselves from being vain; they wear black because black is humility; they seldom talk because they don’t want to be proud or arrogant; they keep their eyes down because they don’t want their eyes to wander; they pray constantly.

The struggle between good and evil is very materialized with them. A lot of people have an understanding of this but it’s really just an oral proclamation that there is good and evil. To the monks, it’s hard as rock. It’s something they grasp daily. This is what I see in them and it amazes me: they’ve taken their struggle so seriously and in turn there’s so much grace in it. When you sit down with these monks, so much peace and love exudes from them.

Their faith is their passion. It makes me wonder if some day you might have that same calling.

I don’t think that everyone is meant to be a monastic. There are people who are meant to be married and those who are meant to be monastics. However, they are examples to us of how to live a pious life.

On my own spiritual path, I’ve felt at times that there’s a certain allure to that serene, sequestered lifestyle.

Yes, but I think it’s an understatement to say that their struggle is more intensified because their path is more intensified. There are tons of stories about these monks who have physical battles with these demons that fight them. It’s like, oh my goodness. In turn, they live in God’s grace so much that you think, no way, how can they have such angelic lives? Like the monks on Mt. Athos in Greece – this place is heaven on earth, there’s so much grace there. For 1,500 years, this place has been devoted solely to Christian spirituality. It’s untouched. Not even women are allowed there.

This is the place you visited two summers ago while on a pilgrimage?

Yes. There’s an amazing monk who lives in Arizona – Abbot Ephraim, my spiritual father. He’s the epitome of Mt. Athos brought to America.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from him so far?

That you cannot have an experience of God without humility.

on Football…

Let’s talk about your summer training schedule. The California vibe is so different from Pittsburgh, and your training is different from your teammates’. What you do works for you because you show up at training camp shipshape, and coach Mike Tomlin is cool with it. Why do you choose to train in California?

California is a great atmosphere for training. First of all, being able to train in sunshine is a blessing. There’s so much energy out here, kind of a rat-race mentality. When I come here, my mind flips into that mode. I’m part of that rat race. I grasp onto it to push me in training. Also, I have a revolutionary trainer in Marv Marinovich out here.

You’ve been training with him since your USC days. What makes his training regime unique?

He’s got the gift to be able to look at a body and know what it needs. Other trainers are starting to adapt his revolutionary style that includes flexibility, strength, speed, balance. When people see the workout, they say it looks weird, but it correlates. A hack squat or bench press can never really correlate to a real athletic movement in a sport, but put a squat or bench into a plyometric movement or some appropriate action within it, then it correlates.

As an athlete, your life is your body. You have to know what your weak points are. I’ve become very sensitive to how my body reacts to certain supplements, certain foods. The only person I’ve ever entrusted that to is Marvin. He’s the only person who could tell me, “Troy, stop eating that and start eating this,” or “Troy, you’re beat. Go home and get some rest,” or “Troy, this new [machine] you’re doing is not good for you. Stop doing it.” I work out three to four hours every morning, then I do a 15-minute session before I go to bed.

Is Marv your nutrition wiz as well?

No question, and he’s not a trainer who tells me to eat healthy then goes and eats Whoppers and drinks soda. He’s more strict on his diet than anybody I’ve ever seen. He hasn’t eaten an unhealthy thing in 50 years.

What does he espouse? Vegan? Raw?

He’s not totally vegan, and he does eat a lot of raw foods. He encourages me to do this and to eat organic. But he also knows that within my mind, it’s important for me to have a release; so he’ll say go ahead and have a little junk food here and there, just know that when it comes time to crack down, you have to crack down. He understands the psychology of an athlete. If I train too much, he’ll say, “Troy, you need to get a life!”

So he’s a nutritionist, a sports physiologist and a psychologist.

And that’s important. Thank God he’s gotten me to this point where I’m able to play my seventh NFL season [this year].

Anything new in your training this year?

I spoke with Olympic gold-medal decathlete Bryan Clay at a Nike symposium. I approached him with a lot of questions about training and really took in what he had to say, because decathletes have to do every move and coordinate every energy system from sprints to hurdles to long jump, high jump, pole vault. An athlete like that can play in every sport.

Last season was pretty spectacular, with the Super Bowl win and everything leading up to it. It seems as if you allowed yourself to relax and enjoy this win more than Super Bowl XL.

This year was amazing in that way. It was a fun year for our whole team. We never had the burden of having to win the Super Bowl. Coach Tomlin is the best in that way. He’s like my trainer. He’s everything – a psychologist and a great coach. He prepares us by pushing or relaxing our team at just the right times. He has the maturity in his second year of coaching that coach [Bill] Cowher had in his later years.
Take me back to that AFC Championship game against the Baltimore Ravens when you made that fourth-quarter interception return for a touchdown.

It was awesome. To experience something like that in front of your own fans is a gift from God really. It was exciting for me personally because it was the first game that my son had come to watch me play and the first game my wife had attended in a while. As soon as I crossed the end zone, I pointed at them. I was so happy for my son. I couldn’t believe he was able to experience that. So when he sees [the reel] someday, I can say, “See that, son? I’m pointing right at you and your mom.”

It seems as if professional football is a great forum for being able to feel the full range of emotions as a human being – everything from bliss to anguish – so intensely, and the world is watching. Is that part of the appeal and what gives you such passion for the sport?

Yeah, you do feel the whole range.

Athletes who are involved in physical sports such as hockey or mixed martial arts ride the emotional highs and lows, as well as the physical highs and lows. It’s a long fight, a full season. You go through major injury after major injury. It’s like, ah man, my Achilles has been messed up for four weeks straight, then all of a sudden my left knee is bothering me. My Achilles is not healed yet, but I’m thinking about my left knee because that’s the worst thing at the moment, then it’s my right shoulder.

You move through these pains throughout the season. That’s probably why the worst fans of football are the players’ wives. It’s like, “Man, this sucks. My husband is hurting all the time.” And it’s no fun for them to experience either.

Any personal goals for this season?

During these two Super Bowls, honestly, my experience wasn’t so much of being happy for myself, like oh, I finally got it. I’ve always been happy for my teammates. These guys are so passionate about football and being Pittsburgh Steelers. The joy for me is seeing my teammates have that fulfillment. To see them experience that again this year is obviously the pull we all have.

How about those Pens?

When I was watching the final Stanley Cup game, my heart was pounding – with 15 minutes in the game and we’re up by two. That’s too much time! Hockey is the greatest spectator sport ever. It’s nonstop action. In the last minutes, holding my son in front of the TV, I said, “Son, you’re going to watch history right now.” I was so nervous. It was crazy! I can honestly tell you I was more nervous in those final moments than I was sitting on the sidelines in Tampa. Sid and Evgeni – they’re so young, it’s like having LeBron [James] and Kobe [Bryant] in Pittsburgh – then to see them win it! That’s why Pittsburghers are so passionate about sports. We have these teams that do well.

Back in the day, there were always championships that came through this city, even with the Buccos. Now, hopefully, that tradition will start up again – especially now that my son is a true Pittsburgher.




Photos from St Anthony’s Greek Orthodox Monastery, Arizona, USA

The Spiritual War – Father Efraim of Philotheou and Arizona

Facebook about Father Ephraim Philotheitis, Arizona, USA

St Anthony’s Monastery in Arizona


The Monasteries of Fr. Ephraim in America








Ὁ Ἅγ. Νικόλαος Βελιμίροβιτς γράφει: «Ὅπως χαίρονται οἱ γονεῖς, ὅταν κάποιος ἀγαπάη καί ἐπαινῆ τά παιδιά τους, ἔτσι καί ὁ Κύριος χαίρεται, ὅταν τά παιδιά του, οἱ ἄνθρωποι, ἀγαποῦν καί δοξάζουν τούς ἁγίους Του. Χαίρεται μέ τόν ἴδιο τρόπο ὅπως ὅταν δοξάζουν τόν Ἴδιο. “Ὁ δεχόμενος ὑμᾶς, ἐμέ δέχεται”(Μθ 10, 40) εἶπε, καί ὅποιος δοξάζει τούς ἁγίους τοῦ Χριστοῦ τό Χριστό δοξάζει».

Ἀπό τό βίο τοῦ Ἁγ. Παϊσίου τοῦ Ἁγιορείτου:

«[Προτεστάντης:]—Ἐσεῖς οἱ Ὀρθόδοξοι… προσκυνᾶτε τίς Εἰκόνες καί νομίζετε ὅτι μποροῦν νά κάνουν θαύματα! Κι ἀκόμα χειρότερα συμπεριφέρεσθε μέ τά λείψανα τῶν ἁγίων σας, τά ὁποῖα, ἄν καί πολλές φορές ἔχουν ἀκόμη καί ἄλιωτες σάρκες, χωρίς νά σιχαίνεσθε, τά ἀσπάζεσθε! Ὅλα αὐτά δείχνουν ὅτι ἐσεῖς, οἱ ὀρθόδοξοι, βρίσκεσθε σέ μεγάλη πλάνη!…

—Δέν μοῦ λές…: Στό σπίτι σου ἔχεις φωτογραφίες ἀπό τούς γονεῖς σου, ἀπό τά ἀδέλφια σου, ἀπό τά παιδιά σου, ἀπό τούς φίλους σου;

—Βεβαίως κι ἔχω!

—Αἴ, ἐμεῖς γιατί νά μήν ἔχουμε “φωτογραφίες” ἀπό τόν πατέρα μας, τόν Κύριό μας, τή μητέρα μας, τήν Παναγία καί τ᾽ ἀδέλφια μας, τούς ἁγίους καί μάρτυρες; Γιατί νά μήν ἔχουμε τίς εἰκόνες τους, γιά νά τούς βλέπουμε, νά τούς θυμώμασθε καί νά παρακαλοῦμε νά μᾶς βοηθήσουν; Κι ὅσο πιό θερμά, βλέποντας τίς εἰκόνες τῶν ἁγίων, τούς παρακαλοῦμε, τόσο περισσότερο ἐκεῖνοι μᾶς βοηθοῦν. Κι ἐπειδή ἦταν γεμᾶτοι “μέχρι τό μεδούλι”, ἀπό Θεία Χάρι, γι᾽ αὐτό ἀσπαζόμασθε τά ἅγια λείψανά τους, ὥστε νά ἀποκτήσουμε κι ἐμεῖς λίγη Χάρι. Κι ἄν, μάλιστα, τύχη ὁ συγκεκριμένος ἅγιος νά ἔχη κι ἄφθαρτο λείψανο, τόση περισσότερη χάρι ἔχει· κι ἐμεῖς, μέ τή σειρά μας, προσκυνώντας το τήν παίρνουμε!».

° Ἀκόμα: «—Ἡ Ὀρθόδοξη Ἐκκλησία προσκυνάει τίς Εἰκόνες. Εἶναι σωστό:

—[Ἅγ. Παΐσιος:] Ἄκου. Ἡ μάνα πού ἔχει τό παιδί της στόν πόλεμο, φοβᾶται γι᾽ αὐτό νύκτα-μέρα. Ἔχει πολλή ἀγωνία. Ξαφνικά παίρνει ἕνα γράμμα ἀπό τό παιδί της μέ μιά φωτογραφία του μέσα. Ὅταν τή βλέπει τί κάνει; Τήν πιάνει στά χέρια της καί τή φιλεῖ, τή βάζει στόν κόρφο της ν᾽ ἀγγίξη τήν καρδιά της. Αἴ, τί νομίζεις; Αὐτή ἡ μάνα μέ τέτοιο φλογερό πόθο πού ἔχει γιά τό παιδί της πιστεύει ὅτι φιλεῖ τή φωτογραφία; Τό ἴδιο τό παιδί της πιστεύει ὅτι φιλεῖ. Τό ἴδιο πιστεύει καί ὅποιος ἔχει φλογερό πόθο γιά τήν Παναγία καί τόν ἅγιο τούς ὁποίους προσκυνάει. Δέν προσκυνᾶμε τίς εἰκόνες γιατί εἶναι εἰκόνες, ἀλλά γιά τούς ἁγίους. Καί αὐτούς ὄχι γιατί εἶναι τά πρόσωπα πού εἶναι, ἀλλά γιατί ἀγωνίσθηκαν γιά τό Χριστό. Ὁ Θεός εἶναι ζηλότυπος, εἶναι ἀλήθεια. Ὄχι, ὅμως, γιά τούς δικούς Του, ἀλλά γιά τό διάβολο. Ὁ πατέρας δέν ζηλεύει τά δικά του παιδιά. Μήν ἀνησυχεῖς, ὁ Κύριος χαίρεται ὅταν σέ βλέπη νά σέβεσαι καί ν᾽ ἀγαπᾶς τή Μάνα Του καί τούς Ἁγίους».


Ἀρχιμ. Ἰωάννου Κωστώφ


ἐκδ. Ἁγ. Ἰωάννης ὁ Δαμασκηνός

Σταμάτα 2013