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September 24 Saints of the Day – Peter the Aleut and Anton Martin Slomsek

On this day in 1990, the Great White Spot was observed on Saturn. The phenomenon was named for the discovering astronomer’s large dog.

Peter the AleutPeter the Aleut (ca. 1800 – 1815), born Cungagnaq on Kodiak, was one of fourteen Aleut (go figure) seal-and-otter hunters whom the Russian American Company had compelled (to use the nicest possible term) to hunt seals off the coast of the Spanish bit of California, which apparently they shouldn’t otta. They were captured by the Spaniards (well, some of them), and thrown in prison in either Misión Dolores (aka Misión San Francisco de Asís), or Misión San Pedro y Pablo Asistencia (just south of there) (not to be confused with the Misión San Pedro y Pablo in Abstencia, where Sts. Peter and Paul never actually went).

They were pressured to convert to Roman Catholicism, but steadfastly maintained that they were Christians, by gum, and were not about to change their religion (we are not told if they referenced the filioque). “No you’re not,” they were told, “you’re dirty stinking rotten heretics.” (Things were a wee bit tense between the Orthodox and Catholics in those days, at least in California.)

Peter’s cellmate relates how he was, on orders of his jailers (our witness says they were “Jesuits,” but that’s historically impossible — why does everybody pick on the poor Jesuits?) tormented by local natives (note how the Europeans get the natives to do their dirty work — is there a pattern here?). Various phalanges were severed one at a time, and finally his intestines were surgically removed. The next day, orders came to release the prisoners, but it was too late for Peter, and only 13 went free. He was proclaimed a saint and martyr by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, or ROCOR, in 1980.

Anton Martin SlomšekBlessed Anton Martin Slomšek (1800 – 1862) was born in Slom (modern Slovenia), and studied theology and philosophy (poor soul) at the seminary in Klangfurt, Austria. He was ordained, then four years later made spiritual director of the seminary (or, to be more precise, of its students). Knowing that the Slovenian language was in danger of being supplanted by German (on purpose, actually), he taught it to the seminarians. He then became a parish priest, then head of a diocesan school, then a pastor again, then Bishop of Lavant (not to be confused with Levant, which was never part of the Austrian Empire, however Holy or Roman it once might have been).

As bishop, he fought (successfully) to have his diocesan seat moved from Sankt Andrä to Maribor, as who wouldn’t, and championed religious and secular education, re-opening Slovenian-language schools the Austrians had closed. He even went so far as to write several books on the subject (and before the ghost writer industry (let alone the use of typewriters) really took off, people only wrote books about things they really cared about). In fact books were so important to Anton that he was a co-founder of the Hermagoras Society, the oldest Slovene publishing house (we refrain from jokes about self-publishing). The Society became an important tool in his fight to preserve the Slovenian language and culture, which as noted was being systematically stomped out by the Empire. Several of our sources claim that the near-universal literacy rate in Slovenia is due in great part to the work of the good bishop.

He also wrote songs, and one described as a “toast” (with the unlikely name “I Will Buy a Small Hill” (the things Slovenes think about while drinking!)) is among those still sung today. Nothing, perhaps, keeps a language alive so much as having some good drinking songs. (Okay, maybe not.) For this and other reasons, including his modest demeanor and his talent in the pulpit, he was much beloved of the people of his diocese.

He was beatified in 1999 by Pope John Paul II, who in his beatification speech cited him as an example of healthy patriotism. If he said anything about the nineteenth-century Austrian variety, it didn’t make it into the official transcript.

Copyright © 2013 Alex Riggle. All Rights Reserved.

September 24 (Wikipedia)
Martyr Peter the Aleut (OCA) – Main source
Peter the Aleut (Wikipedia)
San Pedro y San Pablo Asistencia (Wikipedia)
Image of Peter from the author’s collection.
Anton Martin Slomšek (Wikipedia) – Main source
Blessed Anton Martin Slomsek (SQPN)
Blessed Anton Martin Slomshek (Catholic News Agency)
Pope John Paul II – Homily during the beatification Mass of Bishop Anton Martin Slomsek in Slovenia – 19 September 1999 (SQPN)
History of Austria (Wikipedia)
Photograph of Anton from Wikimedia (Public domain according to this rule)


About Your Intrepid Blogger

I live in the Tacoma area. When not writing things some people think are funny, I teach technology to 7th and 8th graders at a local middle school.

One comment on “September 24 Saints of the Day – Peter the Aleut and Anton Martin Slomsek

  1. I am a Roman Catholic and I used to feel like a stranger since all these interpid blogging was orthodox. thank you for being inclusive. i love your blogging and feel very much at home. i love this catholic-orthodox union.

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