August 9 Saints of the Day – Herman of Alaska and Franz Jägerstätter

On this day in 1965, Singapore was ejected from Malaysia, becoming the first and only country in history to gain independence unwillingly. Malaysia went on to sell Singapore’s clothes on Craigslist.

Herman of AlaskaHerman of Alaska (ca. 1750 – 1836) was born near Moscow, became a novice at the Trinity-St. Sergius Hermitage near Petersburg, and was subsequently monkified at Valaam. Unless he was born near Voronezh and monkified at Sarov (or Valaam). If the former, his birth name is unknown; if the latter, he was a military clerk (or soldier) born Egor Ivanovich Popov. Once at Valaam, he apprenticed under Nazarius, a hesychast of the Velichovsky school (and you’ve never met a hesychast until you’ve met a hesychast of the Velichovsky school). But what Herman really wanted to be was a hermit. (Something tells me he was into something good.) Nazarius gave him permission, and he started hermiting.

He turned down a chance to go as a missionary to China, but answered the call to go to Alaska. It seems the Russian America Company, which was raking in the dough selling pelts harvested by native Alaskans working under slave conditions, had asked for a priest or two to convert the uppity natives. Catherine the Great, who was a real empress and didn’t just play one on TV, sent instead a whole raft of ’em. When they got to Kodiak they discovered things were pretty bad: the natives were being treated horribly, and the Russians were keeping mistresses and spending inordinate amounts of time drunk (for nineteenth century Russians, which is saying something).

Naturally the missionaries became defenders of the native Alaskans, and wrote home describing the whole situation. This disendeared them to the slavemasters, who wrote their own (lying) letters home. After ten years Herman (although not a priest) became head of the mission. He ran the mission’s school, teaching the two R’s (arithmetic is always getting left out) as well as singing, catechism, and agriculture.

He then made himself a hermitage (which he called “New Valaam”) on Spruce Island to get away from it all (there was a kind of hush there). But his love for the people kept him active in their lives, and he was the only Russian to minister to the dying when a deadly epidemic came to town. As a result the area natives loved him in life and praised his memory. He died on Spruce Island, and was glorified by the OCA on this day in 1970. He is also celebrated on November 15/28 (the day of his repose (“death” for the euphemism-averse)). He is the patron saint of the Americas.

Franz JägerstätterBlessed Franz Jägerstätter (1907 – 1943) was born in Sankt Radegund (not to be confused with Saint Radagast), Austria, to unmarried parents, and managed to father a child out of wedlock on his own, before marrying and settling down with Franziska, a “deeply religious woman” (full five fathom deep, I’m guessing). For their honeymoon they made a pilgrimage to Rome, then came back to Austria to work and create daughters (of which they made three). Franz worked the farm he inherited from his adoptive father, who also gave him the two umlauts.

When the Nazis invaded, Franz was the only citizen in town to vote against the Anschluss. He made himself something of a pariah by responding to the traditional Nazi greeting with, “Pfui Hitler!” After several deferments, conscription, an agricultural exemption, and a wholly unsatisfying discussion with his bishop, he was finally fingered by the Wehrmacht. He asked for conscientious objector status, and even offered to serve as a paramedic; the army countered by sending a priest to try to talk some sense into him. When that failed (nonsense masquerading as sense makes no sense to the sensible), Franz was imprisoned, tried, and guillotined (and people say German culture was untouched by the French).

After the war, Franz was criticized by Catholic ex-Nazi collaborators, and Sankt R. refused to add his name to their war memorial. Franziska didn’t even get a widow’s pension until 1950. Franz was forgotten until a 1964 biography and 1971 film, which led to a 1997 exoneration and 2007 beatification.

Copyright © 2013 Alex Riggle. All Rights Reserved.

August 9 (Wikipedia)
Herman of Alaska (Wikipedia) – Main Source
Glorification of the Venerable Herman of Alaska, Wonderworker of All America (OCA)
Image of St. Herman by Wikimedia Commons user AlexEleon is used under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0) license Use does not imply approval of owner of this page or this use. Although we like to imagine he’d like us once he got to know us.
Franz Jägerstätter (Wikipedia) – Main source
Blessed Franz Jägerstätter (SQPN)
Image of Bl. Franz from Copyright unknown.