Catherine Sent St. Herman

Catherine the Great, Empress of All Russia

Catherine the Great, Empress of All Russia

Rich. Powerful. Promiscuous.

Catherine the Great was the ruler of all Russia, and like many others corrupted by unchecked political power, many aspects of Catherine’s life are unworthy of the name “Christian”.

Still, I would prefer an immoral Tsar (or Tsaritsa)
to a squeaky-clean U.S. President
(assuming such a thing exists).

Catherine’s Christianity may have been nominal, but at least it was Orthodox.  Whether she was faithful enough to save her own soul, only God can judge.  But as the head of State, her actions on behalf of Orthodoxy paved the way for the saving of many, and for the making of a saint.

The Russian colonization of the Americas had begun in 1741. Fueled by the demand for sea otter pelts, numerous Russian frontiersmen known as promyshlenniki explored Alaska and the Aleutian Islands, often either fighting or intermarrying with the native peoples.

Grigory Shelikhov, a fur-trader, subjugated the native population of Kodiak Island and with Ivan Golikov founded a fur-trading company which eventually received a monopoly from the Imperial government and became the Russian-American Company. Shelikhov founded a school for the natives, of whom many were converted to Russian Orthodox Christianity.

St. Herman of Alaska

St. Herman of Alaska

Shelikhov and Golikov appealed to the Most Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church to provide a priest for the natives.

Catherine the Great decided instead to send an entire mission to America. She entrusted the task of recruiting missionaries to Metropolitan Gabriel of St. Petersburg, who sent ten monks, including Herman. The missionaries arrived on Kodiak Island on September 24, 1794.

The rest is history. Herman faithfully served the native population of Alaska, converted many to the Christian Faith, frequently defended them against the abuses of wealthy traders who controlled the island, lived a life of faithfulness
to Christ, was received into Glory after his
death, and ultimately was recognized as a saint.

Without Catherine, probably much of this would have never happened.

Since only a single priest had been requested, she simply could have approved the request. But she had a desire to see Orthodoxy gain a foothold in Alaska, and she wanted to send a whole group of Orthodox missionaries instead.  Holding ultimate political power in Russia, her wish was granted, and Metropolitan Gabriel evangelized Alaska with ten monks, including St. Herman.

Her simple decision in favor of Orthodox evangelism paved the way for the salvation of many, and the making of a saint.

Would I prefer a ruler who is a humble, godly, and faithful Orthodox Christian? Of course. But look at what good fruit can come from even a very imperfect Orthodox ruler.

Catherine the Great may not have been a model Christian.  But I would rather have her on the throne, than any U.S. President who ever served ruled this country.

Why?  Because Catherine sent St. Herman.



This is day twenty-nine of the 40 Days of Blogging.
For more articles on St. Herman of Alaska, check out these bloggers.

About Fr Joseph Gleason

I serve as a priest at Christ the King Orthodox Mission in Omaha, Illinois, and am blessed with eight children and one lovely wife. I contribute to On Behalf of All, a simple blog about Orthodox Christianity. I also blog here at The Orthodox Life.
This entry was posted in 40 Days of Blogging, Missions and Evangelism, Monarchy. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Catherine Sent St. Herman

  1. William Innokenti Spahr says:

    Thank you for writing about Saint Herman.

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