||Last Updated: Feb 8th, 2011 - 05:50:02
Some time ago, in the1990s, our parish invited a local "tree surgeon,"
Leo M., to cut down a couple of dead trees in the back of the church
property. He came and worked with his wife, Kathleen, doing the job
quickly and with kindness to the rest of the surroundings. But they
strongly resisted being paid, insisting on offering their work gratis to
our church. They were non-Orthodox, and we wondered about the reason
for such generosity. The reason, as we learned from them later, was to
be found in something that happened a few years before, just after they
had been married.
Both Leo and Kathleen were serious enthusiasts of mountaineering and
rock climbing, and so for their honeymoon trip they decided to go to
Alaska to bag the highest peak of North America, mount Denali (aka
McKinley), 20,320 feet. While living at the camp at the foot of the
mountain, they thoroughly prepared their expedition: talking to guides,
studying the maps, checking the equipment, and waiting for a long
stretch of good weather.
When they finally started their exciting, but extremely difficult,
ascent, everything went just fine for a few days. But at the end of one
day, on a narrow path, they met an old, strange-looking man in a long
dark robe. He was walking in the opposite direction, down the mountain.
In a friendly manner he greeted them and advised them to turn around and
return to the base camp as quickly as possible because the weather was
changing into a severe storm. Soon, he said, it will be very dangerous
around here. And, as if in answer to their unasked question of how could
he know such a thing, he explained that he was local and knew the
climate very well. Leaving them surprised and uneasy, he continued on
Some minutes later, after Leo and Kathleen made the wise decision to
turn back, and then tried to recall the appearance of the old man, they
realized that they hadn’t seen a backpack or any other hiking gear with
him. How could he have made it up so high in the bare, rocky mountain in
sub-zero temps, without any food or protection?!
A few days later, almost at the bottom of the mountain, they were indeed
caught by a severe storm. They survived it, constantly in their minds
thanking the old man who had warned them of the danger. A week later,
still staying at the base camp, they learned that some other climbers,
who happened to be at higher elevations than they were during the storm,
never came back.
Then, as if in answer to their curiosity, Leo and Kathleen noticed
something at the camp cafeteria. It was a picture of their rescuer,
pinned on a bulletin board between some miscellaneous ads and photos of
the mountain. They recognized him at a glance. When they asked the
waiter for his name, he told them, " It's an Orthodox saint who lived in
Alaska. His name is St. Herman." And the photo showed the icon of St.
Herman from the Orthodox church nearby.
The Saint had told them the truth. He was indeed a local guy...
/"By enduring the trials of nature, the storms' cold and wind together
with hunger, thou didst kindle spiritual peace, warmth and satiety, and
become unaffected by the elements, truly a heavenly man and earthly
angel, O wondrous Herman; so wishing to honor thee as is meet we cry
out: Rejoice, conqueror of nature's hardships! Rejoice, thou who wast
arrayed in the virtues! ... Rejoice, O venerable Father Herman,
adornment of Alaska and joy of all America! " (From Akathist to St
Icon of St. Herman of Alaska by Anna DuMoulin
Matushka Galina Tregubov and Lee Browne-Beed
Holy Resurrection Orthodox Church, Claremont, NH
This story in Russian: Чудесная
помощь святого Германа Аляскинского
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