Tag Archives: Christlike

The Ecclesiastical New Year

“It is part of the goodness of God, that He, who has no beginning and no ending, the Eternal Trinity, should take such care to give us a year which begins and ends, and then begins all over again. In our human and finite state we need fresh starts, and this is one of them…” ~ Fr. Michael Harper, “The Orthodox New Year”

September 1 is rapidly approaching, and a new Church year will begin. The Ecclesiastical New Year is an important time for Orthodox Christians. Unfortunately, it is often nearly overlooked. This year let us prepare to celebrate the Ecclesiastical New Year, remembering its importance, and solemnly celebrating it as the new beginning for our Church year.

Here are a few resources to help us think about the Ecclesiastical New Year, some ideas of how to teach our Sunday Church School children about it, and a few related crafts :
Resources for background information:


  • Study this meditation on the Ecclesiastical New Yearhttp://www.orthodoxchristian.info/pages/indiction.htm, and use it as a base for a lesson on the new Church year. (Ideas for a lesson based on this meditation include: gratitude for bounty; blessings; God’s goodness; our dependence on God; Ps. 65 (64 in the Greek Septuagint); etc. So, for example, younger classes could have a lesson about blessings: what they are, and how God loves to grant them, and just what it is that we are asking God to do for our year. Or, older children could study Ps. 65 and/or discuss what God would like to do in our lives in the year ahead, etc.)
  • As a class, create a “crown of the year” poster. At the top, write “Bless the crown of the year with Thy goodness, O Lord.” Have students list, draw, or otherwise illustrate (maybe with pictures cut from magazines?) different aspects of God’s goodness with which you would like Him to bless the year ahead. (For example: kindness, illustrated by someone helping someone else; forgiveness, illustrated by a person receiving absolution after confession; love, illustrated by family members hugging; etc.) Place the poster in your classroom where you can weekly be reminded of what you have asked of the Lord from the beginning of this new year. At the end of the year, revisit the poster and list ways in which He indeed blessed your year with His goodness.


The Ecclesiastical New Year offers us an opportunity to be mindful of God’s presence in our lives. As we bring in the new Church year, let us be sure that this celebration is a subdued time of reflection, prayer, and committing our year to God. Let us think about the new year, ask God to bless it, and look for His presence in our lives throughout the year ahead.

O Word of the Father from before the ages, Who, being in the form of God, broughtest creation into being out of nothing; Thou Who hast put the times and seasons in Thine own power: Bless the crown of the year with Thy goodness; give peace unto Thy churches, victory unto Thy faithful hierarchs, fruitfulness unto the earth, and Great Mercy unto us. –Orthros of the Feast, Tone 3

Gleanings from a book: “From God To You” by John Skinas

“The icon is a place of meeting where you and God can gaze at each other from the two sides of eternity.” ~ John Skinas, From God to You: The Icon’s Journey to Your Heart, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2014, forward.

John Skinas’ latest book, From God to You: The Icon’s Journey to Your Heart, by Ancient Faith Publishing, August 2014, takes young readers on a journey through the history of icons. Using icons as examples, the narrative offers a glimpse into Orthodox Christian history while explaining what icons are, and how/why they are written.

In the body of the book, each spread focuses on one icon. The spread consists of one full-color icon, its title, something specific to notice/look for in the icon, and a child-friendly explanation of the part of history which that icon was selected to represent. These descriptions not only help the readers to better understand part of Church history: but they also tie the icon back to the present, so that the reader can better understand what the icon depicts and how it applies to his/her life.

The book is geared towards children of many ages. It can be perused by very young children, who will love the beautiful icons on its pages. Slightly older children will enjoy seeking  the specific items that the “notice this” note points out in every spread. Older children will enjoy reading the descriptions for themselves and learning about icons throughout history. Sunday Church School teachers of varying grade levels could consider using the spreads in the book as a base for at least 12 individual lessons on icons, their history, and their use in the Church throughout history. The descriptions written in the spreads of the book will give Sunday Church School teachers and their students much to discuss, research, and consider, and teachers can easily find related extenders for each spread to round out the learning for a variety of learning styles. Both teachers and students will be able to benefit and grow together in their faith as they study the icons and words in this book.

“…Burned, smashed, and buried, icons have endured a great deal as they’ve made their way from God to you. They’ve reached you because He wants them in your church, in your home, and in your hands. But most of all, God wants you to keep His image in your heart…” ~ Skinas, first page

John Skinas’ book, From God to You: The Icon’s Journey to Your Heart, is available from Ancient Faith Publishing at http://store.ancientfaith.com/from-god-to-you-the-icons-journey-to-your-heart/.

Preparing for the Transfiguration of Christ (August 6)

On the mountain wast Thou transfigured, O Christ God, and Thy disciples beheld Thy glory as far as they could see it; so that when they would behold Thee crucified, they would understand that Thy suffering was voluntary, and would proclaim to the world that Thou art truly the Radiance of the Father (Kontakion).

We are approaching the celebration of one of the 12 major feasts of the church year: the feast of the Transfiguration of Christ. We may already be familiar with the story found in the scriptures (in Matthew 17:1-13, Mark 9:2-13, and Luke 9:28-36). Even if we know the story well, it would be good for us to review these scripture passages and further study the significance of the event. Then we will be better prepared to celebrate, and also better ready to teach our Sunday Church School students about this feast!

Below are selections from two homilies on the Transfiguration. These homilies were written by two of the church fathers: St. Ephrem the Syrian, and St. John Chrysostom. Perhaps the insights of these saints can begin to help us to understand the underlying reasons for the Transfiguration of Christ, especially if we take a moment to ponder their words:

“And after six days he took Simon Peter and James and John his brother to a very high mountain and he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his garments became white like light’.[2] Men whom he said would not taste death until they saw the image of his coming, are those whom he took and led up the mountain and showed them how he was going to come on the last day in the glory of his divinity and in the body of his humanity…

“…He led them up the mountain to show them the glory of the godhead and to make known to them that he is the redeemer of Israel, as he had shown through the Prophets, and they should not be scandalised in him when they saw his voluntary sufferings, which as man he was about to suffer for us. For they knew him as a man, but did not know that he was God…

“And so on the mountain he showed his Apostles the glory of his divinity, concealed and hidden by his humanity. For they saw his face bright as lightning and his garments white as light. They saw two suns; one in the sky, as usual, and one unusually; one visible in the firmament and lighting the world, and one, his face, visible to them alone. His garments white as light showed that the glory of his divinity flooded from his whole body, and his light shone from all his members. For his flesh did not shine with splendour from without, like Moses, but the glory of his divinity flooded from him… And he did not display the whole depth of his glory, but only as much as the limits of their eyes could encompass…

“And while the Disciples were marvelling, out of the cloud a voice was heard from the Father, saying, ‘This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased. Listen to him.’ At the voice of the Father, Moses returned to his place and Elias returned to his country, and the Apostles fell on their faces to the ground, and Jesus stood alone, because the voice was fulfilled in him alone.” ~ St. Ephrem the Syrian

“Nothing then is more blessed than the apostles, and especially the three, who even in the cloud were counted worthy to be under the same roof with the Lord. But if we will, we also shall behold Christ, not as they then on the mount, but in far greater brightness. For not thus shall He come hereafter. For whereas then, to spare His disciples, He discovered so much only of His brightness as they were able to bear; hereafter He shall come in the very glory of the Father, not with Moses and Elias only, but with the infinite host of the angels, with the archangels, with the cherubim, with those infinite tribes, not having a cloud over His head, but even heaven itself being folded up.” ~ St. John Chrysostom

May these insights help us to further understand the Transfiguration, so that we can better teach our students about this great feast! This week’s daily posts will offer ideas of ways to teach children about the Transfiguration. May we meet the feast with joy, and may Christ Himself continually transfigure us to become more and more like Him!

Thou wast transfigured on the mount, O Christ God, revealing Thy glory to Thy disciples as they could bear it. Let Thine everlasting light shine upon us sinners. Through the prayers of the Theotokos, O Giver of Light, glory to Thee (Troparion).

(The rest of these sermons on the Transfiguration can be found here: St. Ephrem the Syrian’s at http://full-of-grace-and-truth.blogspot.com/2010/08/st-ephraim-syrian-on-transfiguration-of.html  and St. John Chrystostom’s athttp://thedivinelamp.stblogs.com/2010/02/27/st-john-chrysostom-on-the-transfiguration-feb-28-second-sunday-of-lent/.)

An Orthodox Christian Perspective on the Movie “God’s Not Dead”

“The most committed atheists were once Christians.”

Whether or not this statement by Professor Radisson in the movie “God’s Not Dead” is true is uncertain. But the storyline of this 2014 movie directed by Harold Cronk would certainly lead the watcher to believe that it could be true. In the movie, the professor himself sets out to “unconvert” the Christian students that come into his philosophy class: employing logic, sarcasm, put-downs, and even threats to that end.

The movie follows student Josh Wheaton through his initial months in college, beginning with the first day of his philosophy class, where all students in Professor Radisson’s class were required to write down on a piece of paper, “God is dead;” and hand that paper in to the professor, or face difficult consequences. Undeterred, Josh chooses to not write the statement, and is thereby challenged by the professor to logically prove to him and the entire class that God does, in fact exist, and that He’s alive. Throughout the movie, the viewer also meets the professor’s girlfriend and part of her family, a few fellow students in the class, other students at the college, a cynical reporter, and a pastor and his missionary guest; all facing challenges of their own. As in real life, all of these people’s stories are going on simultaneously, and the viewer wonders until the end why they are all included in the movie.

There are parts of the movie that seem a bit forced. Some would say that, to a degree, the movie is somewhat of an advertisement for the Christian singing group “The Newsboys” and the show “Duck Dynasty.” Culturally-sensitive types may dislike the portrayals of the vengeful Muslim father or the seemingly-uncaring Chinese father as they interact with their children who are exploring Christianity. As a whole, Orthodox Christians will notice that parts are overtly Protestant/Evangelical in their approach to God, faith, and conversion. Remembering that the movie was filmed with an American Protestant Christian audience in mind may be the best way to approach the film, see past the weaknesses, and focus on its strength.

This movie’s best strength is the underlying message that the Faith is worth standing up for in the face of difficulty. The message is crystal clear, and the viewer finds themselves rooting for Josh every time it is his turn at the philosophy class podium. Numerous characters in the movie face the opportunity to stand up for what they believe in, and the viewer is able to observe whether or not they do, as well as the results of their choices. The movie makes the viewer think about standing up for his/her own faith in the face of adversity.

Because it is an opportunity to think about defending one’s faith, “God’s Not Dead” is a good movie for young Orthodox Christians preparing to enter high school or college to watch and then discuss with their parents or youth leaders.

Discussions questions could include:

  1. What is the main message of this movie? What do you think about it?
  2. Have you ever faced a situation such as Josh’s? What did you (or would you) do?
  3. Do you remember Reverend Dave‘s answer to Josh’s dilemma, at the beginning of the movie? How does Matthew 10: 32-33 apply to your life?
  4. Discuss the following quotes (or others) from the movie:
  • “How did I not see this in you?” ~ Kara “Because you saw what you wanted.” ~ Mark
  • “Some of the most important work God wants us to do seems meaningless.” ~ Rev. Jude
  • “The most committed atheists were once Christians.” ~ Prof. Radisson
  • “Sometimes the devil allows people to live a life free of trouble, ‘cause he doesn’t want them turning to God.” ~ Mina’s mother

Youth leaders/parents may also want to point out the differences in theology between Orthodox Christian teachings and those expressed in the movie (for example, salvation as a continuing process aided by the Eucharist and the other sacraments/teachings of The Church vs. use of the “sinner’s prayer” as the chief means of salvation).

The premise of this movie is nothing new: people have been trying since the days of the first martyr, Stephen, to dissuade others from their faith in God (and His son). This movie provides the viewer with the opportunity to think once again about his/her own faith and encourages the viewer to stand for Truth despite the opinions of all those around them. The movie has the potential to embolden the watcher to stand firm as Josh did before the “Professor Radissons” in his/her life. And then, maybe it can one day be said of those professor-types that

“The most committed Christians were once atheists…”

According to http://godsnotdeadthemovie.com/, this movie will be available on dvd/blue ray on August 5, 2014. Information about the movie itself can be found at:http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2528814/?ref_=ttqt_qt_tt

On Managing Your Sunday Church School Class

Already it is midsummer, so believe it or not, it is time to begin thinking about getting back into the school and Sunday Church School routines! Whether your parish has Sunday Church School year round, or takes a break over summertime, the new church year is a good time to implement changes and/or begin new routines. This week’s note and subsequent posts will address classroom management and suggest ideas of ways to prepare for and run your Sunday Church School class.

Prepare, prepare, and prepare for each lesson!

  • Pray for your students.
  • Ask God and the saints to help you with your general classroom preparations as well as with each of your lessons.
  • Keep your students in mind while you prepare each lesson (this gets easier as the year goes on and you discover how each of your students learns best).
  • If you’re telling a saint or Bible story, study it well; perhaps even gathering a few props to make it more interesting; and then think through questions to ask to engage the students.
  • If you’re doing a craft, no matter how simple/straightforward it may seem, try it ahead of time. This will assure you that you have all of the necessary items, reveal any weakness in your directions, and give you a sense of how long it takes and/or what’s the most difficult part of the craft.
  • If you’re playing a game, be sure to know the directions inside and out, thinking through possible scenarios of questions that may arise and how to answer them.

Create a welcoming space!

  • Be sure there is enough space in your classroom for all of the students on your roster. Since enrollment changes from year to year, this year’s class could be much smaller or larger than last year’s! You want to be prepared for all of your students.
  • Decide where/how the students will sit/stand/play, at which part of the Sunday Church School class, and set up the room accordingly.
  • Decorate the room with posters/bulletin boards/items that give an overview of what you will study during the year; and be sure to include at least one icon as the focal point during prayers. These decorations could actually go up throughout the year, during the course of your studies, or they can be already posted from the beginning of the year, as “teasers.”
  • Consider having one display area in the room that is decorated with help from your students (for example, have each of them draw a picture of themselves, and then post the entire paper “class” together somewhere in the room).  This display can change periodically, or stay up all year.
  • Consider changing the space where the children sit and/or work, from time to time, in order to keep it interesting. (Of course, if you have a large classroom, you can change where they sit/stand throughout the course of the class itself; ie: they can sit on the floor to hear a story, then work around a table for the craft/activity pages/etc.).
  • Post classroom rules where it is easy for everyone to see them, so everyone knows what is expected of them. (They can be written together as a class; but need to be posted so that you can refer back to them if necessary.) If you write these together as a class, be sure to have planned ahead and thought through what all you want the class to include in this list of expectations!

Include everyone!

  • The Silent One – Speak to the child outside of Sunday Church School, assuring them that you are glad they’re in your class, and that you value their answer/opinion, as much as anyone else’s. Plan with the child a hand signal or even a wink that can double as a “backup plan” to answer your question if they don’t feel comfortable speaking in the classroom context.
  • The Hand-Waver – Set guidelines with your class about expectations regarding answering questions; encouraging politeness and turn-taking. If one of your students insists on waving around their hand in attempt to gain more attention in class, consistently ignore it. And then, outside of class, speak with the child about why you do not reward that behavior, reminding them gently of your guidelines. Be sure to reward polite behavior when students comply!
  • The Chatterer – Your classroom guidelines should include something about when it is appropriate for students to talk; and when they should be just listening. Encourage chatterers to follow those guidelines. If they don’t, have a plan in place for responding to them: maybe just to  ignore the chatter, or to give the student a specific assignment in which they need to talk (ie: “when I’m finished explaining this, I will need you to read this to the class” or “after I have finished talking about this part, you can tell us in your own words what is the main point of today’s lesson”).
  • The Class Clown – There is often at least one of these in every class: so plan ahead, and teach your students about being respectful to others and that Sunday Church School is not the place to try to draw attention to themselves. Think of creative ways in each lesson to allow for humor and/or dramatic flair, so that all of the children have the opportunity for this sort of creative/comic outlet. If you have a plan to incorporate this into your lessons, the rest of the lesson, you are able to simply say, “It’s not time for that, yet; but later in the lesson, we will be (acting or doing something funny or otherwise dramatic), and I will need help with that. Let’s work on this (whatever the current activity is) and I’ll be watching to see who can best help me, later.”
  • The Gigglebox – Some children are easily amused, and will giggle at everything, especially the class clown. Remind this student of the classroom rules about when it is time to be quiet (yes, laughter is noisy, just like talking!), and encourage them to save the giggles for later. You will need to get to know your students, to see who can sit together and who can’t; who makes who laugh; etc., and plan accordingly. Chances are, the Gigglebox shouldn’t be right next to Class Clown!
  • The Wiggleworm – It is difficult for some children to be still. Especially if they have just stood for the Divine Liturgy, your students may just need some wiggle room. Find a way to incorporate a little movement into your class times. A few examples: sing a song with motions. Have a set of “wiggle buster” stretches that you always use to begin class, which ends with standing still to pray. Ask review questions from past lessons in which the children “move three seats to the right if you think the answer is a, two seats if it is b, or one seat to answer c,” and yes, you may end up with a few children piled in the same chair. You get the idea. If you have children that simply must move all of the time, consider providing them with quiet movement activities they can use while listening; such as a fabric marble maze (http://www.playeatgrow.com/2012/03/play-homemade-toys-marble-maze.html) or some other quiet finger-busying device; or provide a short piece of pool noodle to put under their feet that they can roll around quietly to give their legs something to do as they listen (http://cazanoova.blogspot.com/2011/09/pool-noodles-part-2.html).
  • If you need some ideas, you can find other discipline tips at http://ministry-to-children.com/kids-ministry-discipline-tips/.

As we look to the year ahead, let us do so with joy and gratitude for the gift God is granting us in each of our students. As we plan for the year, may we do so carefully, that we be well prepared to manage each moment with those students. Most of all, may God grant us love for each student, wisdom to teach them well, and strength for each class of the upcoming church year!

Someone to Look Up to: Teaching About Elder Paisios of Mount Athos

“Because in the old times we had men of great stature; our present age is lacking in examples-and I am speaking generally about the Church and Monasticism.  Today, there are more words and books and fewer living examples.” ~ Elder Paisios, from his book With Pain and Love for Contemporary Man

In these modern times, there may be fewer living examples, but God has provided some wonderful modern examples for us to emulate to the best of our ability, whose stories we must share with our students, the future generation of the Church. Elder Paisios himself is one of those examples, and it is important that we teach our Sunday Church School children about him and his life! This week’s posts will give ideas of activities to do when teaching our students about him. Here is a brief summary of his life:

Elder Paisios was born in Cappadocia, Turkey, in July of 1924. He was baptized with the name Arsenios, by St. Arsenios himself. When Arsenios was only two months old, the Christians of Cappadocia were deported to Greece. So it was that young Arsenios grew up in Greece.

Young Arsenios loved God very much and did all that he could to live a holy life, even when he was a child. He fasted, prayed, and loved to read books about the lives of the saints. Once, when Arsenios was 15 and suffering some doubts about the deity of Christ (yet determinedly praying on, anyway), Christ Himself appeared to Arsenios and spoke to him. This event chased away the doubts in Arsenios’ mind and made him more determined than ever to be the best Christian that he could possibly be.

To further imitate Christ, Arsenios became an apprentice in a woodworking shop. He learned to make everything from window frames to iconostases. He made coffins for the departed, but would not accept any payment for them; he considered the coffin his donation to the family of the departed. When he wasn’t working in the woodshop, Arsenios would teach other children about Christ and the Church.

World War 2 began, and when Arsenios was 21, he was taken into the army. Many times he would help other soldiers at great risk to himself, but God protected him. He served his country for five years, when he was dismissed from the army. At that time, Arsenios went home to help his mother with his family, since his father passed away while Arsenios was in the army.

A few years later, Arsenios was finally able to go to Mt. Athos, where he had always wanted to live. Arsenios was tonsured as the monk Paisios at age 32. As a monk, he did many things: he made bread, he helped at the guest house, and he prayed for most of each night.

Several years after that, the Theotokos revealed that Paisios should re-open a monastery near his home village of Konitsa. He helped to rebuild the church, even carrying heavy marble slabs up to the church from the village on his back, when the villagers wouldn’t share their donkeys. (But when they saw Father Paisios carrying them himself, they changed their minds and used their donkeys to help him!) Once the monastery was rebuilt, Father Paisios lived there and worked, befriending everyone from children to bears and other animals whom he met along the way.

In 1962, the Theotokos led Father Paisios to Mt. Sinai, where he lived in a little cell and sold carved wooden objects. He used the money that he got for the carvings to provide food and clothes to the Bedouins that lived in tents nearby. He was especially loved by the Bedouin children, who called him “Abuna Paizi.” Often, he gave them sandals to help their cracked feet, as well as hats or whatever else they needed that he happened to have on hand. Father Paisios was only at Mt. Sinai for two years when he got sick and needed to go back to Greece to recover.

Once he was well again, Father Paisios went back to Mt. Athos. This time, he had a simple cell surrounded by many plants and trees, with an outside sitting space for visitors. Father Paisios welcomed and cared for visitors in the day, whether human or animal, and prayed and carved wooden items at night. On one day, Father Paisios had visitors, and a snake came toward them all. Father Paisios stopped the others from harming the snake. He gave the snake water to drink and told it to leave, since he had other company now. The snake drank the water and left, just as Father Paisios had requested.

At one point in these years on Mt. Athos, Father Paisios had a lot of headaches, and one of his eyes hurt a lot. He was granted the opportunity to see his guardian angel, who smiled at him, and touched his eyes, then disappeared. Father Paisios’ pain was immediately gone! God had done a miracle for him!

As Father Paisios got older, he moved to another part of Mt. Athos. Many people would come here to see him. He would serve them Turkish Delight and water, and speak with them. He continued to do all that he could to help others; either giving them things they needed, or giving them advice, or praying for them that God would meet their needs.

He continued to meet with and help people, even when he was very sick and soon ready to pass away. A few days before his repose, Father Paisios was still welcoming people to speak with them, even though he was now so ill that he had to stay in bed all of the time. As he had done for all his life, he showed people God’s love and that he cared for them, right up until he departed this life on July 12, 1994.

Elder Paisios continues to help others, even though he is no longer living on earth. He helps by praying for people and working miracles. His writings are full of wisdom, and many people who read them are encouraged to become more like God, as well.

Elder Paisios in his great humility would not want us to see him as a “man of great stature:” rather, he would point us to Christ and tell us that he, himself, had only just begun the journey of becoming like Christ. Let us honor the elder’s ascetic labors by, ourselves, doing what we can to pray more, fast better, and be kinder to everyone (human or animal) that we meet. And let us teach our children to do likewise.

Holy Elder Paisios, pray unto God for us!

Read more about the life of Elder Paisios here: http://orthodoxwiki.org/Paisios_(Eznepidis)or  here: http://gabrielsmessage.wordpress.com/saints-and-elders/elder-paisios/
Watch/listen to stories of his life and miracles here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k4un8kDLECY&list=PLdWXl9r5ROuXUigTBDBE5rl87Im7ATj5p

Synaxis of the Saints of North America (2nd Sunday after Pentecost)

On the second Sunday after Pentecost, it is the custom of the Orthodox Church to celebrate the saints who have come from the local region. Many of our readers are from North America, and will therefore remember the Saints of North America on that Sunday. Regardless of where in the world we live, it is important that we learn about our “local” saints and teach the children in our care about them, as well, so that the children know that even in our part of the world there are people who have followed Christ successfully. The process of teaching our children about these saints can influence our lives towards godliness, as well!

Here are a few details about North American saints:

St. Herman of Alaska – the first saint glorified on the “new” continent, he lived on Kodiak Island for many years and worked with superhuman strength, including lifting a log that would’ve taken 4 people to lift it. He is commemorated on December 13.

St. Juvenaly – came to the “new land” in the late 1700s, to help teach the natives about Christ. He was killed by a hunting party who was afraid of him because he was a stranger. He died blessing his killers with the sign of the cross. The local shaman was fascinated by St. Juvenaly’s cross, and put it around his neck; however whenever he tried to cast one of his spells while wearing the cross, he found himself unable to complete the spell, and, in fact, hovering several feet above the ground. The shaman took off the cross and warned his people not to harm anyone dressed like St. Juvenaly. St. Juvenaly is commemorated on Sept. 24.

St. Peter the Aleut – was a Kodiak native baptized into the Orthodox Faith by St. Herman’s group of missionaries. St. Peter refused to convert to Roman Catholicism, despite having his fingers cut off one joint at a time… During his tortures, he said, “I am a Christian. I will not betray my faith.” He is commemorated on Sept. 24.

St. Innocent – volunteered to come to the “new land” as a missionary, even though it meant bringing his young family along to a place that was considered unsafe. He learned the Aleut language and culture, to better find a way to tell the people about Christ and His Church. He even developed a written language for the Aleut people, and translated the Liturgy, parts of scripture, and other important Christian things so that the Aleuts can worship in their native language. He is commemorated on March 31.

St. Jacob – born in Alaska, St. Jacob was the first Native American ordained to the priesthood. He worked very hard among the native peoples of Alaska, creating the written form of the Unangan language and translating the Scriptures and other Orthodox writings into the language. He was sent (in his early forties) as a missionary to the southwest Alaskan tundra, where he ministered to the Yup’ik Eskimos and Athabaskan peoples. He is commemorated on July 26.

St. Alexis – a Uniate priest, St. Alexis was refused by the Roman Catholic Church when he was sent to America from his native Hungary. He found a home in Orthodoxy, and brought 15,000 other Uniates with him over the course of his life. Life was not easy for him: in addition to his work as a priest, he worked as a baker to provide for his needs, because his parish was very poor. Despite his meager income, St. Alexis still gave to the poor and shared with other needy clergy members, while helping to build churches and seminaries. He is commemorated on May 7.

St. Rafael – was born in Lebanon, schooled in Russia, recruited as a missionary to America, and could serve the Divine Liturgy fluently in 4 different languages. When he was ordained as the first Orthodox Christian bishop in America, he had already declined ordination as a bishop in Lebanon twice, because of his commitment to the people of America. It was he who insisted that services be served in English so that the young people would understand it and not leave the Church. He helped to write the English language service book and assisted in establishing 30 congregations. He is commemorated on the Saturday before the Synaxis of the Bodiless Powers of Heaven (sometime between November 1 – 7).

St Tikhon – was a bishop in Poland and Russia in addition to the USA. In his 9 years in America, however, he started the first Orthodox Christian seminary; founded the first monastery; and established many parishes. Back in Russia during the difficult time of the Bolshevik Revolution, St. Tikhon both tenderly cared for wounded soldiers and fiercely led his flock, encouraging them to maintain their faith in the face of persecution. He is commemorated on March 25.

St. John (Kotchurov) – was born in Russia, but always felt called by God to be a missionary. He was sent to Chicago, where he established Holy Trinity Cathedral. He and his family later returned to Russia, where he was killed by the Bolsheviks for leading his people in a walk while praying for the salvation of Russia. He is called the “First Hieromartyr of the Bolshevik Yolk and Missionary of America.” He is commemorated on October 31.

St. Alexander – came to the United States from Russia to help with the Church. He was a very good speaker, and also helped to translate publications like “The Word” into English for those who did not speak Arabic. He went on to serve as a priest in Finland and back in Russia before the Bolsheviks finally caught up with him and martyred him for his pastoral activities. He is commemorated on December 4.

St. Nicholas of Zica – was brilliant, with five doctoral degrees from universities in different countries. He was a missionary to the United States, then returned to his native Serbia, spent time in Dachau as a prisoner, was not allowed to go back to his native land because of his faith, and ended up as a refugee in America, teaching at St. Tikhon’s monastery and caring for the faithful until he departed this life. He is commemorated on March 18.

St. John Maximovitch – born in the Ukraine, St. John fled to a Serbian monastery to become a monk and then a priest. He was sent to China as a bishop of the Russian Church in Exile. He later served as archbishop of Paris and Brussels, then was sent to San Francisco. St. John loved everyone, and prayed so often and so well that people would often find him deep in prayer, glowing with holy light, and hovering 6″ off the ground. He was sometimes seen at different places at the same time, without there being any way on earth that he could have been transported between the locations. He worked hard to make sure the Church was a place of worship, not just a social/ethnic gathering place. His incorrupt body can be seen in his cathedral in San Francisco. He is commemorated on July 2.

Find more about each of these saints at http://www.antiochian.org/north-american-saintsand at http://prayingwithmyfeet.blogspot.com/2012/06/all-saints-of-north-america.html

Each of these saints were people who emulated Christ, many of them doing so in the face of adversity. They were successful in following Christ, setting an example for the rest of us, regardless of where in the world we live. May they intercede for us, that we, too, may be faithful!