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Κυριακή, 9 Μαΐου 2010

Saint Olga of Alaska








Η Matushka Όλγα, είναι γηγενής από την Αλάσκα προέλευσης της φυλής Yupik, γεννήθηκε στις 3 Φεβρουαρίου 1916. Ο σύζυγός της, ο Νικολάι Μιχαήλ, ήταν ο ταχυδρόμος στο χωριό και διευθυντής του γενικού καταστήματος, ο οποίος αργότερα χειροτονήθηκε ιερέας και στη συνέχεια σε Αρχιερέα. Έχει υπηρετήσει κοινότητα της ως σύζυγος ιερέας, αλλά και ως μαία.


Η Matushka Όλγα γέννησε δικά της δεκατρία παιδιά τα οποία επέζησαν τα 8 και τέθηκαν κάτω απο το έργο της. Πολλά από τα παιδιά στα οποία γέννησε ήταν χωρίς τη βοήθεια μαίας η δικών της ανθρώπων.
Η Matushka Όλγα ήταν γνωστό για την συμπάθεια και τη φροντίδα της, για όσους είχαν υποστεί κακοποίηση παντός είδους, ιδίως τη σεξουαλική κακοποίηση. Ενώ η οικογένειά της ήταν φτωχή, έδωσε απλόχερα σε αυτούς που ήταν χειρότερη από αυτήν, συχνά έδινε τα ρούχα των παιδιών της στους απόρους. Ήταν επίσης γνωστή η ικανότητά της να πει πότε μια γυναίκα ήταν έγκυος, ακόμη και πριν από την ίδια τη γυναίκα που είχε χάσει τη περίοδός της.
Η Matushka Όλγα αναπαύτηκε στις 8 Νοεμβρίου του 1979.
Πολλοί άνθρωποι από τις γύρω περιοχές ήθελαν να έρθουν στην κηδεία της, αλλά επειδή ήταν Νοέμβριος, λόγω χειμώνα κατέστη αδύνατον. Αλλά από την ημέρα της κηδείας της, ένας άνεμος από το νότο έφερε ζεστό καιρό, απόψυξε τον πάγο και το χιόνι και έκανε ταξίδι για το Kwethluk δυνατό. Όταν οι πενθούντες αποχώρησαν από την εκκλησία για να πάρουν το σώμα στο νεκροταφείο, ένα σμήνος πουλιών ακολούθησε. Εκείνοι που έσκαψαν τάφο της διαπίστωσαν ότι το έδαφος, επίσης, είχαν αποψυχθεί. Το βράδυ, μετά κηδεία της, ο κανονικός σκληρός χειμώνας επέστρεψε.




Sometimes I find after reading about the life of a particular saint, that their holiness seems so unattainable, because their lives are so different from mine that I walk away discouraged. This is not the case with Blessed Olga of Alaska. Little Olga, or Olinka, was born to the Michael family on February 2, 1916. Olga grew up in the northern Eskimo village of Kwethluk, Alaska, surrounded by traditional Yup’ik charity. From her heart, this same charity overflowed naturally to all others, regardless of race or religion.

Olga knew a mother's sorrow first hand. She was a mother of 13, although 5 had died. Mother Olga was a midwife and healer and was known for her foreknowledge of who was pregnant even before they did. Often situations of abuse would be made known to her within the privacy of the steam bath or as the village midwife. In the heat of their sorrow, Matushka would heal, revive and console these souls, like a cool stream on a hot summer’s day. Blessed Olga still reaches out and heals those in suffering no matter their religion or nationality by her prayers. Recently there was an account of her appearing with Theotokos and healing an abused woman and there are others that she is quietly healing and consoling today.

Although her life seems ordinary, her love for God and neighbor was extraordinary. Olinka was aware of Jesus in all the people she met. Her children remember her giving away their clothes before they had outgrown them. She used to say to them, "If you see your dress on someone else, please don't mention it or say anything about it." To neighbors, she was quick to lend a helping hand, no matter how difficult the task. People remember her stopping whatever she was doing in order to help with just about anything. Mother Olga would often finish a snow boot sole or haul wood and water to make a steam bath to share with her blind friend. She knew the needs of communities far away and would send them traditional fur boots and parkas as donations to be raffled. This knowledge of their need was given her directly through prayer.

Mother Olga was steadfast and faithful. She had an arranged marriage and lived in a three room house with no running water, no sewer connection and no furnace. Olinka carried water every day for her family, but the real water was the overflowing stream of her deep prayer life. Through her prayers, her husband, Postmaster Nicolai Michael became Father Nicolai. He was the first Eskimo priest from her village of Kwethluk, where there was an amazing overflowing of seminarians. Kwethluk’s population in those days was about two hundred. In her life time, more than twenty men set out for seminary to become readers, deacons and priests. There is no other generation in Alaska yet that has had such an anointing to serve God. To put that in perspective, one man of every 10 families came to serve the Lord. To equal that kind of human tithe, we would have to turn out at least 35 seminarians here at our parish. Matushka Olga was literally the fountain of holiness in her community.

Olga was a hidden treasure, who out of a life of deep and continuous prayer gathered into her soul the sweet dew of grace. She was very humble and unassuming; very quiet. Visitors to her house, while her husband was the priest in Kwethluk, say that she was almost invisible, so gentle and complete was her sense of hospitality and service. Bishop GREGORY told me once that although he knew her, and had been served his favorite dish, Salmon Pie, she was so quiet and reserved that he did not know of her blessedness. Her closest friends were not at all surprised.

Mother Olga was gentle and kind in manner. She never criticized her
children and gave them great freedom and respect. Similar to Maria Montessori, Blessed Olga's way was to understand what children were capable of doing and let them become responsible for themselves. She believed in not forcing them to conform to her set of rules whenever possible and never used shame to discipline them. She was merciful and loving not just to those outside of her family, but to her nearest and dearest. This too is a very Yup'ik way.

After a year's reprieve from cancer, Blessed Olga fell asleep in the Lord on November 8, 1979 at the age of 63. The first known appearance of Blessed Olga occurred in 1995, in New York, to a suffering woman, a complete stranger, who was not Orthodox. This sufferer had been beseeching the Mother of God for help. In answer to her plea, Theotokos appeared with Blessed Olga, who then healed her. With that miracle, veneration naturally began, and 2 years later a visiting priest, Fr. Michael Oleksa spontaneously revealed Matushka Olga to us with a teaching on her life. Soon after that an unofficial version of her Moleben and Magnification were written in thanksgiving. Later His Beatitude Metropolitan JONAH visited Kwethluk the week of July 31, meeting with all her surviving children. While there he served a Panakahida at her gravesite and venerated the first icon of her as part of her ongoing canonization process.

By her simple piety, honesty, humility, and her gift of Yup’ikness, Blessed Olga provides a contemporary example to all of us of holiness. Blessedness is not attained only by those who live in caves, dwell deep in the woods, or in a monastery. In the little village of Kwethluk, faithfully living out the Holy Mystery of Marriage, day by day participating in the Orthodox way of life, God manifested in Mother’s soul all the fruits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Because of this grace, Matushka Olga is called the “Northern Light of Alaska” and the heavens agree. Once after Vespers on Nov 8th, the night was aflame with a color display of the Aurora Borealis in all its variety of reds, greens, and blues. As we came out of church that night all were amazed by this display in the sky and it filled our souls with awe and joy. God blessed us for faithfully attending Great Vespers and the heavens declared on her day of repose, “What a mother we have in Blessed Olga!”
To learn more about St. Olga, please see Saint Olga of Alaska.



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