When I think of St. Herman I am reminded of the winter I spent on Spruce Island as a teen. I stayed some of the time in the abbot’s barabara (a sod hut) as his cell attendant. It was cozy and safe. Very early in the mornings, we would walk to midnight office and matins. We followed the cycle of services and did manual labor. I like to imagine, that just as St. Herman did, we stayed closely connected to the Earth.
Monk Herman was not a priest, not a vigorous travelling missionary like St. Innocent. He wrote no great works on theology or ‘spiritual life’. So, what is it about this quiet unassuming monk that impacts us? I would say his silence – his simple small life – is a model for all Christian life.
Once asked how he coped with the boredom of solitude, he replied: “No, I’m not alone there! There is God, and God is everywhere! There are holy angels! How can one be bored with them? With whom is it more pleasant and better to converse, angels or people? Angels, of course!”
Monk Herman was also a champion of the rights of the native peoples oppressed by the Russian traders and government; constantly interceding for his fellow man, and caring for the many orphans. He is remembered locally as a great hero of the people. This simple unassuming monk was showing us in his own way, how to fulfill the commandments of the Lord.
I will end with his words: “And I, a sinner, have tried to love God for more than forty years, and I cannot say that I perfectly love Him,” but he later added, “at least let us make a vow to ourselves, that from this day, from this hour, from this very moment, we shall strive above all else to love God and to fulfill His Holy Will!”