It’s Time to Tell a Story part IX: The world, the flesh, and Fr. Herman

Author: Samuel James Dank
Date Published: 06/18/2015
Publication: Caz & Little


I rarely saw Fr. John Marler. He was always in Kodiak working on setting up the school. That is one of my regrets. But. Fr. Herman, our Spiritual Father, was coming to Kodiak, and to Spruce Island! He was coming to visit his monks and nuns…and the students! I was elated.

Abbot Herman was so fun to be around and he was a holy man. My head, full of visions of clairvoyant elders and fools for Christ, immediately suspected him to be a walking Saint. He brought us to the True Faith. He guided us into the fullness of the Christian life. And he connected us with the “Golden Chain of Sanctity.” He would hold ones hand in his and say “my hands have touched the hands of a saint. And now you have touched them!” I was amazed. He knew St. John Maximovich! He was in the great spiritual tradition of the Optina Elders. And most importantly he was transmitting this grace to us.

I venerated him as a living saint, and hung on his every word. What is more, he made always made one feel so special.

One evening behind the Meeting of our Lord chapel he conducted confessions. The chapel being too small to offer privacy. Out in the twilight by a tree, I poured my heart out to him in confession. Then I told him my deepest desire. I was on fire for God. I wanted to become a monk! He brought me before an icon of the Theotokos and bade me offer this up to her.

Another evening, a few of us boys were in the Abbot’s barabara spending time with Fr. Herman. We prayed and he inspired us with words of wisdom. Then he singled me out and in his enigmatic way said, “this one. This one will be a saint.” Imagine hearing something like that from the Holy Elder! Of course I did my best to be humble and forget about it.

We went to Saint Michael’s skete, Fr. Herman and I, to visit the nuns. It was delightful. I got to go up into the tower with Fr. Herman while he translated the lyrics of a modern Russian spiritual song into English.  I tried to help him. He had me scratch his back. I remember his back had pimples. I remember a nun coming up to get us for church.

Occasionally us boys would get to go to town. Take a shower. Eat junk. The best part was Monks Rock cafe and bookstore. It was the coolest place. Always bustling with activity; delightful after the isolation of Monk’s Lagoon. The back room had a loft at the time that was an illegal sleeping quarters (something about zoning and codes). We would sleep there.

One morning I woke up to Fr. Herman on top of me in the loft of Monk’s Rock. He was kissing me, repeatedly, on the lips and face in a romantic fervor, saying my name, Sammy, and what a sweet boy, and I love you…