Good Book

In other news, I’ve been reading St Innocent: Apostle to the Americas (Paul D Garret, 1948), and it’s pretty interesting. St Innocent was born John Popov in 1797 in Siberia, and later became one of the most famous Russian missionary priests who were sent to evangelize Alaska. I’m about half way into it, and ploughing along – it’s not the kind of book that hooks the imagination and draws me along, but isn’t a bore either. It’s written more in the style of a biography than a traditional saint’s life, with not much mysticism, but instead a lot of focus on historical letters, journals, and official documents pertaining to St. Innocent’s life, and a corresponding use of exact locations and dates documenting everywhere he went, and when. While not making for the most engaging reading (I do not really care on exactly what day he went by kayak from Unalaska to Sitka, or that their was a brief period of calm winds before a fresher breeze blew in!), you can tell the author certainly did his research. Something that’s striking about the book is the range of interests that Fr. John (later Innocent) had. Building churches (he also carved the iconostasis himself) and clocks and barrel organs, keeping records on air pressure and temperature and local flora and fauna, creating all of his instruments himself, and then sending detailed manuscripts to the academy of sciences to have them published. And this was all in his spare time: he spent most of his time translating Scripture and catechisms into Aleut, holding services, and paddling hundreds of miles to every community on the Aleutian chain, where he would have to bless every marriage performing every baptism that had come up in the past year or so since his last visit. It’s pretty amazing stuff.

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