This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Monday, September 24, 2012

September 24 -- Feast of Saint Peter the Aleut

East meets West
Cungagnaq, as he was known before he was baptized, was an Aleut, a native of Kodiak Island.  He and hundreds of other Aleuts received baptism from Saint Herman, the Orthodox Russian missionary who set out to evangelize Alaska.  This was 1815, when Alaska was Russian territory, Oregon was claimed by Britain, and California was controlled by the Spanish.  The natives, of course, were not really recognized politically, though they were prized spiritually.  Lots of opportunity for a zealous missionary, though let's face it, that's a lot of discomfort and no earthly reward.  Any of us who think of the missionaries as greedy for anything except God's favor are deluding ourselves and ignoring the record.

So Cungagnaq became Peter and went off seal hunting with some other Aleuts on an expedition for the Russian American Company.  They must have gone pretty far afield (or whatever the comparable aquatic term may be) as they were busted by the Spanish.  Spanish and Russians were harvesting the same marine mammals, and neither was particularly fond of the other.  The Aleuts were taken to Mission Dolores (presently San Francisco).  I regret to say that the Catholic priest in charge of questioning them did not earn himself any credit on earth, nor much in Heaven, I imagine. 

perhaps even more Aleutian in appearance
The Aleuts were not about to give up their faith under duress.  The Spanish were not about to release Orthodox natives, at least at first.  The Spanish priest ordered Native American subordinates (employees? allies?  slaves?) to commence The Persuasion.  If they could not convert the whole man, perhaps they could convert most of him by removing pieces.

Toes first.  Inconvenient, certainly.  Painful, undoubtedly.  But not fatal.  Then the fingers, knuckle by knuckle.  Still nothing, huh?  Then the un-digited stumps of hands.  When they had still not persuaded Peter, they disemboweled him in the hope that the next Aleut on the table would be more cooperative.

One more for good measure.
They were about to begin The Persuasion on the next fella when word came (whence?) to release them.  The Aleuts (and Russians) were permitted to return to Alaska, at which point Ivan Kuskof made a full report to Bishop Herman, and later to the Company.  In a later report, Simeon Ivanovich Yankovsky claimed that the Spanish priests were Jesuits, but this could not be.  The Jesuit were disbanded in 1773 (except in Catherine the Great's realm) and were not restored until 1814.  Most likely, the priests were Franciscans, as they could be found all over California (thus, San Francisco).  It was atrocious behavior -- certainly Saint Francis would have known better.

Each sect honors its own saints and most ignore their own victims.  You'll find Peter in the Orthodox martyrology, but of course there's no mention of him in the Catholic lists.  This source, though often preachy and judgmental, is less discriminating on that score.

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