Friday is the 34th aniversery of the repose of Matushka (Mother) Olga Michael of Alaska.
Matushka Olga, a Native Alaskan of Yup’ik origin, was born on February 3, 1916. Her husband, Nikolai Michael, was the village postmaster and manager of the general store, who later was ordained a priest. She served her community not only as a priest’s wife, but also as a midwife. Matushka Olga gave birth to thirteen children herself of which eight survived and were raised by her. Many of the children to whom she gave birth were without the aid of a midwife of her own. Their was not a person in her family, her community, tribe, and her Church that was not touched in some way by her generosity, love and kindness.
What is important for us, is that Matushka Olga is remembered because she was faithful in all things, and not remarkable in a few things.
Many of us tend to see holy people, like the saints, as super-humans with divine powers, so unlike us. But the reality is, we are just like them, in so much as we all have the potential to be faithful regardless if it is in 4th century Byzantium, or 21st century Manitoba. Sure over the centuries legends can grow, and facts can become fantastic in the lives of the saints, but the reality is, that holiness is made real by having Christ as the centre of life’s comings and goings, however small and insignificant they might be, and not only in the grand and decisive moments of life. We see this in the life of Matushka Olga, a wife, mother, midwife, friend, supporter, helper, etc.
Matushka Olga, loved and loves. Interceding for the broken hearted, the poor, the exploited and especially those who suffer sexual abuse. And like the saints that ministered in Alaska before her, she does this out of faithfulness to God, and nothing else.
We like her, have the same opportunity of bearing witness to the world the love of God, if we can see the care of Jesus Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit in our every day life, and not simply in its triumphs and tragedies.
When Matushka Olga reposed, many people from miles around wanted to come to her funeral, but since it was November, the winter weather made it impossible. But on the day of her funeral a wind from the south brought warm weather, thawing the ice and snow to make the trek to Kwethluk possible. When the mourners exited the church to take her body to the graveyard, a flock of birds followed. Those who dug her grave found that the ground, too, had thawed. The evening after her funeral, the normal harsh winter weather returned.
Although not fomally glorified, Matushka Olga is widely venerated as a local saint. But regardless of how one addresses her, or remembers her in prayer, she is a profound witness of the “Good and faithful servant” (Mt. 25:19) commended to us by the Lord, and an intercessor for all of us.
Holy Matushka Olga, pray to God for us.