Saturday, August 25, 2012

St. Alison Kaylee

Alison Kaylee, who was she? Few people know that she became a nun at an Orthodox convent near the coast of Oregon. For many years, some Orthodox xtians considered her worthy of veneration since she was noted for her kindness and charity. She once was known as Kaylee Alison, but she later reversed the order of her name when she entered the convent. Saint Alison Kaylee was the first woman from the Columbia Pacific to be canonized by the Orthodox church in America. Her special feast day is April 4th, the day she died.

In one of the rooms of the Stephanie Inn in Tolovana hangs this painting depicting a serene lady who many have mistakenly supposed was Kaylee Alison. But my careful research has proven that Jean Elizabeth is actually the lady depicted here. Jean was Kaylee's older sister who died with her husband in the terrible shipwreck of the SS Valencia that occurred near the coast of Vancouver Island. But the story goes that Jean Elizabeth and Kaylee Alison looked very much alike, though Jean had a much lighter color of hair. Kaylee dearly loved her older sister Jean.

As the story goes, some time after her sister's passing, while walking on the beach with her friends — this was the Oregon coast near Tolovana — Alison looked out at the ocean waves and the sun light glistening on the foamy water. She saw a most marvelous vision that caused her to be frozen and transfixed. Her friends didn't know what was happening to her, as she seemed to just stand there on the sand staring out at the sea.

She saw two angels, dressed in sparkling white, their beards were long and golden, and they hovered with their feet just above the waves and the sun drenched water. Between them, they were holding a dark wooden cross, and on that cross Alison could see a vision of the Lord crucified and hanging there. He looked up at her, wearing the thorny crown, and said "love me, Alison, for I greatly loved you." Alison distinctly heard this and fell on her knees in the sand astonished. Her friends saw her doing this but only heard the rushing of the waves. Alison was never the same after this. She decided she would love Him who greatly loved her and bore such suffering for her sake to free her from her sins.

In another room is a picture of two women at the beach, dressed in antique white in a manner as was common back before World War I. One of them was Kaylee Alison, whose face was uncovered to the sun. Her hair was a dark brunette, made lighter by the downward glance of the sun. The other lady in a shadow beneath a broad hat was her mother Stephanie, the founder of the Stephanie Inn. At the time, Kaylee Alison was engaged to be married to an up and coming lawyer, a young man who had his law practice in Astoria. Kaylee was devout, as was her mother Stephanie, and the young man, Jamison by name, was nominally a Catholic. At that time, the Orthodox living along the Oregon coast were small in numbers. However, Kaylee's father wanted her to have a secure future by marrying a lawyer. Kaylee did have a fancy for Jamison, a handsome Irishman, but she didn't feel any special love for him, although she wanted to please her family who considered him solid and dependable. Furthermore, her family said, Jamison promised that he would convert to Orthodoxy. Kaylee was also solid and often businesslike in her dealings with others. She didn't subscribe to foolish notions of romance and "love conquers all," and the other kinds of nonsense being spread by the suffragettes and progressives.

But everything changed that day when she had the astonishing vision on the beach. She knew who was truely worthy of her devotion. This was a difficult thing for her family to accept at first. But her mother Stephanie was convinced that the vision was real, and she finally convinced Kaylee's father to allow their daughter to enter a convent. Poor Jamison had to choose another bride from elsewhere.

This is the lighthouse not far from the beach where St. Alison saw her vision. After her untimely death, which happened in the year 1918 during the influenza pandemic, people would make pilgrimages to this place. There have been reports that miraculous healings have happened here, which people attributed to the intercession of St. Alison. Because of these many miracles of healing, the Orthodox church was compelled to acknowledge the efficacy of St. Alison's intervention, which is why she was canonized so quickly. Not far from the lighthouse, the Orthodox church purchased a small plot of land near the beach. On that land, the Chapel of St. Alison Kaylee was built and consecrated, where visiting pilgrims could rest themselves or escape the inclement weather, which happens often on the coast of Oregon.

This is the Chapel of St. Alison Kaylee the Miracle Worker, as she became to be known because of the astonishing miracles of healing that were granted. Normally, the church is cautious about the subject of miracles. Only after careful investigation and testimony does the church proclaim reports of the miraculous as worthy of belief. St. Alison was always modest during her life, and never boastful. In the convent where she lived, she performed her chores without complaint, and she prayed with the other sisters as typical. Because she was modest, there is nothing to be astonished at that her chapel was also small and modest, situated on a hillside a short distance from the beach.

It has been rumored that St. Alison wrote a short book, or possibly a journal, during her years in the convent, and some reports have it that the book was entitled "The Little Flowers." Unfortunately, shortly after her death, the metropolitan ordered the convent to be relocated, and in the ensuing shuffle, some of her personal effects might have gotten lost; or possibly, the sisters sold it at a yard sale, not realizing how just how valuable it might be. In any case, it is difficult to guess what the book was about, assuming it still exists. Maybe it was about the botany of plants along the Oregon coast? At this point, the book has yet to be found, although I have been making a diligent effort to find it.

I never had a chance to meet Alison Kaylee. She lived many years ago. But I have heard that besides her life of self-sacrifice, sanctity, and love of others, she is also remembered for her kindness towards animals, especially seagulls and other ocean fowl. The pilgrims to the chapel say that a seagull always harbors himself near the entrance to the chapel, with the hope that similar kindness will be extended to him in the form of a morsel or two. Over time, the seagull, somehow or another, for reasons unknown, acquired the name "Floyd." This picture shows Floyd standing vigilance at the stone walkway in front of the entrance to the chapel. It was very rainy that day.

Now I have heard it said that Jamison's first name was actually Floyd. And other stories have it that Jamison, after losing Kaylee Alison, never recovered from the loss and died in grief, and somehow the seagull is the forlorn soul of Floyd Jamison still hanging around her chapel in the hope of getting back his stolen fiancée — hence, the name "Floyd" for the pertinacious seagull. However, I think these stories are quite fanciful, and as far as my investigations can determine, Jamison left Astoria shortly afterwards to take part in gold prospecting, either in the Klondike or Alaska. Beyond that, I have not been able to track down any further record of his whereabouts.