In celebration of the house paper being done, sort of.... (draft)... and because I just got back from an amazing day at the US Open and am exhausted.... I have attached my newspaper article for your enjoyment. Tomorrow I will be back up and running on a regular schedule with postings and all. Thank you for your patience.
Above the desk in my room sits a simple frame, in it a poem. The poem called “alphabet” is written by Irish poet laureate Seamus Heaney. It details the very moment a young child begins to write for the first time. I am not sure why I love this poem so much, but I do. I think it is most likely because of the story it tells and the memories it invokes in my own life. After all who can forget their first day of school, even if it was all the way back in 1983. As we begin another year at St. Mary’s, we welcome twenty new men to their first day in the hallowed halls of 5400 Roland Avenue. They join a long tradition of men responding to the call of Christ and His Church.
When I look back over the two hundred plus year history of this place, I cannot help but to be astounded by the impact one school and seminary can have. Through these halls have walked many great men, some who have been remembered in the annals of history for their greatness, like Father Michael McGivney founder of the Knights of Columbus, and others who have not, but who have shared the same zeal for the Church and Her people. No matter what the case may be, the thousands of men who have studied in our classrooms, prayed in the chapel and slept in our rooms, have each brought with them their own story. In fact it is learning these stories, which has been my favorite part of the orientation experience this year. What more interesting and exciting thing can there be, than learning how God is working in the lives of those he called? The journey is different for each of us, yet the story is very much the same. God calls, sometimes we recognize His voice, other times we drown it out or run away in fear. In the end each of us has chosen to respond, and that response has brought us here today.
As I spend a few moments reviewing the mental notes I have made about the stories of the many men who have journeyed to this place to discern their vocations, I am struck by one. It is the story of a young man who loved this country so much that he left his own home to brighten ours. In fact he not only left behind his country, he also left behind his Faith. His name was Demetrius, and he was born and raised as a member of the Greek Orthodox faith. A Russian by birth Demetrius enjoyed a life of great wealth and prestige. In fact at the time, he was heir to one of the largest fortunes in the world, yet somehow that did not matter. Demetrius, moved by the example of his humble and generous neighbors, converted to Catholicism as a teenager. When his father discovered his actions he was scandalized and threatened to disown him. In choosing to become Catholic Demetrius knew full well the grave consequences it would incur as he had seen what had happened to others who had dared to do the same. His decision would lead to the forfeiture of his share in the family fortune. In fact any hope of taking over the family business evaporated the very same moment the oils of confirmation were placed upon his forehead. Unabashed in his faith Demetrius ventured to the United States “to study the culture,” and, unbeknownst to his father, for the priesthood. The diocese of Baltimore as well as St. Mary’s welcomed the young convert with open arms, although privately held great reservations as to whether or not he could hack it. Hack it he did, Father Demetrius went on to quietly and humbly serve the Church for over forty years. He never achieved the fame of Father Michael McGivney. But he did go on to humbly and faithfully serve the poor in western Pennsylvania. The people were Father Demetrius true love and he would stop at nothing to share Christ with them. In sickness and in health he administered the sacraments to the faithful up and down the Allegheny mountain region, even during the final days of his life.
Father Demetrius was never made famous; he was never made a bishop, although he turned the opportunity when Archbishop Marechal, S.S. offered to him, choosing instead to remain in his rural parish. Yet somehow through all of this his name and example continue with us today. Father Demetrius Gallitzin is remembered today because he served Christ and the Church through this example of his life and witness, not because he was a Prince, the Godson of Catherine the Great or because he was the first person called to orders in the United States. Father Demetrius Gallitzin “abandoned his rank and fortune” to follow the same call that each of us has to chosen to respond to. Our fortunes may be smaller and our stories different, but our hearts mustn’t be. Father Demetrius Gallitzin, Servant of God was once a seminarian of St. Mary’s like all of us. His example and witness are profound, yet simple. He loved Christ and eagerly lowered his nets to follow him. As we begin a new year me we be ever reminded of the gentle witness, humble heart and complete surrender we are all called to embrace.