Saturday evening, we found ourselves at the 4 p.m. vigil Mass. We don’t normally attend Mass on Saturday but one of the scheduled altar servers had fallen ill, so my son stepped up to take his place. When we entered the church, we saw an invitation to all parishioners posted in the narthex.
“Please join us following the 4 p.m. Mass in the Parish Hall for a reception celebrating the 70th anniversary of ordination for Fr. Basil,” it said.
Fr. Basil has been a retired priest at our parish for 26 years. Being present at the Mass celebrating his 70 years of priestly service was just incredible. He is nearly 97 years old and has lived an unbelievably extraordinary life…..
Coming from the Byzantine rite, he was married before being ordained to the priesthood. He and his wife were blessed with three children but seven months after the birth of their third child, his wife died. As tragic as that was- it was only the beginning of his struggles.
He lived in Romania at a time when Catholics were persecuted. When he refused to deny allegiance to the Pope, he was jailed. His still very young children were sent to an orphanage. He was physically tortured. Still, he held fast to his beliefs. After many years, he was released and allowed to reclaim his children. In time, he was able to come to America but his children were not. He was forced to leave them for a second time.
Amazingly, his middle child, Sergio, followed in his footsteps and became a priest. Along with our pastor and associate pastor and, of course, Fr. Basil, Fr. Sergio was one of the four priests celebrating the Mass. I couldn’t help but think, there was so much meaning in those two men- father and son- standing next to each other celebrating Mass. There was so much significance in the two of them, both as priests (Father and Father), sharing this celebration together after all the heartbreak they’ve both experienced in life.
On our way home after Mass, there was so much I wanted to say to my children. I wanted to ask them….
What did you think of that Mass? Did you see the beauty and the symbolism in the four holy priests con-celebrating together, all joined around the altar of the Lord? Could you see heaven touching us here on earth as they prayed the words of Consecration together? Did you realize that together those four holy men represented at least 150 years of consecrated service to Our Lord? That we were truly in the presence of greatness and holiness- as we are at every Mass?When our pastor gave his homily and shared the life story of Fr. Basil, did you find yourselves wondering- could I do what he did? Could I stand strong in my faith and lay down my life so completely? Could I go to jail and give up my comforts and even my own family rather than renounce my Catholic faith? Would I undergo torture for my beliefs?Were you surprised to hear his life story and to learn of his strength, while seeing him sit there looking so safe and ordinary? Were you inspired to greatness yourself by looking at that frail, humble man who has given so much to Our Lord?
I wanted to take the opportunity to drive home so many lessons but I decided to just let the experience, and Fr. Basil’s story, speak for itself….