Father Demetrius Augustine Gallitzin
faithful, in addition to the charitable work of building a viable town for his flock in the wilds of Pennsylvania, and aside from fighting off debt, calumny, and waging war against the vices of backwoodsmen (heavy drinkers), Demetrius Augustine Gallitzin found time to become the first Catholic controversialist in the new Republic.
On a day dedicated by President Madison to"prayer and humiliation" for the country in 1814 (the occasion was Washington's being burned down by the Brits), a Presbyterian by the name of Reverend Mr. Johnson took the opportunity to lambaste "popery." (Being, like Mitri, a Federalist, the minister could not be too enthused over Madison's piety, so he had to preach about something both he and his Republican congregation could get behind.) The sermon was so good, he thought, that he had it published. Russian fireworks went off when Father Gallitzin saw it. He authored and published his response: A Defence of Catholic Principles. A masterpiece of simple apologetics, it stunned the ersatz popeslayer. The Reverend Mr. Johnson did not respond for two years, and at that point could do no more than resort to invective and ad hominem attacks. Gallitzin's first work in apologetics was followed by two others: A Letter on the Holy Scriptures and An Appeal to the Protestant Public. These works produced conversions and won Mitri acclaim as a defender of the Faith.
For those dedicated to defending the cause of "no salvation outside the Church," this first American work of apologetics has some treats. Among several such are these excerpts:
"For God's sake, dear sir, if you value the glory of God, and the salvation of your soul, give up protesting against the Catholic Church; in it alone you will find salvation. As sure as God lives, it is the true church of Christ. May the day of judgment be for me the day of God's eternal vengeance, if the Roman Catholic Church is not the only one true and immaculate spouse of Christ. May my soul be doomed to suffer for you to all eternity, all those torments, which you would deserve by following all the pretended superstitions of the church of Rome."
"The question then before us is concerning theological toleration, viz. whether Almighty God can approve of so many different religious systems, which we find established upon earth; whether all these different religious systems can be considered as so many different ways to heaven. If so, we ought to be in favour of universal toleration.The Catholic Church teaches, that Jesus Christ established but one church for the salvation of man, and that out of that one church salvation is not to be had."
Not only did this doctrinaire booklet put to silence the foolish man who attacked the Church; it also won over some converts for the first Catholic controversialist in our nation. Even Protestants who did not convert learned to respect the Church of Rome.His few excursions into public polemics were not the only occasions of celebrity for Loretto's pastor. Earlier in his missionary career there was the strange episode of the "Wizard Clip," a series of extraordinary preternatural phenomena apparently involving a soul from Purgatory "haunting" the house of a Lutheran family. The family, the Livingstons, eventually converted, as did other Protestants in the area (see Father Gallitzin and the Cliptown Exorcism).
Amalia's reluctant Augustine grew old and wise among his people. He had matured into a prudent, even shrewd man, whose quirks only endeared him to his flock. He was small of frame, toothless (thanks to an inept dentist), and eccentric in many ways. Among the crude denizens of the mountain frontier - he once had to put up a "do not spit on the floor" sign in his chapel - he yet remained the soul of refinement. And he loved these provincial folk beyond their apparent lovability, much as the original Augustine loved the rough inhabitants of Hippo. Preaching to them with a firmness to the point of strictitude, he would also entertain them with his clarinet as they lumbered home from their hard day's labors. But he had learned the hard way not to be too close to any one of them, so his few private moments were spent friendless. On winter evenings he would play his violin by a fire in the basement, his black mastiff being the only companion to share the music.
For forty-one years did Father Gallitzin work from his rustic mission base in Loretto, building a Catholic community, educating his people, and bringing sacraments to far-off places. Most of those years he was unassisted by other priests. In his old age he was given priestly help. He needed it. A few years before his death, he fell off his horse and suffered the double hernia which, strangulated, would eventually take him. In his old age, his main mode of travel year round was a sled drawn by two horses, the mastiff usually trailing behind.A doctor had given him precise directives on how to care for himself in this condition. Mitri followed not one of these directives. He preferred an honor next to that of martyrdom, in his own words: "that of going on with his labors until he should collapse like an old worn-out cart-horse." Father Gallitzin collapsed in death on May 6, 1840, after wearing out his old cart-horse of a body during Holy Week and Easter.
A notable curiosity of Gallitzin's legacy is the fact that one of his earliest biographers was Sarah Brownson, the daughter of America's greatest apologist, Orestes Brownson, that lion of a man who looked forward to the day when Russia and America would be the great Catholic nations respectively of the East and West.Prince Demetrius Gallitzin's cause for canonization has been introduced to the Holy See. On June 6, 2005, he was made a "Servant of God." His cause is promoted by the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown. There is also a website specially dedicated to his cause: http://www.demetriusgallitzin.org/.
- - -
An online journal edited by the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Saint Benedict Center, New Hampshire.
Keywords: Alleghenies, Baron Franz von Fuerstenberg, Bishop John Carroll, Cambria County, Demetrius Gallitzin, Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, Hemsterhuis, Michael McGuire, Pennsylvania, Russia, Saint Mary's Seminary
Rate This Article
Leave a Comment
More Christian Saints & Heroes News
- St. Catherine of Sienna Calls Each One of Us to Love God Right Where We Are
- After the Corned Beef: St. Patrick Challenges Modern Christians to be Missionaries
- Bet you didn't know these 10 things about St. Patrick and Ireland!
- The Vision of St. John Bosco and the Papacy of Benedict XVI
- St. Thomas Aquinas is a Model for the New Evangelization
- Saint John Neumann Calls us all to Apostolic Charity and Courageous Christianity
- Who are you? John the Baptizer, Basil and Gregory Nazianzen Call Christian Men to Live as Friends
- Prophetic Pope Paul VI, a Champion of Human Life, Now Venerable
- Feast of St Francis Xavier Calls for New Evangelization Missionaries For the West
- Fr. Paul Schenck: Finding Living Faith on Catechetical Sunday
- The Movie Yellow: Incest as 'Normal' and Cassavates's Slides Into the World of Woes
- The Chicago School Teachers Strike Reveals the Need For School Choice
- The Sexual Barbarians and the Dissolution of Culture
- The Happy Priest Challenges Us to Ask: Who is Jesus to Me?
- Michael Coren on Canadian Public Schools: Teachers, leave those kids alone
- We Cannot Ignore Our Consciences: Cardinal Dolan On Religious Liberty
- In the Face of Danger, Successor of Peter Travels to Lebanon as a Messenger of Peace
- Reflections on the Dignity and Vocation of Women: Who or What?
Catholic Online offers the largest searchable database of Catholic Saints on the internet.
|A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z|
|A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z|