Camino: A Hero Dies

Death has been heard of far and wide throughout the world these last two years. On this interior Camino out here in ol’ Kansas, so many people have died in our large community of fellow-pilgrims. But little connections on a day of a special funeral reminds us all that death is only the begining of something greater.

Well, let’s on to the four highlights!

  1. From the Camino:
  2. From the Mass
  3. The physical progress of the Immaculata
  4. Pictures from the travel journal.

Keep reading to see more pictures and get all four highlights (in the space of four minutes!)

One: From the Camino

Today I attended the funeral of Professor Peter Gregory Anastasis, a former teacher of mine. Fr. Wood, also a former student of his, said the Requiem Mass. He gave a beautiful sermon:

“A gentle scholar” whose story is worth knowing, Professor Anastasis (formerly Nastase) was originally an Orthodox Christian and spent nine years in a Romanian communist prison. In class we grew used to seeing the scars of torture on his hands. He was released just as “a beautiful lady, surrounded by white light who appeared to him” in a dream had predicted.

He and his family later converted to Catholicism after he discovered the apparition of Our Lady of Lourdes.

After much hardship and enduring a hunger strike with his wife and family, Mr. Anastasis brought his family to the U.S. to assure them of a better future, but before he left Romania, the communists stripped him completely of his many degrees because he had not submitted to them. Able to go forth from the Iron Curtain, he changed “the family name from Nastase to Anastasis which means “Resurrection” in Greek.”

After much hardship, working any job he could to support his family while completely redoing his degrees, he eventually came to teach us Latin and Greek at St. Mary’s Academy and College, St. Marys, KS. He embodied patience while trying to guide and draw us on by the goodness and his love of ancient languages. A polyglot, his biggest selling point to learn the Greek and Aramaic languages was that they served as the original language to communicate God’s Word. At least one of the languages he learned from fellow-imprisoned priests while in prison.

The scene you see of him walking and holding the Latin book is what is etched in my mind from the three years I had him as a teacher. He had many phrases we fondly quoted to each other , imitating his thick, gentle Romanian accent: “Meethter Bryan, minuth thuper bonuth…I need an acute girl for thee the tranthlation…”

The day before the funeral, I made a visit to the cemetery. It was grim, arresting, and almost scary to see his grave waiting. And yet each of us must lay in a similar place one day.

It was in his class that I learned to love the ancient languages and desire to write beautifully on the chalkboard like he did, but also, I mischievously wrote my own stories disguised as messy translations of Julius Caesar’s escapades. I only understood how loving a teacher he was, and how much he loved Latin once I finally taught it to my own high school students.

From the Mass: 

The Preface that day at Mr. Anastasis’s funeral really stood out in a special way. Fr. Wood highlighted this part of the preface in reference to Mr. Anastasis:

For your faithful, life is changed, not taken away, and when the home of this earthly paradise is dissolved, an eternal dwelling is made ready in heaven.”

~Preface of the Dead

 Then later, further into the Mass, the way Fr. Wood intoned the responses beginning the Preface “Sursum corda —lift up your hearts!”  “Vere dignum et justum est…” “It is truly meet and just…” called to mind the origin of the tone we were singing in.

“The Preface is intoned on the very same melody used by the ancient Greeks when celebrating some hero in their feasts, and there declaiming his mighty deeds in song.”

~ Dom Guérranger, The Holy Mass

How fitting that Fr. Wood, a lover himself of Lating and Ancient Greek, should sing so beautifully the melody of the hero-song in the requiem of Mr. Anastasis.

Our Magister would have one last lesson.

And then later it hit me that Requiem means rest.

Rest… is a culmination, a fullness and stillness of waters gathered to a flood tide.”

~Caryll Houselander, Wood of the Cradle, Wood of the Cross.

A requiem, when someone dies and we wish them to “Rest in peace —Requiescat in pace,” it is painful to do so, because of the touch of suffering that stains everything we must do in this life.

But if true rest is achieved, if it is granted, than Mr. Anastasis, and all those who have died for whom we pray, have achieved not a gloomy drab afterlife, but a culmination, the fullness of gathered peace. And what is the source of that peace, that goodness? God. To understand the meaning of the black-draped word “Requiem,” is to hope in Heaven, an eternal moment of bliss in a loving relationship .

The Physical Progress of the Immaculata

In spite of the constant funerals that seem to happen in teh churchyard, the building goes on. The m asonry on the north bell tower rises higher, and whereas it is more cloaked in it’s stony garb, the crown is still naked steel, while the southern tower is fully dressed in the outrageous green stuff. 

During the funeral it was a touching sight to see the Anastasis women all huddled together throughout their father’s chilly burial. The gusty freezing wind blew from the Northwest. They stood with their back to the wind, facing the grave, and their younger bodies shielded the frail frame of Mrs. Anastasis, the beautiful noble wife of Mr. Anastasis. And all the while, the Immaculata rose in the background.

“Am I not here, I who am your mother?”

Happy Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes today! Did any of these thoughts strenthen your day?

If you’d like to chew on these things a little more deeply, check out these books here. Houselander is easy to read, while the second book, though rich, is best taken in little chunks.

And this movie here helps you see what it’s like to be on the Camino de Santiago. In taking more in using the senses, you’ll be able to go even deeper within on this interior journey.

When you click the picture-links above, I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you. Click and you’re the best!

Requiescat in Pace, Professor Peter-Gregory Anastasis.

If you are interested in reading more about this “gentle hero, ” read his obituary, written by his son Louis.

For your faithful, life is changed, not taken away, and when the home of this earthly paradise is dissolved, an eternal dwelling is made ready in heaven.” ~Preface of the Dead

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