In this episode of our volunteer-driven research project “Walking The Way with The Saints”, we focus on St. Demetrius I (c.119-c.224 AD), the 12th Pope of Alexandria.
Daniel Michalski presents us with his research into the life and works of the saint, and how he inspires us today to be humble and faithful to God, and trust Him to raise us up at the right time.
St. Pope Demetrius I (c.119-c.224 AD) was the 12th Bishop of Alexandria. This Pope was raised from being a farmer to sit upon the throne of St. Mark, the Evangelist of the land of Egypt.
St. Demetrius lived as a humble Christian farmer for the first 62 years of his life. Meanwhile, paganism was still entrenched in the land around him. There were times of Roman persecution as well as the widespread Gnostic heresy which troubled the Church of Egypt during this time. St. Demetrius and his wife lived together in voluntary celibacy and served God.
When St. Demetrius was 62, in 181 AD, God chose him to be the Patriarch of Alexandria. St. Pope Julian, Demetrius’ predecessor, had a dream. An angel appeared to him and told him the next day a man would bring him a cluster of grapes and he was to appoint that man as the next Pope. The next day, St. Demetrius brought St. Pope Julian a cluster of grapes. Against his will, St. Demetrius was ordained that very day to succeed Julian on the Papal throne.
St. Pope Demetrius served on the throne of St. Mark for about 43 years. At the beginning of his papacy he spent many days and nights studying the Scriptures and theological works. He felt inadequate and in need of a deeper knowledge so that he could properly shepherd the Church with God’s Word. God was with St. Pope Demetrius and gave him an abundance of grace and assistance throughout his life. This simple farmer, because of his humility and vulnerability before Christ, became one of the greatest teachers and expounders to sit on the throne of St. Mark.
Frequently, when the congregation came for communion, St. Pope Demetrius saw a vision differentiating the repentant from the unrepentant. The Pope would see a mystical hand pushing against those who were unrepentant. When they came to partake of the Holy Eucharist, St. Pope Demetrius would state their sin and tell them, “Turn away from your sin and repent, after that come and partake of the Holy Mysteries.” In this way, he woke many from spiritual slumber to serious concern about their spiritual life.
St. Pope Demetrius was central to the development of a regular Church calendar. Before, the days and times of fasting and feasting varied. He set certain times and seasons for the various fasts and feasts of the Church. In the Egyptian Church at least, Christians would have the Lenten fast after Epiphany, but St. Pope Demetrius moved it to be before Easter. He also helped establish the date of Easter later confirmed at Nicaea.
St. Pope Demetrius is a great example of humility and faithfulness. Through his whole life he remained consecrated to Christ. He was faithful to his vow of living in abstinence alongside his wife, and his virginity was confirmed with a miracle before the Church. He was unassuming and sought neither power nor flaunted his knowledge. He is one of those great saints of whom Christ said “the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” May we follow the example of St. Pope Demetrius I in purity, in humility, in diligence, and service. May his prayers and blessing be with us all, and glory be to God forever. Amen!
May God bless all of you!
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