Remarkable. And inspiring.
From Robert Dellinger and The Tidings of Los Angeles:
The 97-year-old priest in the white chasuble with an embroidered cross on the front approached the wood lectern with short steps. By his side was the chaplain of Nazareth House, Trinitarian Father Frank Whatley.
Normally because of his balance problem and poor eyesight, Msgr. Felix Diomartich would concelebrate the daily morning Mass sitting down. But August 8 was the 75th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood of Jesus Christ, and there was no way he wasn’t going to be up on his feet celebrating the liturgy.
Looking out at 30 or more members of the congregation, including three priests in wheelchairs, he first spoke movingly about the country of his birth, Croatia, on the beautiful Adriatic Sea.
“Little did I ever think that from those shores on the little Adriatic I would come to the big shores here,” he said. “But God’s providence is strange. You never know how it’s working. So I’ve been able to minister here, and I’m grateful to all those who helped me.”
After a moment, he continued, in a different tone: “Death will come always. But it is not as difficult as some people believe. Here I am in this country. I’m walking into a sunset, and it’s going to be the sunset in my life. I’m looking to the sunset, but with your prayers and help I’ll be looking more towards a sunrise with the Lord.”
As a boy growing up in a land that had been part of the Austrian/Hungarian Empire, Felix saw many beautiful sunsets and sunrises. Centuries before that, however, Croatia had been part of the Roman Empire and home of the Emperor Diocletian, who persecuted Christians during his reign from 284 to 303 A.D.
One day, when Felix was just finishing grammar school, a priest his family knew asked, “Would you like to go to the seminary?”
The adolescent said, “I would.”
And those two words would set the course for a long life of service and ministry.