Monday, March 24, 2014

The Repose of Fr Alexander Atty

Fr Alexander Atty brought me into the Holy Orthodox Church in 1988, and by the grace of God helped shepherd me through an especially difficult and lengthy trial in my life. I am eternally thankful to God for Fr Alexander's presence, direction, and care in my life.

In a private reminiscence to friends last week, I described Fr Alexander as a 'Lion of Orthodoxy'. He was a powerful figure in American Orthodoxy for over three decades, building St Michael's Orthodox Church in Louisville KY into one of the finest examples of a truly pan-Orthodox community in North America, with daily services, extensive charitable endeavors, education for all age groups, and recently adding an apartment complex for seniors of the parish. St Michael's draws Orthodox faithful from all national and ethnic backgrounds, as well as dozens upon dozens of American converts. Fr Alexander had the rare trait of 'zeal according to knowledge', combined with an enveloping warmth of personal care and sincere kindness for people.

I had the great blessing of traveling with him twice to Mount Athos. He took a small number of men on pilgrimages to the Holy Mountain every other year for decades. His own spiritual father was the memorable Elder Isaac (the Syrian), who reposed in 2006. The St George Chapel at St Michael's was designed after a chapel at St Anne Skete which Fr Alexander had visited on Athos.

In mid-2010, Fr Alexander became dean of St Tikhon's Seminary, which he helped revitalize, and where he was soon referred to as "our beloved dean."  Beloved indeed...

Fr Alexander was diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer in 2010, and overcame many difficult prognoses, serving the Seminary and Church up until last winter, when he retired due to his health.

There are no coincidences in the Lord's economia. Thus it is no accident that Fr Alexander passed from this life early on the Sunday of the Veneration of the Cross. He preached the 'Word of the Cross' all through his priestly service, and now he is linked in the passage of death to the Lord's Cross. In his sermons, he emphasized the role and purpose of the Church as follows:

The Church is here to make saints. That is the purpose of the Church. She is here to transform you into saints.

(Photo: St Tikhon's Orthodox Theological Seminary)

The first priestly funeral service will be held Tuesday, March 25, the Feast of the Annunciation. May the Mother of God especially offer aid and consolation to the soul of this faithful servant, covering him with her intercessions.

Let us offer up our prayers for the repose of the soul of the beloved Archpriest Alexander. May his memory be eternal!

You can read the very moving memorial message on the St Tikhon's Seminary website.

From the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese website:

Memory Eternal! + Fr. Alexander Atty

As we continue to mourn the loss of Metropolitan Philip, your prayers are requested for the repose of the soul of the newly-departed servant of God, the beloved Archpriest Alexander Atty. The V. Rev. Fr. Alexander, former Dean of St. Tikhon's Seminary and before that priest at St. Michael Antiochian Orthodox Church in Louisville, KY, fell asleep in the Lord early Sunday morning March 23. May his memory be eternal! [...]

Father Alexander held a B.S. in engineering from Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science. After earning his M.Div. at St. Vladimir’s Seminary in 1979, he was ordained a priest on December 9, 1979 at St. Nicholas Cathedral, Brooklyn, NY. Father Alexander was elevated to the rank of archpriest in 1988, and later went on to study at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, earning his D.Min. in 2008.


Listen to a 17 minute podcast featuring Fr Alexander speaking candidly and very movingly of his illness, his ministry, his spiritual father on Mount Athos, and our life in Christ. Recorded in late October 2013.

Listen to Fr Alexander's talks on the Good and Faithful Orthodox Christian, from the 2009 St Vladimir's Seminary Lenten Retreat:

Fr Alexander Atty (left) concelebrating the Divine Liturgy at
St Anne's Skete, Mount Athos Greece, January 1988. (Photo: RZS)