In the difficult times we live in, uplifting stories about an individual’s life journey can offer inspiration and insights for the reader. Memoirs present the reader with a special opportunity to explore the real life experience of the author in their own words, personal recollections, anecdotes, bits of wisdom, and insights. As author Louis L’Amour wrote in his own memoir, titled Education of a Wandering Man, published in 1989, “For one who reads, there is no limit to the number of lives that may be lived, for fiction, biography, and history offer an inexhaustible number of lives in many parts of the world, in all periods of time.”
The Intriguing Life of a Greek Orthodox Priest: A Search for Truth, a Discovery of Hope and Acceptance by Fr. Albert Demos – revered by many as “Father Al” – offers insights with truth and wit in his detailed memoir published in 2018.
As noted in the book’s description, Fr. Demos has long held the powerful desire to treat all human beings equally. The influence of a friend from early childhood carried him through many difficulties and instilled in him a deep desire to seek fairness and truth in all aspects of life. His is a journey that took him from the era of the Freedom Riders in the sixties through the tragedy of 9/11 and up to the election of the first African American president of the United States.
Along the way, Fr. Demos gained insight into human experience and understanding of the frailties, strengths, imperfections, and marvels of human nature. He recalls historical events, national controversies, and authentic struggles of the everyday people he has served over decades of ministry.
Fr. Demos’ pastoral words urge all of us to see one another as siblings in our common bond of humanity. His memoir recounts his lifelong search for truth as he sought meaningful awareness of the real world around him and within him.
The book begins with a powerful opening chapter, not at the very beginning of his life, but from the 1960s when Demos, then still in Seminary, was on a trip with his fellow choir-members touring churches in the Deep South. Suspected of being Freedom Riders, the young men had to show their robes and their Byzantine Greek prayer books to prove their identity to the local police officers. He writes, “They didn’t care that we wanted to teach the word of God. After all, we weren’t WASPs. We were Greeks and for these narrow-minded people Greeks, Jews, Italians, blacks were the same thing – a lower level of citizen.”
The injustice and unfairness Demos experienced changed the trip from that moment on and he wonders what would have happened had they in fact been Freedom Riders and not choir members.
The book then flashes back to Demos’ childhood in Chicago and his reaction to seeing a World War II veteran and amputee, clearly demonstrating his thoughtful nature from a young age. Before he was ordained, he worked at a variety of jobs including orchestra percussionist, stevedore, and sheet metal worker. Fr. Demos has ministered as a Greek Orthodox priest for 50 years and his memoir is a compelling chronicle of his life.
The Intriguing Life of a Greek Orthodox Priest: A Search for Truth, a Discovery of Hope and Acceptance by Fr. Albert Demos is available online.