Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann

Apostleship and America

Today on the Seminary’s 10th Annual Educational Day, as you enter the main tent, the first thing challenging you and leading you into the spirit and the theme of this day is an icon of St. Innocent — a saint who has been recently canonized as Evangelizer of the Aleuts and Apostle to America. The life and the apostolic ministry of St. Innocent are dealt with in the article written by Mr. Paul Garrett which is printed in this book.

To comment on a saint is not only to glorify his achievements and his personal growth in the grace of the Holy Spirit. In every saint, God challenges us in our own life, our own ministry, our own vision. In the life of St. Innocent, the essence of such challenge is embodied in his title as Apostle to America. Therefore, when we venerate his icon and contemplate, with joy and gratitude, his life, the two words that we ought to accept into our hearts are Apostleship and America.

The gift of apostleship is bestowed upon each member of the Church on the day of his Baptism and Chrismation. If we call our Church "apostolic" it is because She is sent, "apostle" meaning "sent by God." It is because She is sent in Her totality, and this means in all Her members, into the world to preach the Gospel of Christ, to manifest His presence, to fulfill the salvation which He accomplished. In this sense, we all are apostolic and apostles. We all carry the responsibility for the apostolicity of the Church.

Today we need more than ever to be reminded of this apostolic nature and function of the Church, and of the apostolic vocation of each of us as members of the Church. For we are living in an increasingly dechristianized, if not already openly antichristian world. Our culture is permeated with ideas alien to the Gospel of Christ; with rejection of His Kingdom, of its truth, light and joy. Truly it is the time for an apostolic renewal. And in this renewal, the place and the role of the laity is unique. If the first duty of the clergy is to serve the Church, the first and essential duty of the laity is to bring into the world — and this means into its culture, daily life, professions, family, etc. — the Christian witness, the image of Christ, the power of the Holy Spirit. It is indeed deeply significant that St. Innocent’s canonization took place at a time of a crisis, a tragic crisis, encompassing all the aspects of human existence. It is as if, by revealing to us the Apostle to America, God was reminding us of our own vocation to be fully Orthodox in America, not for ourselves, but for the sake of America.

Let this Education Day also be a day of our own rededication to our apostleship. Let our joy at glorifying God in our commemoration of St. Innocent be the source of a new energy, a new desire to serve God and His Church in the darkness, anxieties and conflicts of our world today.




Fr. Alexander Schmemann


12th Orthodox Education Day, 1979