An Interview with Priest Maximos McIntyre
Priest Maximos McIntyre, a convert to Orthodoxy, has been a cleric of the Eastern American Diocese for almost a year and has recently completed a screenplay entitled “Lords of Glory,” a story of Soviet persecution of Orthodox Christians in communist Russia. In addition, Fr. Maximos is one of the most active missionary priests in the diocese. Diocesan Media Office correspondent Reader Peter Lukianov interviewed Fr. Maximos on questions involving the experiences of conversion to Orthodoxy and Christian ministry in America.
“I am Convinced that the Fullness of Grace is Only in Orthodoxy”
Tell us a little about yourself, Father. How did you come to know about Orthodoxy?
I was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1978. I’ve always lived in that particular area and went to school about 50 miles away in Springfield, so Massachusetts has always been home for me. I grew up Roman Catholic, but when I was in my twenties and searching more for the Truth to fulfill a calling I believed I had, I found the riches of Orthodoxy. After being ordained in an Anglo-Catholic Church, after being introduced to the early canons of the Church, the early Church Councils, the Patristic Witness of the Early Fathers, I realized that Christianity was not in its fullness in the West; it was truly preserved undefiled in the Eastern Orthodox Church. It was at that time that I knew that, despite being a priest, even if it meant coming in as a layman, I had to pursue Orthodoxy. There was no doubt about that.
– When were you baptized into the Orthodox Church?
Four years ago. At first I was actually received, and I knew from my readings of the Church Fathers that I needed to be baptized. That was one of the problems that I ran into with some of the various jurisdictions I was in dialogue with: they wanted to recognize sacraments outside of the Orthodox Church and I was unwilling to accept that, even though I wasn’t Orthodox yet.
Where were you baptized, Father?
I was actually baptized, chrismated, remarried, and ordained through the various orders in the non-canonical movement but I realized that the fullness of Orthodoxy had left this movement. These groups sometimes have good intentions, but there is no doubt that the fullness of Orthodoxy is certainly in the Russian Church. I’ve known that for quite a few years, and I am just glad to be here.
Why did you join the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, in particular?
About five years ago, I entered into a little bit of dialogue with some of the ROCOR clergy. From my research, I had no doubt that Orthodoxy was the Truth, and that it was preserved especially in the Church Abroad. Metropolitan Philaret and the other hierarchs are true confessors, who through their lives inspired me to join the Church Abroad. I was officially received in November 2009.
Where do you serve, Father?
I serve in Millbury, Massachusetts. We have a small mission named in honor of Christ the Savior, which performs outreach in the community. I am also a volunteer nursing home chaplain and hospice volunteer, serving those that are homebound. I also serve with Fr. Spyridon Schneider several times a month in Ipswich, MA at the Church of St. John the Russian.
What is your vision for the future of the mission?
In Central Massachusetts, whether it is a small mission or a large parish, I would like to have something that is a beacon of Orthodoxy in that area, because there are not a lot of Orthodox to begin with, and the Church Abroad does not have much of a presence in that entire area. We are going to be a witness and pray that God will have mercy on us and continue to bless our efforts. We are small, but we have gained everything by coming to the Church Abroad. If this is all it is, and this is all God wants me to do, then so be it. It is His will. But I have no doubt that, if we are loyal to the Church and to the Word of God, then we are going to grow in leaps in the years ahead.
What are some of the challenges that you currently face in your missionary work?
In my experience, especially in Massachusetts, most people are non-practicing Roman Catholics or Protestants, and Orthodoxy is very foreign to them, whether it is the simple things, like fasting or prostrations, or even the Jesus Prayer. People believe more that the authority is just in the Scriptures themselves, “Sola Scriptura,” and want to mold the Church into this American ethos. So, a traditional Church that is founded by Christ Himself is something they’re not used to; they’re not used to the teachings and belief that there is One Church and not many fragments. This is one of the biggest things that I am finding, whether it is in the nursing home or the street or out trying to evangelize: the people think that all Christian confessions are the same, when Orthodoxy is obviously the beacon of hope and faith, and trying to get them to understand that in a few short moments when you are speaking with them is almost impossible. I hope that the Holy Spirit will guide me, so that I can say the right things and not turn them away.
Many of us feel content in our small parish families, so why is missionary work so important?
I think that it is a Divine Commandment from the Savior himself to go out and to preach and to baptize all nations. We don’t necessarily always have to go out to all nations; we have to start right in our own neighborhoods, and I think I realized that more than ever, since Orthodoxy is so foreign even to people on my own street, in my own town. As priests we always have to preach and live the Gospel and bring it to everyone we come across. Obviously, our bishops tell us to do these things, and the Fathers of the Church have always taught this. It is not something that we keep to ourselves in Orthodoxy; it is something that we have to spread to every single person on the planet. It is the only place where we can guarantee that Salvation and the fullness of Grace exists, and to deprive other people would be unchristian.
My wife and I came through many struggles over nine years to be here at this point. If it weren’t for the Grace of God, we might have given up; that is how hard the road was. I don’t want other people to have to go through that trouble; I want them to be exposed and to make the free-will choice to accept or deny Christ, and I pray they will accept Him. I am convinced that the fullness of Grace is only in Orthodoxy, and they need to see that, and then it will be up to them to decide.
America, as a Christian country, is often a very difficult place to do missionary work. A lot of parishes and people don’t seem to engage in missionary work unless someone walks through the doors of the church. What is the best way to go out, to reach people, and to get them interested in Orthodoxy? What is the first step?
The first step is to live it. If you live Orthodoxy and you are an example, of course you are going to fail every single day, but they will know something is different about you. Even praying before meals; I think it is so taboo a thing to do, and you never see people in public doing it, but it is a simple way for any of us to be representative and not be afraid to show Christ in our nation. Simply wearing a cassock in public – a lot of clergy are not comfortable doing that. It is not a uniform, it shows who we are. It is amazing how missionary wearing the cassock and the cross can be, to have people flock to you, asking funny questions like, “Well, what are you?” And from there you start the dialogue and say, “I am an Orthodox Christian.” And they will ask my name, and I’ll say, “Fr. Maximos McIntyre,” and they will say,
“That sounds Scottish or Irish, why aren’t you Catholic?”
And I explain,
“I was growing up, but I saw that something was missing,”
and go through Church history and the asceticism of the Fathers, and how I realized that there is this whole other aspect and that Christianity has preserved all these things and that it is still there. People are usually intrigued by that; they just assume that Orthodoxy is a Christian confession without the Pope, and that’s not what it is. Orthodox is a therapeutic strategy for the salvation of the soul; it is a science to bring us to Salvation, not a system of weights and measures through which we strive to die in a state of Grace. It is a lifelong struggle and, God-willing, we will all obtain it.