Father Fid Levri can easily relate to many of those living in Glenmary areas. Like them, he grew up in a family of immigrants. Many southern families have straddled the line between north and south, looking for jobs and perhaps racial dignity. Others came further. Miners, like the Levris, came to Appalachia from Europe. At age 86, 45 years in Glenmary, movement and stillness are themes in his life.
Q: How do you connect to the immigrant story?
A: You know, I was born in northern Italy. My parents came here in 1935 because they were poor and there were jobs here. It was the coal mines in Western Pennsylvania that attracted my father. His friends were over here, you know, and so he knew he’d have a job. He came back to Italy and married my mother. After a few years they were together in America.
Q: How did you wind up at Glenmary?
A: I was ordained in 1967 in the Diocese of Greensburg. I stayed there for six years serving in two different parishes as an associate, three years in each one. But I wasn’t content with the diocese. It wasn’t fulfilling for me. The bishop said, “Why are you so restless?” Maybe I was just flittering around too much. But in Glenmary it’s okay to be restless. I need to do things. I can’t just sit around!
Q: You sound busy. What kind of prayer is best for you?
A: I might pray before the Blessed Sacrament every morning at 5:30 a.m. for an hour using my laptop for Scriptures. I have my own meditation booklets as well, but I am not satisfied with my prayer life. I need to go deeper. I need to be more spontaneous. I’d like for my prayer to come from the heart and not just from the head. You know, it’s too mechanical right now and I’m not pleased with that. But I’m going to do something.
There’s a program with John Michael Talbot [a popular contemplative]. He’s got a program on Zoom. It goes for 52 weeks. He’s talking about Inner Room spirituality. One example of that is the Jesus prayer, [“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner,” repeated in contemplation]. He’s going to explain in practice the Jesus prayer, but to do 52 weeks of that he’ll need a lot of materials. That one prayer wouldn’t keep us very long!
Q: What about the rest of us—any advice?
A: We’re used to saying prayers, but they’re just words unless they come from the heart. You have to really be embedded in it, so a lot of prayer has to be spontaneous and even silent. I think it’s a sign of a balance in a person’s life that they have a sense of humor, by the way, because in spite of everything you know, so many things are just unexplainable. I always ask, Who am I, really? That’s the big question.
I’d like to add something, knowledge that I believe the Holy Spirit gave me years ago. While pastor at Holy Redeemer Church in western Kentucky, I saw a billboard, “There is no excuse for child abuse.” I include abortion in that.