Mourning the Death of Father Archimandrite Constantine Belisarius

by Gabriel Fonticoba, 12th Grade

On Sunday, November 27, 2016, Father Constantine Belisarius died. Just a couple weeks before, I got to meet Father Constantine. Father Constantine asked the Saint Louis de Montfort Academy if we would like to take his books as an addition to the Academy’s library. We readily agreed, and headed down to Front Royal, Virginia to view and select books from his massive collection. This was my first and only time meeting Father Constantine Belisarius. However, from that meeting, I could tell that Father Constantine was a very affable, friendly man. I wish I could have got to know him better.

Father Constantine was originally named Charles Bell, and came from a very good and elite family. Father Constantine was the first priest, Jesuit, and Melchite to be part of the Cincinnati Club. While Father Constantine was still in the seminary, he changed his name from Charles Bell to Constantine Belisarius. Father explained why he did this. While reading a book on the Roman General Belisarius one night, he came to the part where Belisarius took the Pope prisoner and inserted an anti-Pope in his stead. When Father Constantine read this, he got so mad at the sacrilege shown to the Vicar of Christ that he said, “I wanted to throw the book against the wall.” He said he would have thrown the book, but he refrained, from the fear that he might wake the other seminarians. At that moment, Father Constantine said, this General Belisarius appeared to him. Belisarius said that he was an ancestor of Father Constantine. He then said that as a descendent, it was Father Constantine’s obligation to make reparation for the sacrilege committed by Belisarius against the Pope. Father Constantine changed his name from Charles Bell to Constantine Belisarius, as an act of reparation. For the rest of Father Constantine’s life, he did penance to make up for the crime committed by the Roman general against the Pope.

On the Friday after Father Constantine died, December 2, 2016, his funeral was held. Some of us from the Saint Louis de Montfort Academy were blessed to be able to go to the funeral. The funeral service was held in Transfiguration Melchite Church in Virginia. The service was beautiful, and very interesting. That was my first time in a Melchite Church, let alone a Melchite service. There was a lot of symbolism in the service. As we went up to the coffin, to kiss Father Constantine’s hand for the last time, we noticed that his face was covered. The priest leading the ceremony explained that his face was covered because of what Moses did in Exodus. After Moses saw God face to face on top of Mount Sinai, he covered his face when he came back down to the people. He did this so that the glory and radiance of God, which was reflected in his face, would not blind the people. Similarly, Father Constantine’s face was covered because if he was in heaven, he would have looked upon the face of God. As the coffin was carried out of the Church in a procession, the cantors chanted an Arabic chant. This chant was beautifully sung, and could be compared to the angels singing as they escort Father Constantine’s soul into Heaven to enjoy the rewards which he had earned.