On November 11th each year the Catholic church celebrates the feast day of St Martin de Tours who died in the year 397. Martin was the son of a calvary officer and when old enough became a soldier himself. A story that has been handed down over the centuries was that when he was at the gates of a city with other soldiers he saw a beggar who lacked warm clothing. Martin cut his military cloak in half and gave it to the beggar. That night he had a dream in which he saw Jesus wearing the half cloak and heard Him say: "Here is Martin, the Roman soldier who is not baptized. He has clad me." Months later Martin decided he couldn’t be a soldier anymore. He converted and was responsible for building a Benedictine Monastery. In 371 he was made bishop of Tours.

St. Martin’s College (now University) is named after Marin de Tours. It was a small Benedictine college in Lacy, Washington, Located on 380 wooded acres this college had been established in 1895 by the Benedictine order and is today one of eighteen such colleges and universities in the U.S. and Canada, but the only one West of the Rockies. When I arrived in 1954 it had all male instructors, mostly monks. The college was then an all male institution with a separate all boy’s high school and an all male college. The Benedictine monks operated both. The high school was a boarding school and some students were brought there by parents who felt the monks could talk sense to their wayward child. I lived in rooms with others in the main building and each night at 10:30 a master switch was thrown resulting in all the lights going out. At 6:30 am there was a pounding on the door and a "Dominus Vobiscum," (a Latin phrase meaning "The Lord be with you" in a loud voice to make sure you were awake to attend the morning Mass.

I tell you this as a prelude to the story of creating a friendship with Michael Schmitt. Michael had been born in Port Angeles, graduated from Roosevelt High there. He had graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in journalism and  had served in the Air Force. He worked briefly for newspapers in Seattle, but was attending St Martin's when I arrived mid term. You see, he was there studying to be a priest and I had given up an athletic scholarship at the University of Washington to see if I should become priest. We were the only two in the program which involved classes in Latin, philosophy, history and the like. We became friends, but it was Michael who had the vocation, not me, so I moved on to Gonzaga University Law school in Spokane. Michael became diocesan priest. I became a lawyer and moved back to Mount Vernon where he ended up as an assistant before going on to be pastor of churches. 

We remained friends until Michael was killed in an auto accident on November 10, 1987 in a head on collision near Auburn. He was on his way to meet other priests at North Bend to go hiking in Eastern Washington. Michael, age 58, died instantly in the crash which apparently was due to the other driver being distracted and crossing the center line. Ironically, he died the day before the feast day of St Martin, the saint St Martin’s College was named after and where he had studied to be a priest. He was a kindly man, with a quick sense of humor and was someone everyone liked to be around. I am honored to have been his friend.

One thought on “FR. MICHAEL J. SCHMITT 11/10/87

  1. Hi, Paul…I have enjoyed reading your blog especially the recent stories on Croatian fisherman and Mike Schmitt. He was our parish priest here at St Brendan’s in Bothell where we have been parishoners for many years. Mike was a very special priest to us…he was an important influence in my husband’s conversion to Catholicism and we even named our second son after him….John Michael.
    I do remember one evening when he came for dinner…and he really enjoyed the wine! I was becoming a little nervous and hoped he could safely make it home! 🙂
    Thanks for all your great stories….
    Barbara Nasman Folkestad

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