UD Mourns Passing of Fr. David Balás, O.Cist.

Fr. David

Published Date: August 10, 2015

Fr. David Balás, O.Cist., long-time UD theology professor and Braniff dean from 1980-1983, passed away on Saturday, Feb. 8, 2014.


David László Balás was born on Aug 6, 1929 in Budapest, Hungary, the only child of his parents László Balás and Maria Borbély. At the age of ten he was enrolled at the Saint Emery Cistercian School in Budapest. As the Soviet army approached the city in the last month of the Second World War, his family decided to flee to Western Hungary and then to Germany. His year as a refugee in Germany left in him not only lasting memories but also scars. Soon after his family's return to Hungary his father died, a fact that made his discernment of a religious vocation more difficult. Under the charismatic leadership of Fr. Lawrence 'Sigmond, his teacher and spiritual director for the last years of high school, he joined the Cistercian Abbey of Zirc as a novice August 29, 1948. He was already filled with a great desire to pursue a the study and teaching philosophy and theology.

When the Communist regime officially suppressed the Abbey of Zirc in the summer of 1950, his dream seemed to become impossible. But one month before the monastery was to be vacated, a group of monks found its way out of Hungary and into Austria, being smuggled through the virtually impenetrable Iron Curtain. Unfortunately, the partial Soviet occupation of Austria led to the capture of some of the escapees who were then returned to Hungary and to prison. Fr. David belonged to the more fortunate group and made it to freedom.

Fr. David made his way to Rome, where in 1950 he began studying philosophy and theology at the Pontifical University of Saint Anselm, obtaining a licentiate first in sacred theology and then in philosophy. In the Cistercian Abbey of Stams, Austria, he was ordained a priest on June 29, 1954. In 1959, he joined the newly founded monastery of Our Lady of Dallas and began teaching philosophy and theology at the University of Dallas. In 1962, he was able to return to Rome to defend his dissertation on the theology of participation in the works of St. Gregory of Nyssa and obtained his doctoral degree (STD) in theology. With the exception of two academic years (1975-1977) spent teaching at the University of Saint Anselm in Rome, Fr. David taught theology at the University of Dallas, where he also served for some time as chair of the Theology Department and as dean of the Braniff Graduate School of Liberal Arts. He was the first recipient of the Msgr. John Gulczynski Chair in Theology.

In 1966, Fr. David was a founding member of the Ecumenical Faculty Seminar on Early Catholic Christianity, where he first presented many of his papers on various topics in patristic theology. He was also very active in the American Patristic Society and served a term as its president. Though severely limited by illness during his last years, he continued his theological studies and continued sharing his love of the Church Fathers.

As a professor of theology, Fr. David taught generations of priests. He earned an exceptional reputation for his erudition and expertise not only among his Catholic colleagues but among a large circle of friends and students from all denominations. Throughout his scholarly endeavors, he remained a priest seeking to understand the faith and to share his understanding with others. With exceptional clarity and a sense of responsibility, Fr. David followed his call to seek and teach the truth.

Fr. David passed away Saturday, Feb. 8, 2014. A Rosary and wake will be held in the Cistercian Monastery Our Lady of Dallas at 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 11. The Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated in the Monastery as well at 2 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 12. Memorials may be made to the Young Monk Education Fund at the Cistercian Abbey, 3550 Cistercian Rd., Irving, Texas 75039.

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