Father Paul Marx, O.S.B., founder of Human Life International and the man known as the "Apostle of Life," passed away on Saturday morning around 8:30 a.m. in Collegeville, Minnesota. Sadly, he will not have the benefit of a Requiem Mass and yet we have a feeling that his neighbor Fr. Brendan Hughes, CMRI at Immaculate Conception Church, the traditional parish in nearby St. Cloud, will see that the lifelong Benedictine and true priest is not forgotten.
It is ironic that he died on the very day when abortion was at the crux of the struggle for stopping the socialistic Obamacare in Washington D.C. where he spent so much of his time tirelessly crusading for life. It was a known fact that those who promote the culture of death called Fr. Marx "public enemy number one" and that was fine with Fr. Marx who was besides being exhausted and tired of the corrupt politics of Washington, was basically edged out by the man who succeeded him with the intent to make HLI into a corporate entity. Much like Wal-Mart lost its heart the day Sam Walton died, so also HLI the day Fr. Marx was eased out by Richard Welch, CSSR who took over as President in 1997 for the new Chairman of the Board Matthew Habiger, O.S.B., who had succeeded Fr. Paul in 1994 as President of the well respected pro-life organization founded by Fr. Paul in 1981. The seeds of that endeavor had their origins in 1972 when he foresaw the inevitability of abortion becoming the law of the land.
Father Paul Marx was born on the eighth day of May in 1920 on a dairy farm in St. Michael, Minnesota, an area that has produced a goodly amount of vocations to the priesthood and religious life. His nephew Father Paul Marx, OMI was a year ahead of this editor in the minor seminary and went on to be ordained an Oblate of Mary Immaculate Missionary, presently serving in the Scandanavian mission of Greenland.
This fertile cradle of vocations is an agricultural area a bit northwest of the Twin Cities incorporates a 20-mile radius that includes Albertville, Buffalo, Fletcher, Rogers and St. Michael. It was in the latter where Fr. Marx was raised. He was the fifteenth of seventeen children. St. Michael alone, a small community of 2,500, has produced over 100 priests and nuns!
There were numerous classmates from this area during this editor's seven years in the seminary and Novitiate and our former spiritual director who recruited yours truly first in 1956 Father Al Svobodny, OMI, born in Minneapolis, who is still stationed at the Oblate Retreat House in Buffalo in his retirement years. He also served for over 25 years as vocation director for the upper midwest, combing that very area for vocations that were plentiful. The priest who taught this editor how to laugh at ourselves and to type back in 1958 - Father Clarence Zachman, OMI hails from Rogers as did his brother, the late Father Francis Zachman, OMI whom this editor regards as the most influential priest in his life and who instilled in me the thirst for knowledge, intellectual curiosity and, as spiritual director, discerned that yours truly had a vocation to the seminary rather than the priesthood in preparation for exactly what we are doing today.
Fr. Francis also gave me a great respect for Church history that we can especially cherish today. All these priests and many more priests, brothers and nuns were responsible for harvesting numerous vocations from this area. It is a tribute to the strong European stock that migrated to this area in the nineteenth century and have worked the land while loving the Lord. "The harvest indeed is great, but the laborers are few. Pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers into his harvest" (St. Matthew 9: 37). The people of this area have indeed prayed faithfully for laborers and God responded by nurturing many before Vatican II took hold, chief among them was Father Paul Marx, O.S.B.
At the age of 15 the desire to be a priest prompted Paul to enter St. John's Preparatory School at Collegeville, Minnesota 45 miles northwest near St. Cloud. It was and remains one of the largest Benedictine institutions in the country, famous for its abbey and publishing house, though ever since the sixties has been at the forefront of promoting new ageism and feminism.
Father Paul continued at St. John's College there, then Novitiate at the Abbey where he took first vows in 1941 and during the war graduated cum laude from St. John's with a degree in Philosophy. After major orders he was ordained a Benedictine priest in 1947. After some pastoral work, he returned to school doing post-graduate work at Harvard, the University of Minnesota, Cal Berkeley, and earning a Doctorate in Family Sociology from the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. in 1956.
With his PhD in hand, his superiors assigned him to the faculty at St. John's College (now St. John's University) from 1956 to 1974. During those eighteen years at Collegeville he taught sociology. It was three years after he had begun teaching that he first took an interest in pro-life issues, something that before that time wasn't that necessary because abortion was virtually unheard of and the country, for the most part, respected life back then.
What alarmed Fr. Paul was a proposal drafted into state legislatures by the American Law Institute that signaled storm warnings and he began to pay more attention to this threat while continuing to teach young men. What scared him further was a meeting in Los Angeles, a clandestine one in 1971 which he videotaped. Many luminaries from various fields met in this secret meeting to prepare the country and lay out the modus operandi for implementing legalized abortion. The result was the landmark Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision two years later - January 23, 1973 a day that would live in infamy.
Father Paul wrote a book alerting the public of the dangers in 1971 - The Death Peddlers: War on the Unborn which rose on the charts as a best seller. Despite great opposition, he founded the Human Life Center at St. John's in 1972. As he affirmed in his autobiography Faithful for Life, published two years ago, that he realized without a doubt that from that point on "the developing culture of death would preoccupy me for the rest of my life and would take me to many countries of the world." True to his prediction, he traveled to 91 countries spreading the pro-life creed.
With just $7,000. to invest, he officially founded Human Life International in 1981, eventually moving the headquarters to Front Royal, Virginia to be close to the pulse of the legislators. Two years later he published Death Without Dignity: Killing for Mercy, one of the most comprehensive and first works on euthanasia. In 1985 he followed that up with more findings in And Now Euthanasia.... His book Confessions of a Pro-Life Missionary in 1988 dealt with his commitment and the trials and tribulations he had experienced in fighting for the right to life. A year later he released Fighting for Life which followed more experiences including being arrested three times, sued by Planned Parenthood, the largest and most dangerous promoter of abortion and contraception in the world who refer to Fr. Marx as "Public Enemy Number One." Fr. Marx's response to that? "I relish it," he winked. In 1990 he wrote The Flying Monk followed by three years later The Warehouse Priest.
He also published the quarterly The International Review of Natural Family Planning and Human Life Issues in addition to the monthly HLI Reports and Special Report. In addition, he founded the bi-monthly newsletters Population Research Institute Review and Seminarians for Life plus expanding to the Spanish market with Escoge La Vida! This did not count the countless articles and reviews he had written on birth control, abortion, euthanasia, human sexuality and the family, and other topics promoting the Sanctity of Life in numerous magazines, newsletters and books; sometimes even ghost-writing them for he had truly become a marked man.
Few realize that, besides being the main target of Planned Parenthood and the UN Population Crisis Committee, he was interrogated by communist secret police and forcibly removed from several abortuaries. He also survived three nearly-fatal car accidents, almost died from the altitude while in the Bolivian mountains, and, but for the grace of God, would have been aboard the fatal Pan Am Flight 103 that was blown up over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988. So many times his life had been spared because God had more work for him to fight for life.
Through his leadership and guidance, HLI today is the largest pro-life and pro-family educational apostolate in the world with sixty chapters in the United States and a network of international branches and affiliates serving 89 countries. He has been an inspiration to millions of people over the forty-five years he dedicated to pro-life. But the journey took its toll on him physically and fifteen years ago he stepped down as president, bequeathing it to fellow Benedictine Habiger, who in turn passed it on to the CssR Welch twelve years ago.
In August 1999, on the Solemnity of the Assumption, Father Marx retired completely, stepping down from the Board of Directors. He had conveyed his request to the HLI Chairman and his Benedictine superior at Collegeville Abbot Timothy Kelly, O.S.B. and the next day the HLI Board of Directors reluctantly accepted his resignation. Father Marx felt it necessary to leave Front Royal and return to the Abbey in Collegeville for rest and medical treatments. His Abbot had nothing but praise for Father Marx,
"For many years Father Marx worked zealously in promoting life from conception to natural death. For the past nineteen or so years, through Human Life International, he has dedicated his life to the promotion of respect for life and has through his ministry made the message of life widely known not only in the United States but throughout the world. His dedication to this cause has cost him dearly but will also bring many blessings to him and to others because of his selfless dedication."
Habiger, who assumed the Presidency of HLI in 1994, said, that HLI
"deeply appreciates the depth of concern, care and compassion that Abbot Kelly has shown to our brother priest and HLI's founder during these past months when Fr. Marx has resided at St. John's Abbey. We are grateful to the Abbot for assisting Fr. Marx in this difficult period, and for insuring that he has a home at St. John's, where he began his religious life 57 years ago."
Welch, who succeeded Habiger in 1997, said
"The best gift we can give Fr. Marx is to insure that his legacy will continue through the work of HLI throughout the world. Few whose contribution and dedication to promoting and defending the Culture of Life equals his own for Fr. Marx has earned a place in the history of both the Catholic Church and the international pro-life movement."
Father Paul resided at the Abbey in Collegeville, but also continued to write when he coul and prayed constantly for life in all its stages. Throughout his 47 years of service for the cause, Father Marx not only provided encouragement to pro-life advocates the world over, but in God's great book gave life to many of His innocent ones who wouldn't have had a chance without the efforts of this "Apostle of Life."
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord. And let perpetual light shine upon him.
May his soul and all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.
Requiem aeternam dona ei, Domine. Et lux perpetua lucet ei. Requiescat in pace. Amen. Anima ejus, et animae omnium fidelium defunctorum per misericordiam Dei requiescant in pace. Amen.