Father Paul Marx: The Passing of the Patriarch of the Pro-Life Movement
by Rev. Thomas J. Euteneuer
March 23, 2010
LifeNews.com Note: Rev. Thomas J. Euteneuer is the president of Human Life International. Fr. Euteneuer has traveled more than 900,000 miles as a pro-life missionary and visited fifty-five countries.
Abbot John Klassen, OSB of St. John’s Abbey, Collegeville, Minnesota, informed me personally Saturday that the venerable founder of Human Life International, Fr. Paul Marx, went to his eternal reward peacefully at 8:10 that morning.
According to eyewitness accounts, Father raised his hands as he died and said, "Take me home." Fittingly, he passed away in the Year for Priests, just short of his 90th birthday. Needless to say, he will be sorely missed!
Fr. Marx founded HLI as the Human Life Center in 1972 as a priestly response to what he saw was the global anti-life onslaught that was beginning to wash over the world with oceans of the blood of innocents. As a strong spiritual father, he could not stand by and watch this evil threaten the lives of God’s precious children and the sacred institution of marriage.
He infiltrated a pro-abortion conference in California in 1971 as Dr. Paul Marx (correctly so, as he had a PhD in Sociology) and taped all the proceedings of the abortion-promoters so that he could expose their evil. He did this in the book, The Death Peddlers, which was the first major work of his many writings bringing the profound evil of the abortion industry to the light.
Father’s legacy of exposing evil and defending the Church’s teaching about the sanctity of human life, marriage and family remains deeply embedded in the hearts of those who continue pro-life work in his indomitable spirit.
I had the privilege of meeting Fr. Marx for the first time only after he had left HLI. One cannot imagine the difficulty of taking over at HLI and trying to fill the shoes of one whom Pope John II called "the Apostle of Life." After getting to know him, I have always said that there is only one "Apostle" of Life – the rest of us are just "missionaries" of life. Indeed, Father was in every way a unique and unrepeatable gift to the Church and to the world. Like his namesake, St. Paul of old, he went about the entire known world preaching the Gospel of Christ from the 60s through the 90s and establishing apostolic groups and pro-life organizations of faith to carry on the mission. Father was very much like the sower who went out sowing the good seed of life in 91 nations, personally, and motivating scores of others around the world to do the same. We estimate that Father Marx traveled something on the order of 3 million miles in his 40+ year career of pro-life activism, and ever after that, his spiritual children have done the same. In 2009 alone, HLI missionaries from the USA, and our Regional Coordinators, traveled more than 575,000 mission miles and visited 57 countries in our attempt to live up to Father’s high standard of zeal in spreading the Gospel of Life!
Part of Fr. Marx’s legacy can be counted in such HLI programs as the Magdalene Rescue and Rehabilitation Program, the China Orphanage Program, Seminarians for Life, the Population Research Institute (PRI) and the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-Fam), all founded under HLI’s umbrella in the 90s.
Although the Apostle of Life led a retiring life for the last decade, well taken care of by his religious community in Minnesota, Father never ceased his involvement with pro-life issues or his correspondence to his spiritual children still fighting the battles for life on the front lines of the pro-life movement. How precious it was for me to receive his periodic short letters encouraging me to keep up the fighting spirit in the face of so many new challenges. He was always well-aware of the need for funding too so he usually sent $25 and $50 checks with his encouraging notes! I treasure those letters with all my heart. Dr. Brian Clowes of HLI and Mrs. Magaly Llaguno of our Hispanic Division were among his most intimate friends and stayed in regular contact with him and his needs. Countless more were the HLI missionaries around the world who received Father’s letters and notes of encouragement, some of which we will feature in future publications.
To my knowledge, Father’s last public appearance and speech was at HLI’s 35th anniversary banquet held in his honor in Minneapolis on March 25th of 2007. He spoke passionately to his spiritual children using the very same words that Pope John Paul spoke to him when he met with the Holy Father in the early 80s: "You are doing the most important work on earth!" he repeated with fervor. Indeed we are doing that work – it is his work and the true work of the Church. Because of this one man’s indomitable spirit we will not cease doing that work until we too are called home.
Fr. Paul Marx taught the whole world how to be pro-life. He was literally the Patriarch of the pro-life movement. Now it is our turn to take up the mantle of Fr. Marx’s prophetic spirit and, like Elisha who saw his master go to heaven in a fiery chariot, we must turn and part the Jordan with that mantle and get back into the fray – just as the Apostle of Life would want!
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