R.I.P.: Fr. Paul Marx, the Apostle of Life, Died a Holy Death
Like a pro-life Johnny Appleseed, Father Marx planted pro-life organizations wherever he went.
Even today, the pro-lifers whom Fr. Paul Marx enlisted, encouraged and helped organize still constitute the essential core of the pro-life movement around the world.
He knew the mortal harm that birth control would cause everywhere, including its effect on the loss of faith of Catholics and on the Catholic Church itself. And he organized a worldwide movement to meet these threats to life and family head on and defeat them.
Born on 8 May 1920 in St. Michael, Minnesota, Fr. Marx was the 15 of 17 children born to his devout Catholic parents. The example of his parents gave him an instinctive understanding of the sanctity of life and the centrality of the family.
Fr. Marx received his bachelor´s degree from St. John´s University, Collegeville, Minnesota. He continued his studies at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, and the Catholic University of America, where he received a Doctorate Degree in Family Sociology. He did post graduate work at Harvard, the University of California at Berkeley, and the American University in Washington, D.C.
He was ordained to the priesthood on 15 June 1947 by the Order of St. Benedict. After nearly two decades on the faculty of St. Johns University, and at his own request, he was allowed to work on pro-life issues full time beginning the late sixties.
As soon as abortion became in issue in the 1960s, Father became actively engaged in promoting life, writing his first pro-life article in 1967.
He celebrated the release of Humanae Vitae in 1968 with its condemnation of abortion, sterilization, and contraception, but found himself increasingly scandalized in the months that followed by the widespread dissent that greeted this teaching of Pope Paul VI. Even his own brother, a Benedictine theologian, joined the dissenters.
Determined to defend what he saw was a prophetic document, Father Marx founded the Human Life Center at St. John´s University, in 1972. Father´s outspoken defense of life quickly gained him a national reputation, but within his own community there was criticism. Many there were uncomfortable with his condemnation of contraception and his opposition to abortion. Father Marx was gradually ostracized by many of his confreres and ultimately forced to leave his beloved St. John´s Abbey.
The Abbott gave him a used car and $2000 and sent him on his way. He drove to Washington, D.C. where, with the assistance of a few lay friends, founded Human Life International (HLI). Then, like his namesake, he began the pro-life missionary journeys that would earn him the title of "The Apostle of Life."
Over the course of the next four decades, Fr. Marx visited over 90 countries in his tireless campaign to promote the Culture of Life, urging local pro-lifers to organize and defend life from conception to natural death.
He undertook the task of spreading the pro-life message with apostolic zeal, blessed as he was with a rare combination of visionary leadership and boundless energy. Everywhere he went he encouraged knowledge about Natural Family Planning/Natural Fertility Regulation and alternatives to abortion. He showered hundreds of thousands of Rosaries and Holy Cards on every part of the world. He supplied mountains of pro-life literature, pamphlets, films, videos, posters and models.
Like a pro-life Johnny Appleseed, Father Marx planted pro-life organizations wherever he went. He founded Population Research Institute (PRI) in the U.S., Family Life International in the U.K., Family Life International in New Zealand, Family Life International in Australia, and literally dozens of other groups around the world.
This network of organizations, under his direction, and with the help of generous donors and under God´s grace, grew to be the greatest pro-life organization in the World. The effectiveness of Fr. Marx and his organizations caused the International Planned Parenthood Federation to label him "Public Enemy Number One."
Even today, the pro-lifers whom he enlisted, encouraged and helped organize still constitute the essential core of the pro-life movement around the world.
Once a year, during the Easter octave, he held a "World Conference." He assembled an unsurpassed slate of speakers who, over the course of four or five days, educated the thousands of pro-lifers who attended. Over the course of nearly four decades, Father Marx reached hundreds of thousands in this way.
He also brought to these conferences people from all parts of the underdeveloped world, paying for their airfares and accommodations. These went back home heavily laden with pro-life literature and, most importantly, acutely aware of the dangers to life posed by the anti-life forces.
Father Marx knew that the battle was not just a material one, but a spiritual one as well. His conferences always opened on the Wednesday after Easter with Holy Mass and closed with Holy Mass on Divine Mercy Sunday. A smaller chapel would be set up where the Blessed Sacrament would be reserved and where the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, Confessions, Benediction, the Rosary and other devotions were offered throughout the day and into the late evenings.
Fr. Marx brought many, great and small, into the church, including Dr. Bernard Nathanson. Dr. Nathanson was a founding member of the National Abortion Rights Action League and an infamous abortionist, who had personally presided over the abortion of tens of thousands of unborn children.
In the midst of all this, Fr. Marx somehow found time to write 13 books. In The Death Peddlers he warned of the coming push for euthanasia. This prophetic book sold over a million copies. His 1997 autobiography, Faithful for Life, was another bestseller. Fr. Marx retired to St. John´s Abbey in 1999, but continued to be actively engaged in the fight for life. He attended and spoke at PRI conferences—Minneapolis, Minnesota in 2000, Santa Clara, California, in 2002, Lincoln, Nebraska in 2003, and London, England, in 2004. Even after he grew too infirm to travel, he kept up a worldwide correspondence with fellow pro-lifers from every corner of the globe, and continued to write articles for the PRI Review and other publications. Most importantly for us at the Population Research Institute, he served as the Chairman of our Board of Directors from 1996 onward until his death. In his capacity as Chairman he gave us constant encouragement, sage advice, and a bountiful blessing of prayer and Masses. He personified the motto of St. Benedict of Nursia´s "Ora et Labora" "Pray and Work". Fr. Marx exemplified the great strength and virtues of a true son of St. Benedict and gave all of us who now mourn his passage into eternity a superb model of faith and action, of endurance and courage, of generosity, kindness and vision, of wisdom and hope, all attributes which the pro-life movement needs in such great measure today. Can anything more be said to better honor the memory of this truly great and holy monk than the words of Pope John Paul II who in a meeting with Fr. Paul Marx OSB said "Fr. Marx, you are doing the most important work on earth." Now that Father has gone ahead of us, those of us who knew him are, to a man, determined to redouble our efforts on behalf of God's little ones. At the same time, we are confident that Father Marx, from his higher vantage point, will continue to remember us and our common struggle today to the company of Heaven. We are told by those at his bedside that, at the moment of his death, Father raised his arms towards Heaven and said, ´Take me home.´ Can anyone doubt that, when he arrived at his destination, he was greeted with the words that all faithful Catholic long to hear: "Well done, good and faithful servant. Well done." -----Steven W. Mosher is the President of the Population Research Institute. Dr. Claude Newbury for many years directed Father Marx´s pro-life work on the continent of Africa. Both knew and worked with Father Marx for a quarter century.
PRI is a 501(c)(3) educational organization. We work to reverse the trends brought about by the myth of overpopulation. Our growing, global network of pro-life groups spans over 30 countries. To date, we have successfully eliminated $790 million in U.S. tax dollars to International Planned Parenthood, UNFPA, and other anti-life aboritionists while redirecting much of this to family friendly programs like Child Survival.
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