Founder of Our Charism and Spirituality....
Memorial Mass for Father Luke B. Zimmer
January 7, 1997
A time of hopefilled sorrow and mourning
as the founder of our community�s charism and spirituality, Father Luke Zimmer,
entered eternal life on January 7, 1997.
The following homily was given at the Memorial Mass for Fr. Luke celebrated at San Buenaventura Mission, Ventura, California by Msgr. Michael Hughes, retired pastor of St. Kilian�s, Mission Viejo, California where Fr. Luke had given parish renewals over the years.
This evening we come to remember a man � Father Luke Bernard Zimmer � whom
many of us came to know through his priestly ministry of 43 years. Many things
could be said about Fr. Luke in reflecting on his life and his vocation as
priest. Let me begin by sharing Fr. Luke�s own story about his call to
Bernard or Ben as his family called him growing up, first began to think
about being a priest in high school after a visit from his aunt and great-aunt
who were sisters in religious garb. They preached "a sermon in silence" as he
watched them pray. However, Ben decided he didn�t have a vocation because he
wanted to get married, so he pushed it out of his mind. He worked on his
father�s farm after high school until he enlisted in the Army Air Corps.
Ben was on his way to boot camp when he became sick with rheumatic fever. It
was during the two month hospital stay that he again thought about becoming a
priest. He received news that on of his brothers was planning to marry a
non-Catholic. Ben decided right then and there that he would become a priest. He
offered himself so that his sister-in-law would become a Catholic and there
would be one faith in the house and family. This is the offering he made and
from that time on, he never again doubted that he had a vocation to the
Eventually Ben began his basic training. Towards the end of his training, Ben
had another attack of rheumatic fever and he ended up in the hospital again.
This led to his medical discharge from the Army. Ben returned home to Wisconsin,
where he once again was inflicted with rheumatic fever which confined him to bed
for more than a year. It was during this time that Ben developed a deep prayer
One day while in bed he looked at the Crucifix and saw Christ on the Crucifix
and said, "Who am I to be above the Master? He suffered so much and he was
innocent�. Certainly I can suffer and offer my sufferings with Him to the Father
for others." Then suffering took on a deeper meaning. Ben realized at that
moment that Jesus Christ was an all-loving God, that Jesus loved him with an
unconditional love, that Jesus loved him just as he was!
Ben so united his life with Jesus, the words from our First Reading come to mind:
It was during this time that Ben prayed the 15 decade rosary, meditating on
the life of Jesus and Mary, day in and day out. He thought about all that the
different mysteries of the rosary meant in the spiritual life. They came alive
for him! He applied them to his own life and learned much more about the
Scriptures through them. He learned how God, how Jesus really loves us. It would
be ten years later in 1955 when God would ask Fr. Luke to pray the fifteen
decade rosary every day until he died. Fr. Luke responded, "That�s impossible.
You know what I do every day," but God simply repeated his request. Fr. Luke
then would say, "O.K. if that�s what You want, You give me a fifteen-decade
Rosary." The next day Fr. Luke received the gift of a fifteen decade rosary from
someone who was not aware of God�s request. Fr. Luke remained faithful to
praying the fifteen decade rosary every day from that day forward. He would be
inspired to pray and share the meditations of the Mystical Rosary, uniting with
Jesus in the Mass.
Ben made his total commitment to Jesus through Mary while still confined to
bed in April 1946. This led him to an even deeper prayer life. He began to
understand, to live and to realize the deep, intimate relationship of spiritual
living with the Triune God! Ben came to know that he wanted to be a Religious
priest because he wanted to give himself as a Religious with vows, giving
himself completely and totally to God. He knew he wanted to join a Congregation
that had devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, to the Immaculate Heart of Mary,
to St. Joseph, and with Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Ben entered the
seminary of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary in 1948,
made Final Profession of Vows in 1952 and was ordained to the priesthood as
Father Luke on June 5, 1954 at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
in Washington, D.C.
If we are to reflect on Fr. Luke�s life as a priest the Responsorial Psalm
come to mind as words Jesus must have spoken to him, "Be not afraid, I walk
before you always. Come follow me, and I will give you rest." Fr. Luke served in
Massachusetts, Minnesota, California, and Hawaii during his priesthood.
Fr. Luke described his life as Mass-centered. The Mass and Christ in the
Blessed Sacrament meant so much to him. His love for God deepened as he spent
more time in prayer, in a real deep union with Jesus. Fr. Luke wrote in his book
Chosen, "God seemed to spoil me, granting me every request, even the littlest
detail. Prayers were answered lovingly and tenderly." This was how Fr. Luke
explained the cure of his aunt from a tumor after he had prayed, asking the
intercession of St. Therese the Little Flower. Through the years, Fr. Luke was
chosen to be the instrument to cure people. Yet, as he explained, "it�s not
every time I pray for people or bless them that they will be cured. Some are,
some are not. Some are cured immediately, some after a time. It proves that God
is the One Who cures people, no one else.... He is only using us as an
instrument to bring about these cures in the lives of people." Fr. Luke believed
the words of St. Paul in the Second Reading,
Fr. Luke was shown "a still more excellent way" and so he was called by the Lord to seek permission from his community superiors in 1971 to establish the Apostolate of Christian Renewal in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
He wished to call people to devote their lives to Christ through Mary, as he
had been living since 1946. His deep prayer life developed his understanding of
this commitment to Jesus. He wanted to share with others Vatican Council II�s
call to a life of holiness, a life of love, of prayer and of service to others.
Thus, the Apostolate of Christian Renewal developed as a Roman Catholic movement
whose purpose is to bring to fruition Jesus� prayer for unity at the Last
Supper, which are the words of our Gospel:
Today this movement is composed of the Lay Servants and Handmaids throughout the country, and the Religious Handmaids of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Mary and Joseph who serve here at the Mission. Please keep in your prayers that in the future Religious Servants (priests and brothers) will be founded, as Fr. Luke had always envisioned.
Thus began the work that Fr. Luke had been chosen and called by God to do and which he continued right up until his death on January 7, 1997. Through the years Fr. Luke wrote books and prayers, published the Christian Renewal newspaper, produced audio and video tapes while he traveled throughout the country giving parish renewals and directing retreats and pilgrimages throughout the world. He served as spiritual director and confessor to many people throughout the country which he ministered to through letter-writing and phone calls.
Fr. Luke attributed his ability to maintain such an active ministry as priest to a deep prayer life and the grace of God. He daily celebrated Mass, faithfully prayed the Liturgy of the Hours, prayed the Mystical Mass prayer which was inspired through years of private prayer, and prayed the fifteen decade Mystical Rosary in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. He prayed many other devotional prayers as well as went to confession frequently. His purpose in all of this was to commit himself "to building up the parish family community by bringing about the renewal of the person and the family: to help each person become a Saint by becoming Jesus for and to others."
I would like to conclude with Fr. Luke�s own words about his life that he
wrote in the book Chosen:
Let us reflect on Fr. Luke�s life so as to praise, honor and glorify God.
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