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.

Fr. Luke Zimmer 1923-1997

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 priesthood.

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 priesthood.

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 life.

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:

"Do not ask me to abandon or forsake you! For wherever you go I will go, wherever you lodge I will lodge, your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Whenever you die I will die, and there be buried. May the Lord do so and so to me, and more besides, if ought but death separates me from you!"

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,

"For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ�. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers: then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? But strive for the greater gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way."

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:

"�. that all may be one as you, Father, are in me, and I in you; I pray that they may be one in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. I have given them the glory you gave me, that they may be one, as we are one � I living in them, you living in me � that their unity may be complete. So shall the world know that you sent me, and that you loved them as you loved me�."

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:

"We cannot just pass over the things that God does in our lives as if they did not happen. I think, at times, we do have a responsibility to share what has happened in our lives, the experiences that we have received and the Graces and gifts that God has given. It is a grave responsibility. We must share these with others, especially today. We live in a time when people need more than ever to be shown that God does exist, that He does choose people, at times, and give them a special mission in life. To be chosen, in this way, does not make any one person great or extraordinary, in his own right. This, in itself, does not make that person a saint. What it does mean is that God can choose whomever He will for whatever He wishes. Usually, when He is working with souls and He has a special mission to be performed, God chooses the lowly�. He chooses sinners to carry out His designs. His reason for doing this is to make us realize that, of ourselves, we are nothing. We can do nothing, without Him. We are weak and He is the One Who is strong. He wishes us to become strong, through Him and in Him, in order that He may glorify Himself. He uses these weak instruments to confound the strong so that through the events that take place in the life of that person, it is God who shines through, it is God�s work which is manifested � not the individual, not the person whom He chooses to use. This is what I hope, in relating the story of my life, will shine through: that God is the One to be praised and honored. God is the One to be glorified, and no one else."

Let us reflect on Fr. Luke�s life so as to praise, honor and glorify God.


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