Full text of homily from funeral Mass for Msgr. Joseph Zube

Following is the full text of the homily at the April 20 funeral Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria for Msgr. Joseph Zube. A longtime official with the Diocese of Peoria’s Marriage Tribunal, Msgr. Zube, 85, died April 15, 2011, at his West Peoria residence.

The homilist was Father Brian Brownsey, director of priestly vocations for the Diocese of Peoria and chaplain-director of St. Joseph’s Catholic Newman Center in Peoria.


As I’m trying to plan what to say I’m distracted a little bit with a story. (Father Jim Pallardy, may I tell the barracuda story?) I just heard it a few minutes ago and have to share it.

Father Joe had been fishing on some expedition and caught a barracuda and he had it mounted. Of course we all know Joe. “What am I going to do with it?” He called Father Pallardy and said, “Would you like my barracuda? You’re a fisherman.” Father Pallardy said “I don’t game fish. It’s not my thing.” “Well, what should I do with it?” Father Pallardy said “Isn’t there a bar in Peoria that might like to have it?”

“Well, I don’t go to too many bars,” said Father Joe.

Father Pallardy, just being silly, says, “Maybe Big Al’s would like to have it.” And then Msgr. Zube, with that gleam in his eyes ? we’ve all seen it a 100 times ? says, “Well then we’d have to get dark glasses for the barracuda.”

It’s out of my system and so now I can go on a little bit.

The last couple of days, as is natural for people when there is loss, it’s been really helpful for me to share Monsignor’s final moments. Just so everyone would know how grace-filled and how blessed he was in those final days.

Toward the end of the week I hadn’t been sleeping much, thinking about all kinds of things, keeping odd hours, wondering if everything was OK. It was about 3 in the morning on Thursday and I wasn’t sleeping. I laid there and I thought “Tomorrow I will get Joe’s prayer book off the shelf and I’ll sit by his bed and I’ll pray the prayers for a happy death with him. He might find some peace in that.”

I’m thinking about it and I start hearing noises in the house and I thought, “The nurse might need some help.” She was down fixing her lunch in the kitchen. Well, I was up anyway and I thought I’d stopped by. So I went into Joe’s room, held his hand and assured him everything was going to be OK. I said a little prayer.

At that point he still?.there was acknowledgement. So I gave him my blessing and since I was up anyway thinking about prayers I went to his study and got his prayer book off the shelf and took it to my room and sat on the edge of the bed reading through it, and some of the prayers that were appropriate. I was satisfied, closed the book and laid down.

I hadn’t even closed my eyes and there was a knock on the door. It was the nurse. “Father, he’s gone.”

Without even realizing it, that grace, certainly the intercession of St. Joseph for a happy death. The Lord had called me and I’d prayed the prayers for a happy death. Why else at 3 in the morning did I get the book and was praying the very moment he was dying.

It was a very moving day. I think the most moving was when they carried him out of the house for the last time. After 47 years living there at Zube House.

And then that night, Friday night at the Newman Center. Praying the Stations of the Cross and all this on my mind.

He falls for the first time. Recalling the night that Tony was with him and took him to the hospital.

He comforts the holy women who were weeping for him. The holy women — Jan, and Ann, and all who were around him.

Veronica wipes his face. The nurses who were there caring for him. Hospice. The dear sisters of St. Francis of the Immaculate Conception. Sister Rose Madonna.

(A short story about that. I’d been gone for a while and (asked) “Was Sister Rose Madonna here?” “Oh yes, she brought me Communion. For about a week now.” I said “Joe, I would not mind bringing you Communion. It’s not that far of a journey to the chapel in the basement.”

He said, “No, when you bring me Communion you bring me Communion. When Sister brings me Commuion, she says all the prayers.”

A little gut-check on my ministry.)

And praying the Stations that night I tingled and had goosebumps. I’d prayed Stations for years and years but the 5th station had never been so powerful as it was that night. The honor, the honor, that Simon of Cyrene must have had. He carried the cross for Jesus.

It was an honor, it was an honor, to be able to take care of him. And all those things we talk about and all the things that go on, “Oh Father, you must be burdened.” No, an honor! There’s that song — “He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother.” And then I recalled different points:

Jan coming to take care of business with him and helping him out. “Oh Father, it’s an honor.”

Ann, you’re not paid to do all this stuff. “Oh, I don’t mind, it’s an honor.”

Sister, you’re so kind to bring him dinner every night. “It’s an honor.”

In the office, sending out the mail and doing the business I had to make some mailing labels. I asked my secretary to put labels together. “OK, Father, I’ll get to it. I’ve got these things to do. Do you need it right away.” I said, “No, no, not right away. It’s for Msgr. Zube.” She said, “Oh, for Msgr. Zube. I’ll do it right now. It’s an honor.”

It’s an honor. For most of us being here today don’t think it’s a burden to come in the middle of the week. It’s an honor.

Why do we feel honored? To whom do we give honor? Seminarians, to whom to we give honor? We give honor to one who is honorable.

Joseph Zube was a man of jurisprudence. In secular jurisprudence, we would probably call him “Your Honor.” But that’s not the source of his honor.

What makes him honorable is his faithfulness. Faithfulness to God. Faithfulness to the priesthood. How appropriate that we should be here today. Yesterday 200 priests gathered to celebrate priesthood at the Chrism Mass. Tomorrow in this very church we’ll celebrate priesthood with Holy Thursday. And right in the middle, celebrating the priesthood as we say farewell to our brother.

It was at the beginning when he was in the hospital and the doctors were in and he thought he might have to make a decision about treatment and operations. The doctor wouldexplained “Many people like this for the sake of their families.” And Joe had family. The last of his brothers and sisters to survive. His niece is here with us this morning. His cousins Carol and Gary. But very little family. When the doctor said that he looks at me and says, “We have a different kind of family.” As serious as can be. And we do. It’s a family of honor.

Joe’s honor. Where does it come from? All of us as priests, members of our family, during these days things can be a little stressed. There’s a lot going on. And we look at Joe’s faithfulness. Fifty-eight years a priest. Faithfulness! With only 15 years under my belt I pray that I can remain faithful for that long.

What is it that helps us to be faithful? When we help somebody, when we have a good day, when we are with somebody and they encounter the Lord ? whether we’re absolving them of their sins or comforting them at their bedside, or just giving them advice or a smile. And that handshake or a look in the eye. “Thank you Father. Father you’ve helped me so much. Father thank you for all you do for me.”

For most of us that’s what picks us up and lets us go on.

Think about it. How much of that did Joe get? Oh, he had his time. St. Peter’s, St. Patrick’s, Camp Grove, St. Monica’s. I was talking with someone one day who was at the house and he asked “Father, have you had a parish?” and I answered “Oh yes, he was pastor of St. Monica’s.” And Joe interrupted me and said “beloved pastor of St. Monica’s.”

Beloved indeed. But most of Joe’s ministry was not the kind of ministry where he was often thanked. And the people who he helped into heaven, the people who he helped to encounter Jesus, the majority of them were not people that he ever saw! The cases that he worked on. The countless people who enjoyed the grace of the sacraments because of his ministry, he will not see until they arrive in heaven!

That’s why Joe is honorable. Maybe even more honorable than anybody here today. Our motives for faithfulness? A reward? Not a bad thing. Joe’s motives were pure, not that ours are not. But there’s more evidence of the purity of his motives.

That’s why when called upon, people jumped. They were happy to serve him. We could learn a lesson from Joe. We could learn a lesson from meditation on the Stations of the Cross. We could learn a lesson from Simon of Cyrene. But most of all to learn a lesson from the purity of his motives.

May we purify of our motives with the help of the saints and all the examples who have gone before us in heaven, and the example of our brother Joseph. Brother, rest in peace.

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