Autobiography of Fr. Robert J. Fox
A Priest is a Priest Forever
Table of contents
Sample Chapters 2
BACK COVER OF BOOK
autobiography by Fr. Robert J. Fox was written at the encouragement of
others. Fr. Fox initially rejected the suggestion to write a story on
his life. Finally he agreed to write this autobiography for his 50th
anniversary in the Catholic priesthood.
half-century that Fr. Fox has ministered as a Catholic priest, just
over 48 years as a parish priest, have been years of great turmoil and
crisis both in the world and in the Church. He presently lives near the
Monastery of Our Lady of the Angels and the Shrine of the Most Blessed
Sacrament near Hanceville, Alabama. He offers the Holy Sacrifice of the
Mass at this Shrine.
This priest writes from his heart about his vocation and of his
priestly life for 50 years. He tells of both happy and sorrowful
experiences. He writes both of the great joys and the trials he has
experienced in the priesthood during the second half of the 20th
century, into the beginning of the 21st.
After writing more than 50 books and hundreds of articles for the
Catholic press, being active in all areas of the Catholic media; after
working much in the catechetical areas of Church life, leading and
directing youth and founding an international Apostolate for the
family; after both founding and serving as editor of the Immaculate
Heart Messenger magazine, together with most of his priestly years
serving as a pastor and parish priest, extending his priestly vision
across the United States and to other countries—one can understand then
why he has been asked to write a book on his life.
In telling some of the events of his priestly life, and his spiritual
thoughts in the exercise of Christ's holy priesthood, Fr. Fox makes
every effort to write the truth of all aspects without compromise.
It is hoped that this autobiography of a 77-year-old priest, who has
lived his priesthood for 50 years, will serve as an encouragement and
challenge to seminarians, priests, the laity, and the family that forms
the domestic church within the Mystical Body of Christ.
Jesus Christ is ever central as the author gradually unfolds the
experiences of his life, especially regarding the Sacrifice of the
Cross perpetuated at Mass. Yet, one senses in this book the close
alliance between the Hearts of Jesus and Mary into which the author
himself has entered through his total consecration to Mary.
Father Fox has touched thousands of children, youth, adults, parents
and total families, in various countries. Now the story of his life in
living total consecration to Mary is destined to touch thousands more,
including priests and seminarians. May it bring sanctification to
families and inspire more young men to Christ's holy priesthood.
[ Father Fox has
inspired 200 boys to become holy priests
and many girls who have become holy nuns]
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1. Prayer Is Your Protection
2. Childhood and Family.............................................................
3. Seminary at Last ...................................................................
4. Preparation and Formation for the Priesthood...........................
5. Ordination to Christs Holy Priesthood
6. First Priestly
Assignment.............................................. ........ 143
7. Growing in the
8. Great Changes in the Catholic
9. A Crisis of Faith Invades the Church
10. Priesthood Reviewed in a Time of
11. Holding the Line in Face of
12. Mother Mary Expands Priestly Work
13. Two Mothers in
14. The Priest at Prayer
15. Becoming a Chalice for the Suffering
16. Confronting the Faith and Catechical
17. Boyhood Marian Devotion Continues to Develop ................. 291
18. Ending Years as a Pastor and a New Beginning.................... 299
Appendix I. Conclusion of Last Will
Appendix II. Selection of Poems...............................................
|Chapter 2. Childhood and Family • Page 35
I remember my mother
saying, "If a man thought a woman was
worthwhile to marry he could
present her the engagement ring in person." The following week Aloysius
found the time from his busy farm work to make the trip by train and
personally place the engagement ring on my mother's finger.
Grandpa Michael Martin Fox saw that each of his sons
had at least 160 acres and that a barn was built on the property for
each of his sons. He would pay for the materials but there was a custom
of "barn-raising" whereby the neighbors would all come together to help
build a barn. Each son acquired more acreage through some homesteading
of their own. My father's farm thus grew to 320 acres.
On January 25,1912, my father, Aloysius Joseph and
Susie Emma Lorentz were joined in the holy bonds of the Sacrament of
Matrimony in St. Boniface Church in Hastings, Minnesota. At first they
lived with my father's parents, Michael Martin Fox and Catherine for
about two years.
While both Grandfather Michael and Grandmother Catherine had died
before I was born I remember my mother commenting how very good
"Grandma Fox" was to her when newly married as they at first lived at
the Fox homestead house with my father's parents. After two years they
moved to a small house a half-mile away and in 1919 had a large house
built in which all eight of their six sons and two daughters grew up.
Thus this large farm house in which I grew up was three miles from
Watertown, South Dakota, with five bedrooms, four upstairs and one
I was born on
Christmas eve, 1927. My older brothers and sisters were made to
go to bed early because St. Nicolas would be coming and the next day
was Christmas. Catherine, the oldest, was perhaps the only one who
really understood what was happening. On Christmas morning my father
greeted all my older brothers and sisters with a smile saying, "You have a special gift this Christmas.
Mother is in the hospital and you have a new baby brother."
"What name would you
like your baby brother to have?" my father asked his children.
Five or six of his children, without having discussed
it previously, simultaneously answered, "Bobby." Their father replied, "Well!
We will have to see what your mother thinks?"
Mother had already chosen the name "Joseph" but when
my father mentioned how all the children answered "Bobby" mother did
not have the heart to disappoint them.
After announcing to the children that they had a new
baby brother for Christmas he then took all the children into the
parlor where was the decorated Christmas tree, the Nativity scene and
gifts were found beneath the tree.
On January 8, 1928, about two weeks after birth my
father and mother took me to the Immaculate Conception Church in
|Chapter 3. Seminary at Last • Page 80
Then came the first
day of summer, June 21, 1946. I was working in a large field with
horses on a hay-rake, raking hay all afternoon. Those familiar with the
old horse hay-rakers know that the driver sat very dose behind the
horses; only a matter of a few feet. It could be dangerous. Young boys
sent to the field to rake hay with horses on these machines were known
to have fallen to the ground, down into the area of the prongs that
gathered the hay and then the horses without a driver began to run away
on their own; thus death to the boy.
I was just about done raking the hay in that large
field of alfalfa and it was late in the day. The sun was lowering. I
was ending up in the center of the field, having started at the outside
of the field, working inward. This meant the little that remained
required frequent and abrupt turns. There was perhaps only a minute or
two more work before I could head for home more than a half mile away.
Suddenly one of the horses began bucking fiercely. The
horse's hoofs at times went higher than my head or very close to my
head. The other horse began running while its partner kept bucking high
in the air. I suddenly felt a deep
pain in my leg. The horse had broken my leg. I had been pulling
the reigns to stop the horses, which only aggravated the situation.
Then I discovered why that horse had gone mad. With
the sharp abrupt turns as I was completing the field the driver's line
somehow got under that horse's tail which obviously made the horse
thinks something was attacking it. Pulling the reigns tightly only
aggravated the horse more so it became more violent.
I could not think or see straight, with hoofs flying
at my face. Time was of the essence so I had to make fast decisions. I
could no longer control the horses with the lines. I dropped the lines
so they could hopefully get out from under the horse's tail. The horses
were headed for a shelter belt of trees, running rapidly, it seemed
with madness. I could see they were capable of running right into those
trees planted and growing so close to each other. If this happened I knew I would be killed.
I dropped the lines; then with great difficulty and pain I managed to
turn around backwards on the rake's driver's seat. To do this I
had to lift my broken leg with my hand to enable me to turn around. I
sat there my back to the horses still running and took one more moment
to get courage to jump. To have jumped, on a moving rake, with a broken
leg which would have been at least five feet to the ground, could have
had disastrous effects. During that moment I spent to gain courage to
jump the horses stopped abruptly and stood still.
I would not have to jump. The horses were now in the
middle of a wheat field. They begin to eat the wheat which that year by
June 21 was over two feet high. With the greatest pain and effort I got
off the rake, which necessitated stepping down with only one good leg,
praying the horses would not step or run ahead or I'd go under the rake
by the prongs. They did not move a single inch but kept eating the
dense wheat that had headed out.
4. Preparation and Formation
for the Priesthoood • Page 101
The morning rising came too early at 6:00. There was a half hour to
wash up, get down to Oratory for morning prayers, liturgy of the
office, then an extended period of meditation. Finally all seminarians
went to the Seminary chapel for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. I loved
There were choir stalls in which we knelt and
faced each other with a wide aisle in between. The altar was at
the far end of the chapel, not between the choir stalls. Rows of
seminarians on each side were three or four deep.
The rows on different levels meant we could all see the altar easily.
We responded to all parts of the Mass in Latin, as the entire Mass was
I loved the Sacrifice of the Mass and daily participation was the
greatest hour of the day for me. I united my prayers, works which were
mainly studies, joys, sufferings to the Sacrifice of Christ being
perpetuated at the altar.
There was no Communion rail. For the reception of our divine Lord in
Holy Communion we merely knelt on the step formed by the nine-inch rise
in the sanctuary floor with the altar itself being several steps
higher. There was never a day in college seminary or major seminary but
what I always received our divine and loving Savior in Holy Communion.
I never spent a single day in eight years of seminary life in the
infirmary. Perhaps not wise, but if I felt sick on occasion, I still
went to class.
Approaching the sanctuary to receive Our Divine Lord was for me a most
sacred moment. All distractions were erased from my mind. I believe
this started already in my early teen years. I would close my eyes to receive Our Divine
Lord. It was always like a new experience each time.
The Omnipotent God of Glory, the Second Person of the Most Blessed
Trinity become man, the God of heaven and earth, the Word Made Flesh
under the form of bread, a little white host, would be laid upon my
tongue. I was so unworthy but I knew Jesus makes us worthy if we have
faith and open our hearts in love and purity. Grace pours into the soul
that is well disposed. The only union
with God that can be greater than those minutes after we have received
Jesus Christ in Holy Communion is when one will enjoy the Beatific
Vision in heaven, "seeing God face to face, even as he is" (I
When I would return to my place in chapel, after having received my
Lord Jesus in Holy Communion, knowing He was in my heart and soul, that
was always a fresh and loving experience for which there are no words
to express. I did not talk much to God in human intellectual words
during that time after Holy Communion, except the thought that "I love you my Lord, my dearest Jesus."
Perhaps the will faculty of the soul took precedence at this time and
the simple thought of being one with God the Father through Jesus
sacramentally in me sufficed.
I quickly learned that first year in the major seminary that one must
have a spiritual program. There must be a time set aside each day for
spiritual reading, a minimum of 15 to 20 minutes, but not prolonged so
as to cut into study time. My spiritual director guided me in that. In
fact during most
Father Robert J. Fox
In gratitude to Jesus, Mary and
His 50th Anniversary of Ordination
April 24, 1955 - April 24, 2005
Jesus, Lord of the Harvest, send laborers to gather your great harvest.
Give us shepherds, for the, service of salvation, who do only your work
Rekindle in priests the Gift, of God that was received at ordination.
Grant that priests live only in the truth and manner of Jesus Christ.
Open their hearts, Lord Jesus, to guard the true faith entrusted to the
Church in the Holy Spirit. Keep their hearts prayerful and open to holy
purity so as to live always in the love of God the Father, for the
salvation of all.
Lord Jesus Christ, our God and Savior, call many to be pastors so as to
preach the. Word of God and, give us the Bread of Life, the Holy
Eucharist, your very Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, as they perpetuate
Mary, Mother of Priests, Mother of holy Vocations, you, once said "Yes"
to give us Jesus Christ, the high Priest. Say "Yes" to many priestly
Mary, Mother of Mercy, Mediatrix of grace, co-redemptive and advocate,
intercede that blood and water which gushed from your Son's Merciful
Heart may flow abundantly today upon souls through the priestly
Administrations of your beloved sons. Obtain for the Church holy
priests to wash away sins and bestow to souls an abundant sharing in
life of God through the Holy Eucharist.
Fr. Fox has
published over 50 books
plus hundreds of articles for Catholic magazines and Catholic
For years, he was a columnist for the National
Catholic Register and a regular contributor to Our Sunday Visitor.
Father has two books coming out in April 2005 and is
presently working on the book
Fatima: After Lucia. Fatima & Altar of the World.
FATHER Fox's MANY PILGRIMAGES.
The first year was 1975 and every year thereafter
until 2003. There were 20 years of youth pilgrimages (from 1976 to
1996) two pilgrimages each year. Thereafter mixed groups, mostly adults.
FATHER ROBERT J. FOX
SERVED AT THE FOLLOWING PARISHES:
May 18, 1955 to January 15, 1959
St. Lawrence Parish, Milbank, SD
January 15, 1959 to August 7, 1959
St. Anthony Parish, Hoven, SD
August 7, 1959 to January 2, 1961
Sacred Heart Parish, Yankton, SD
January 2, 1961 to September 1, 1965
St. Anthony Parish in
Bristol with mission of St. Joseph, Lily, SD
September 1, 1965 to September 1, 1970
St. Joseph s Parish, Mobridge, SD
September 1, 1970 to June 22, 1972
St. Lawrence Parish, Milbank, SD
June 22, 1972 to July 11, 1984
St. Bernard's Parish, Redfield, SD
July 11, 1984 to May 8, 1985
Immaculate Conception Parish, Waubay, SD
May 8, 1985 to July 1, 2003
St. Mary of Mercy Parish, Alexandria, SD
July 1, 2003 to Present
Offers Mass and spiritual guidance
Mother Angelica's Temple of the Child Jesus and
The Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament, Hanceville, AL
This artistic and colorful book,
Catechism in Poetry, is divided into four parts, the same way as the
Catechism of the Catholic Church.
official universal Catechism of the Church is a means of growth in
Robert J. Fox wrote The Catechism in Poetry based on it for reasons of
Poems • Page 327
of an Old Priest
When I was young,
Jesus touched my soul
He invited me to walk the less
I answered Jesus' call, "Come follow Me."
He gave me
souls, to point to heaven's Key
The life of a priest, has been glorious indeed
Beset with trials,
amidst good and bad seed
To leave all things and follow in His steps
bring souls to Jesus until in heaven we've met
If we give up all things and follow Him today
He rewards a hundredfold,
the Life, Truth, the Way
He promises persecution to those who with Him
He gives us His Mother, His Words are ours to say
Life in the
priesthood, passes quickly with the years Preaching the
full Gospel, the Word of God one hears
Souls reborn in Baptism; Souls
restored to grace,
Souls fed with Christ's Body, regardless of race
A glorious life for man, Christ's holy priesthood
Years passed quickly,
still at the altar he stood
An old priest now, with a heart in spirit
Full of joy and gratitude, for a life not done
"There's no such thing as a retired priest," he said
"There are souls
to be nourished, until I'm dead."
I pray Jesus, before paradise, that
my last day on earth,
I may offer His Eucharistic Sacrifice, of
With Jesus, Mary, Angels and Saints, from
heaven I'll be Doing good
upon earth, interceding for all, including thee
In heaven there's no
time, only NOW, so I will not grieve From there a harmonious song of
love, I'll forever weave.