June 18, 2021
WASHINGTON — At their annual spring Plenary Assembly, the bishops of the United States held a canonical consultation on the cause of beatification and canonization of the Servant of God Marinus (Leonard) LaRue, professed Brother of the Order of Saint Benedict (O.S.B.).
Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki of Milwaukee, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance, and Bishop Kevin J. Sweeney of Paterson, facilitated the discussion by the bishops. The bishops expressed support for the advancement of the cause of beatification and canonization on the diocesan level.
Captain Leonard LaRue/Brother Marinus, O.S.B., was born January 14, 1914, and baptized at St. Joachim Church in Philadelphia. He attended the Pennsylvania Nautical School, serving aboard the Schoolship Annapolis, graduating in 1934. In December 1950, Captain LaRue and the SS Meredith Victory were delivering military supplies to northeast Korea when he encountered Korean refugees who were desperate to flee the oncoming Chinese soldiers. Knowing that staying behind would mean certain death, Captain LaRue did not hesitate to take the refugees onto his ship. In the end, 14,000 refugees were taken on board the SS Meredith Victory into the freezing Sea of Japan and the mine-infested waters to Geoje Island, where they disembarked on Christmas Day 1950, completing their 450-mile journey.
Years later, reflecting on that Christmas voyage, Brother Marinus said, “I think often on that voyage. I think how such a small vessel was able to hold so many persons and surmount endless perils without harm to a soul. And as I think the clear, unmistakable message comes to me that on that Christmastide, in the bleak and bitter waters off the shores of Korea, God’s own hand was at the helm of my ship.”
Captain Leonard LaRue entered St. Paul’s Benedictine Abbey in Newton, New Jersey, in 1954 and took the name of the Brother Marinus for the Blessed Lady. As a monk, he did not follow the path to priesthood, and instead he served at St. Paul’s Abbey as a religious brother, performing tasks such as dishwashing, working in the gift shop, and ringing the abbey’s bell each morning to wake the monks.
When Brother Marinus was asked what influenced his entering religious life, he summarized it: “To fall in love with God is the greatest of all romances. To seek Him the greatest adventure. To find Him, the greatest human achievement.”
Brother Marinus also expressed his deep love for the Church and the mission of evangelization. In his correspondence with Bob Lunney, his friend and shipmate, one reads that “he has accepted recent publicity about that Christmas voyage only because there is such a tremendous need for vocations throughout the world.” And in the same letter he stated, “Our Lord has recommended the single life to those who can stand it, but it takes the assistance of the sacraments for an individual to live a virtuous life […] the more we attend Mass, the more we receive Holy Communion, the more Christ like we become and the more Masses will speak for us on our judgment day. Our Lord wants us to be daily communicants, and if you have never done so, I would urge you to do so… you do not know what you are missing until you do. It will completely change your whole life and put things in their proper perspective.”
Brother Marinus died on October 14, 2001, at the age of 87 at St. Paul’s Benedictine Abbey in Newton, New Jersey. The abbey is located in the Diocese of Paterson.
Bishop Sweeney has affirmed Captain LaRue’s heroic actions as a Merchant Marine, and the monastic life of Brother Marinus, which was marked with simplicity and obedience, as reasons for moving forward with his cause of beatification and canonization.