June 9, 2024

RIP: Joe Zepf

The other day I happened to see that Joseph R. Zepf had passed away at the age of ninety-nine. He was the best spiritual director I have ever had. He was wise, practical, and funny.

For his obituary, click here. I had no idea he had led such a rich life.

I connected with Mr. Zepf at some point in the later 1990s, during the period in between my times in religious life. In those days the Archdiocese of New York had a very neat spiritual direction matchmaking service. You went somewhere in Rye, New York and met with this sister. She asked you about your prayer life, its forms and rhythms and so on. She asked about your favorite saints and what spiritual books had most influenced you. Then she said, well, give me some time to pray and reflect on this. In my case she called a couple of weeks later, said that she was confident she had discerned the right director for me, and sent me to Mr. Zepf.

I met with him at a parish office in Port Chester, New York. I don't remember what parish it was. It was a bit of a drive from West Haven, Connecticut where I was living at the time, but very much worth it.

Those soon became the days when I was thinking about applying to the Capuchins. I had left the novitiate of the OFM at Christmas 1995 and though I continued to desire Franciscan religious life, the difficulties and confusions surrounding that experience had left me skittish about trying again.

One time I asked Mr. Zepf directly, did he think I should join the Capuchins?

"How should I know? If it's going to help you get closer to Jesus, then do it."

I entered the Capuchin postulancy in the summer of 2000. From where we were in East New York, Brooklyn, I was about the same distance to Port Chester as I had been in West Haven. Unfortunately, however, my Capuchin formators wouldn't let me keep Mr. Zepf. In their estimation, he didn't have the right credentials in spiritual direction. This annoys me a little bit to this day.

Lux æterna luceat ei.

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