I very much enjoyed the two articles about my uncle in the most recent Bellarmine Magazine. Thank you for your reflection. Aside from being a phenomenal teacher, he was a valued part of our family and we miss him. Below are some remarks from the eulogy I delivered at his funeral mass:
“Many of you knew Rev. Eugene Zoeller as a fellow scholar, an excellent teacher, a Bellarmine legend and Professor Emeritus of Theology, a lecturer whose wisdom inspired so many with his clarity and profundity. One former student and good friend, Mary Ann Steutterman, said he could “take convoluted, complex situations in the world and explain them with a brief poetic utterance.” She appreciated his refreshing and comforting politics and that when it came to Church matters, he honored what is good and remained realistic about the rest. …
“Many of us understood that Uncle Gene was also a searcher, someone who knew he didn’t have all the answers and someone who was deeply contemplative. He read widely and deeply. And Uncle Gene didn’t just visit the Mother House or monastery for the scenery. On the night of his death, Fr. Flynn shared with my family his belief that Uncle Gene had become a true mystic in his later years, increasingly excited and rewarded by his place in a beautiful cosmology. …
“To sum up, Uncle Gene taught us the worth, truth and comfort of ritual. He encouraged us to embrace mystery but never to condone hypocrisy. He taught us not to suffer fools or be fooled by institutional ignorance. And he shared with us a laughter that is infectious and from the gut, full of love of family and rejoicing in the incongruities of life.
“Most of all, personally, Uncle Gene taught me to appreciate beauty in all its forms. And I do mean all its forms. He once told me how much he admired and enjoyed the ‘satisfying look of a full bookshelf.’ I knew exactly what he meant.
“He had a fondness for the simple beauty of London Fog coats and silk ties. He reveled in the beauty of Trappist sounds of early morning Vigils and evening Vespers. His eyes grew misty speaking of a hearty cup of coffee, fine meals from Jack Fry’s and, in his youth, a cool Belgian beer. His own sermons stand testament to his love of poetry and the beauty of a well-turned phrase. He found and had great gratitude for the beauty late in life of a love shared by brothers who faithfully care for one another through illness and old age.
“He told us recently that he donated his chalices to a museum in Owensboro so that their beauty would be shared. And of course none of us could forget his love of the beautiful art he collected and surrounded himself with over the years, art that he frequently shared with us for our own homes.
“And so we bid farewell at today’s celebration to this great admirer of beauty, to this uncle, this brother, this scholar, this teacher, this mystic, this rabbi, this monk, this one-legged priest. Uncle Gene’s greatest legacy, I believe, will not be his own love of beauty, but how he shared the beauty he found in his life.
“Uncle Gene, we say goodbye appreciating beautiful paintings, nature’s spectacles and fine cuisine as wonderful gifts, but thanks to you, also understanding that God’s greatest work of art is a human life well-lived.
“Certainly, Uncle Gene, yours was a life well-lived. You, yourself, were a great and beautiful work of art, shared by God, for which all of us gathered today will be eternally grateful.”