Robert “Bob” Lambert, 94, of South Deerfield, Massachusetts, died peacefully at home on February 14, 2016. He was a member of the Pilgrims of St. Michael since 1974.
My father, Robert Lambert, was raised in Lowell, Massachusetts, during the Great Depression. One of six children in a single parent home, he knew what it was to be hungry and cold. His widowed mother, a devout Catholic, had instilled in her children a tremendous love for God and a trust in His providence to provide for their family’s needs. Dad liked to tell the story of the day some men from the state came to their home wanting to place the six children in foster care. “When Mamma realized what they had come for, she took her broom and chased those men right out of the house! God was her insurance,” he would tell us, “and she was never without her Rosary.” This was the same “stuff” that my Dad was made of — determination, devotion and trust.
As a young man my father attended the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, where he received from the Jesuits a strong background in religion, theology, and philosophy. His studies were interrupted when he was called to serve during World War II; he enlisted with the Air Corps to join the war effort in Europe.
It was during this time overseas that he experienced the great event of his life: he met the German stigmatist Theresa Neumann. He had the privilege of visiting with her on several occasions, even witnessing her undergo the stigmata.
Meeting this holy woman left a lasting impression on Dad and he enthusiastically shared her story with everyone he met. Few and far between are those who did not receive from him a reproduction of a photograph taken of him in 1945. In the photo, a young Bob Lambert, dressed in his military uniform, is standing with Therese Neumann. Dad distributed thousands of these photos over the years. It was his greatest desire that she be canonized during his lifetime, and he was deeply touched when the process of beatification was opened in 2005, officially naming Theresa Neumann “Servant of God.”
Dad returned from the war to a career, first in teaching, and then joined his brother John in a plumbing business that was both satisfying and successful. He married Mary Elisabeth Danaher and was proud of his family of three girls.
It was in 1974, during a time of personal suffering, that Dad first met up with the Pilgrims of St. Michael. The Pilgrims impressed him with their dedication to the Blessed Mother through the Rosary and their concern for the spiritual and temporal needs of the family in today’s society. Dad joined up with them, “giving his all.” After making his Total Consecration to Jesus Christ Through Mary, according to St. Louis-Marie Grignon de Montfort, Dad traveled throughout the United States and Canada with the Full-time Pilgrims of St. Michael, visiting families and holding meetings. He did this for several years, joining with the efforts of many fellow pilgrims. But what he loved most of all was the Rosary Crusade that the Pilgrims of St. Michael were just then bringing to the States: going from house to house, knocking on doors, to bring the devotion of the Holy Rosary into the homes.
With his brother, John, and his good friend, Ralph Laurin, Dad formed an inseparable team that lasted for more than ten years, traveling together throughout Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania and even parts of Canada. I have maps of the cities they went to, showing street after street, marked off from the center to the city’s edge. Their goal was to “knock on every door” to humbly ask to recite one decade of Our Lady’s Rosary with the people in their homes. Dad’s smile and contagious good humor made it difficult for people to refuse his request, and he would leave them with a message of hope, backed by the promises Our Lady had made to the three children at Fatima for those who would faithfully recite, daily, her Holy Rosary.
The Rosary Crusade became for my father a life mission — and his enthusiasm for this apostolate stemmed from his own love for God, for Our Blessed Mother, and for his fellow man. He knew the need for prayer in the home because of loss of faith. He had seen and felt the pain caused by the scourge of divorce, but he also witnessed first-hand the miracles of healing brought to these broken families when they embraced this devotion to Our Lady.
My father’s favorite Gospel story is of the two disciples who were traveling to Emmaus. The part where the disciples recognize Jesus would always bring tears to his eyes. “…and it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight.” (Luke 24:30-31.) Dad loved the Holy Mass and was a daily communicant. In his later years, and especially after the events of 9/11, he would assist at multiple Masses during his day. He knew that it was from the Holy Mass that he drew his strength for his apostolate in promoting the Rosary in the families.
|Bob Lambert left a lasting impression on everyone he met. His funeral Mass was a testimony to the many people whose lives had been touched by him over the years. Father John Mary Chung flew from San Francisco to give the address and to bid farewell to his old friend. He tells the story of the day Bob Lambert came “knocking at his door.” A quiet young professor of Korean studies at Smith College, Chung had converted to the Catholic faith and would quietly pray after daily Mass at Sacred Heart parish in Northampton, Massachusetts. “I’m Bob Lambert and I’ve seen you here every day, so I think we should get to know each other. How about a coffee?” Years later, after many coffees, family dinners, rosaries, and visits to shrines, Father Chung would say, “I found my vocation through the friendship and encouragement of Bob Lambert.”|
Dad spent the last month and a half before he died in the hospital. We visited him daily and prayed the Rosary with him. He had become very weak, but during every Hail Mary, he reverently bowed his head at the Holy Name of Jesus. When Dad’s time had come, we brought him home. It was his desire to die at home with his family. There he received Viaticum and the Apostolic Blessing from our Pastor, prayed one more Rosary and Chaplet of Divine Mercy with us, then died peacefully during the night. Bob Lambert had lived his whole life for this very day. As we gathered around his bed, it was with consolation that we sang with him for the last time the Te Deum: We therefore pray thee, help thy servant, whom thou hast redeemed with thy precious blood. Make him to be numbered with thy Saints, in glory everlasting.