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Servant of God Prof. Dr. Anton Strle (1915-2003)

The servant of God Anton Strle was born on the Feast of Saint Agnes on 21st January 1915 in a simple farming family. At their wedding, his parents had prayed to God that one of their children would consecrate himself to God. They had eight children, three died as children. Anton was the sixth. It was usual at that time, the rosary was prayed every evening in the family. His father died when he was five years old and his mother died when he was 17. The mother had never gone to school. The father had a better education. Although his father had died so early, he remembered his words: ”Boy, think with your head!” From his mother he inherited piety and diligence.

He experienced a crucial event in his life when he was ten years old. In the field, where he herded cattle from his early childhood, the thought came to him of how nice it would be, if God did not exist. Then sin would not exist either and you could be free and do what you want. He enjoyed this thought for some time, but then he realised that he had sinned with that thought. Therefore, he could not sleep for a couple of days. He prayed a prayer of expiation incessantly and suffered very much. After a few days, he calmed down and, in the depth, he was fulfilled with the presence of God. He said himself that after this event nothing special changed anymore in his life. After this event he began to celebrate the holy mass on the pasture and the other shepherds’ children as his servers.

When he was around ten years old, he started to go to a school that was an hour’s walk away. Like other children, he often didn’t go to school for weeks during the winter, because of the bad weather, the snow and because he had to look after the cattle. The priest, who was the catechist at the same time, and the teacher noticed his special talent. Because the priest also suspected him to have a vocation to the priesthood, he talked to Anton and his mother and suggested, that Anton went to the diocesan Grammar School in Ljubljana. Anton accepted this offer with great joy. He was especially gifted for languages.

After the end of Grammar School, which he finished with distinction, he entered the seminary of Ljubljana and started to study theology at the Theological Faculty of Ljubljana in 1936. He was ordained priest on 29th June 1941. After the ordination he wanted to work in Istro (Croatia), where there was a shortage of priests, but his superiors wanted him to write a doctor’s degree in dogmatics. He began it with all his dedication and became Doctor of Theology on the 23rd March 1944. At the same time, he wrote about the life of the martyr Lojzde Grozde, a Grammar School pupil, who was tortured and murdered by the Communists in 1943. Because of that report Lojzde Grozde was beatified on 13th of June 2010. After the doctorate, Strle spent some time as a teacher in Grammar School and then was professor for religion for all classes at the Grammar School in Novo-mesto from November 1944 until May 1945.
 
At the end of the Second World War, he fled from partisans together with two other Franciscan brothers, but they were caught and locked up for 70 days. It was a very hard captivity because they did hardly get any nutrition. After the captivity he could work as a priest for two years. During that time, he was assistant priest in the cathedral of Ljubljana and worked at the diocesan court. On the feast of the St Anna, he was captured again and sentenced to two years imprisonment. The main reason, although not listed in the charge, was the biography of the martyr Lojze Grozde. After the imprisonment he was not allowed to work in Ljubljana. The political leaders gave him permission to take care of the religiously decayed parish Planina near Rakek, about 40 km away from Ljubljana. He put his whole heart into renewing the parish that was entrusted to him. At the same time, he studied much and wrote several treatises.
 
Through the help of bishop Anton Vovk, and despite the horrible opposition of the political leaders of that time, Strle was able to start giving lectures in dogmatics at the theological faculty in Ljubljana 1956. At the beginning of 1959 he finally could move to Ljubljana and from that time onwards devoted himself mostly to the students of the theological faculty. At weekends he helped in the pastoral care in several parishes. From 1965 he celebrated mass and listened to confessions in the church of the Ursulines every day. Even one day before his death he celebrated the holy mass there, although he already was physically exhausted.
In Slovenia his reputation spread and he became a sought for and appreciated confessor and theologian known for his deep learning and his orthodoxy. His funeral, which all Slovenian bishops and 200 priests attended, was solemn and unforgettable. The archbishop of Ljubljana at that time, Cardinal Rode, said that “we bury a saint”. Prof Strle connected the deep spiritual life with intense study and pastoral work, above all as a confessor. He also was a great ascetic and a man of order. His verse of choice at his ordination was: “God everywhere”. He remained true to this verse his whole life.
 
He first met The Spiritual Family The Work in 1975 when visiting our Newman Centre in Rome as member of the International Theological Commission. Some years later he joined our Spiritual Family as diocesan priest. He often mentioned that the charism of the Spiritual Family The Work is identical to that, to which he dedicated his whole life.

On the 21st January 2021 his process of beatification, which was promoted with great zeal by Fr. Andrej Pirs FSO as postulator, was concluded on diocesan level and all the documents were passed on to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in Rome.