Skip to comments.Entertainer Bob Hope Died a Catholic, Cardinal Says
Posted on 07/29/2003 6:26:04 AM PDT by marshmallow
LOS ANGELES (CNS) -- Entertainer Bob Hope died a Catholic, according to Cardinal Roger M. Mahony of Los Angeles.
"One of my greatest joys is knowing that Bob Hope died as a Catholic," Cardinal Mahony said in a July 28 statement.
"Over the years I would invite him to join the church, but he would respond in his typical humor, 'My wife, Dolores, does enough praying to take care of both of us.' But eventually her prayers prevailed and he was baptized into the Catholic Church and was strengthened these past years through the regular reception of holy Communion."
Hope was 100 when he died July 24 at his home in Toluca Lake outside Los Angeles.
Although he became a Catholic after retiring from show business -- his last NBC special was in 1996, when Hope was 93 -- the comic and actor was long associated with Catholic endeavors nationwide, often in partnership with his wife, a lifelong Catholic.
One such endeavor was the Our Lady of Hope Chapel at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, made possible by contributions from the couple. Joking for reporters and mugging for the camera before the dedication of the chapel in May 1994, Hope said, "My face has helped me with my marriage and my career -- I mean my faith. ... My faith has helped me in every way in my life."
Hope got his start as an entertainer in Cleveland when he was 18 years old and he started doing a vaudeville act. The fifth of seven sons, he was born Leslie Townes Hope in Eltham, England, on May 29, 1903. In 1907 Leslie's father brought the family to Cleveland.
Hope's generosity was as long-lasting as his career.
He was one of 100 celebrities to contribute prizes on actor Don Ameche's behalf to help a 1949 building drive at Ameche's childhood parish, All Saints in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
In 1999, a half-century later, Bob and Dolores Hope matched actor Paul Newman's $250,000 donation to Catholic Relief Services to assist Kosovar refugees with a quarter-million dollars of their own.
In 1962 Hope received an honorary degree from Georgetown University in Washington; his son, Tony, graduated from Georgetown that year. It was one of dozens he received during his lifetime. Hope never attended college in real life, he cracked, because of "something called high school."
Hope was on the first honorary committee of Catholics in Media Associates, formed in 1993 to honor Catholics in the entertainment industry for their contributions.
That year, at age 90, Hope was chosen one of the 10 most admired American men in a poll of 10,000 readers of Good Housekeeping magazine. In 1999, Hope was selected as the top entertainment figure of the millennium in an ABC News telephone poll.
In addition to his hundreds of NBC specials, Hope had a business relationship with NBC dating back to 1936 on NBC's radio network. He also volunteered his talents for radio shows aired by Family Theater Productions. Hope was also a regular host of the Academy Awards. In 1999, Hope received a standing ovation at the Emmy Awards for his contributions to television.
Hope also starred in close to 50 movies, the last of them being 1979's "The Muppet Movie." His best-remembered films are the "Road" movies that also starred Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour.
In his long life, Hope received numerous awards as a testament to his long and successful career in radio, TV and movies, as well as his charitable works and his annual Christmas visits to tell jokes to troops stationed overseas, from World War II to the Persian Gulf War.
Just some of the awards and honors Hope received were: papal honors designating him as a Knight Commander of St. Gregory the Great; the Tree of Life Award from the Jewish National Fund; the Father Flanagan Award for Service to Youth, given by Girls and Boys Town; the Hal Roach Entertainment Award from Loyola Marymount University, which honored the memory of the Hollywood producer who made stars of Laurel and Hardy, Harold Lloyd and the Little Rascals.
He also received the Humanitarian Award from Variety Clubs International, an organization of showbiz people; the Spirit of St. Louis Award from St. Louis University; a special Christopher Award for a half-century of entertainment; honorary membership in the Harlem Globetrotters; the first Big Shoulders Award presented by the Big Shoulders Fund, whose contributions go exclusively to inner-city Chicago Catholic schools; the 1962 Patriotism Award from the University of Notre Dame's senior class; the Citizenship Award of the Military Chaplains Association; and the Club of Champions Gold Medal from the Catholic Youth Organization.
Other honors were the Genesian Award of the Associates of St. Mary's (Calif.) College, run by the Christian Brothers; the Pacem in Terris award from Immaculate Heart College in Los Angeles; and the International Brotherhood Award in 1974 and the Charles Evans Hughes Gold Medal in 1979 from the National Conference of Christians and Jews, now known as the National Conference for Community and Justice.
One award Hope was denied, though, was the Family of Man Award from the New York Council of Churches in 1971. A group of young ministers, led by the Rev. Richard Neuhaus, who himself later became a Catholic and a priest, interrupted a general assembly meeting of the group to protest the choice because of Hope's military views.
With Hope, though, the jokes never stopped coming. He once said Catholic comic Danny Thomas was so religious that highway patrolmen stopped him for having stained-glass windows in his car.
At a 1965 testimonial dinner for Cardinal James McIntyre of Los Angeles, he said: "Being married to a Catholic is almost like being one. I had to go all the way to Vietnam to get meat on Friday."
And during one of Hope's grueling Vietnam tours, he attended a Christmas Mass celebrated by Cardinal Francis Spellman of New York -- and promptly fell asleep. He approached the cardinal afterward and told him, "I'm sorry. I fell asleep at your Mass." Cardinal Spellman replied, "Don't worry. I saw your show at the Paramount and I fell asleep too."
In a 1969 interview with the Catholic Herald, Milwaukee's archdiocesan newspaper, he was asked where he thought the increasing use of nudity and sex in entertainment was taking America. Hope replied, "I think we're all going to the police station to be arrested, (that's) where. I mean everybody -- those who are doing it and those who are watching. ... I like jokes and stories. But when you see some of this stuff, it's too much."
Commenting on his own career, he told the newspaper, "I inherited a voice from my mother and a sense of timing from my father and found out I could make people laugh."
Hope is survived by his wife of more than 69 years, Dolores, their four adopted children -- Linda, Anthony, Nora and Kelly -- and four grandchildren. According to a CNN report, his family said they will hold a private burial and scheduled a memorial Mass for Aug. 27 for relatives and close friends.
Thank you for posting this beautiful story of Bob Hope's faith.
Is this supposed to be a providential pun?
It remains to be seen whether we'll be able to say the same for Mahoney.
That's funny. Good one.