California Dreamin’: The Spiritual Exercises of an Expatriate German

by Alexander Niessen

Where do I begin?  How is it that I ‘m surrounded by all these men who do not talk to each other? Instead, they listen attentively to a man with a strong French accent who lectures us on primary responsibility and the basis of human life.  I am a expatriate German living in California, a lay Catholic who grew up in the 70’s and 80’s —  ‘Generation X,’ I suspect  — and I have never heard of these things.

What is ‘Sin’?

There’s something in your heart of hearts that screams that you’re doing something fundamentally wrong with your life. It seems like it is human nature.  Theologians would call this the “Moral Law.”

First, it’s a small discomfort that you can still easily ignore, like a spider’s web that you simply wipe away. But it always comes back, this discomfort and it is growing every day, until you finally realize that what is bothering you is not a discomfort but, ‘sin.’

Sin.  Every morning you wake up with the feeling.   It was not there before in your life and now it troubles you every day. Many people in Germany or indeed all over the western world are perhaps not even aware of this damage – the small and large scratches on your once so-pure soul.

We do not talk about sin in the Western world. Sin is medieval. Sin is in the past. Sin cannot harm us; we know everything — science and vague feelings keep our lives in balance and so can explain everything and make life bearable.

We moderns have a motto: Everything is Possible. Just carry on everything as usual. Only do not be disturbing, it is better for you and your fellow man.

photo(6)We do not talk about sin in the Western world. Sin is medieval. Sin is in the past. Sin cannot harm us; we know everything.

Difficulties on the Way to the Heavenly Spa

But how should I deal with my own guilt? Where should I look for help? My wife?  My friends from football at my favorite pub? Maybe I should just buy a glass pyramid or get a tattoo. Maybe that would help restore my inner harmony.

Here in California, we have the opportunity simply to change our religion until we arrive at the one that says “Do not worry, everything is good.”

Really? I think many have lost both their inner harmony and their awareness of their transgressions — both given to us by God. These feelings can be ‘worked out’ in so many ways today. You can start drinking, go to a psychologist, fitness-train like crazy or just go shopping.

I think that many who still believe in God today think that He is a God of great love, and that they’ll ‘be fine’ with God.  They think that their lives are not bad – they keep more or less to the law – and that at the end of their lives God will be waiting for them in heaven and welcome them into His Heavenly spa.

But these people probably will have difficulties with the assumption that everything will be OK. They are grounding their hope in the faith that this God of great love will say, “Well, I accept that things did not work out so good with you; but anyway, that was reasonably good.”

But if God is pure love, I do not think that there is ‘reasonably’ a chance for us to be in His presence and not connect 100 % with him and emulate His infinite love.  Can we ever reach this goal? I would say “no” simply because we are human — but we can try to aim as close as possible.

Perhaps a driving metaphor will work for both Germans and Californians, who love their cars. If you drive away from the light, you cannot see the dirt on the windshield. Only when you drive towards the light is it very obvious that you have accumulated a lot of dirt on your glass.

photo(6)Perhaps a driving metaphor will work for both Germans and Californians, who love their cars. If you drive away from the light, you cannot see the dirt on the windshield. Only when you drive towards the light is it very obvious that you have accumulated a lot of dirt on your glass.

At this point in a person’s life, everyone must determine for himself. It may be earlier for some; later for others. For some, it may never happen. Fortunately, I was brought up Catholic. By the grace of my parents, I was baptized into the One, Holy, Roman Catholic Church.

When the time came where I could no longer live under this burden of guilt, I had to put my whole conduct in question. I soon discovered that I was far away from my so-beautiful, original baptismal purity.  So I decided to align my life anew. I never left the Church, though I was a typical “gray Catholic.” But now I felt the need to change my life.

The Spiritual Exercises of a 16th Century Basque Saint

The Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius Loyola have since the 16th century brought peace and healing to generations of Catholics. I set out to search for them as all moderns would – on the Internet. By American standards, the place was not so far away. For Europeans the ride was certainly very long, as was my own way back to Christ.

When I saw the house for the first time, I felt very uncomfortable. It was early in the morning, gray and rain-driven. A big house, a little run down. I sat there in the rain on the large gravel parking lot surrounded by wooded hills. Fog lay over the whole area and I felt like I was in a Stephen King book.

Should I really go inside and introduce myself? I still have time to say goodbye to the whole project. But I am by nature one of those people who once I have begun, I work very hard and perform to an end. So I walked into in the house.

A nice older nun has greeted me warmly. She then asked if this was my first Ignatian Exercise; it was. So we went over the rules: no talking during the whole retreat, no cell phone and no computer. One can only talk with the priest during the Exercises. Let the Holy Spirit work in you.

OchsenfurtI sat there in the rain on the large gravel parking lot surrounded by wooded hills. Fog lay over the whole area and I felt like I was in a Stephen King book.

No Talking, Please

OK, simple enough, I thought, though somewhat to my surprise these rules turned out to be in earnest. No “good morning” for breakfast. If you would like salt and pepper, you must indicate this by gesture only.  In the event you need something urgently, you must write it on a piece of paper and give it to the nice nun, who will then address your concern. For me, this is not a big problem. I’m okay without conversation.

We began at noon on the first day, and I was surprised. First, we had lectures about God by a Jesuit who is very holy and passionate. The classes are divided into two sections. The first phase explains the doctrinal viewpoint and its implication for human life and the second section is then the life and actions of Jesus Christ. These two classes are in harmony.

After each three-hour class, we returned to our wooded cabins. Mine, which was wonderfully situated in the forest, was called ‘Cecilia,’ for the Saint of Music.  Here, I began with a prayer and then reflected undisturbed about what I’d learned.

After 25 minutes, there is a bell announcing the beginning of the next session. After the second meeting, the day is then interrupted for a silent lunch and then we continue with the sessions three and four in the afternoon.

After dinner, there was Mass. All Masses are in Latin and so bring Christians to respect the Sacrifice of Christ far more than the normal Mass. A gorgeous liturgy which has survived, luckily for all of us.

So the days go by fast and each day is divided into specific aspects of life and work of Jesus.

On the first day, I found myself setting myself apart from my personal sin and its consequence – namely hell for my soul. But here there is not the slightest impression that everything is OK.

On the second day, we covered the imitation of Christ and intimate knowledge of how God is working through Jesus. On the third day, the saving grace of God, through the death of Jesus on the cross for all sinners who believe in Him. On the fourth day, we had contemplation on the joyful mysteries of Jesus in life. On day five, we followed up on the Apostles after they went out into the world to spread the Good News.

On all days, the priests used concrete examples. How would you behave – would you even sit with Jesus at the table of the Last Supper? What would you do if you could be with Jesus before his arrest in the Garden?

Featured2On the first day, I found myself setting myself apart from my personal sin and its consequence – namely hell for my soul. But here there is not the slightest impression that everything is OK.

Crying in the Confessional

On the third day was the time of confession. The priest whom I liked the most heard my confession. Wow, I cried. Not tears of sorrow, but tears of joy about the special grace of God which was given to me.

What a blessing these retreats are. The experience has changed my life and the lives of the people with whom I share my life. Now I know what the main responsibility and foundations are in a human life.

What is my primary responsibility? What is my earthly goal? First, to save my soul. Man is created to honor and serve God, and so his soul can go back to God. Second, all other things on the face of the earth are created for man to serve him in achieving this task. One can make use of them, insofar as they help one to attain one’s heavenly goal. Otherwise you have to renounce them, insofar as they represent an obstacle in the way of this.

Unfortunately, many people in Germany and in the Western world no longer know what the goal of human life is.  But there is a 16th Century Basque who can tell them.

koln4 Unfortunately, many people in Germany and in the Western world no longer know what the goal of human life is.  But there is a 16th Century Basque who can tell them.

Success in the City

FSSP’s Growing Congregation in Cologne

Since the foundation of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP) in the Fall of 1988 in Germany, the Fraternity has established numerous houses around the world. With an average age of 38 among its more than 400 priests, this thriving Fraternity is now active in Australia, Belgium, Canada,  Colombia, Germany, France, Great Britain, Italy,  México, Netherlands,  Nigeria, Austria,  Poland,  Switzerland and the USA.

by Beverly Stevens

The Fraternity’s Maria Hilf (“Mary, Helper”) parish is located in an Cologne urban neighborhood rebuilt after the devastating bombing of World War II. The church building has a stripped-down facade and 1950s modernistic stained glass windows. Only in recent years have confessionals have been added.

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MARIA HILF in Cologne, Germany

Where religion plays virtually no role

Although Cologne is the largest Catholic diocese, the success of Maria Hilf must be understood in the context of a modern German city where religion plays virtually no role in the lives of most inhabitants. Like most German cities, families are small, splintered or failing to form at all in Cologne. Unlike New York, Paris and London, however, which enjoy enthusiastically-supported venues for the Traditional Latin Mass, Cologne did not have a church dedicated to the the TLM until 2004.

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FATHER MIGUEL STEGMAIER, FSSP outside Maria Hilf in Cologne, Germany.

Intriguingly, with the support of Una Voce, the Fraternity has been able to build a growing congregation in the last ten years. Dr. Johann von Behr of Una Voce Cologne agreed to talk with Regina Magazine about their experience there.

“From our first year in Maria Hilf, about 10 years ago, we have found a numerous and still growing congregation, especially  at our Sunday Masses,” said Dr Von Behr.  “Since it was the decision of our archbishop, Joachim Cardinal Meisner, to give us this church with a renting contract of at least 25 years, we did not encounter much resistance from our neighbors.”

Ten years of significant growth

Maria Hilf has experienced significant growth since 2004.

“When we started, our faithful were perhaps 50  parishioners every Sunday, with of course much less during the week,” Dr Von Behr estimates. “Today, we normally have least twice that at each Mass.”

PROCESSION with the Blessed Sacrament at Maria Hilf.

 Like many Latin Mass parishes,  a dedicated music program has been key to this growth.

“At present we are happy to have three different Gregorian scholas and choirs singing regularly the liturgy on all Sundays and feasts,” said Dr. Von Behr. “One of them is the well-known Schola Cantorum Coloniensis with about 20 singers, founded more than 30 years ago at the Musicological Institute of the Cologne University. The organ music and singing of all liturgical services is conducted by three renowned professional musicians.”


Parish families are keen to have their sons serve as altar servers.

“We have about 6 to 8 altar servers each Sunday,  children between the ages of about eight to fifteen years. They are all very enthusiastic and come regularly  to assist at the Sunday Masses. Beside them we have another array of four to six adults who are also able to do the altar service.”

APPROACHING THE CHURCH FOR EASTER VIGIL MASS, FSSP priests and altar servers in Cologne, Germany

Traveling for the Mass

Cologne has a substantial international community, but “the parishioners of our church are nearly exclusively Germans, many of them inhabitants of Cologne, but also many who come from outside Cologne. For a couple of years we had a French family that came every Sunday, with two children who also helped as altar servers.”

LENTEN SERVICE at Maria Hilf in Cologne, Germany

Again, like most Latin Mass parishes, the pattern of growth includes attracting young families.

“There are more and more young people and young families that come to Maria Hilf,” according to Dr. Von Behr, “We presume that the word about the Extraordinary Form of the holy Mass is getting around between them after they seem to have turned away from the ordinary form.”

BAPTISM IN THE EXTRAORDINARY FORM at Maria Hilf in Cologne Germany

Frequent confessions and religious vocations

The newly-built confessionals at Maria Hilf stand out against the manifest general tendency of Catholics in Germany to avoid this Sacrament.

“The Extraordinary Form of the Mass and Confession belong very close together,” Dr. Von Behr explains. “So we have many opportunities for Confession in our church, which are very well attended. Our parishioners and others often take advantage of the Sacrament.”

WELCOMING A NEW CHRISTIAN in the grace of Baptism in the Extraordinary Form.

Finally, Maria Hilf seems to be following a similar pattern for most TLM parishes of producing religious vocations.

“Personally, I know of one vocation in our parish of a young man who entered into a traditional monastery,” Dr. Von Behr said. “But there may have been more vocations which I am unaware of.”

FIRST HOLY COMMUNION in the Extraordinary Form at Maria Hilf.

A Story from the Dark Ages: The English Princess Who Converted The Germans, Saint Walburga


February 25 (Benedictine) February 26 leap year, May 1 (Roman Martyrology)

Today is the feast day of Saint Walburga.  Ora pro nobis.

by Michael Durnan

When the mists covering that faraway time blow aside for an instant, we get a tantalizing glimpse of life in the ‘dark ages,’ when Walburga was born into a royal family of saints.

Daughter of St. Richard, King of Wessex, and his wife, Queen Winna (sister of St. Boniface), Princess Walburga, along with her uncle and two brothers,  Willibald and Winnebald, made enormous contributions to the conversion of the Germanic peoples to Christianity in the eighth century AD.

On departing Wessex for Rome on a pilgrimage, King Richard entrusted his 11-year-old daughter to the care of the abbess of Wimborne, whilst he journeyed to Rome with Walburga’s two brothers. After her first year in the abbey, Walburga received the devastating news of her father’s death in Lucca, Italy.

The abbey nuns educated Walburga, and she later joined the community as a sister. During the twenty-six years Walburga lived in the abbey, her uncle, Boniface, was engaged in his great mission to convert the pagan Germanic tribes. (For more about St Boniface, see here.)

Such was the magnitude of this undertaking that St. Boniface realised the long-term success of his mission would require as much help and support as he could muster. Boniface was one of the first missionaries to call women to missionary work, and Walburga, along with a large group of nuns, was sent from Wessex to assist him.

Heilige_WalburgaBoniface was one of the first missionaries to call women to missionary work, and Walburga, along with a large group of nuns, was sent from Wessex to assist him.

On the sea voyage to the continent the weather the ship was caught in a fierce storm. Walburga knelt down on the deck and prayed for the storm to end, and for the safe passage of the ship. At once the storm abated and the sea became calm. On disembarking, the sailors proclaimed they had witnessed a miracle. As a result, Walburga was received with joy and veneration.

Upon arriving in Mainz, she was welcomed by her uncle, Boniface, and her brother, Willibald. She then departed to Wurttemburg and Franconia to assist in the conversion of the Germans.

Walburga wrote a detailed life of one of her brothers, St. Winibald, and an account in Latin of his travels in Palestine. Because of this work, she often is referred to as the first women author of both England and Germany.
Walburga became a nun in the double monastery of Heidenheim am Hahhenkahm, founded by her brother, Willibald, who appointed her his successor. Following Willibald’s death she became abbess. [i]

Heidenheim am Hahhenkahm: Of the nuns there, mid-19th century French apologist and writer Antoine-Frédéric Ozanam wrote in his Etudes Germaniques (‘Germanic Studies’):  “Silence and humility have veiled the labours of the nuns from the eyes of the world, but history has assigned them their place at the very beginning of German civilization: Providence has placed women at every cradle side.” [ii]

In 776 AD, Walburga fell ill and Willibald assisted her in her last moments. She was buried next to her deceased brother, St. Winibald, and many wonders and miracles were wrought at both tombs. St. Willibald lived another ten years. After his death, devotion to Walburga declined and her tomb was neglected.

In 870 AD, Oktar, Bishop of Eichstadt, set out to restore her tomb and the monastery where she was buried. Whilst the restoration work was being undertaken, workmen desecrated her tomb. She appeared one night to the bishop, reproaching him. This episode led to the translation of her remains to Eichstadt, where they were placed in the Church of the Holy Cross, now renamed after her.

Whilst the restoration work was being undertaken, workmen desecrated her tomb. She then appeared one night to the bishop, reproaching him.

In 893 her tomb was opened to extract relics and it was found that her remains were immersed in precious oil that since then has continued to flow. Portions of her relics have been taken to Cologne and Antwerp, as well as to other places.

In the Roman Martyrology her feast is listed as 1 May, and in Germany the previous evening is known as Walpurgis Night. Because Walburga was canonized on 1 May (ca. 870), she became associated with May Day festivities, especially in the Finnish and Swedish calendars. In the Benedictine Breviary her feast is assigned to 25 (in leap year 26) Feb. She is represented in the Benedictine habit with a little phial or bottle; as an abbess with a crozier, a crown at her feet, denoting her royal birth; sometimes she is represented in a group with St. Philip and St. James the Less, and St. Sigismund, King of Burgundy, because she is said to have been canonized by Pope Adrian II on 1 May, the festival of these saints.

Patroness of Eichstadt, Oudenarde, Furnes, Antwerp, Groningen, Weilburg, and Zutphen, sailors also invoke St Walburga’s intercession against storms.

KLOSTER OF SAINT WALBURGA TODAY in Eichstadt, where she is the Patroness.

In the Roman Martyrology, Walburga’s feast is listed as 1 May, and in Germany the previous evening is known as Walpurgis Night.

(Editor’s Note: The author’s home, Preston, Lancashire, in northwest England, boasts a beautiful Catholic Church dating from the 19th century, dedicated to the Saint as patroness.)


[i] A double monastery is a single institution that joins a separate community of monks and one of nuns.

[ii] Quoted in The Catholic Encyclopaedia, New Advent: 1917 (on-line version)

The Modernists’ Nightmare

A New Renaissance in High Sacred Art

by Donna Sue Berry

Edited by Rosa Kaspar

The high art of wood carving is everywhere in evidence in traditional German churches — inspired, many say, by the country’s vast forests. Sadly, in the 20th century — mostly in the years post-Vatican II —  iconoclasm swept through the German Church.

In a spasm of runaway clericalism, many  churches were denuded of their sacred art. Even today, this work is often sneered at by the German elites, though secretly beloved by the people.

But even ideology and iconoclasm slowly die away. This interview by Donna Sue Berry is one clear sign of this salutary trend — the story of a fifth generation family business in the South Tyrol experiencing an uptick in demand for their astonishingly beautiful work.


After 140 years and five generations, the Ferdinand Stuflesser family continues to create exquisite church restorations, believing that dignified art inspires praying. Their customers include the Vatican, as well as cathedrals and churches throughout the world.

The Stuflessers create all their woodcarvings in their workshops in Ortisei, Italy, where they use raw materials of the highest quality. Their work features altars and hand-carved statues in wood, bronze, and marble.

Fifth-generation Stuflessers, brothers Filip and Dr. Robert Stuflesser are prized by their customers throughout the world for their state- of-the-art craftsmanship, assurance of superior quality, and their  continuing dedication to improve.

Q: Robert, have you noticed a growing interest in statues from people looking for a more traditional decoration in their churches? Can you tell me what they are wanting?


Yes, during these last years I have noticed that people are coming back to more traditional statues and interiors. Some like a more modern style, but the trend is going clearly towards a more traditional style. Some also like combining a modern architecture with traditional carvings.

Q: Have you built any traditional altars lately?

Yes, we had the opportunity to realize different altars during these last years. None of them was modern; they all were constructed in a traditional style. One of the high altars we realized was a copy of an altar destroyed during war. Its height was 27 feet and it was created for Vukovar, Croatia.  Another altar was for Scotland, and it was actually a reconstruction of an altar we received from the Vatican.  We also constructed one for a church in Burleson, Texas.




Our long experience and knowledge passed on from generation to generation for approximately 140 years allows us to form our creations with all the ancient techniques used a century ago. Naturally, these techniques are refined with modern instruments. All projects are custom-made, which allows us to adapt each realization to the rest of the interior perfectly.

DESIGN FOR HIGH ALTAR FOR A CATHOLIC CHURCH in the Netherlands, executed by the Stuflessers.

Q. What is the most popular statue that people want from you?

This is difficult to tell, for we realize traditional and new statues, but maybe the most requested statues are the Christ figure, St. Joseph, Our Lady in different representations, as well as Padre Pio, Mother Teresa (Blessed  Teresa of Calcutta), St. Francis (of Assisi), and St. Antony (of Padua).

SAINT RITA OF CASCIA by the Stuflessers

Q. Your family history is so interesting!  Does your family have a favourite church that you go to? Have you carved the statuary there?

Since we all are living in Ortisei, where our workshops are located, our preferred church is our local parish church. We are not far away from this very beautiful church, which is full of carved art. Yes, there are some “Ferdinand Stuflesser 1875” statues and also a high altar that was constructed and donated from our workshops.

IN 1906, THE STUFLESSER FAMILY CREATED THIS ALTAR. still in use at their parish church in Ortisei, Italy.


Q. Is there a ‘special’ project that you are working on or that you would like to do in the future?

At the moment we are working on an interesting project. We are restoring a Gothic high altar, which we bought some time ago. We are adapting it to the specific needs of a church in Holland: The existing parts will be completed by new parts to fill the space harmonically.

My dream for the future? A lot of custom carvings of each sort, which will make a lot of people happy and maybe one for Pope Francis.


Q. Do you have a precious treasure from the earlier generations carved by Ferdinand Stuflesser I or II or Johann Stuflesser?

Yes, there are some beautiful pieces that we all particularly love: A Pieta statue, a St. Ann figure and a Christ figure. These are my favourites.


Q. Robert, if there is anything you would like to add to these questions, please tell us.

To add: I thank all the people who love our carvings and pray to them. I also want to say thank you to our precious Facebook followers who see so many of our new statues.

To tell: I love to communicate with so many people all around the world and there is one thing that bonds us: Our Catholic Faith!

(Editor’s Note: Readers may see the Stuflessers’ work at his website and on Facebook )

ROBERT AND FILIP STUFLESSER with their recent art work.



Germany’s Grand Catholic Knights

by Michael Durnan

In the summer of 1991 I spent two weeks touring Poland. One of the most impressive places on my sightseeing itinerary was the medieval castle of Malbork located in Pomerania east of Gdansk on the River Nogat. This massive building is the largest castle by surface area in the world and the largest building made of brick in Europe. Why was this massive fortress constructed and by whom?

Malbork castle was built on the orders of the Teutonic Knights, or to give them their full and proper title, the ‘Order of Brothers of the German House of St. Mary in Jerusalem.’  (In German, ‘Orden der Bruder vom Deutschen Haus St. Mariens in Jerusalem.’)

The Knights were one of the military religious orders established in Catholic Europe during medieval times. Other leading military religious orders of the time included the Knights Templar and the Knights Hospitallers of St. John.

The Teutonic Knights, and the other military religious orders, were founded to give aid, assistance, and protection to Christian pilgrims travelling to the Holy Land, as well to establish and run hospitals.


The German Travelers in the Holy Land

They were founded at the end of the 12th century in Acre, in the Holy Land, or as that region was known, the Levant. The Order’s origins go back to the year 1143 when Pope Celestine II ordered the Knights Hospitaller of St. John to take over the running and management of a hospital that accommodated countless German-speaking pilgrims and crusaders who spoke neither the local language, nor Old French, nor Latin.

Although the hospital belonged to the Knights Hospitaller, the pope commanded that the Prior and the brothers of the Domus Theutonicorum, (‘House of Germans’) always should be German speakers. Thus the tradition of a German-led institution was established in the Kingdom of Jerusalem.


After the loss of Jerusalem to Saladin in 1187, some merchants from Lubeck and Bremen took up the idea of a field hospital during the siege of Acre. This field hospital became the nucleus of the future Order formally recognized in 1192 by Pope Celestine III.

Becoming a Military Order
At first its brothers followed the Augustinian Rule, but in 1198 it developed into a fully-fledged military religious order based on the Knights Templar, with its head known as the ‘Grand Master.’ The Order was granted papal orders to participate in crusades to retake Jerusalem as well as to defend the Holy Land from attacks by Muslim Saracens. Under Grand Master Hermann von Salza, the order made the final transition from being a hospice brotherhood for pilgrims to being primarily a military order.


Emperor Frederick II raised his friend, von Salza, to the rank of Reichfurst, or Prince of the Empire. When Frederick was crowned King of Jerusalem in 1225, the Teutonic Knights provided his escort in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

In spite of this honour and recognition, the Teutonic Knights never became as influential in the Holy Land as the Templars and the Hospitallers. Events nearer home would provide a new crusade and role for the Teutonic Knights and would shift their focus to the Baltic and Eastern Europe.

The Knights in the Baltic
This new opportunity came in 1226 in north-eastern Poland, when Duke of Masovia, Konrad I, appealed to the Knights for military assistance to defend his borders from attack and to subdue the pagan Baltic Prussians. During the next fifty years the Teutonic Knights engaged in a fierce and bloody crusade to conquer Prussia and to subjugate, kill, or expel any native Prussians who remained unbaptized. The Pope and the Holy Roman Emperor issued charters granting the knights Prussia as a sovereign monastic state, similar to that of the Knights Hospitallers on Malta.

The Knights encouraged immigration from the Holy Roman Empire to boost the population, which had been reduced severely by the war. The settlers established new towns on the site of Old Prussian ones and the knights built several castles from which they could defend attacks by Old Prussians.

Having conquered Prussia, the Knights turned their attention to pagan Lithuania, and it took 200 years before they conquered and converted Lithuania to Christianity. Other conquests included the city of Danzig, (in Polish, ‘Gdansk’) and the region of Pomeralia along the Baltic  which provided a land bridge to the Holy Roman Empire. The capture of Danzig in 1307 marked a new phase in the Knights’ development, and it was after this they moved their headquarters from Venice to Malbork Castle.

The Decline Sets In
In 1410, after the Knights were defeated at the Battle of Grunewald by a combined Polish-Lithuanian army, the Teutonic Order went into decline, losing lands, military strength, and power. Eventually the Teutonic Order was expelled from Prussia after a war with Poland and Lithuania. In 1525 Grand Master Albert of Brandenburg converted to Lutheranism and secularized the remaining Prussian territories. The Teutonic Order suffered further losses of its lands that remained in the Holy Roman Empire. In 1555, after the Peace of Ausberg, the Teutonic Order allowed its first Lutheran members, though it still remained largely Catholic.

The military history of the Teutonic Knights ended in 1809, when Napoleon Bonaparte ordered its dissolution, giving its secular holdings to his own vassals and allies. The Knights continued to exist in Austria, out of Napoleon’s grasp. In 1929 the Order was transformed into a purely spiritual Catholic religious order and renamed the Deutscher Orden, or German Order.

Teutonic Knights in Modern Times
Hitler was not a fan of the Knights. After Austria’s annexation by the Nazis in 1938, the Order was suppressed throughout his Greater German Reich, although it continued to function in Italy. With the defeat of the Nazis in 1945, the Order was reconstituted in Austria and Germany.

The Teutonic Knights are divided into three branches, one Catholic and two Protestant. The Protestant branches are based in Utrecht, The Netherlands and in Brandenburg, Germany. The Catholic branch of the Teutonic Knights now includes 1,000 associates, including 100 priests, 200 nuns, and 700 associates, with the priests providing spiritual guidance and the nuns caring for the sick and aged. The associates are active in Belgium, Austria, Germany, Italy, and the Czech Republic.

Many of the Order’s priests provide pastoral care for German speakers outside of German-speaking lands, especially in Italy and Slovenia. In this way the Teutonic Order has returned to its original spiritual roots of providing aid and assistance to German speakers outside of their homelands.



The current headquarters of the Grand Master is located in Vienna at the Deutschordenkirche. Since 1996 there has been a museum located in Bad Mergentheim in Germany that is dedicated to telling the story of the Teutonic Knights.

Il “Popolo Segreto”di Chesterton

I Cattolici Inglesi

Di Beverly De Soto Stevens
Editrice di Regina Magazine

Era un piovoso mattino di primavera a Wallingford ,un’incantevole citta’mercato di pietra grigia dell’Oxfordishire  lungo le sponde sinuose del Tamigi. Scivolai fuori dalla casa di amici dirigendomi a piedi alla Messa domenicale. Le strade bagnate erano pressoché deserte fatta eccezione per alcuni mattinieri compratori della Domenica.

Trovare la chiesa fu abbastanza difficoltoso,siccome la sua ubicazione,in uno squallido edificio nuovo di mattoni dietro l’angolo di un bancomat,era più che discreta;una piccola insegna era l’unico indizio  della sua presenza. Ciononostante all’interno i  banchi  erano tutti  occupati da fedeli cattolici e  c’era posto libero solamente in piedi. Mi guardai intorno meravigliata:c’erano persone di  ogni continente ed estrazione sociale. Dal mio posticino in fondo,ascoltavo attentamente. Il prete era un irlandese e la sua omelia fu potente e diretta.

ANCIENT CATHOLICS: The tomb of the Black Prince in Canterbury cathedral

Negli ultimi 15 anni ho partecipato a messe in tutta l’Inghilterra e quello che mi colpisce maggiormente dei cattolici che frequentano la messa,è quanto  simili siano oggigiorno ai cattolici statunitensi. Nelle periferie, le chiese sono piene di gente anziana che le frequenta da lungo tempo e di giovani famiglie che cercano di trasmettere la Fede ai loro bambini. Non ci sono di fatto giovani single. Nelle grandi chiese di città,c’è un grande insieme di razze e nazionalità, ci sono single,coppie,anziane o giovani,più alcuni turisti. E laddove si officiano le solenni messe in latino i banchi sono occupati  da una creativa minoranza di intellettuali, artisti,imprenditori e giovani famiglie con molti bambini al seguito.

Quindi chi sono coloro che formano il  “Popolo Segreto”di Chesterton,i cattolici d’Inghilterra?

Oggi i cattolici rappresentano una piccola minoranza,il 9.6 per cento della popolazione in Inghilterra e nel Galles,circa 5 milioni di persone. Queste provengono da cinque ceppi  distinti:coloro che erano vicini alla casata dei Lancaster,gli irlandesi,le famiglie dissidenti,i convertiti e gli immigrati.  Questi  si sono imparentati e mescolati tra loro per vari gradi ,ma la distinzione aiuta a capirne la provenienza.

RECUSANT NOBILITY: The Duke of Norfolk, who during World War II, saved Newman’s Oratory School from Nazi bombings.

La regione del Lancaster,nel nord dell’Inghilterra,persistette ostinatamente nel professare la Fede per centinaia di anni nonostante le persecuzioni della Corona e le conseguenti oppressione e discriminazione. La sua capitale è Liverpool,nota come città natale dei Beatles,ma soprattutto come centro dell’immigrazione degli irlandesi in fuga dalla carestia del 1840.In migliaia morirono a causa del colera e di altre malattie;nella cripta della cattedrale di Liverpool sono sepolti i corpi di dieci preti,morti eroicamente nel tentativo di salvare le vite dei poveri profughi malati. A Liverpool e in molte altre città del nord,gli irlandesi diedero vita a  parrocchie all’interno di ghetti simili a quelli realizzati nel corso della  loro diaspora in  tutto il mondo.  Oggi Liverpool è per  il 46 per cento cattolica.

FAMILY TRIBUTE: Hundreds of years later, England’s Catholics recover an altar from the ruins of a robber baron’s mansion.

Le famiglie  dissidenti inglesi sono famose sia per la loro ricchezza che per la loro intransigente adesione alla Fede attraverso secoli di brutale repressione. Molte di queste appartengono all’alta nobiltà e fanno risalire le loro origini ai normanni francesi che invasero l’isola nel 1066,sebbene se ne possano trovare anche tra la gente comune e i proprietari terrieri di remoti villaggi di campagna del Nord ignorati dalla Corona. Per centinaia di anni queste famiglie pagarono somme astronomiche alla Corona per ottenere il permesso di praticare la propria Religione. La loro guida ufficiosa è sempre stato il duca di Norfolk,detentore di un titolo nobiliare ereditario facente riferimento ai territori della  diocesi di Arundel. Il duca si è fatto avanti in diversi momenti critici della storia,per esempio nel mezzo della seconda guerra mondiale,quando i nazisti bombardavano Londra,riuscì a trarre in salvo gli studenti della scuola oratoriana   Jhonn Henry Newman facendoli trasferire in 600 acri di campagna nel Berkshire. Quando il successivo re fu incoronato,l’onore dell’incoronazione, responsabilità affidatagli per tradizione a prescindere dal suo credo religioso,spettò al Duca.

MAN FOR ALL SEASONS: St. Thomas More’s earthly remains.

Il Cattolicesimo attrasse illustri convertiti durante il diciannovesimo e ventesimo secolo,molti dei quali intellettuali, che si ritrovarono inginocchiati sui banchi della Chiesa a fianco della classe operaia irlandese. Anche oggi i convertiti trovano la loro appassionante strada verso  la Santa Madre Chiesa,e spesso questo avviene attraverso le Messe in latino,che vennero permesse grazie ad una speciale concessione di papa Paolo sesto nel 1971.Questo avvenne in riposta a una  lettera scritta da Evelyn Waugh e firmata da numerosi inglesi illustri,tra cui la formidabile dama Anglicana  Agatha Christie. La leggenda vuole che Paolo sesto fosse un grande appassionato di romanzi gialli e che per questo motivo fece la concessione).

Oggi banchi della chiesa sono riempiti anche da immigrati cattolici provenienti dall’est europeo,in gran parte polacchi,dal medio oriente,dal sudest asiatico,e in definitiva da ogni parte del mondo. Questa gente  si trova in Inghilterra per lavoro  e ha portato la sua Fede con sé. Molti di loro non sanno nulla della persecuzione religiosa e dell’oppressione che ci furono un tempo in Inghilterra .

I cattolici inglesi mi dicono che una fetta della società è ancora decisamente anticattolica,sebbene non negli stessi termini del passato. Mentre anni fa  la Chiesa era il nemico pubblico numero uno degli antipapisti,oggi,secondo James Bogle,avvocato londinese e capo dell’Unione Cattolica,un’ organizzazione laica risalente al diciannovesimo secolo, questi sono stati rimpiazzati dagli egualmente intolleranti “Atei alla moda” .Entrambi erano e sono elementi marginali della società.

Ci sono tuttavia forme più subdole di anticattolicesimo,come chiunque si opponga al “politicamente corretto” sa bene, è questo il caso  di un’ argomentazione familiare a generazioni di cattolici inglesi,insita nell’interpretazione fortemente protestante degli eventi storici della nazione. Ed è così anche per quanto riguarda le ex colonie. Per secoli agli inglesi è stato insegnato che i gratuiti e brutali attacchi della Corona alla Chiesa,erano stati giustificati dalle presunte superstizioni e corruzione delle ricche abbazie. Solo recentemente studiosi meno faziosi hanno cominciato a portare alla luce la vera storia,di come le ricchezze e le proprietà delle abbazie passarono nelle mani di nobili meschini, disposti a fare il “lavoro sporco”per conto di  re Enrico,e di come generazioni più tardi,quelle stesse famiglie di nobili lasciarono i contadini senza terra mediante gli odiati “Atti di recinzione”( una serie di atti approvati in parlamento per la recinzione di campi aperti e terre comuni).

Non avendo dove andare, i poveri finirono con lo  stiparsi nelle strade delle città industriali,le cui terribili condizioni vennero immortalate da Dickens e denunciate dai metodisti fratelli Wesley. Si trattava della stessa gente che venne mobilitata dal movimento laburista,spronato dalle teorie che il tedesco Karl Marx scrisse nelle sale della biblioteca Britannica.

Ma questo avveniva molti anni fa e oggi la Chiesa Cattolica in Inghilterra rappresenta ogni classe e ogni contesto sociale. In superficie,tutto è tranquillo. Ma Boole punta il dito contro una nuova minaccia,forse peggiore di quanto non furono le torture o la forca:l’indifferenza alla religione e il suo cugino laicismo. Entrambi derivano essenzialmente dalle teorie filosofiche materialiste del diciannovesimo e ventesimo secolo,sebbene i singoli ex-cattolici possano non esserne a conoscenza o non preoccuparsene. In breve,tutto si riconduce alla mancanza di Fede. Per i laureati la questione si pone in questi termini:”Siccome non esiste una prova scientifica dell’esistenza di Dio e la storia è piena di dolorose prove che la religione è foriera di intolleranza e settarismo violento,perché preoccuparsene?”Mentre per quelli meno inclini ai discorsi ideologici la questione è:”Se la chiesa non mi aiuta materialmente o spiritualmente,perché dovrei tenerla in considerazione??”

I tentativi fatti a partire dal 1960 di far fronte a queste argomentazioni per rendere la Chiesa più “adeguata”sono per la maggior parte miseramente falliti. Oltretutto un catechismo annacquato ha dato origine a una situazione in cui molti cattolici inglesi si troverebbero  in difficoltà nel dover  spiegare quale differenza realmente ci sia tra  cattolicesimo e anglicanesimo o qualunque altra religione. Questo è specialmente vero,secondo Boole,per quanto riguarda le parrocchie che sono state dominate da una gerarchia irlandese con forti tendenze modernizzatrici a partire dal concilio vaticano secondo.

I vari ordini cattolici  in Inghilterra si sono maggiormente diversificati e caratterizzati a partire dalla Riforma. I coraggiosi gesuiti vennero perseguitati,torturati e fatti a pezzi da una monarchia esercitata da una sovrana a cui gli storici  hanno insegnato a guardare come alla “Cara Regina Bess”(i resti del corpo di un giovane prete vennero appesi alle guglie delle chiese che lui aveva frequentato,in quattro diverse città,inclusa quella che gli aveva dato i natali,Preston,come ammonimento per coloro che avessero voluto seguire il Papa.)
Altrove i Passionisti sognarono di riportare la “Dote di Nostra Signora “all’ovile e vennero discriminati nelle città inglesi quando il Cattolicesimo ridivenne legale nel 1823.I Benedettini lavorarono alla ricostruzione delle loro scuole nelle abbazie,un tempo gloria d’Inghilterra,e ora istruiscono i figli dei cattolici abbienti in  scuole miste di lusso  quali Ampleforth e Downside Abbeys. Gli Oratoriani a Londra,Oxford,Birmigham,e più recentemente a York,riempiono le chiese celebrando diverse messe al  giorno,confessando frequentemente i fedeli e presentando loro reverenti liturgie,canti in latino,e impegnative omelie.

Ci sono due maggiori pubblicazioni cattoliche in Inghilterra:Il Tablet,una veneranda  ma datata rivista che si occupa perlopiù di “rilevanza sociale” e il Catholic Herald,caratterizzato da un più vivace insieme di notizie  e opinioni i cui webmasters si incaricano anche di gestire lo scottante spazio dedicato ai commenti dei lettori. In generale comunque i Cattolici concordano sul fatto che la nomina dell’arcivescovo Antonio Mennini a nunzio in Gran Bretagna stia avendo un buon effetto su una delle questioni  più critiche,la nomina dei vescovi ortodossi. Inoltre gli antichi siti di pellegrinaggio stanno tornando alla vita,portando cattolici e altri cristiani a ripercorrere le strade che videro le orme dei loro progenitori prima che questa popolare espressione di fede venisse bandita dalla Corona e in seguito affossata dagli elementi modernizzatori della chiesa.

Qualunque cosa si possa dire di loro, gli inglesi non sono mai scontati,un esempio  ne è stata l’ attesissima visita di papa Benedetto sedicesimo nel 2010,in vista della  quale la stampa inglese profetizzò senza tregua  l’arrivo di numerose manifestazioni “anti-Papa”,apparentemente inconsapevole della memorabile  incongruenza a cui stava andando incontro. I giornalisti erano sicuri che il popolo inglese amante delle libertà non avrebbe tollerato Ratzinger il Rottweiler,il papa che aveva osato riaffermare gli odiati precetti della Chiesa.

Durante l’evento,i grandi cortei antipapali non si materializzarono affatto. Solo pochi pazzerelloni londinesi con i capelli multicolori e complicate vite sessuali alle spalle agitarono le loro bandiere per le telecamere. Ma ben presto le televisioni se ne andarono per dirigersi laddove c’era la vera “notizia”,ovvero la grande folla di gente che salutava festosa  assiepata lungo le strade di Londra e di ogni altra città o piccolo villaggio dove l’auto papale passasse.

Ha scatenato invece diverse polemiche l’istituzione da parte di Benedetto sedicesimo dell’Ordinariato Personale di Nostra Signora di Walsingham,nato per consentire agli Anglicani di entrare in completa comunione con la Chiesa Cattolica pur mantenendo buona parte della loro tradizione spirituale,liturgica e pastorale. Tra i capi dell’Ordinariato Anglicano figurano il duca di Norfolk,la contessa di Oxford e Asquith,la duchessa del Somerset,lord Nicholas Windsor,Sir Josslyn Gore-Booth e il signore di Lisle,il cui antenato Ambrogio di Lisle fu uno dei cattolici convertiti del diciannovesimo secolo che si spendettero perché la chiesa Anglicana fosse riunita a quella di Roma.L’ Ordinario del Personale Ordinariato di Nostra Signora di Walsingham,Monsignor Keith Newton,ha recentemente spiegato  a migliaia di fedeli arrivati  nella cattedrale  cattolica di Westminster per la messa,che molti cattolici non conoscono oppure  fraintendono l’Ordinariato e come sia frustrante per un Anglicano che abbia compiuto un difficile percorso per entrare in piena comunione con la Chiesa Cattolica,sentirsi domandare ad esempio, come mai non abbia scelto di diventare “propriamente” cattolico.

“I nostri preti sono esattamente come i preti cattolici ,si  può prendere parte  ad una messa  dell’Ordinariato,con una liturgia dell’Ordinariato,e ottemperare pienamente ai propri doveri di fedele,esattamente come se si partecipasse ad una messa Cattolica in qualunque  parte del mondo”ha detto Monsignor Keith Newton,parlando anche della grande gioia dei membri dell’Ordinariato e di come il suo clero presti servizio nelle chiese più grandi così come nelle prigioni,negli ospedali,nelle scuole e nelle parrocchie diocesane. Infine ha citato Papa Benedetto sedicesimo descrivendo l’istituzione dell’Ordinariato come un “gesto profetico”atto a promuovere l’unità di tutti i Cristiani.

 Oggi in Inghilterra sono  presenti anche l’Esarcato Apostolico per gli Ucraini,che serve i quindicimila cattolici greci ucraini presenti  in Gran Bretagna, la chiesa Cattolica Maronita Libanese ,quella Eritrea, la Caldea,la Siro-Malabarese,la Siro-Malancarese e quella di Rito Melchita,tutte in comunione con Roma.

Comunque sia,gli eventi storici non sono mai troppo lontano dai Cristiani Inglesi. Mille anni fa un altro Papa sollevò S.Edoardo il Confessore da un voto a condizione che il sovrano costruisse un monastero dedicato al primo vescovo di Roma,perciò l’abbazia di S.Pietro fu ricostruita a Westminster. La leggenda narra che quando l’abbazia era quasi ultimata,S.Pietro apparve ad alcuni pescatori sul Tamigi,chiedendo loro di essere portato sul luogo dove sorgeva l’edificio;mentre l’imbarcazione si avvicinava ad esso,l’intera sua struttura venne  improvvisamente riempita di luce. Il Santo disse ai pescatori che aveva consacrato la chiesa e che sarebbero stati ricompensati con una fruttuosa pesca di salmoni. Quindi ordinò loro di non lavorare la domenica  e scomparve.

Papa Benedetto sedicesimo ha delicatamente posto l’accento sulla nostra storia comune,durante la sua visita all’abbazia di Westminster:”Ringrazio il Signore per avermi dato l’opportunità di unirmi a questa splendida abbazia  dedicata a  S.Pietro,le cui architettura e storia parlano con tanta eloquenza del nostro comune patrimonio di Fede.In questo luogo non possiamo non ricordarci di quanto la Fede  cristiana abbia plasmato l’unità e la cultura europea e il cuore e lo spirito del popolo inglese. E qui ci viene anche ricordato con forza che ciò che noi condividiamo in Cristo è più grande di ciò che continua a dividerci..Ringrazio Dio per avermi dato l’opportunità,come successore di Pietro sul soglio pontificio,di  compiere questo pellegrinaggio sulla tomba di S.Edoardo il Confessore.

Fantastic Flammkuchen

Delicious. Quick. Easy.

It’s called a “tarte flambée” just across the French border, and like all delicious Catholic food, it originated in the kitchens of the ordinary people —  farmers from Alsace, Baden or the Palatinate. (Tarte flambée is French and Flammkuchen is German for “cake baked in the flames.”)

Housewives used to bake bread once a week and use a tarte flambée to test the heat of their wood-fired ovens. At peak  temperature, the oven would be ideal to bake a tarte flambée, which would bake in the embers in minutes.

Impress your friends with real European home cooking at its best – and this recipe makes two trays of flammkuchen, which you can devour hot or lukewarm.

Serve with a crisp dry Riesling or a Grauburgunder (Pinot Grigio) and a green salad.

What You Will Need
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour plus more for handling
1/2 tsp salt
1 package of yeast
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup crème fraiche*
2 oz  heavy cream
fine sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and nutmeg to taste
3 ounces finely chopped pancetta (or bacon or ham)
3 red onions, finely sliced
Chives, chopped

For the Dough
Add flour and salt to a large bowl, mix briefly and make a well in the center. Dissolve the yeast in lukewarm water, pour into the well and add the olive oil.

Knead well, either by hand or with a machine for 5 minutes (medium speed). The dough should come together nicely. (Too sticky? Add more flour until it cleans the sides of the bowl all by itself.)

Shape into a ball, cover with a kitchen towel and let rest for about 45 minutes at a warm and sheltered place. After the dough has risen, punch it down, divide it into 2 equally sized portions, shape them into neat balls and let them rise again under a kitchen towel for 20 to 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 480°F or as hot as your oven permits and place an oiled baking tray on the bottom level, so it gets preheated, too.

For the Topping
Mix crème fraîche and heavy cream with spices (salt, pepper and nutmeg) to taste. Cut red onions into thin semi-rings. Chop the chives finely.

Roll out the dough thinly, using extra flour to prevent sticking.  Transfer to hot baking sheet. Spread crème fraîche mix on top, cover with pancetta/bacon/ham and sliced onions.

Bake for about 12 to 15 minutes. It should be golden-brown color.

* No creme fraiche around? No worries. It’s really easy to make: Mix one cup heavy cream with two tablespoons buttermilk. Combine well in glass container and cover. Let stand at room temperature for 8-24 hours, or until thickened. Stir well and refrigerate. Use within 10 days.


In the Footsteps of Saint Edith Stein

by Beverly Stevens

She was an intellectual German Jew and a Carmelite nun.  She was murdered by the Nazis at Auschwitz. Today, she is a Catholic saint. But who was this astounding woman, really?  Saint Edith Stein!

photo(11)The story of Edith Stein begins on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, 1891 when she was born the youngest of eleven children of a Jewish timber merchant in Breslau, Germany. By the time she was two her father died, leaving her devout, hard-working mother to struggle alone. The prevailing secularism in German intellectual culture in the early 20th Century, however, meant that the young Edith and her siblings would lose their mother’s faith in God.

At the age of 14 “I consciously decided, of my own volition, to give up praying,” Edith wrote, years later. Later, as a brilliant university student and a radical suffragette with a keen interest in philosophy, Edith studied at Gottingen University under the renowned Professor Edmund Husserl.  Husserl denied Kant’s assertion that all reality is subjective; his view had the unintended effect of leading many of his pupils to Christianity.

Eyewitness to Death

Edith later entered to a nursing program, though, and soon found herself in an Austrian field hospital in the midst of the typhus epidemic of the First World War. She assisted in an operating theater and witnessed young people dying. It was too much for her.

Even before the war ended, she fled the battlefield, following Husserl to the University at Freiburg, and in 1917 gaining her doctorate summa cum laude on “The Problem of Empathy.” In her dissertation she wrote: “There have been people who believed that a sudden change had occurred within them and that this was a result of God’s grace.”

 At the Frankfurt Cathedral one day, Edith was astounded to see a simple woman with a shopping basket kneel for a brief prayer. “This was something totally new to me,” she wrote. “In the synagogues and Protestant churches I had visited people simply went to the services. Here, however, I saw someone coming straight from the busy marketplace into this empty church, as if she was going to have an intimate conversation. It was something I never forgot.”


“I saw someone coming straight from the busy marketplace into this empty church, as if she was going to have an intimate conversation. It was something I never forgot.”

Converting to Catholicism

The next step to her conversion came when Edith visited her friend Mrs. Reinach, a young, grieving war widow. “This was my first encounter with the Cross and the divine power it imparts to those who bear it … it was the moment when my unbelief collapsed and Christ began to shine his light on me – Christ in the mystery of the Cross.”

Though she had a doctorate, Edith was not permitted to teach at the university level because she was a woman. Years later, when women were professors, she was denied because she was a Jew. With no employment options, she returned to home to Breslau, where in the next few months she read the New Testament, Kierkegaard and Ignatius of Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises. In the summer of 1921, Edith happened upon the autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila. She stayed up all night reading.

“When I had finished the book, I said to myself: This is the truth,” she wrote. On January 1, 1922, at age 31, Edith Stein was baptized.  She spent a great deal of time at remote Beuron Abbey, studying under the tutelage of the Benedictine Abbot there. Later, she was confirmed by the Bishop of Speyer in his private chapel and for almost ten years afterwards she taught German and history at the Dominican Sisters’ college in Speyer. In 1932, she lectured under Catholic auspices at the University of Munster.  

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HIGH ALTAR, BEURON ABBEY where in the early 1920s Edith Stein spent a great deal of time studying Catholicism under the Benedictine Abbot.

Though she wanted to join a Carmelite convent, the Bishop dissuaded her. “During the time immediately before and quite some time after my conversion I … thought that leading a religious life meant giving up all earthly things and having one’s mind fixed on divine things only. Gradually, however, I learned that other things are expected of us in this world… I even believe that the deeper someone is drawn to God, the more he has to `get beyond himself’ in this sense, that is, go into the world and carry divine life into it.”

Stein was a prolific translator and writer. She translated the letters and diaries of Cardinal Newman from his pre-Catholic period as well as the Quaestiones Disputatae de Veritate of St Thomas Aquinas.  She wrote Potency and Act, a study of the central concepts developed by Aquinas.

In 1933, Hitler came to power. The Nazis made it impossible for Edith to continue teaching. “I had heard of severe measures against Jews before. But now it dawned on me that God had laid his hand heavily on His people, and that the destiny of these people would also be mine,” she wrote. “If I can’t go on here, then there are no longer any opportunities for me in Germany. I had become a stranger in the world.”

EARLY 20TH CENTURY PIETA in Frankfurt Cathedral.

Entering Carmel

She resolved to enter the Carmelite Convent in Cologne. In 1938 Edith Stein, now known as Sister Teresa, Blessed of the Cross wrote: “I understood the cross as the destiny of God’s people, which was beginning to be apparent at the time (1933). I felt that those who understood the Cross of Christ should take it upon themselves on everybody’s behalf. Of course, I know better now what it means to be wedded to the Lord in the sign of the cross. However, one can never comprehend it, because it is a mystery.”

 “Those who join the Carmelite Order are not lost to their near and dear ones, but have been won for them, because it is our vocation to intercede to God for everyone,” she wrote on October 31, 1938. “I keep thinking of Queen Esther who was taken away from her people precisely because God wanted her to plead with the king on behalf of her nation. I am a very poor and powerless little Esther, but the King who has chosen me is infinitely great and merciful. This is great comfort.”

Ten days later, the violent persecution of German Jews went into overdrive, and Edith’s Prioress worked desperately to smuggle her across the border to a Carmelite Convent in Echt, in the Netherlands. There, Edith wrote “The Church’s Teacher of Mysticism and the Father of the Carmelites, John of the Cross, on the Occasion of the 400th Anniversary of His Birth, 1542-1942.”

Arrested by the Gestapo

Edith Stein was arrested by the Gestapo on August 2, 1942, while in the chapel with the sisters. She was given five minutes to leave, together with her sister Rosa, another nun. Her last words there were addressed to Rosa: “Come, we are going for our people.”

Their arrest – along with other Jewish Christians — was a Nazi act of retaliation against a letter of protest by the Dutch Catholic Bishops on the pogroms and deportations of Jews. On August 7, 1942,  early in the morning, 987 Jews were deported to Auschwitz. Records indicate that it was probably on August 9 that Edith and Rosa were gassed to death.

The Miracle for Her Canonization

The miracle which was the basis for her canonization was the cure of Teresa Benedicta McCarthy, a little girl who had swallowed a large amount of acetaminophen which causes hepatic necrosis. Her father, Reverend Emmanuel Charles Mc Carthy, a priest of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church and her entire family prayed for Stein’s intercession. Shortly thereafter the nurses in the intensive care unit saw her sit up completely healthy. Dr. Ronald Kleinman, a pediatric specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital who treated Teresa Benedicta, testified about her recovery to Church tribunals, stating “I was willing to say that it was miraculous.”

Saint Edith Stein was beatified in Cologne in 1987 and canonized in 1998. Blessed Pope John Paul II said that the Church “bowed down before a daughter of Israel who, as a Catholic during Nazi persecution, remained faithful to the crucified Lord Jesus Christ and, as a Jew, to her people in loving faithfulness.”

MEMORIAL PLAQUE TO EDITH STEIN IN COLOGNE, GERMANY on the occasion of her beatification there.



If The Vines Could Talk

Germany’s Best Kept Catholic Secret

by Beverly Stevens

They are everywhere. Vines, stretching for miles – on scalloped terraces rising over the winding Moselle River, ranging across the wide-open spaces in Franconia and the Palatinate, enveloping the mighty Rhine. “How many of you were raised here?” I recently asked a class of German teens. Ninety percent of the 16 year-olds raised their hands. “Okay, so who created these vineyards?”

Forget the scandal of  the bishops. Ignore the empty churches. Look, instead, at the land itself, and the story of the Catholic Church in Germany will reveal itself to you.

Stumping the German Students

I gestured out the window to the vines covering miles of gentle slopes down to the Rhine. The students exchanged glances, shrugging.

“The Romans?” ventured one brave boy whose family farms the vineyards here.

“Nope,” I said. “Let’s try this again. Who cut down the trees, hauled away the stumps and prepared all these kilometers of land to grow grapes? I’ll give you a hint. It happened way before electricity and the combustion engine…”

No idea.

“Who built the wine presses? Developed the science of wine-making? “

The class was stumped.

 “It was the Church,” I told them finally, grinning.  They looked at the priest whose class I was teaching, utterly flummoxed. Could this be true?

“I can’t believe it,“ the observing German lay teacher was mildly embarrassed. “How can you not know this?” she asked them, shaking her head.

How can this be? The answer, of course, is that they haven’t been taught this. No one – not their parents, nor the Catholic schools they attend — apparently ever bothers to teach what is glaringly apparent.

photo(8)“I can’t believe it,“ the observing lay teacher was mildly embarrassed. “How can you not know this?” she asked them, shaking her head.

A Civilization Created by the Church

Nevertheless, facts are facts. Unbeknownst to them, these teenagers inhabit a civilization that was created by the Church. And it wasn’t just vines, or the wine-making. The Church brought engineering, medicine, education – all the blessings of civilization — to Germany. And the Rheingau today is living proof of this.

This 20-mile stretch along the Rhine (‘gau’  is German for ‘coast’) is a landscape painstakingly carved out of the wilderness by generations of monks. Ancient abbeys crown the hilltops. Tiny chapels, still lovingly maintained by anonymous hands, dot the hills.

World-famous Rieslings – a light white grape – were created by the Church’s viniculture here, centuries before Martin Luther ever saw the light of day. The wall-enclosed vineyard of Kloster Eberbach (the ‘Steinberg’) is said to produce one of the most sought-after white wines in the world today.

All of this is the patient work of centuries. The Cistercians were the land-shapers, and their handiwork is visible everywhere. Where once only mosquito-infested swamps thrived, streams flow merrily straight downhill between orderly rows of vines, into the Rhine.

In addition to their impressive wine-making skills, the Benedictines celebrated the ancient liturgy. Carmelites were the contemplatives. Ursuline nuns taught the children. Here in the Rheingau, even the famously austere Jesuits kept vineyards.

But they are all gone, now, except for the Benedictine nuns in St. Hildegard’s Abbey.  And all of this is unknown to the weekenders from Frankfurt for wine tastings, or to the tourists who enjoy the Rhine river cruises.

Even the people of the Rheingau, justly proud of their land, are in the dark about their own history.

Why is this?

photo(9)This is a landscape painstakingly carved out of the wilderness by generations of monks. Ancient abbeys crown the hilltops. Tiny chapels, still lovingly maintained by anonymous hands, dot the hills.

Kidnapping Catholic Boys

“The Church was hated,” insisted one innkeeper with an amateur interest in local history. We were cozily ensconced in his Michelin-rated restaurant in a 16th century building. “They were rich, and lordly. The people were forced to tithe to them.”

Did the people felt any kinder towards the Hessian government?

Ach, they weren’t any better. You know those Hessian soldiers who fought in the American Revolutionary War?” he asked. “The ones who George Washington’s troops murdered in their sleep on Christmas Eve after crossing the Delaware?

“They were Rheingau farm boys, and they were forced off these vineyards – sold like cattle for money –to the British by the local princes to fight in their bloody wars in America. They never had a chance, those poor bastards. The lucky ones ran away from the Redcoats. They deserted, found work and wives and became Americans.”

And the Church didn’t raise its voice in protest against this outrage?

“The government was Protestant,” he shrugged. “Very easy to sell the Catholics’ sons to the Protestant British. And what could the Church do, anyway? Pray?”

photo(10)“Rheingau farm boys were forced off these vineyards – sold like cattle for money –to the British by the local princes to fight in their bloody wars in America.”

An Unknown Past

Why are the local Germans so ignorant of their own history?

“Because we are only taught about the 20th century,” the innkeeper explained, shaking his head. “The terrible years. The hunger. World War I. The Nazi terror. World War II. The bombings. The death. And then the rebuilding, the great accomplishments of the generations after the War.

“We learn almost nothing of the years before the 20th century. It is as if it never existed. Though, as you see, we live in the middle of it, surrounded by the physical evidence of a past that we barely know anything about.

“We think we are so smart, we Germans. But we are ignorant of who we are.”

Germany’s best kept Catholic secret is the country’s own Catholic history. And therein lies, perhaps, the greatest mystery of all to modern Germans.

And that is the question of who they actually are.

photo(1) “We learn almost nothing of the years before the 20th century. It is as if it never existed. Though, as you see, we live in the middle of it, surrounded by the physical evidence of a past that we barely know ever existed.”

Saint Boniface, Apostle to the Germans


June 5

Today is the feast day of Saint Boniface. Ora pro nobis.

by Michael Durnan

If you are German-speaking or descend from German emigrants and you call yourself a ‘Christian,’ you owe this fact to Boniface, an English monk who lived in the 8th century. The first archbishop of Mainz, Boniface is known as the “Apostle to the Germans.” He also is the patron saint of Germany, and is credited with conceiving the idea of the Christmas tree.

St. Boniface was born in the year 675 AD in the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of Wessex, and given the baptismal name Wynfrid. Wessex occupied the far west and south of modern-day England. By the seventh century, St. Augustine of Canterbury and Lindisfarne monks St. Aidan and St. Cuthbert had converted the Anglo-Saxons to Christianity. Wynfrid was to be one of the beneficiaries of this flowering of early Christian culture and learning.

The Anglo-Saxons were a Germanic warrior people who arrived from Northern Europe after the Romans left Britannia in 410 AD. Christianity transformed them by calming and pacifying the wilder aspects of their pagan culture, and by appealing to their noble and virtuous qualities. Culture and learning flourished in Christian Anglo-Saxon England under the guidance and patronage of the newly converted Christian kings and the monks of Lindisfarne and Jarrow.

The Life of a Brilliant Scholar

Wynfrid entered the monastic life when he was around seven years of age, attracted by the monastic ideal and the opportunity for a first-class education. The monks discerned his academic and intellectual ability, and he seemed destined for the life of a brilliant scholar.

He became a teacher of Latin grammar, wrote several treatises, and also composed Latin poetry. Eventually, Wynfrid’s talent was rewarded when he was made head of the abbey school. Wynfrid’s reputation as an outstanding teacher and scholar, coupled with his personal popularity amongst his students, meant that many travelled great distances for the chance to study under his tutelage.

At about the age of thirty, Wynfrid was ordained priest. Although he loved teaching his young students, he also felt called to travel as a missionary amongst the pagan Germanic tribes of mainland Europe and to bring them the light of Christ, mindful that only 100 years earlier his forebears had lived in pagan darkness.

In 716 AD Abbot Winbert granted him permission to travel, and he set forth to Frisia in the Netherlands. Upon his arrival he met with great opposition from the local chieftain, so his mission to bring the Gospel of Christ failed. He returned to Wessex, but did not lose heart.

What the Pope Told Boniface

Two years later he made a pilgrimage to Rome, where he had an audience with Pope Gregory II (715 – 731).

In a letter to his disciples, Wynfrid wrote that Pope Gregory had received him with “a smile and look of full of kindliness,” and had held long, important conversations with him during the following days, conferring upon him his new name, Boniface, and assigning him, in official letters the mission of preaching the Gospel to the German peoples.

Encouraged, inspired, and comforted by the Pope’s support and wise counsel, Boniface journeyed to the Germanic lands, preaching and campaigning against pagan worship and practices, such as human sacrifice to the Norse gods, Odin and Thor, as well as teaching and reinforcing the foundations of Christian morality and ethics.

When Archbishop Boniface returned to Germany from Rome, for Christmas 723, he discovered the Germans had turned back to their pagan ways and were getting ready to celebrate the winter solstice by sacrificing a young person under Odin’s sacred oak. Archbishop Boniface felled the oak, thus demonstrating the victory of Christianity over the pagan gods. This historically documented story eventually gave rise to the legend of the first Christmas tree. According to the legend, St. Boniface replaced the felled oak with a spruce he found growing amidst the tangle of oak branches.

‘We Are Not Mute Dogs’

With a profound sense of duty and commitment, Boniface wrote in one of his letters,

“We are united in the fight on The Lord’s day because days of affliction and wretchedness have come….We are not mute dogs or taciturn observers or mercenaries fleeing from wolves! On the contrary, we are diligent pastors who watch over Christ’s flock, who proclaim God’s will to the leaders and ordinary folk, to the rich and the poor, in season and out of season.”

With his tireless efforts, persistence, and gift for organisation, Boniface achieved remarkable results converting the pagans he encountered. The pope rewarded Boniface by consecrating him a regional bishop of the entire Germanic lands.

He continued his apostolic efforts with the same dedication and commitment, and extended his mission to the land of the Gauls. Pope Gregory II’s successor, Gregory III, appointed him Archbishop of all the Germanic Tribes. Archbishop Boniface also founded abbeys for monks and nuns to be beacons of learning and culture throughout the Germanic lands, as they had in his native Anglo-Saxon England. The Monastery of Fulda, founded in 743 AD, was the heart and epicentre of outreach for religious spirituality and culture.

The Death of Boniface

At the age of about 80, with 52 monks, Boniface wrote to Bishop Lull of Mainz, as he set forth to renew his failed mission to Frisia:

“I wish to bring to a conclusion the purpose of this journey; in no way can I renounce my desire to set out. The day of my end is near and the time of my death is approaching; having shed my mortal body, I shall rise to the eternal reward. May you, my dear son, ceaselessly call the people from the maze of error, complete the building of the Basilica of Fulda that has already been begun, and in it lay my body, worn out by the long years of life.”

On 5 June 754 AD, Boniface started the celebration of Mass in a place called Dokkum in the present-day Netherlands, when a gang of pagans attacked him. Forbidding his fellow monks to retaliate, he exclaimed:

“Cease, my sons, from fighting, give up warfare, for the witness of Scripture recommends that we do not give an eye for an eye but rather good for evil. Here is the long awaited day, the time of our end has now come; courage in the Lord!”

These were his last words before his assailants struck him down.

WHERE BONIFACE WAS MURDERED: Dokkum in the Frisian islands today. At the age of 80, Boniface was attacked and murdered by a gang of pagans here.

His remains were taken to the Monastery of Fulda, where he was given a burial fitting for a martyr and saint. Since then, St. Boniface has been known as “The Apostle to The Germans.”

by Fr. Francis Xavier Weninger, 1877

St. Boniface, the great Apostle of Germany, was a native of England. He was baptized under the name of Winfrid but received the name Boniface from the Pope, on account of the great good which he did. Boniface means one who does good. When scarcely 5 years old, he requested of his parents to be sent to a monastery, in order to be instructed by the monks as well in religion as in other sciences. His father opposed this wish, but falling sick and believing it a punishment sent by God, he gave his consent and recovered immediately. Winfrid received the instruction he desired in two monasteries, and took the habit of the religious of St. Benedict. How greatly his virtues and learning were esteemed by the brethren of this order, may be seen from the fact that in the course of a few years, they unanimously elected him successor of their late Abbot. Boniface, however refused to accept the dignity, and on making known his desire to preach the Gospel to the heathens, he succeeded so well in representing everything connected with his plan, that the monks not only abstained from further efforts to persuade him to yield, but gave him permission, with several others whose hearts were filled with the same desire, to go to Rome and offer himself to the Pope for so holy a work. Hence, Boniface bade farewell to his brethren and left England with his companions. Gregory II., at that time Pope, was greatly rejoiced when Boniface informed him of his intention, and after having had several conversations with him on the subject, he gave him the powers of an Apostolic missionary, with full permission to preach the Gospel everywhere, especially in Germany. He presented him at the same time some relics and dismissed him with his pontifical blessing. Boniface, leaving Rome, went first to Bavaria, then to Thuringia, where the Christian faith was, almost extinguished, and where idolatry and wickedness prevailed. In the space of 6 months he led the Christians to a better life, and cleansed almost the whole of Thuringia from idolatry.

During this time, Boniface received news of the death of Radbod, Duke of Friesland, an arch-enemy of the Christian faith, during whose reign the Saint had preached a short time in Friesland, but finding that he could do but little good, had quickly returned to England. Inspired, however, by God, he determined, now that circumstances had thus changed, to go once more to Friesland and endeavor to convert the inhabitants. On arriving at Utrecht, he went to St. Willibrord, first bishop off the church there, and spent in the city and neighboring places three years in preaching and instructing the people. His success was so great, that all the inhabitants became Christians, all the idolatrous temples were overthrown or changed into Christian churches. After this, the indefatigable apostolic preacher went to Hesse, where in a very short time he converted many thousands to the Christian faith, built many churches and supplied them with pious priests. He also built several monasteries and convents for those who desired to serve God more perfectly. As however the Saint could not supervise so much work unaided, he called from England several zealous priests, who lent a willing hand to the work he had begun. He also invited some pious virgins, to govern the convents which he had erected. Several of his fellow-laborers were sent to Rome to inform the Pope of the progress of Christendom. The Pope was highly rejoiced and desired to see Boniface himself. The Saint therefore went a second time to Rome, was most kindly received by the holy Father, and consecrated bishop. It was at this time that his name Winfrid was changed into Boniface.

Soon after this, the bishop returned to Germany. Hesse abounded yet with people still in the darkness of paganism. An immense tree which stood there was called the power or might of Jupiter, and it was worshipped as a god. The holy bishop could not endure this sacrilege, and although the pagans threatened to kill him if he touched the tree, he went to the place where it stood, and seized an ax to fell it. At the first stroke, the power of Jupiter, the immense tree, fell to the ground and was split into four parts. This visible miracle opened the eyes of the heathens and moved them to abandon idolatry. The bishop erected, in the place where the tree had stood, a chapel in honor of St. Peter. In Thuringia, whither he went next, he built a church in honor of the Archangel Michael on the place where the latter had appeared to him and exhorted him to continue bravely in the work that he had begun. Divers affairs of the Church made a third journey to Rome necessary; and Gregory III., who then occupied the chair of St. Peter, showed great honors to St. Boniface, and sent him back to Germany, after having bestowed on him, among many other graces, the title of apostolic legate. When, on his return, the Duke of Bavaria invited him to remain some time in his Dukedom, the holy man acquiesced, as this gave him an opportunity to convert the remaining heathens and lead those Christians, who had been seduced from the true faith by godless impostors, back upon the right path.

By his holy conduct and incessant preaching he arrived at the desired end, and divided the whole country into four bishoprics, in order to give the newly converted better opportunities to be instructed and preserved In the faith. Salzburg, Friesingen, Regensburg and Passau were the four cities where he established bishoprics, providing them with able men. The same he did soon after at Eichstadt and Wurzburg in Franconia, where he for some time labored to the great benefit of the heathens. The sea of Eichstadt he gave into the charge of St. Willibald, that of Wurzburg to St. Burchard. He founded many convents and churches, as well in the above-named States as also in Thuringia and Hesse, especially at Fritzlar, Ehrfurt, Amoeneburg and Fulda. He erected monasteries especially with the intention to educate such men, in them as would be able to defend the true faith, to instruct the faithful in leading a Christian life, and to bring to the true Church those who were still heathens. He himself was created by the Pope archbishop of Mentz, where he remained for seven years in continued apostolic labor for the salvation of those in his charge.

Meanwhile, the greater part of the inhabitants of Friesland had again, for some unknown reason, forsaken Christianity, and returned to their former idolatry. No sooner had St. Boniface heard this, than he determined to proceed thither. Hence, with the permission of the Pope, he resigned the see of Mentz to his disciple Lullus, and set out for Friesland, accompanied by some zealous men, foremost among whom were Eobanus and Adelar. On arriving there, he began forthwith to preach, and converted a great number of the inhabitants to Christ. He baptized those whom he had sufficiently instructed, and others, who had been seduced to forsake the true faith, he reconciled with God and the Church. Happy in the consciousness of such great success, the Saint appointed a day on which he would publicly administer the holy Sacrament of confirmation to strengthen the newly converted in the faith. No church was large enough to contain the number of those who desired to be confirmed; in consequence of which tents were erected in an open field not far from the river Borne. The appointed day had come, and a large crowd of Christians had assembled, eager to receive the sacrament. Suddenly, however, came a band of heathens, who, incited by their idolatrous priests, had vowed to kill Boniface, as the greatest enemy of their idols. Armed with weapons they approached the holy man and his companions. When Boniface perceived them, he thanked God with a loud voice for having vouchsafed to him the long desired opportunity to die for Christ’s sake; then having encouraged his companions bravely to suffer pain and death, he went to meet the barbarians, with the gospel, which he carried almost constantly with him, in his hands. He spoke fearlessly to them; but, not willing to lend ear to him, one of them stabbed him with his sword with such force, that he sank dead to the ground. The companions of the Saint suffered the same death.

Thus gloriously did this truly, apostolic man finish his laborious career, in the year 754, or according to other historians, 755, in the fortieth year after his arrival in Germany. How much he endured during these forty years, in wandering through so many lands and converting so great a number of people; how unweariedly he labored; what persecutions he suffered from heathens, from heretics, and even from wicked Catholics, is more easily imagined than described. But nothing could daunt his great heart, which, filled with love of God and man, untiringly executed what his apostolic zeal dictated. He seemed never satisfied with the work he had already performed, or with the suffering he had borne for the honor of God and the salvation of man. His insatiable desire to save souls incited him constantly to more work and more suffering. He feared no danger, but fervently desired to conclude his labors by receiving the crown of martyrdom. God granted his wish; after having lived for the Almighty alone, he was permitted to shed his blood for Christ. He was first buried at Utrecht, then removed to Mentz, and at last brought to Fulda by the Archbishop St. Lullus. (2)

Image: Saint Boniface by Cornelis Bloemaert, c. 1630 (11)

Additional resources research by REGINA Staff


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