21 Apr Saint Conrad of Parzham, Confessor
Today is the feast day of Saint Conrad. Ora pro nobis.
St Conrad of Parzham, whose baptismal name was John, was the son of the devout and honest couple George Birndorfer and Gertrude Niedermayer. He was born on a farm near the town of Parzham in Bavaria in the year 1818. (2)
When he was still a boy, his colleagues would change the subject of their talk if it was bad when he would approach: “Here comes Johannes, let’s not talk about this any longer.” He always kept his head uncovered in his work in the fields, even in the heat of Summer because, sensing the presence of the majesty of God everywhere, he was in continuous prayer and for that reason he thought he should not use his hat. (3)
Johannes was the youngest son, so he was supposed to inherit the farm. This was a common custom of the area; the youngest son carried on the work of the father and received the farm. At age 30, Johannes left his family home and inheritance and entered the Capuchin Order as a lay brother. He was admitted with the name Conrad. (3)
Immediately after his profession he was sent to the convent of St. Anne in the city of Altoetting. This place is particularly renowned among all others in Germany for its shrine of the Mother of Mercy, and hundreds, even thousands of the faithful come there daily. Because of the great concourse of people in this city, the duty of the porter at the friary is a very difficult one. (2)
As soon as he arrived, this charge was given to Conrad, who retained it until his death. Diligent at his work, sparing in words, bountiful to the poor, eager and ready to receive and help strangers, Brother Conrad calmly fulfilled the task of porter for more than 40 years, during which time he greatly benefited the inhabitants of the city as well as strangers in all their needs of body and soul. (2)
Certainly, the course of years takes its toll on the body. The innumerable privations and overburdenings that he had demanded from his body had left scars. Furrows had burrowed across his face; his hair had turned white; he was tormented by aches and pains; his back was hunched over. Konrad was becoming weak. Everything he did was painful. He was always cold. His limbs grew stiff. His knees shook. 75 winters lay behind him.
On April 18, 1894, Brother Konrad tapped along, supported by a strong cane, on his way to the Gnadenkapelle. It was the last time he would ever serve Mass beneath the statue of Our Lady of Altötting. On returning to the monastery, he managed to drag himself around for a few more hours. But in the afternoon he had to tell his superior, “Father Guardian, it’s the end!” The doctor came and said to Konrad, “That’s just too hard a job for you at your age, down there in that cold hallway. You’re completely worn out.” Without a complaint the dying man endured his pain and weakness. On the third day, Saturday, April 21, he received Extreme Unction. In the evening the infirmarian gave him another spoonful of medicine and said, “Now I have to go and check on our sick Brother Benjamin.” Konrad replied, “Of course, you may go. I won’t be needing you any more.” At 7:00 p.m. the cloister family assembled together for Night Prayers. Someone knocked at the main door. Shortly thereafter the porter’s bell rang. Konrad thought the assistant porter had not been able to hear the metallic voice. In obedience to the bell, the dutiful old man lifted himself with his last ounce of strength. He took the candlestick with the burning candle in his trembling hand, staggered and tottered to the door of his cell and altogether collapsed. A novice coming that way and finding him, called immediately for help. Capuchins came hurrying to the spot. They carried the dying man to his cot. A Father recited the prayers for the dying. The Ave bell rang peacefully from the bell-tower of Altötting. Konrad smiled, looked heavenward with joyful eyes and departed this life. It was between 7:00 and 8:00 in the evening, the time when he had always prayed to Our Lady as the “Help and Consolation of the Dying”.
“Take thy rest now, thou tireless hero of charity, of fortitude and of faith! True, thou hast never crossed the Alps, nor sailed across the sea. Rather, thou wert for more than forty years a continuous watchman out of obedience; but with this obedience, thou didst elevate the lowest of offices to serve as a knight of Christ, and it was on this account the equal of the noblest of undertakings!” (Pope Pius XII) (1)
His heroic virtues and the miracles he performed won for him the distinction to be ranked among the Blessed by Pope Pius XI in the year 1930. Four years later, the same pope, approving additional miracles which had been performed, solemnly inscribed his name in the list of saints. (2)
Image: Die Pfarrkirche St. Martin zu Niedertaufkirchen bei Mühldorf (4)
Research by Ed Masters, REGINA Staff