Marie Theresa Waldstein, 1930-2017

My grandmother at my ordination

My grandmother at my ordination Mass with my grandfather, and my brother Johannes with his daughter

In my father’s house there are many rooms. Were there not, I would have said to you that I was going to make ready a place for you. (John 14:2)

Of your charity, dear readers, pray for the repose of the soul of my grandmother Marie Theresa (Esi) Waldstein, née Froehlicher, who passed away on January 2nd.  She had been ill for a long time, and was ready to pass over to the next life. She was very week in the last days, but prayed with an intensity of longing. For my grandfather it is of course a great blow to lose her after 65 years of marriage. It was very beautiful to see them together during her final illness— the beauty of a great love purified by long fidelity, by continual kindness and forgiveness. She had a very different temperament from her husband, but their love made them similar in another sense. I do not think it will be long till he follows her to the house of the Father.

That expression “the house of the Father” is one that I have been reflecting on since her death. St. Thomas teaches that the Father’s “house” has two meanings; it means the saints in whom God dwells, but it also means God Himself, who is in Himself and who calls us to dwell in Him through love and vision: “he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him” (1 Jn 4:16). My “Omi,” as we grandchildren called her, gave was a marvelous instantiation of that image. She was in the fullest possible sense what is called a “homemaker.” The love that she shared with my grandfather was the foundation of a great house in which many were at home, because they were warmed by her love. Warm and loving— those are the words that spring to mind in thinking of her. Her love was like a hearth that filled her home with warmth. And many could find therein an image of our heavenly home. Ubi caritas est vera, Deus ibi est. 

She was amazingly patient and good natured. I remember one winter when I was a little child and we were visiting my grandparents, my brother and I took off our shoes and socks so that we could climb the walls of the house, and we were discovered by my grandmother. She scolded us, telling us that we would catch our deaths of cold or whatever, and asked us what we had done with our socks. We produced them from our pockets, and she burst out laughing with a warm, joyful laugh. We knew that we had been naughty, but we were comforted because we also knew that we were loved.

My grandmother had suffered much in her long life— especially from worry and sorrow over the worries and sorrows of her many children and grandchildren, but she was nevertheless one of the happiest people I have ever met. She was happy because her life was devoted to loving others and making them happy. She did small things with great love. I think, for example, of her cooking. She was a very good cook, and spent a long time cooking, and it was really an expression of love.


She came from a Swiss family, being indeed a direct descendent of the Reformer Huldrych Zwingli, but she was born in New Jersey, where my great-grandfather was working. She had both Protestant and Catholic relatives. One of her sisters became a nun and ended up in Rome, while another, who is still alive today, stayed in the US and married H. Lyman Stebbins, the founder of Catholics United for the Faith. One of them was roommates in college with Alice Jourdain, who was later to marry the philosopher Dietrich von Hildebrand.

After school, my grandmother went to Europe. She went first to Switzerland to her relatives, and I remember saying how much she disliked the cold austerity of Protestant Switzerland. But then she went to Austria to stay with the Seifert family, whom she knew through Dietrich von Hildebrand. She was enchanted by the warmth of Catholic Austria. It was at the Seiferts that she met my grandfather. They were married in New Jersey, with Dietrich von Hildebrand serving as best man, and long afterwards my grandparents would speak of the toast that Hildebrand gave at their wedding reception, and how it came true in their lives.

They lived first in Salzburg, then for a time in Innsbruck, and then for the rest of their lives in Salzburg again (apart from one year in Rome). For most of that time they lived in a wonderful old farm house on the Essergasse, near the Hellbrunner Allee. That house was the beau idéal of a family home. After my grandfather’s retirement from teaching Roman Law at the University of Salzburg, they spent a year in Rome, where he taught at the Lateran. After returning from Rome, and beginning to feel the weight of age that made it hard to care for such a large house, and having got used to the a little Roman apartment, they decided to move into a little flat on the Paris-Lodron Straße, with a view of the cemetery of St. Sebastian, the Church of the FSSP in Salzburg, where they had already been attending Mass for many years. On my second-to-last visit there I celebrated Mass for my grandmother, who was already bed-ridden. It was one of the most moving experiences of my life.


Celebrating Mass at the Bedside

The funeral is to be on January 18th in Salzburg. I will be singing the Requiem in the Usus antiquior, and the sermon is to be preached by the auxiliary Bishop of Salzburg, H.E. Andreas Laun. May the Lord take her up into his House for ever. And may she become a powerful intercessor for her six children, 24 grandchildren, and 19 great-grandchildren, whom she loved so well.



18 thoughts on “Marie Theresa Waldstein, 1930-2017

  1. I have said a prayer for your lovely grandmother. May she rest in peace. Thank you for sharing your memories of her. She reminds me of my own grandmother who passed away in 2013, just a few days short of her 100th birthday. I was only received into the Catholic Church last year so we never got to talk about the faith. I am the first member of my family, as far as I know, that has become a Catholic. Most of them are/were agnostic or have/had that residual Christian faith that seems to be common in Britain. I worry for their souls. Would you be so kind as to pray for the departed members of my family, especially my grandparents Constance and Ray Haynes, and Anne and Ernie Waddington?
    Yours in Christ,
    Sarah Cassidy

    Liked by 4 people

    • Although my father points out that the last bit of the verse should be translated as a question, rather than a statement:
      «Nestle-Aland has the question mark at the end: εἰ δὲ μή, εἶπον ἂν ὑμῖν ὅτι πορεύομαι ἑτοιμάσαι τόπον ὑμῖν; Were there not, WOULD I have said to you that I was going to make ready a place for you? If one follows the manuscripts that have a period, not a question mark (the oldest have neither), it can still be understood, but it is a bit tortuous. “Were there no rooms in my Father’s house YET, I would have told you that I was going to ἑτοιμάσαι in the sense of making sure that FROM NOW ON there were such places.” That is hard to square with ἑτοιμάσω in the immediately following verse.» I took it as a statement because that is the way the Vulgate reads it, and therefore St. Thomas’s commentary, which I cite takes it that way. And also Richmond Lattimore’s translation, which is the one I usually read, takes it as a statement.


  2. Thank you. Yes, I did pray already for her, her husband and the whole family. I have heard that she passed away from Elisabeth (in Sweden). I knew some of the things you relate but some were new. She was a great and lovely lady!

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  3. I had the great joy of knowing your Grandmother and Grandfather over 20 years ago while I studied German in Salzburg. They were kind enough to invited to a meals and I had some time to talk with your Grandmother. She was a wonderful person, full of great love, intelligence and faith. Back in those days those that were faithful and attended the Old Mass were persecuted. I am sad to read of her passing, and thank God I knew both your Grandparents. Eternal rest Grant to her O Lord. May she rest in peace.

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  4. Dear Fr. Edmund,

    Laudetur Jesus Christus!

    I am very sorry to hear of your and your family’s loss, but I pray sincerely that the good Lord will grant her soul eternal rest, as well as comfort and final perseverance to the Waldstein family and friends, especially your honourable grandfather.

    Over twenty years ago, as a seminarian at the time of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (I received only the Minor Orders), I had the honour of meeting and knowing Count and Countess Waldstein. A few times, I was even privileged to stay in a room at their wonderful home in the Essergasse while they were away, apart from several memorable visits when they were home. I have rarely known such gracious people, who embodied great Christian charity.

    During my last nine months in the FSSP, I was assigned to an apostolate at St. Sebastian’s, so I was blessed to have more frequent contact with your grandparents. It was always a joy to see them together at Holy Mass and to see how much they had come to embody the ideal of true Catholic marriage. To this day, I have the two books about Salzburg, which Prof. Waldstein gave to me on behalf of the parish at Christmas 1993.

    Your grandparents invited me to dinner, just before I left Salzburg to return to America in 1994. Despite their being, so to speak, “great personages” in Salzburg and beyond, their humility and spiritual simplicity were always very impressive. Prof. Waldstein took a child-like delight in showing me “how to kill a fly” by inching up behind it, with two fingers on either side to distract and confuse it, whilst the middle finger was poised above to snap down on it in sudden “judgement”. He also introduced me to the wonderful experience of drizzling cream onto the surface of an espresso and drinking the coffee through the cooling cream. And I remember the great beauty of his woodcarvings.

    Your grandmother was always memorable to me as a bright and cheerful woman, always thoughtful of others, and intent on speaking her native English language with me, a fellow American, both out of courtesy and her delight to have the opportunity to use the language. I also enjoyed the little sign she had on the refrigerator near the kitchen table: “Hier wird nicht gemeckert!” Mrs. Waldstein was a wonderful complement in her personality to her husband and had the gift of making every person feel welcomed and loved.

    This past November, I was blessed to be able to visit Salzburg again and to speak with Prof. Waldstein, who informed me of your grandmother’s last sufferings. He did not remember me after so many years, but he was as gracious as ever and gave me several minutes of his time on his walk back home from St. Sebastian’s. It was easy to see how very much he missed his wife, who by then was in a care home. Without a single word, it was clear how deeply your grandparents love each other. (For that love does not end with the death of the body.)

    I give thanks to God that He allowed me to become acquainted with Prof. and Mrs. Waldstein, who through God’s Grace became such models of true Christian life. May the good Lord and His Blessed Mother be every consolation to Professor Waldstein and the family. Please extend my sincerest condolences to him and to them. And may Mrs. Waldstein’s soul find eternal rest and peace with the Holy Family in Heaven.

    Anima ejus et animae omnium fidelium defunctorum per misericordiam Dei requiescant in pace. Amen.

    In Jesus & Mary,

    Ronald L. Ray
    Maple Hill, Kansas, USA

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Dear Father,
    We were very sad to hear of the death of your Grandmother. May Esi rest in peace.

    We will never forget this great and lovely lady. The warmth she offered. I was so honoured some time ago when she offered me to call her by her first name (I am the aunt of Kaplan Kretschmar from St. Sebastian). His parents and I had the pleasure to see your lovely grandparents in their wonderful flat with the great view every time we visited Salzburg, We loved going there. And we enjoyed the Milchbrot.

    We got to see Esi last on 27th. of December while we were staying for Christmas. We knew that it might have been the last time. But we left with great satisfaction to have seen her. She gave us one of her big smiles.

    We feel for the Professor and the whole family and pray in sorrow.

    Christa and Willi Kretschmar
    and Johanna Heger


    Liked by 1 person

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  7. Dear Pater Edmund,
    I never had the privilege of knowing your grandparents, but we were enjoying the company of your parents at Ave Maria shortly after your grandmother left this life for Real Life…Thank you so much for the beautiful account of her life and virtues (I know it is a short account, but it means a great deal to one who never met her) – I see her and your grandfather’s legacy carried on in your parents’ home, and my own family owes so much to these examples of Christian charity, hospitality, and friendship. May the angels have long since taken your dear grandmother into the arms of her Beloved Jesus; we will keep her and all your family (especially your grandfather) in our prayers.
    with much gratitude and love,
    Suzie Andres
    p.s. It is so perfect that your grandmother’s sister is Madeleine Stebbins! I had dinner once with your aunt and uncle (when they were visiting Thomas Aquinas College for their son’s graduation) and I often think of that dinner as providing the best conversation I’ve ever known while eating the best food! (Not to underestimate the great conversation and food I’ve enjoyed in your parents’ homes!) And the connection to Alice von Hildebrand (and Dietrich) is beautiful as well – so fitting that these great souls should have been united in this life and friends and relatives of one another! The Mystical Body of Christ provides an intimacy that is a wonder to behold…


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