Fr. Balthasar Kleinshroth Meets an Angry Peasant

In 1683, Fr. Balthasar Kleinschroth, director of the boys choir in Heiligenkreuz, fled West with his choir boys before the approaching Turks. He managed to bring them to safety, and then wrote an account of his journey in the form of a diary as votive offering of thanks to Our Lady.  I was recently reminded of an encounter he had with a certain peasant near Kaumberg, while they were on the way to the Cistercian Abbey of Lilienfeld. Here’s my translation of Kleinschroth’s Baroque German:

As we went away, in the first meadow, a tall peasant approached us with a wood-cutting ax or hatchet over his shoulder. This man began to speak with me and the gentlemen brothers of Mrs. Hochburgerin about certain leaflets which had been sent out by the enemy. But when he learned from us (for the man was just going on hear-say) that the enemy was already abroad in the land burning and laying waste, that everything was already in confusion and chaos, he began to speak more impudently, and said that not only the Jesuits but all shaveling-parsons were to blame for this war, and that one should therefore batter them all to death. But I prayed and let the lay gentleman speak to him. [The gentleman] spoke to him, and the longer he spoke the more he was able to tease out of him. He asked him to whom he was subject. The peasant answered that he was settled under the Lord Prelate of Lilienfeld. But then he added: “Now that that] shaveling-priest [i.e. the Abbot of Lilienfeld(and he added other impudent titles as well, which I omit for decency’s sake) has oppressed us peasants enough and made a heap of money, now he with all his monks has fled at the first sign of the enemy like any etc.” “Would it not rather have been his place to stay in the monastery and defend it with us peasants?” “Oh,” shouted the rogue, “why did not the peasants of the places through which he travelled chase him back, or at least kill him and all his monks?” Yes, this peasant spoke such things against the good Prelate, his own lord, that no honorable ear could listen to them without vexation, were it at any other time. Wherefore the gentleman said to me in Latin, since he had two loaded pistols in the bundle: “I have a great itch to shoot this knave down in a heap, for I can no-longer stand such words.” But I asked him to dissimulate all this, and to speak kindly to the peasant in order to learn more from him. Moreover, we must be wary for the rascal would not be alone (and this was to turn out to be true). “I know [the Abbot of Lilienfeld] I said “and will be able to say these things to him at the proper time and in the proper place.”

The reason why the Jesuits were blamed for the Turkish war seems to be that their Counter-Reformation activities in Southern Hungary had provoked the Protestants there to make a pact with the Turks. The peasants were angry that it was they, the poor peasants, rather than those whom they took to be to blame, who would suffer most from the war. And in this case, the peasant was understandably annoyed that his Lord, who had the duty of protecting him, had fled, leaving him to his own devices. So, his anger makes sense. Still, it is not as though the Jesuits in Hungary, or the abbot of Lilienfeld and his monks in fleeing, were acting out of malice.

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