Today is the Feast of St. Henry II, the Exuberant, Holy Roman Emperor. At Mass this morning I used a chalice pall with his image. Sancte Henrice, ora pro nobis! St. Henry’s wife was also a saint: Cunigunde of Luxembourg. They are powerful intercessors for all married persons. It is said that Cunigunde was falsely accused of committing adultery, and so she demanded a trial by ordeal. She walked over red-hot plough-shares without harm, thus vindicating her innocence.
In my monastery, Stift Heiligenkreuz, we have annual requiem Masses for our principal benefactors. Today was the requiem for King Emeric of Hungary, who gave us Kaisersteinbruch in West-Hungary in 1202 or 1203. Kaisersteinbruch was an important support of the monastery till 1912, when we sold it to the Imperial and Royal War Ministry. We used the proceeds to buy forests in Styria, which still support the monastery today. King Emeric’s gift has thus played an important role in enabling us to live the monastic life, and it is a fitting sign of gratitude that we have been offering the Holy Sacrifice for him annually for the past 815 years.
Over at popula.com I’ve written something about a confrère of mine, who was imprisoned on suspicion of high-treason in the Third Reich. He was still alive when I entered the monastery, and I knew him as a very gentle and polite old man.
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: Continue reading
The Empire thus fostered a deep-rooted, conservative ideal of freedom as local and particular, shared by members of corporate groups and incorporated communities. These were local and particular liberties, not abstract Liberty shared equally by all inhabitants… This [explains] why central Europeans remained so unreceptive to nineteenth-century liberalism… liberals discovered that ordinary people often did not want their version of liberty, because uniform equality conflicted with treasured corporate rights which appeared to offer superior safeguards against capitalist market exploitation. (Peter H. Wilson, Heart of Europe: A History of the Holy Roman Empire)
This made me laugh out loud:
… just focus on one figure: the Palaeolithic income of $1.10 a day. Where exactly does it come from? Presumably the calculations have something to do with the calorific value of daily food intake. But if we’re comparing this to daily incomes today, wouldn’t we also have to factor in all the other things Palaeolithic foragers got for free, but which we ourselves would expect to pay for: free security, free dispute resolution, free primary education, free care of the elderly, free medicine, not to mention entertainment costs, music, storytelling, and religious services? Even when it comes to food, we must consider quality: after all, we’re talking about 100% organic free-range produce here, washed down with purest natural spring water. (David Graeber and David Wengrow)
The Studentenverbindung in Heiligenkreuz recently organized a guided tour of the exhibition marking the 300 birthday of the Empress Maria Theresia in the State Hall of the Austrian National Library. Photos of the tour by our Consenior can be found on the Facebook page of the Verbindung. The tour guide was the delightfully amusing and informative Albert Pethö, editor of the Viennese monarchist newspaper Die Weiße Rose. Continue reading
Though in many respects Bl. Pope Innocent XI was very different from our current Pope, yet in his approach to the trappings of ecclesiastical dignity one can see a certain similarity:
Benedetto Odescalchi was determined to continue as Pope the life he had led as a prelate and a Cardinal. He was retiring, devout, conscientious, strict, most liberal towards those in want, exceedingly parsimonious for himself. In this respect he went so far as to use the clothes and ornaments of his predecessors though they were too short for his lofty stature. For ten whole years he wore the same white cassock until it became quite threadbare, and only when a certain prince commented on the subject did he have the old garments replaced by new ones. By his orders his rooms were furnished with apostolic simplicity. In his study there was only a wooden table with a simple ivory crucifix, a few religious books, three old pictures of Saints, a wooden chair and an old, silk-covered chair for visitors of mark. Many an Abbot had to confess, to his shame, that he was more splendidly lodged than the Head of the Church. In order to set an example to the wealthy Prince-Bishops of Germany, the Pope gave orders for the greatest possible reduction of his stables. At the Quirinal, where after much hesitation he at last took up residence in May, 1677, he chose for himself the worst rooms, from which there was no view. The personnel of the ante-rooms was reduced to a minimum. As a Cardinal, he was wont to say, he had been rich, as Pope he wished to live in poverty. Accordingly he only allowed a few giulii to be spent on his table. On the occasion of the taking possession of the Lateran, on November 8th, 1676, he insisted on the avoidance of all display and expressly forbade the erection of the customary triumphal arches. At first he wished to carry out the ceremony without the participation of the College of Cardinals… (Ludwig von Pastor, The History of the Popes, vol. XXXII, pp. 14-15)
Of your charity, pray for the repose of the soul of Abbot Christian Feurstein, O.Cist., former Abbot of Stift Rein in Styria, who died last night after a long struggle with heart disease. Abbot Christian was a monk of Stift Heiligenkreuz before being postulated as abbot by the monks of Stift Rein. For many years he was prior and novice master in Heiligenkreuz. He was my novice master, and I will be eternally grateful for kindness and patience in leading me into the monastic life. Every day for a year the other novices and I had lessons on the Rule of St. Benedict and Psalms from him. I’m afraid that I may have been a somewhat trying disciple. “It befitteth a master to speak and teach,” St. Benedict teaches in the Holy Rule, “and it beseemeth a disciple to hold his peace and listen.” But I had come fresh from the disputatious atmosphere of the great books seminars of my college, and was accustomed to speak and argue, while a tutor held his peace and listened. But if Pater Christian found me trying, I never knew it; his patience with me was boundless.
He was not a man of great speculative brilliance, but he had a deep experiential wisdom from a life of fidelity to Christ. He was great example of true monastic humility. I do not think that I have ever met a more humble man. “The seventh degree of humility,” St. Benedict teaches, “is not only to pronounce with his tongue, but also in his very heart to believe himself to be the most abject, and inferior to all.” I remember Pater Christian telling us about some renowned intellectual giving a talk at Heiligenkreuz’s priory in Stiepel, in the Ruhr Valley (P. Christian was one of the founding monks of that priory). The intellectual was talking about how the seventh degree of humility is terribly bad, and that a healthy person has to have self-esteem etc. P. Christian tried to defend St. Benedict, but was unable to convince the intellectual. He couldn’t explain it, but he knew that the seventh degree of humility was good. I think that he knew it con-naturally, because he had attained it in his own life. In recounting this story, P. Christian laughed. He had not, you see, attained the tenth degree of humility, for he was very prompt to laugh.
He was postulated as Abbot of Stift Rein in Styria in 2010, the year that I took solemn vows in Heiligenkreuz. Once when I visited him there he was preparing to go officiate at a funeral in a nearby parish. Someone else told me that the abbot was constantly doing funerals in that parish, since the parish priest there, a monk of Stift Rein, was “too busy.” It was typical of Abbot Christian that despite the many burdens of his abbatial office he did not think himself too busy to help out in parishes. In 2015 he resigned as Abbot of Rein on account of his heart condition, and returned to Heiligenkreuz. He suffered much through his long sickness. After a stroke that followed one operation he was unable to speak. But he could still smile. He died last night in the hospital with a number of the confrères praying the commendatio animae at his bedside. His body will first be taken to Stift Rein, where the Bishop of Graz-Sekau will sing a requiem for him on March 21st, and then his body will be taken to Stift Heiligenkreuz where the Requiem and burial will be on March 24th.
Requiescat in pace.