GERMANY, Renate Siebenkäs •
With joy and gratitude, the Schoenstatt Movement in Bamberg celebrated the 120th birthday of the Martyr of Conscience, Father Franz Reinisch. During a difficult period of construction, he was made the patron saint of Marienberg and – the problems were solved! —
Father Andreas Hornung, a Schoenstatt priest, intensively studied the life of the martyr. As an artist, he was able to capture important moments in the life of the Martyr in a large painting on canvas. Since then, Father Franz Reinisch greets all visitors to “his house”, the Reinisch House of the Schoenstatt Center, in an unmistakable way. It was only natural that Father Hornung, a connoisseur, and admirer of Father Reinisch, presided over the memorial service.
How can we imagine Father Franz Reinisch today?
Candles and candlelight are part of every birthday celebration. Since Franz Reinisch was born in Tyrol on February 1, 1903 and baptized on February 2, 1903, the feast of Candlemas, it is obvious that the light of Franz Reinisch’s life illuminated the entire birthday celebration. Light and roses are closely associated with the birthday child. At the beginning of the Mass, Father Hornung blessed the candle decorated with roses.
To set the mood, Andreas Hornung had prepared a beautiful picture: If Father Franz Reinisch were alive today, how would we imagine him? Surely, he would be a convincing pastor and preacher, quarrelsome, disagreeable, offensive. Surely he would hold fast to his ideal that the faith is as immovable as the mountains of his homeland. His love for Jesus and Mary still made him a rock, a living, wandering, enlightened rock! Hornung concluded his thoughts with a look to heaven: “As a patron in heaven, he inspires us in the Archdiocese of Bamberg in a special way to find our ideal and to let our faith shine in everyday life.
“A light to enlighten the Gentiles, and glory to your people Israel”
Only when the candle burns, slowly consuming itself, can it radiate warmth, light and a very special atmosphere. Otherwise it would be just a cold candle for the closet.
In the Gospel of Candlemas (Presentation of the Lord), Simeon joyfully thanks God for allowing him to see the light of day in his old age.
Jesus, for his part, consumes himself for us with an immense love. He wants us to be inspired by his message so that we can bring light to the world.
Jesus sacrifices himself for us: This is also reflected in the life of Franz Reinisch. He sacrificed himself out of love for his homeland, for the Blessed Mother, for God, consuming himself as a torch of love.
The manifold thoughts of light fit very well to the personality of Franz Reinisch. In his life the Gospel becomes concrete. A deep foundation of faith is laid by his parents already at his birth – with the choice of the church in which Franz is baptized. The relic of St. Fidelius and many other deeds play a major role in Francis’ later life.
In the darkest time the brightest light
Twelve days before death, he writes the homecoming song (“You are the great sign…”) from the Brandenburg penitentiary in an impressive, light-filled manner. For this, he returns spiritually to the shrine:
Mary is for him the light in the radiance of the sun, flooded and shone through, made whole by God’s love.
He wants to be a flame of love that was allowed to be ignited by Mary in the shrine.
His goal in life: He wants to be a torch of love. In Berlin as a flame of love, destroy hatred, burn it. As a flame of love, he wants to go home to the heavenly light.
The homily concluded with the exhortation: “May Our Lady always kindle us as a light, that all darkness may be dispelled by love.”
At the end of the festive service, the Schoenstatt priest reflected, “What can we give him? Roses again! To make us tick right! By this I mean our conscience, which is clearly oriented to the voice of God – as with Father Reinisch,” and he placed the roses with the picture of the birthday boy on the cornerstone of the chapel, which comes from the Bamberg Cathedral.
During the Mass, Father Hornung wore a chasuble that shows essential elements of the Marienberg. In the center, the red rose is very eye-catching. On the one hand it stands for the MTA, for Mary crowned with a rose, and on the other hand for Father Franz Reinisch. If you look closely, there is a red dot next to each element, which also plays an important role in the logo of Marienberg: “A red dot on the meadow next to the shrine marks the red of the roses. They stand for the diocesan patron of the Schoenstatt Movement, Fr. Franz Reinisch, and his blood, which he shed as a witness to Christ in the Third Reich. The roses speak the language of a love that is ready for total giving.”
Birthday light celebration for Franz Reinisch
After Mass, the group went out to the boulder with the picture of Fr. Franz Reinisch. All the guests lit lights on the fire, symbolic of the torch, and deeply moved congratulated the birthday boy.
The Schoenstatt priest rewrote the well-known birthday song:
“Good luck and many blessings on heavenly ways,
the fullness of life be with you too!”
The birthday crowd sang this canon several times with fervor.
In the Reinisch House, the birthday celebration was brought to a close with champagne and appetizers. To everyone’s surprise, a special guest was welcomed, the daughter of a contemporary witness.
The daughter of the contemporary witness
The daughter of sergeant Sebastian Hauer mingled quite modestly with the guests.
And then she told the experience of her father:
Sergeant Sebastian Hauer had the task of accompanying Father Franz Reinisch on the train ride from Bad Kissingen to Berlin to the penitentiary. Father Reinisch begged the sergeant until he was ready to leave the train in Bamberg in order to fulfill his last wish to celebrate Holy Mass once again in his beloved city. This was not possible in St. Gangolf, since the church could not be darkened and the Gestapo was housed in the neighboring building.
So the service could be celebrated unobserved on the 1st floor of the rectory.
In thanksgiving, Father Franz Reinisch said to his companion, “Whenever you are in need or distress, call me!” In doing so, Fr. Reinisch assumed that the death sentence against him would be carried out quickly.
The daughter went on:
Her father was aware that he was putting himself in danger of their lives by taking this “detour” via Bamberg. Sebastian Hauer was very impressed by Franz Reinisch’s attitude. He regretted that he wanted to sacrifice his young life by refusing to take the oath to Hitler. Her father had therefore advised Franz Reinisch: “He should swear the oath and refuse at the same time – in other words, raise his right hand to swear and hold his left hand down!
Sebastian Hauer was sent on to Africa during the war. During an attack he was buried. No one suspected he was still alive under the rubble. In his distress, Sebastian Hauer remembered the testimony of Franz Reinisch and called him, and Franz Reinisch helped as he had promised him.
With great attention, even greater palpitations and joy about this quasi “contemporary witness”, those present followed this conversation. It was a special gift for all and certainly for the martyr himself.
Father in heaven, receive Fr. Franz Reinisch into the host of your blessed and saints!!!
This is the greatest wish, the greatest longing of all Reinisch devotees, to still be able to experience this light of beatification.
For the status of the beatification and the life of Fr. Franz Reinisch, you will find a great deal of information at: franz-reinisch.org/
Original: German, 03.02.2023. Translation: Maria Fischer @schoenstatt.org