A Visit to Konnersreuth
Revisiting the Extraordinary Life of Teresa Neumann
By Rev. Urban Snyder, RIP
Introduction by Michael J. Matt
(Posted 1/19/10 www.RemnantNewspaper.com) When I was a child, a frequent guest in my father’s home was the late Trappist priest, Father Urban Snyder. One of the original “men in black”, Fr. Snyder had refused to offer the New Mass after Vatican II, determining instead to travel the world offering the old Mass and spreading the traditionalist doctrine. He was a close friend of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre and, for a time, served as the Archbishop’s confessor.
A deeply spiritual man of exceedingly high intellect, Fr. Snyder prepared priests, seminarians and Catholic families around the world for the years of trial and tribulation that would follow the Second Vatican Council. He was a man of vision and tremendous foresight. I’ll always remember something he said while “holding court” one evening in our home in the early 1970’s: “It’s not Communism that should be our chief concern in the West…not really. It is Islam. Most of us will not live to see the rise of global, militant Islam but that young man over there [pointing directly at me] certainly will.” This was at the height of the “Cold War”-- a full thirty years before the so-called “War on Terror”.
Father Snyder was a frequent columnist for The Remnant and one of my father’s closest friends. The following article was written for The Remnant in November of 1978, a decade or so after the death of the holy Bavarian peasant girl—Teresa Neumann.
Fast forward thirty years…
In the summer of 2009, my friend Scott Jones of the inestimable Lepanto Press announced the release of a new book called “Holding The Stirrup” by Baroness Elizabeth von Guttenberg—a reprint of the 1953 autobiographical account of great Catholic men, fading traditions, family life, and the decline of the aristocracy during the rise of Adolf Hitler. Readers may recall Sherry Foster’s Remnant review of “Holding The Stirrup” which appeared in our Sept 30, 2009, issue. (Available from The Remnant for $25. PO Box 1117, Forest Lake, MN 558025)
The book is difficult to put down so gripping is its narrative and eerily familiar its portrayal of the day-to-day concerns of Catholics living in Germany during the late 1930’s. A short read of less than 300 pages, “Holding The Stirrup” presents a vivid picture of German Catholic resistance to the Nazi menace while chronicling the eradication of Old Europe and authentically European culture during the Second World War.
Numbered among Baron and Baroness von Guttenberg’s closest friends during those years was the von Stauffenberg Family. Remnant readers will recognize Claus von Stauffenberg as the name of the Catholic German officer who’d attempted to assassinate Hitler with the famous briefcase bomb. Claus, portrayed by actor Tom Cruise in the recent film, Valkyrie, was Baroness von Guttenberg’s cousin. Another major influence in the life of the Baroness (again beautifully described in “Holding The Stirrup”) was the Bavarian peasant girl turned mystic— stigmatic Teresa Neumann. Even Emperor Charles himself appears in dramatic fashion in “Holding The Stirrup” when he shows up one night at Guttenberg Castle in disguise and on the run from his Masonic enemies.
I cannot recommend “Holding The Stirrup” highly enough, especially to anyone curious about the historical backlash against Adolf Hitler that was fueled by powerful German Catholic families of the day. Those interested in the disturbing parallels between life today in America and life in Germany then—with a similar economic collapse, an identical rise of paganism and anti-Religion, and an increasingly totalitarian political regime—will find “Holding The Stirrup” a riveting page-turner. The book is available for $25 from The Remnant newspaper. Do yourself a favor and order the best read of 2009! (Telephone: 651-433-5425)
But I’m getting ahead of myself. This is not intended to be a book review. Let me explain.
Some months ago I’d determined to lead a pilgrimage to Austria/Germany after the Chartres Pilgrimage in May 2010. My first choice of destination was the famed Passion Play in Oberammergau (Bavaria). Arranging accommodations for a large group in Oberammergau during the Play at this late date, however, is proving problematic at best and may be impossible.
As a backup plan, I contacted my friend Jamie Bogle to see if he’d agree to lead a pilgrimage in the steps of the great Emperor Charles of Austria, the last Catholic king of the Holy Roman Empire, who died in 1922.
Mr. Bogle, author of “A Heart for Europe” (the definitive English biography of Blessed Emperor Charles of Austria-Hungary and his wife Empress Zita) enthusiastically agreed. I also began looking into the possibility of making a short pilgrimage to Konnersreuth, the hometown of stigmatic Teresa Neumann of whom our old friend Father Snyder had often highly spoken when I was young.
In search of more information about the mystic I consulted The Remnant’s archives and eventually discovered an article by Fr. Snyder himself detailing his visit to the actual home of Teresa Neumann back in the 1970s.
My delight at this discovery took on a sense of Providence at work when I discovered that Fr. Snyder had visited the home of Teresa Neumann in the company of none other than Baroness Elizabeth von Guttenberg herself—who we all now know as the author of “Holding The Stirrup” and the extraordinary Catholic noblewoman whose husband, cousins, sons and friends had been numbered among the most powerful Nazi resisters in Germany during the War.
It was Teresa Neumann, the great friend and spiritual guide of the von Guttenberg’s, who had spiritually guided the Baroness through her darkest moments—especially in the aftermath of the death of her beloved husband and son during the War. Teresa Neumann had even bilocated at one point to be with the Baroness during a particularly dark night of the soul.
In any event, Teresa Neumann may well be one of the most important mystics of modern times and yet she is all but forgotten today. Her stigmata was authenticated, if you will, by medical doctors during her lifetime, one of whom is described in “Holding The Stirrup” as a skeptical atheist who’d entered Neumann’s home on a mission to expose a “fraud” only to emerge six weeks later a humbled convert to the Catholic Faith.
We’ve thus resolved to make a pilgrimage to the home of Teresa Neumann and to do what we can to help revive devotion to this important victim soul who had much to say about the future, as well as finding the path to holiness even in a world at war with God.
If at all possible, we’ll also visit Guttenberg Castle itself in order to increase awareness of the heroic stand Catholic families made against the forces of total destruction of the old Catholic way of life. (Please see our ad on Page 16 for details on how to sign up for The Remnant Tours’ 2010 pilgrimage to France/Germany/Austria.)
Here, then, is Father Snyder’s inspired story of Teresa Neumann, reprinted from The Remnant November 15, 1978. MJM
Teresa Neumann, Pray for us!
In the forests of Upper Bavaria, in the region called Franconia and perhaps ten miles from Bayreuth, an ancient castle rises steeply toward heaven from the side of a mountain. In early evening of the First Friday of last July, I was standing at a window inside this castle and studying an enormous panorama of mountains, valleys, forests and fields. This was the homeland of Teresa Neumann, who died in Konnersreuth on September 18, 1962. During her sixty-four years of life, she had seen in vision nearly 700 times the Passion and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ; she had not only seen, but had bled and suffered simultaneously with the Saviour through the wounds in her own body which corresponded to His.
The castle I was standing in belongs to the distinguished Guttenberg family (no connection with the inventor of printing), who have been in continuous possession of the site since the 12th century, and have produced a long line of noble statesmen and leaders. Teresa Neumann was once a guest in this castle, too, because she was a close friend of the now-dowager Baroness Elisabeth von Guttenberg, who recently wrote a small book about her called “Teresa Neumann: A Message from the Beyond”. This volume, written in the author’s simple, straightforward, unaffected English, is due to appear in November from the presses of the Augustine Publishing Co., England.
A little later that July evening, Ferdinand Neumann, one of Teresa’s surviving brothers, arrived with his gracious wife, and we spent the night at the castle as guests of the Baroness. Next morning we all, including the Baroness, and her faithful maid of many years, drove in two cars the forty winding and climbing miles to the village of Konnersreuth. Isolated, remote, it is little changed, and the old Neumann home, like the onion-domed church next to it, is preserved more or less as they were in Teresa’s time. The dress, customs and morals of the people are not nearly so corroded by materialism and worldliness as in urban areas. At Konnersreuth the people still gather every evening for common prayers in the church, according to the old custom of Catholic villages.
Three brothers, and three sisters of Teresa Neumann, out of eleven children, are still alive today and two of the sisters were on hand in the family home (though they no longer Reside there) to greet our little party. As soon as the greetings were over, I vested for Mass. Ferdinand got out the Missal of St. Pius V, and then we proceeded to the room where “Resl” (as her family and close friends called her) had lived and died, and where there has been an altar for many years. During her lifetime Mass was occasionally celebrated there on days when she was unable to attend church, as, for example, on Friday, when she was bleeding. Ferdinand, to my surprise, still remembered by heart the Latin responses in the traditional Mass, though he had not been able to assist at it for a long time.
Mass over, Ferdinand opened two little doors in the front of the altar and took out some linen cloths that had been worn by his sister while suffering the Passion. There was a jacket stained all over with the blood of the Scourging. There was an oblong cloth which had been over the wound in her side, with much blood and coagulated matter on it. And there was a kerchief she had worn on her head, showing nine circles of blood, each about an inch and a half in diameter, evenly spaced in a semi-circle.
I pass over most of the factual details concerning Teresa’s long and fruitful life and death. All these can be read in the Guttenberg book, but I must mention that the volume contains new materials and information never before published, at least not in English. These are drawn from the careful diary of Fr. Naber, Teresa’s lifelong pastor and spiritual director (he lived several years longer than she did), and from the official testimony of competent physicians who studied her closely. The Baroness quotes at length the published testimony of Prof. Doctor Urban, an internationally known neurologist and psychiatrist of Vienna, who studied Teresa closely over a period of years, even to the point of living often in the home with the Neumann family.
He pronounced her to be an unusually well-balance and normal person. In a word, there was no natural explanation for her stigmata and her periodical experience of the Passion and Death of Our Lord. Still less was there any explanation for the 34 years of total abstinence from food and drink. Resl would have preferred to be as other people, but she simply was not able to eat and subsisted entirely on Holy Communion. If for any reason It was delayed she grew faint but revived immediately upon receiving.
An important feature of the Guttenberg book is the light it throws on the remarkable relationship between Teresa Neumann and St. Therese of the Child Jesus. The German peasant became, as it were, another self for the saint of Lisieux, through whom she provided the world with a new and living model of her “Little Way” of confidence and abandonment. The unique relation between these two souls began, or rather was raised to the level of the extraordinary, on the day of the beatification of the Carmelite.
From childhood Teresa Neumann had longed to become a nursing sister in a missionary order, but this hope was shattered in 1918 when she dislocated two vertebrae and became blind and paralysed. With the simple faith of a Bavarian peasant she accepted her plight as best she could: “God’s will be done!”
During the War her father had brought her from France a picture of Soeur Therese of the Child Jesus whose autobiography was being much read and who was working many miracles. Resl the invalid kept Therese’s picture on her person and prayed for her beatification. This eventually took place on April 19, 1923. That same day, at a time when she was alone, Resl felt a hand touching her. She instinctively opened her eyes and discovered her sight restored. Seizing a stick kept nearby for summoning assistance, she pounded on the floor, and her mother and a sister came running. Resl declared that she could see. The incredulous mother presented a pot of flowers and asked what they were. Teresa said: “How nice those white geraniums would look in the church.”
Her other infirmities, however, continued and even worsened. One limb became so infected and purulent that the naked bone was visible. The doctors thought it should be amputated but Teresa’s condition was so pitiable that her mother feared the operation would kill her. She refused permission. One of Resl’s sisters, however, put on the infected member a rose petal which had been touched to a relic of Blessed Therese. The wound healed quickly, and the bent-under limb straightened itself out. Paralysis and bed sores, however, still remained.
Two years after this, on May 17, 1925, Pope Pius XI canonized Blessed Therese of the Child Jesus. That same day, at a time when Resl was alone the family heard her give a loud cry. They ran upstairs and found her sitting up in bed, something which was previously impossible. She was in ecstasy. On recovering, Resl demanded clothing, got out of bed and showed that she could walk.
Pastor Naber was sent for and he insisted that Resl tell what had happened. Her room had filled with light she said, and a woman’s voice spoke:
“Would you want to have your health restored?”
“Everything that comes from God is all right with me. He knows best.”
“Would you be happy if you could get up and walk and take care of yourself again?”
“I am happy about everything that comes from God. I am happy about the flowers, the birds or even renewed suffering.”
“You may experience a little joy today. You can sit up. Try and I will help you.”
Resl felt a helping hand and the voice went on: “You are also able to walk, but you will have much to suffer in the future and no doctor will be able to help you. Remember that only through suffering can you live your life of sacrifice and devotion and thus help the priests. More souls are saved by suffering than through the most splendid sermons. This I have written before.”
Teresa Neumann not only could walk but her bed sores healed the same day. Soon after, Father Naber searched the writings of St. Therese and found in one of her letters to a missionary this statement: “Suffering does more for the salvation of souls than the most brilliant sermon could.”
At half past twelve, during the same night following the cure, Resl received another visit from St. Therese. There was the same light and the voice said: “It is all right that you are grateful. The Lord wants now that what is visible in your sufferings should disappear. Now you shall be able to walk without any help. But there will come more suffering. Offer these sufferings for souls. It is not right that you are getting upset by the people and that you do not answer their letters. You should encourage people to trust in God.”
Resl blurted in reply: “Oh! I don’t even know whether I myself am on the right way!”
“You should happily, in blind obedience, follow your Father Confessor and confide everything in him. Always remain childlike and simple.”
From that time until Theresa’s death there was close and frequent communication between her and St. Therese, who corrected, counseled, encouraged and instructed her in her extraordinary vocation; but this was always done with due deference to the wise and holy priest whom God had provided as representative of the authority of the Church.
Father Naber’s copious diary has preserved many of the subsequent conversations between the Saint and the Bavarian victim-soul, and they show how Therese of the Child Jesus constantly cultivated in her disciple the spirit of simplicity, total self sacrifice and unlimited trust in God. In due time the voice gave way to actual visions. These often occurred especially on the anniversary of the canonization of St. Therese. For example Father Naber tells us that the Carmelite appeared to Teresa Neumann in her little garden house on May 17, 1930. She said: “Dear child, you may be energetic and determined when it concerns something good, but at the same time you should avoid all agitation, all rashness. Always and everywhere keep calm – this is also more noble. Persevere in your suffering and be confident.”
In the evening of May 17, 1942, when Resl was conversing with Father Naber, St. Therese appeared and spoke again: “Yes, yes,” she said. “You are speaking about the inner life. You are right. People want too much to reach high positions. You stick to your convictions.
“Our Saviour’s life and His Mother’s was also simple – imitate their life. Don’t let yourself be perturbed by anything….Have confidence, do not fear, I will not abandon you.”
On April 4, 1945, after Hitler’s SS troops maliciously bombarded Konnersreuth and Theresa’s home in the hopes of killing her, St. Therese said: “Be quiet, have confidence…..The wonderful way you have been helped is almost something tangible. The great diabolical plan has been undone by heavenly power. You saw and felt the terrible danger you were in. The Lord accepted your sacrifice, it was not in vain.”
A tree, says Our Lord, is known by its fruits. Teresa Neumann was instrumental in many conversions and improvements of life. She was an instrument of grace to thousands, including the multitude of American soldiers who paid her veneration after the War. (The Americans occupied the zone where she lived, and helped to repair her home and the village church.)
Towards the end of my visit to Konnersreuh, Ferdinand took us to the cemetery, where we found Teresa’s grave surrounded by numerous testimonials of gratitude for the graces and favors received through her intercession. A few feet away I noticed the tomb of a priest named Rothschild. When I asked abut him, Ferdinand explained that he was a Jew converted through Resl. He became a priest and did parish work until his death, which occurred about the time Hitler came to power.
Our visit over, Ferdinand drove ahead of us in his car until we came to an intersection where our ways would part. Here he pulled over to the side of the road and we all got out. Ferdinand came over to me, knelt down on the ground and with tears in his eyes begged my blessing. He was as deeply grateful for the privilege of assisting once again at the unmutilated Mass, as I was for the grace of a visit to Konnersreuth.