FUNERAL ORATION FOR ISA BARONESS VON BERNUS
*21. January 1898 †12. May 2001
"Be joyful in hope, patient with afflictions, faithful in prayer "!
" Love is true, slight evil, honor the good"
Be kind one to another with brotherly love; Regard each other with respect;Thou shall not be slothful in your daily doings; be fervent in spirit; Serve the Lord.
Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation, faithful in prayer. Given to hospitability. …
Rejoice with thee that do rejoice, and weep with thee that weep
Be of the same mind one toward another. Thou shall not strive for higher things, but condescend to men of low rank. Thou shall not be wise in your own conceits.
Thou shall not recompense to no men evil for evil.
If it be possible, as much as lies in you, live peaceful with all men.
Owe no man anything but to love one another, for he that loves another has fulfilled the law.
For none of us lives to himself, and no man dies to himself.
For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord; whether we live therefore, or die, we belong to the Lord
Roman 12, 13 and 14
Dear Friends of Isa von Bernus, honored Friends, dear Sisters and Brothers!
I recently took part in a reading and a follow up discussion between a poet and a theologian at the Theater in Bregenz. The poet like the theologian agreed that one often comes closes to the truth by telling stories and legends.
I also have something to tell and will be speaking to you, and let some of that blend in what I think is commonly known as the Christian believe of death and resurrection and the hope for eternal life with God in heaven, which has now come true for Isa von Bernus. I believe this is more appropriate for her, since she was a person who felt neither drawn to the universal type of thinking nor to the orthodox teachings of the faith. I would like to speak to you and even tell you personal things; hence, this will be a way for me to express my love for Isa, a way to put a stop to my tears and also a way to provide room for my sorrow.
It was in 1984 when Isa von Bernus was a guest at the place where I lived during that time, where her husband had his home decades ago and which was a venue place for "painters, poets and other artists": Convent Neuburg. Isa came accompanied by Dr. Mittler to introduce the new edition of "Growing at the Miracle" a biography of Bernus’ child- and young adulthood. She was then given a tour through the Benedictine Monastery that befitted an honor upon her - a women - which usually was only shown to the wives of Government leaders. I would have truly enjoyed being part of this so much, since I was certain to be the only one among the monks present, that had read all of Alexander von Bernus’ books in the Monastery’s library. However, the young monk was not permitted to. Even today, while I speak these words, anger still arises within me.
While recapturing the event that same evening, the Abbot told us about Isa von Bernus. His description of her really took me in for her so much, that a few days later I sent her my copy of "Life, Dream and Death", asking her to autograph the book for me. This is how a friendship started that lasted up to her death; no - this would be wrong "a friendship that will last up to the eternity of eternities". Isa signed my book with the following words from Bernus that she loved so much and always liked to recite:
"One says that miracles would always happen,
to those that never did betray the faith.
So many things exist which are beyond the eye;
and walls will open up from time to time"
These "walls" have now opened up for Isa. She has gone through; she has gone to that side of life, that only a few of us are permitted to see and even then only for a short moment, and of which, if to tell about it will require "words beyond this world", as Bernus writes in his "statements about death ..." .
I personally met Isa for the first time one year later after numerous letters had been exchanged. It required a certain cunning approach. Just visiting the Baroness von Bernus, was simply impossible for the young monk. So I did what I was permitted to do: take a vacation at the Abbot Neresheim, which is located near Donaumünster. Since the guest father was a very discreet man, I told him of my desire to visit Donaumünster and he helped me. And so it happened that Isa and Dr. Sebastian Paquet could pick me up at the train station in Donauwörth. It was friendship at first sight.
Wonderful hours with many, many more to follow, at first secretly and later, after I left the convent, quite official visits. Her daily routines were very comforting. Breakfast early in the morning before her associates arrived at the laboratory, answering correspondence and taking care of orders for the healing remedies. Lunch most of the time at "Willi’s". She could not cook and refused to do so her entire life. Still unforgotten are her usual words about the subject: "Look into the pantry there are marvelous cans in there, be free to choose whatever you like. "! Just like during Bernus’ times, there was teatime in the afternoon. In the evening we talked or read and Isa smoked cigarettes in her own inimitable way. Those were carefree times, hours during which my body and soul could rejuvenate. Isa was the perfect hostess. And Isa was so young, so refreshingly young and unconventional. It never had the impression, that this was an elderly women sitting across from me. Isa was and remained ageless. Never looking back or talking about the good old times, when everything seemed to be better as it is today; no, she lived in the here and now and her concern was only for the present. Even I only found out how old she really was on the occasion of her 100th birthday. Never did she talked about age, - by God, as some old people like to brag about their age-, also on that subject she was so refreshingly different.
Until the end, Isa kept her unique magical charm that spellbound not only Alexander von Bernus, but also many others.
"those lips full mystery and explication...
a smile both promise and repulse ... "
as Bernus wrote in 1934 in his "Eternal Departure". I was touched and drawn to the magic of her being and the way she was, living out of her intuition or, as Irmhild Mäurer wrote " thinking with the heart".
From childhood on Isa was a human being that was loved. She was not only a lovely child, but also a beautiful woman. A portrait showing her as a young woman, an actress and lecturer, is placed on the wall at my vicarage. There is hardly a visitor, which will not stop and admire her image!
Isa was loved and gave love. However, this may not be obscured either, it was also love which became her doom.
After I left the convent, I stayed at Donaumünster for several weeks, to think about my future life in a serene surrounding and to conclude my theological examination paper with the title: the religious belief of Alexander von Bernus.
It became quite clear to me then that something had changed with Isa – not only on the outside - changes had also taken place on the inside. Evil had moved into the castle and, since Isa tended to believe in beautiful words more (as Irmhild Mäurer wrote in the closing remarks to "Irene") than what others observed, heard and critically acclaimed to each other, it became difficult to get through to her. The warning voices from her friends did not reach her; she did not want to listen or, maybe she was not able to hear them. Those were hard times and even today, the consequences can still be felt and will continue to burden us tomorrow and in the future. It was the time, if to speak with Alexander von Bernus, words
"WHEN THE ANGLE OF THE LORD WILL VEIL HIS HEAD AND THE DEMONS PASTURE….. AND GET FULL." At that time, a woman came into her life and she saw and felt with Isa and understood
"TO GO INTO SILENCE -AND LISTEN TO THE VOICE- THAT WILL NOT RAISE IN THE STORM…." It was very, very hard spiritual work that Irmhild did. And yet, this was only the beginning of all that dearest Irmhild did from now on for Isa and the Alexander von Bernus Society.
Dear Friends of Isa, honored Friends, dear Sisters and Brothers!
I can simply not believe that Isa has passed on. As I spoke of her at mass last Sunday, I said: although I bury around 40 people every year, accompany some on their way home to God and salvation, I never thought that Isa would die one day. To me she was nearly immortal. If she, just like Enoch, like Elijah or the Virgin Mary have went straight to heaven, I would not have been surprised. I would have thought that the good angel, whom she deeply trusted all her life, had taken her straight into heaven. However, Isa chose the mortal way - she died. Isa died, knowing that death was near and she welcomed it. Perhaps she felt like the ancient Abraham, of whom it is said that he was tired and had enough of life on earth. Sometimes, one simply does not want to continue anymore, knowing that a new life is waiting on the other side. A life in unity with God our Father and with Christ. But, also a life with all of those that went before us.
We believe Isa is there, united with God, that she is there in the eternal light, where there is never ending joy and bliss in paradise. In a place, where language has no words to tell of what we may expect and "no eye has seen, no ear has heard and no mans heart ever felt, however which is prepared by God for those that love him". (part of a prayer) yet, we have to stay behind – at least for right now. And, some of us are sad despite the feeling of joy knowing that Isa is now completely in the eternal light. Our sorrow will continue, and last on for a long time. "Because there is nothing, which can or shall replace the absence of a dear loved one. We shall not even try to. One can only bear with it and try to sustain. This is definitely a hard and painful process, but it is also a comfort. Becausethis special place in our heart remains empty, we keep special ties to those, which we miss. It is wrong if one says: God fills this empty place. He does not fill it at all; he keeps it open and by doing so helps us to keep the connection with one another – and to keep this connection even throughout the tears and the sorrow". (Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Resistance and Surrender)
Our Christian faith tells us, that man goes to God after he dies. No one is able to fully understand what this exactly means. We believe that the one that passed on is with our heavenly father. However, we also believe that we are connected with those that went before us through the love of God" ... that we are not separated ... " as Bernus wrote in his poem to Isa "spoken from the other side". There, with God, is the place where we want to reach out with our thoughts for Isa, this is where we may turn to if we want to talk to her. Don't let us only mourn at this hour but speak the words of Paul that Isa spoke to herself repeatedly:
"Be joyful in hope, patient with afflictions, faithful in prayer "!
Joyful in hope - because we know where Isa is and that her hopes have been fulfilled.
Patient in afflictions - because we don't know how things will continue with her and Bernus life's work.
Faithful in prayer - because we have even more reason to hope for God's mercy and have in Isa a good advocate for us with God.
Only one last word. It shall be something I say, perhaps also in Isa’s name. I simply would like to say thank you. Thanks to all of you that loved and cherished Isa and particularly those, that where there for her day and night. Beginning with you dear Irmhild: it cannot be put into words what you did for her. Thank you! " Red Cross nurses and medical personnel: Isa owed you so much especially you Gretel. Thanks to all the good spirits of the castle - you all know who I mean. Thanks to Bastl, Bobbi and Jürgen, to Ankeli, to Andreas, to Nomi, to Alois, the Sautters, the Klausens only to name just a few that I personally know. Thanks to the many of you that did good by Isa and will hopefully continue to do good things to the lifework. May God the savior repay all your good deeds.
While saying thanks, I would also like to include the animals, which gave her warmth and protected her.
Finally, I would like to thank you, dearest Isa. Thank you for a long, wonderful life and for your friendship that always remained young at heart. For your" thinking towards us ", for you "feeling with us", for your "embracing us", for your love. And now I would like to thank you, dear God, "that Isa was allowed to become a true Human" and that you let us have her for such a long time.
Although Isa von Bernus was a baptized Protestant, it was her wish to be buried by Bernd Schmitt, the Roman Catholic priest. He was brother Christian at Stift Neuburg. Today he is a parish priest at the Rochus parish in Kaiserslautern.