Today Capuchin Franciscans in Colorado and Kansas are celebrating their patronal feast. St. Conrad of Parzham is the patron and namesake of friars working in Mid-America.
St. Conrad of What?
St. Conrad of Parzham was born in Bavaria, Germany on December 22, 1818. He was the ninth son of a poor farming family. From his early years he gave evident signs of a deep interior life, preferring places of solitude where he could be alone with God. Despite the great distance from the nearest Church, Conrad walked frequently through rain and snow to attend the holy Mass. He had a great devotion to Our Lady and prayed the Rosary daily.
Conrad remained on the farm without much thought of the future. His mother died when he was only 14. At age 31, with the passing of his father, Conrad decided to follow his heart and become a Capuchin Franciscan. After giving away his possessions he was admitted to the novitiate as a lay brother and received the religious name Conrad (his Baptismal name was John).
Immediately after his profession of vows, Conrad was sent to the friary of St. Ann in Altötting. He was given the job of porter, greetings pilgrims at the door and providing food and services to the poor seeking help. Brother Conrad fulfilled the task of porter for more than forty years, until his death in 1894.
Conrad's Secret to Holiness
Conrad loved silence! As mentioned, he sought places of solitude as a child in order to raise his thoughts to God. During his spare moments as a porter, he would duck into a nook near the door where it was possible to see the Blessed Sacrament in the nearby chapel. During the night, he often deprived himself of hours of sleep in order to be alone with Jesus in the chapel. Conrad also continued his childhood devotion to Our Lady, deepening his love for the Mother of God with every year of his religious life. These were his great secrets to sanctity: Silence, the Blessed Sacrament, and Mary, Queen of the Friars Minor.
Why Conrad is Our Patron?
When the Capuchin missionaries departed Bavaria to serve the German immigrants in the United States, Conrad followed their progress with great interest. He kept the mission of his brother Capuchins and the people they would serve in his prayers. This is evident in the vocation prayer that the Capuchins recite in their friaries today:
Blessed Saint Conrad of Parzham,
Beloved Porter of the Lord,
You showed such great interest
in the welfare of our budding province.
So now, from your place in heaven,
continue to show your interest in us
so that, by your intercession,
God may grant that the portals of our
friaries may be filled with more and more
candidates for our Capuchin way of life.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen.