Throughout his life St. Conrad was known by many to be a man of "interior composure," a man who was so intensely focused on the presence of God. His whole day was centered on prayer. He was a holy porter who opened the door for many and a man who shared the peace of God to all who came to it. He answered the friary door for 41 years of his life, offering his time, his prayers and yes, even Scheps, the famous Bavarian beer that was brewed by the friars to be a kind of food.
As I thought back on his life, there were few things that I felt God was asking me to remember. Three things specifically, peace, patience, and presence. All of them were made even more clear to me from a dream that I had: I was sitting on the sidewalk at a nearby lake, sort of on the bridge of the dam. Brother Brandon and I were playing music as people walked by. It had been one of our future ministry ideas to be the busking brothers, where we would create this band, play music and preach to people on the street. I remember encountering all kinds of people, taking pictures in between songs, laughing and smiling, it was a good time! But suddenly things changed, I remember seeing an angry man walk up to us. He began questioning what we were doing, shaking his head his face grew red. Then all of sudden, he grabbed the neck of my guitar and flung it over the dam of the lake. . . I remember looking over the railing, watching it hit the floor and explode into a thousand pieces. When I woke up, I asked a question that could be important for all of us on the journey of faith - "How am I responding to the situations that God puts before me?" With anger, with resentment, maybe frustration?
Porter of Peace
The thing is that St. Conrad responded with peace. In times of great trial and pain, he was a porter of Peace. He opened the door and gave peace to everyone he encountered. His love for the people came from the peace he had gained from countless hours of prayer and with it came mercy, forgiveness, and brotherhood. To be at peace is to be free, in a state of mind where nothing disturbs you. It means tranquility with the situation or scenario at hand. It is believing with your whole heart that God has everything under control. The life of Conrad showed him to be a man of complete interior composure, one who was always surrounded by silence. I thought of all the different things that disrupt my peace. When that happens, how do I respond? I was surprised to know that the next part of my dream was a burning desire to talk with this guy, and make peace.
Part of being calm and at peace involves being patient. We often want to move to the end so quickly that we forget all the graces and God-moments that are in between. I know for myself, I want things to happen right away, as soon as possible. So much that it's one activity after another without any tranquility to think about what is happening within them. Certainly, the life of St. Conrad involved a patience that allowed him to find God as he moved from one task to another, as he moved from his cell to the friary door. Being patient involves waiting, a type of silent endurance that is contrary to frustration or anger. It's said that the neighborhood boys would test Conrad's patience by ringing the friary doorbell nineor ten times, and each time he would visit the door as he usually did. Instead of growing angry, he would proclaim "It doesn't matter, I will come out 20 times in God's name, as long as my feet carry me."
Porter of the Presence of God
Opening the door to many people who came to visit in a way, was him opening the door to the presence of God. He was surrounded by God's presence in his life, and he recognized it in every situation of his life. This led him to a personal encounter with God. In every moment of his life, he found the Spirit of God. Whether it was in his cell, in the chapel, silent walks, and pilgrimages, he saw the presence of God in every individual. Like a divine appointment and because of that he was able to turn his heart to everyone he met. St. Conrad had the eyes of faith, he saw Christ in every person and situation. For him, life was about 'seeing' God active in his everyday life. As I was thinking about this, I remembered another part of my dream. Just before my guitar had been flung over the edge and shattered into a thousand pieces, we were singing a song with the words, "We want to see Jesus, lifted high," and I realized that much of my life needs to have that element, the element of longing to see God in our everyday lives. When we look at the life of Conrad, I think that's also something he wanted; to see Jesus lifted high yes, but also to see him in every moment and in every person.
So the question is asked again, "how am I responding to the situations that God puts before me?" Like St. Conrad, let us answer by responding to the presence of God as a people who are porters of peace and patience like he was.
+ Br. Vince Mary
*some excerpts from "Conrad of Parzham: Friend of Man and Man of God" by Niklaus Kuster, O.F.M Cap