A Suffering Saint?

It was a long journey from my small, rural town in Nebraska to the grandeur of Haus Edelweiss – an ostentatious hunting lodge converted into a missionary base – located in the Vienna Woods.

Were the rumors true – Napoleon and Hitler’s troops had not only marched through the vicinity, but had lodged within? I berated myself for not paying more attention to European history!

Back then, the small Gate Haus which had been well maintained, stood guard at the end of the driveway. After the much needed internal renovations, the Gate Haus became our home for two years.

The gurgling of Sattelbach – the creek  meandering though the woods across the way behind the horse barn –  crooned us to sleep each night.

The final touch – window boxes filled with fragrant, trailing, impatiens – revealed we were well on our way to being enculturated into our new life.

Little did we know at the time how much our work in Europe – traveling behind the Iron Curtain to communist-controlled regions of Eastern Europe – would not only transform, but radically revolutionize our way of thinking about life, religion, and politics.

Stift Heilegenkreutz

A few kilometers down the road from our mission base stood Stift Heiligenkreutz – a Cistercian monastery founded in 1133 A.D. I was too young to barely remember the sexual revolution of the sixties, let alone get my mind wrapped around an era eight centuries past!

I was too young in my spiritual journey to fully grasp the significance of the ancient faith – otherwise I would have spent more time soaking in the quiet spaces conducive for soul-care.

Haus Edelweiss was a far cry from my childhood imagination of work in the backroads and huts of Africa. This was not how I imagined anyone’s mission life would be. For some reason, I found this troubling.

I was oddly relieved later, when after our flight from Denver to Frankfurt, then travel by train to Vienna – while taking my first shower after newly arriving on the premises – to discover only ice-cold water spraying down upon me.

Now, that’s more like it, I thought! But then, not wanting to be ungrateful, promptly thanked God for providing running water!

There was something virtuous about the cold water – buffeting my body – as if preparing me to endure hardships I knew were bound to come.

I vowed not to complain – I would suffer in silence – smugly confident I was well on my way to becoming a missionary!

Later that evening our dinner host apologized for our unpleasant first day, then explained that they had been having an ongoing plumbing problem. They hoped it would have been repaired by the time we arrived, but sadly that was not the case. The hot water had been temporarily turned off for repairs!! 

My spiritual-snobbery had been revealed!

Of course I kept silent – it would take me decades to learn to use my voice – but I wondered how I would ever mature into the saintly missionary from my imagination without a good dose of suffering!

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