Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Remembering Sr. Angelika

On August 13, 2010, our beloved Sr. Angelika died at the age of 91 after a 13 year battle with leukemia. She entered the Benedictine Abbey of St Walburg in Eichstatt, Germany at the young age of 16 and was a model of fidelity to her vows and to Christ. A soul well loved by her community and all who met her, we are confident that she has now received her eternal reward in heaven. The following is part of the eulogy given by Mother Maria-Michael Newe after Sr. Angelika's funeral Mass.

Let me just say a few short words about Sr. Angelika because gathered together you will each carry a piece of her and a portion of you has already been brought to heaven with her. And I think that’s an important aspect—we are the body of Christ and part of that is already becoming the victorious Christ.

Sr. Angelika Maria Fackler was born on April 27, 1919 in the village of Gosheim near Bavaria. She was the third of eight children, so she knew family life. Sr. Benedicta, as you well know, is her blood sister and entered Eichstatt before her in 1932, and in 1934 was sent to Canyon City in Colorado and there she served the monks. Well Sr. Angelika, watching her older sister, thought, “Ah, there’s something I want to do too.” She heard the call of God as well and so entered religion in St. Walburg in Eichstatt in 1935 and she made her first profession on May 4, 1938 and she was given the name Angelika—which she lived up to beautifully.

In 1941, Sr. Angelika and several other nuns from Eichstatt and around that area were stationed at a hospital for wounded soldiers. There she helped to do the cooking and the caring for these men. She was told, “You need to go and care for the men who have been hurt in war.” She said when she got there it wasn’t men, it was boys. She said they were 17 to 19 and 20 and at night you could hear them crying as they were dying. She and other sisters would go down to where they were in their beds and hold their hand and stand with them almost all night sometimes and pray with them so that they could die with someone there. The boys often thought it was their mother there with them. How appropriate. She took the stand of a mother by her son, helping him to die. That was a remarkable part of her life. She was a woman who loved and loved deeply.
In 1950, Sr. Angelika was sent to the United States where she joined the St. Walburga Benedictines working for the monks of St. Vincent’s Archabbey and Seminary in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. She loved this work where she served in the dining room. She served other monks. And she loved to encourage them. They would always come to her—you hear this from the monks of yore— as young monks and pour out their heart to her about how hard it was, how difficult it was. And she would tell them, “Oh come on. Gather it up. You can make it. Pray, ask for God’s help and I’ll pray with you.” And she simply encouraged them in the life. It was said that many a monk and seminarian stayed because she and other sisters prayed for them and encouraged them to seek God in the life and not themselves. What a beautiful part of her life.

In 1976, Sr. Angelika came to our Abbey of St. Walburga. We did dishes for many years together. And I learned a lot about just silently working. She was one who really lived the Rule. She didn’t talk a lot. In fact, she only said good things. One of the sisters was reminding us of how when anything would happen, very often her response was, “O my dear,” and that was it, she just went on.

In 1980, with Mother Maria-Thomas as superior, she was chosen to be the prioress. She served this call beautifully for many, many years. And she encouraged us in the same way that she encouraged the young monks. One of the sisters was saying this morning that you would go to her with a problem and she would sit there and listen very intently and she would give you an answer and you would say, “How did you know that?” All she would say was, “I had experience.” She learned by her experience. And she learned to love. One of the things that Mother Maria-Thomas was saying was that when Mother Maria-Thomas was in Germany and she was asked to come over to the United States, she was a little nervous and one of the sisters in Germany told her, “Sr. Angelika is there. She’s a very faithful and trustworthy sister. You’ll be able to lean on her.” What a mark of respect and love.

One of the things that came out in her own life is that she loved St. Gertrude of Helfta and through her writings, she said that’s when she came to learn how to live the daily life in and out in a holy way. She said she was praying one day and said, “God what is my word in life? What would you like me to pray?” And she said there came to her, immediately within her, the word, “Yes. Yes is your prayer word.” That’s how she lived. Everything that came, she said “yes” to God’s will. That is the mark of a monk, a true monk who seeks God in everything.

And she lived this even to her death. Three days before she died she was sitting in her bed and all she said was, “This is my last ‘Yes’”. She said, “I want to do this for God. Whatever He sends: ‘Yes’”. How holy is that. That is something each one of us can take in our own lives. Do we say yes to what comes from the hand of God? She said it as a child of God.

She’s a person who lived full of zeal. I think she lived that up to two months ago when she started really feeling her age and her illness. And that’s one of the marks of a monk, the good zeal of a monk. She lived fully loving life because it was God’s gift. Life should be lived joyfully. It is God’s gift. Life is precious, because we don’t have it forever. This is the one place we live fully in faith because when we die it is simply in knowing. Here it is not knowing but believing.

There’s one last thing I want to read. And I want to read this because this is the perfect definition of a monk. It is from the Prologue of St. Benedict. It says,

And the Lord seeking his own laborer in the multitude of the people, to whom he addresses the foregoing admonition, says again, "Who is the man that loves life? Who desires many good days in order to enjoy good things?" Shouldst thou hearing this make answer, "I am he," God says to thee, "If thou will have true and everlasting life, keep thy tongue from evil and thy lips from words of deceit. Forsake evil and do good; seek after peace and pursue it. And when you shall have done these things my eyes shall be upon you and my ears shall be open to your prayers and before you shall call upon me I will say, ‘Lo here I am.’”

That is how she lived: “Lo here I am.” And what did she hear: “Veni sponsa Christi. Come my beloved, my beautiful one, come.”

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