TO GREGORY SCHERR
Lord Abbot: Your Lordship was very kind in granting my humble petition for Mass intentions for America, and I am thankful for this generosity. However, at the same time I cannot accept your Lordship’s decision that this favor will put an end to my desire of going to the missions. I did not abandon my project with this appeal. I only consented to remain at my post for another year because bodily infirmities counseled me to postpone my plan for the present.5 I must also confess that consideration for my relatives and temporal affairs have so far held me back. However, I cannot discard the thought that everyone who feels drawn towards this vocation has the obligation of dedicating himself to the missionary life. I sincerely believe that we religious priests are bound to carry out such work more strictly than the secular clergy, that it is a disgrace if we shirk that duty, that our Order will certainly gain in membership and become more admired if we achieve something in this respect. The spiritual needs of Bavaria are indeed great, but not so urgent as to stand in the way of such a work. Perhaps it is a sign from Heaven that we are not making greater progress, because we are remiss in this work.
Plans for establishing a mission house have given me food for thought. I will reveal one of these plans to you. How wonderful it would be if Metten were to undertake such a work! A number of monasteries in the Middle Ages, like Corbie6 and especially many monasteries in England and Ireland, were mission houses. How this would influence the religious spirit in the abbey! What an encouragement for all if a few, or still better if many, were found who would not only give up a comfortable home for a monastery but who would also follow the lost sheep to the ends of the world and shun neither want nor danger to glorify the name of the Lord everywhere. If some, as could be expected, should find in this manner not only a slow martyrdom of suffering and hardship, but also a real martyrdom, what a glory for such a house! These are my thoughts.
Is such a plan really so difficult? Munich is looked upon as the center of German religious life. Should we not have a mission house here? A residence for such a purpose could easily be found. Those who enter this institute could pursue academic studies in the gymnasium or the university. A Benedictine could be their superior. As soon as they were ordained, they could be sent to the monastery to be instructed in practical parish work and receive a good foundation for their religious life. All this would be of great benefit to the community itself. If they desire to become Benedictines, all the better. They would then be monks and could be transferred to the other side of the ocean to establish strong centers for Catholic life and Benedictine monasticism. Soon they would not be dependent upon European conditions, but receive candidates from the surrounding countryside. If they remain secular priests, they will at least have had good training in a school of the Order, neither too little nor too much. Moreover, our Order would in this way gain the friendship of all friends of the Jesuits, and all good men would unite in this important work. The expenses could be borne by the Ludwig Missionsverein.7 Gradually enough property could be acquired in America to carry on the work, even if the Missionsverein should cease to support it.
If our abbots would follow the example of the bishops of Passau and Eichstätt and admit each year only a few such boys into their colleges, they would find that these lads would not leave the monastery when they grow up, and He who takes care of the birds of the air will provide the means for their sustenance. Thus, there would be an increase of members for the Order as well as for the missions. People plant trees although they are certain that the fruit will benefit only the next generation. Should we think only of today and tomorrow? The Lord has provided for our needs so wonderfully and so quickly, should we not confide in Him still more? Must we measure everything with the yardstick and constantly have the rules of arithmetic before our eyes?
In all this I do not wish to dictate or blame anyone–puer ego sum [I am a mere child]–but the condition of things urges me to speak. The harvest is ready, but there are no laborers. Have the railroads been built only for shipping bales of cotton or transporting sacks of sugar, and not for sending missionaries? Let us not become isolated or transfer this work to others. We belong to the whole world. Ita in universum mundum! [Go into the whole world! Mark 15:16] Heretics are spreading to all parts of the world, and we are keeping warm behind the stove. Therefore, I will remain a missionary at least in my heart. All depends on Your Lordship whether I become one in reality, if the voice of the Supreme Shepherd considers me fit. However, I will always remain in my devotion, veneration, and reverence, Your Lordship’s most obedient, P. Boniface, O.S.B.
5 At the time, Wimmer was prefect in the Hollandeum, a student residence, and professor at the Ludwigs Gymnasium, the royal secondary school in Munich.
6 A Benedictine monastery founded in France in 657.
7 The Bavarian mission society, founded by King Ludwig I in Munich in 1839.