| Brother Sylvestro, senior member of the Canaan Franciscan Brothers, recalled how Mother Basilea often shared with them about their mentor, St. Francis of Assisi, with his burning love for Jesus. Like St. Francis, she too would withdraw from time to time to seek the face of the Lord. Attuned to His heart, she learnt to see everything from His perspective, sensing what grieved Him and what would bring Him joy. In her writings, particularly in our daily Three O'Clock Prayer commemorating the Passion and Resurrection of Christ, she captured the lament of God over a world that has turned its back on Him.
This sensitivity for the pain of God, born of a loving heart, had a lasting impact on my life. For love of Him she gave Him her all, including personal interests and prestige, demonstrating that a life of uncompromising discipleship is within reach of everyone, if love is the motivation.
Incidentally, Mother Basilea declined to accept Germany's prestigious Bundesverdienstkreuz (Order of Merit), granted in acknowledgement of political, economic or intellectual contributions to the reconstruction of Germany. For her, the crown of thorns motif on our seal was not just an emblem: it was a way of life. Had it not been for Mother Martyria, though, we would never have heard about the incident.
The Rev. Dr. Stefan Kunz of the Evangelical (Protestant) Church in Germany referred to the origin of Mother Basilea's spirituality as prayer and dedication to the triune God, expressed in the union of her will with His:
In a spirit of contrition, thanksgiving and love she met daily with Jesus as her Lord and Saviour, the Bridegroom of her soul. She knew that Jesus wants us to make room for Him in our hearts, dedicating our lives to Him unreservedly, and loving Him passionately. She once wrote:
What, then, could be more glorious
Or sweeter than Your presence
Within my heart, O Jesus Christ?
Now all within is silence,
That You may come to enter
My soul, and make it ever Yours.
These words are in keeping with the great and wonderful tradition of Christian mysticism, based on personal experience of a deep relationship with Christ and an expression of an ardent devotion to Him. Her experiences of the love of Jesus and His indwelling are reminiscent of what Paul once wrote: ‘I no longer live, but Christ lives in me' (Galatians 2:20 NIV).
Afterwards Dr. Kunz invited us all to sing another verse of Mother Basilea's song, in which Jesus asks the soul:
Make ready your heart's chamber,
Put far all earthly clamour,
Silence all worldly longings now.
Upon you take My quietness,
Eternity's own stillness,
And My approaching footsteps hear.
Pastor Hans-Jörg Dittmann, Second Chairman of the Evangelical Alliance in Darmstadt, related how as a 5 or 6-year-old he first heard Bible stories and learnt to pray in the bright blue bus our sisters drove as a mobile Sunday School to an impoverished area of Darmstadt. Though he never met Mother Basilea personally, two aspects of her spirituality had made a deep impression on him as a child through his contact with our sisters: ‘Preaching the Good News especially among the under-privileged, and the centrality of prayer in one's life.' Later in her writings he discovered two further aspects: ‘Tangible Christian unity through the work of the Holy Spirit, and healing of the past, or more specifically, of our crime against Israel – through repentance and forgiveness.'
These are elements the Sisters of Mary introduced to the Evangelical Alliance in Darmstadt … The spiritual unity enjoyed by the Evangelical Alliance here in Darmstadt, despite its diversity and versatility, is a fruit of the continual prayers of the sisters and above all of Mother Basilea, who supported the Evangelical Alliance, with which she had deep bonds. She longed for the Christians here in Darmstadt to grow together and become one in the Lord.
Benjamin Berger, a second-generation Holocaust survivor living in Israel, described how reluctant he and his brother Reuven were to meet Christians from Germany. However, having heard so much about our sisters on the Mount of Olives, they decided to visit them one day in 1971.
There we discovered a love and humility towards our people. This God used to open our hearts towards Germans and concerning the whole issue of forgiveness, reconciliation and healing.
Some years later he and his brother were to meet Mother Basilea personally:
I sensed Mother Basilea's deep oneness with Jesus. When she spoke to us about the sufferings of Jesus, I sensed how she shared in His pain. And when she spoke of His joy, I sensed how she rejoiced with Jesus. I had never experienced anything like this before. It was an incentive to love Jesus as our Heavenly Bridegroom. Having lived 30 years in Israel now, I can say the spiritual blessings we received through her have accompanied us all this time.
Sister Maria Boss of the community Christusträger (Christ-bearers) shared her recollections of Mother Basilea:
She was on fire with love for Jesus, inspiring everyone around her to focus on Jesus and open their hearts to His love. Yet she must also have passed through times of spiritual dryness. How else did she learn to declare in faith, ‘My Father, I do not understand You, but I trust You'?
On behalf of the other Protestant communities in Germany I would like to share with you a comforting promise: ‘The Father himself loves you' (John 16:27 NIV). Your spiritual mothers have gone home to the Lord. But the Father is yours for ever. And He is faithful.
Our friendship with Horst-Klaus and Irmela Hofmann of the Reichenberg Fellowship stretches over a period of many years. For a while Horst-Klaus worked closely with us in Concern for Germany, a subsidiary ministry. He paid tribute to Mother Basilea's life-long commitment to uphold the sanctity of God's commandments even in the face of opposition. How his extended family community emerged at the height of the student riots in the late 1960s is a story in itself. ‘Everyone is talking about revolution – so do we' read the advertisement to their first student conference, hosted at Kanaan. It attracted earnest intellectuals in droves, among them long-haired, pot-smoking political agitators.
After the first explosive sessions, when an unannounced group of activists from Berlin seized the platform and held forth on their political views, the Spirit of God stepped in dramatically, bringing conviction. Late into the night students were lining up to receive Jesus into their hearts. One belligerent student went on to become a pastor. Two further students, one an anarchist and the other a member of a Marxist commune, are also involved in full-time Christian ministry.
Many of you are aware that in 1968 our fellowship was born at this place. Here is where our first conferences for students were held and where revival broke out. This is why our Reichenberg Fellowship, a community of families and singles, will continue to maintain close links with Kanaan from one generation to the next.
In closing, Horst-Klaus Hofmann gave thanks for Mother Basilea's faithfulness in remembering their ministry in her prayers daily.
A Catholic friend, Gerhard Gabel, reflected on Mother Basilea's concern for Christian unity, in keeping with Jesus' request in John 17:21 ‘that they may all be one' (RSV):
She didn't think we all had to be identical. Her aim was not sameness but rather oneness in our love for Jesus as a powerful witness to the world. I once mentioned to a Sister of Mary that I was considering leaving the Catholic Church. Instead of encouraging me to take this step, as I had secretly hoped, she said, ‘I don't think Jesus wants you to leave your church. He put you there so that you will be a witness in your surroundings as light and salt.' Today, 25 years later, I see the wisdom of those words.
Dr. W. Günter Gassner, M.D., our family doctor of many years, shared how Mother Basilea had ministered to him:
What impressed me was that Mother Basilea never complained about her pains and ailments. She always put herself last. Concern for those entrusted to her dominated all the talks I had with Mother Basilea. Beyond that she also expressed concern for twentieth-century man's inability to believe. At a time when it was neither popular nor fashionable to speak up for Christian values, she argued knowledgeably and forcefully in all humility. I must add that she helped strengthen my faith, which had been shaken by harrowing war-time experiences.
Professor Dr. Inge Scharrer, M.D., also shared some personal insights from the last stretch of Mother Basilea's earthly life:
I had the privilege of advising and providing medical treatment for a remarkable patient during a long and difficult time of sickness, particularly from 1992-2001. It was an exceptionally rare and painful sickness, extremely resistant to therapy. Medically it was also unusual, for it did not follow the normal pattern. From time to time, in answer to prayer, the feared symptoms were delayed, or else they appeared to a lesser degree, or not precisely as described in the medical books. God intervened miraculously.
This is not to diminish her affliction, for Mother Basilea suffered intensely during her illness. Yet in her pain and illness she glorified Jesus. What was her secret? She exemplified the assurance of being a child of God. Her faith, her implicit trust in God, and her love for Father, Son and Spirit were inspiring and infectious. Even when in excruciating pain, she radiated a deep joy and cheerfulness. Peace exuded from her. Pain and sickness could not get the better of her. To the very end she sang hymns. I will never forget her declaration of love for the Holy Spirit, ‘Oh, how I love the Holy Spirit! What would I do without Him!' I often heard her say that, and to this declaration of love the Holy Spirit responded. You only have to think of all the writings, songs, praise plaques and everything else we now have as a legacy.