Photo : The Mystic Marriage of Saint Catherine of Siena MET DT507, cropped | By Giovanni di Paolo, courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Brother Gottfried (Alois) Brückl OSB
Missionary Benedictine of Sankt Ottilien
1 February 1927 – 29 April 2022
The life of our community’s oldest confrere, Brother Gottfried Brückl, quietly came to an end on the feast of St. Catherine of Siena. He was in the 96th year of his life and in the 71st of his monastic profession. Our confrere, who was still quite independent, had been bedridden for the last few weeks due to the corona virus and had become increasingly weak.
Our confrere came into the world on 1 February 1927 in Munich as the second child of the farm laborer Johann Brückl and his wife Anna Michl and received the name Alois at baptism. His parents soon moved to the hamlet of Reinting near Hohenpolding, Erding District and set up a small farm; eventually they had a total of seven children. Alois finished the eight-grade primary school in Hohenpolding in March 1941, after which he attended the agricultural vocational school in Hohenpolding, from which he graduated in April 1943. At the age of eight, he had already been lodging with a neighboring farmer as a shepherd boy, with whom he was “at home” for ten years. From 1943 he worked as a farm laborer. At the end of 1944, at the age of 17, he was called up for military service. However, this ended after only three days of duty on the frontline with his capture near Würzburg. His time as a prisoner of war in camps in the south of France with heavy labor service lasted an unusually long four years (released in March 1949), which was possibly related to the tireless labor of the confrere. The time as a prisoner was no doubt marked by intense loneliness, as in an overview of the experience he specifically lists few personal contacts and letters received. During these years his religious interest grew, as his pastor at home confirmed in a letter to the monastery. Thus in 1950 Alois asked for admittance to St. Ottilien Archabbey where he arrived on 1 February 1950. The admission application written to Archabbot Chrysostomus Schmid shows his open and earthy nature when he clearly describes the poor conditions, but he is also proud of how his family earns its modest living with great diligence.
Integration into the monastery followed in the usual way: admittance to the novitiate on 27 February 1951, when he was named after the Benedictine monk and Bishop Gottfried of Amiens, temporary profession was on 28 February 1952 and perpetual profession on 1 May 1955. Initially, Br. Gottfried worked in the pigsty and then took care of the external cattle barn in Geltendorf where he also lived. The quiet course of monastic life encountered a decisive moment when Br. Gottfried suffered a mental breakdown in February 1960. Two months of psychiatric treatment allowed him to regain distance from his frightening hallucinations. But his thoughts kept circling around the inspirations of that time, which became important for his spiritual life and about which he enjoyed talking to patient listeners. A longer report he wrote gives an insight into his very own religious thought world, in which the psychological breakdown he had consciously experienced and processed had led to an inner maturation.
After the acquisition of the former Trappist monastery at Jakobsberg, he was one of the six-member founding team that arrived at the monastery on the mount on 30 January 1961. There he helped establish the farm that contributed significantly to the self-sufficiency and financial support of the community. After his return to St. Ottilien in 1965, he first worked for five years in the mission procura and then transferred to house maintenance where he helped particularly with waste disposal, separating it with great energy. In addition, for many years he was responsible for cleaning the cells in the infirmary. Besides such official activities, he was very helpful in taking on all kinds of other services that someone might ask him to perform. Part of the usual monastic picture of Brother Gottfried was his hurrying through the long corridors with his vacuum cleaner trailing behind him (he affectionately called it his “dog”), making sure the cobwebs did not have a chance. Time and again, he was also in action as an exterminator, driving out all the mice in a short time with impressive efficiency. In general, he possessed a tireless zeal for work, so that he was on his feet from early morning until late at night trying to make himself useful. He combined this with a basic cheerful attitude, much pragmatism, simplicity and humility of heart.
Even though Brother Gottfried had been increasingly dependent on support from the infirmary for some years, he could still be seen doing his usual waste disposal work; for this he converted his rollator to suit his purpose. Even though he could be a bit impatient in recent years due to severe hearing loss, his basic cheerfulness remained intact. He maintained good contact with his family, especially his brother Max (1940–2016) and his sister Anna. Brother Gottfried was characterized by a deep and very personal piety. This was noticeable especially in his last days when on his deathbed he frequently repeated the Jesus Prayer, “My Jesus, mercy!” May the good Lord now grant this mercy to his tireless worker in the vineyard!
Archabbot Wolfgang Öxler and the Community of Sankt Ottilien Archabbey