By Larry Peterson
He was born on a farm in a town called Parzham in the Kingdom of Bavaria. The date was December 22, 1818. His parents, George and Gertrude Birndorfer, were devout Catholics, and they named their new baby Johann Evangelist. Johann was the second youngest of twelve children, five of whom had died in infancy.
As a child young Johann demonstrated a love of prayer and solitude that indicated where his future might lead. He became filled with a great love for our Blessed Mother, learned how to pray the Rosary, and recited it every day.
By the time he was eleven or twelve, Johann had a particular routine he followed on Our Lady’s special feast days. He would journey on foot to different shrines dedicated to Her. They were always a good distance away. He would attend Mass there, fast and pray all day, and not get home until it was dark. He was so filled with a spiritual love that even inclement weather or bitter cold would not keep him away.
Johann’s mom died when he was 14 years old. He remained on the farm helping his father. He attended Mass as often as possible and made frequent visits to the Blessed Sacrament. The young man was always embedded deeply in prayer and personal solitude, even while working in the fields. He remained on the farm until his father passed away in 1838.
Johann received a substantial inheritance from his father’s estate. Having no desire for material things, he disposed of the inheritance and left the secular world. He joined the Capuchin Franciscans and became a lay brother. When he entered the novitiate, he was given the name, Conrad, in honor of Conrad of Piacenza. He would be known as Conrad forever after.
Soon after his profession of vows, Conrad was sent to the Friary of St. Ann in the city of Altotting. This was the location for the Shrine of Our Lady of Altotting which was the National Shrine of Bavaria. (Today this place is also called the Lourdes of Germany). Conrad was given the job of porter at the shrine. From the doorway, he could see the tabernacle. He could not have been happier. He needed nothing else.
The shrine was located in a bustling and busy city. The porter’s job was not an easy one as people came to him all day long asking questions, wanting directions, looking for a priest, asking for advice, and those just wanting someone to talk to. Conrad filled his designated role perfectly. He also could see into the hearts of those who came to him. His wisdom, kindness, and holiness always seemed to be able to help satisfy the needs of the people who came in contact with him.
Conrad loved silence. He used it to be in touch with God. When he managed to get a spare moment, he would stand in the nook by the front door so he could see the Blessed Sacrament. At night he often deprived himself of sleep so he could step into the brother’s oratory or the church to pray. Many believed that he hardly ever rested but that he continually occupied himself with work or prayer.
Brother Conrad was on the job every day for 41 years. After an extremely busy day during April of 1894, Conrad felt his strength leaving him. It was so pronounced that he told his superior. He was ordered to bed for rest. The children in the neighborhood loved Conrad and noticed him missing. They asked where he was and were told that he was sick.
The word quickly spread and soon children form all over had surrounded the friary and began praying the Rosary for Brother Conrad. Their prayerful voices would be the last thing he would hear. How beautiful was that?
Conrad died on April 21, 1894. He had been given the gift of prophecy, could read the hearts of people he met and was known for his wisdom, kindness, and holiness. Numerous miracles were also attributed to him. He was canonized a saint by Pope Pius XI in 1934.
Saint Conrad of Parzham, please pray for us.
copyright©Larry Peterson 2019
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