Richard Oliver OSB
Saint John's Abbey
MN 56321 USA

Easter 1992 letter, continued


[Frankfurt] Our next filming location was the city and university library in Frankfurt am Main, the financial center of Germany and often compared to New York because of its gleaming skyscrapers (Wolkenkratzer; literally, "cloud scratchers") and financial strength. For most of the year I enjoyed riding the urban bike paths to work in Westend, where many foreign banks and the university library are located.  Dr. Gerhardt Powitz was our primary contact. He is the cataloger of the manuscripts from the four secularized monasteries of Frankfurt that constitute the bulk of the medieval collection.

Friendly Franciscans

I was lucky to find a room with the Capuchins who generously put me up (or, more accurately, "put up with me") for two years. My first experience of Franciscan spirituality was delightful. The Capuchins are responsible for the busy Liebfrauen church and parish, a spiritual oasis in the heart of downtown Frankfurt. This was also my first experience of living in such a small religious community. The Capuchins abstain from meat two days a week and celebrate the liturgical hours faithfully. Morning prayer takes place in the parish church, and noon and evening prayer are said in the house oratory. The Eucharistic liturgies were marked by a solemn simplicity reminiscent of a Benedictine house.

Fra AmandusFathers Guardian Amandus and Morand OFMCap made me feel a welcome part of the 6-8 man community. Pater Berard and Fra Bruno, my contemporaries, had arrived in Frankfurt from Münster and Rome respectively only a few weeks before I did. We maintained a cordial comradeship.

Fra Bruno, a prince, had worked almost seven years at the Casa Generaliza of the Capuchins in Rome. Fluent in English as well as German and Italian, Bruno and I became great friends. Besides his duties in the parish office and relief work in the kitchen, Bruno exercised an official ministry to Christians in show business, especially the cinema. His love for all things Roman lent a sunny Mediterranean air to our busy, metropolitan community.

Community Life

Capuchin hospitality was graciously extended on occasion to my American, British and German friends. I was allowed to use the house's renovated cellar (Kapuzinerkeller) for a Saint Scholastica Day party at which I sought to repay numerous social obligations. Abbot Jerome Theisen OSB on his way to engagements at Metten and Münsterschwarzach abbeys, Father Michael Naughton OSB in town for the Frankfurt Book Fair, and Father Bruce Wollmering OSB on his way to sabbatical at the Jung Institute in CathedralZurich were warmly received as passing guests and confreres.

Two former students of Durham University who befriended the Catholic Brother during my residence in Durham Castle filming manuscripts in 1984-85, celebrated Christmas 1990 with the Capuchins and me. We spent Silvester (New Year's Eve) in Cologne -- shaken by the "reckless" proximity and noise of the fireworks exploding all around us on the city bridge spanning the Rhine.

World War II Ends!

The first celebration of German reunification, the official end to World War II, happened on 3 October 1990. Frankfurt was not especially elated at the prospect of paying for reunification, and a rather desultory group gathered in front of der Römer, Frankfurt's City Hall, where formerly the newly elected Holy Roman Emperor had been presented to the public.

I cheerily drank Sekt (German "Champagne") with some of the men and women in the services I had gotten to know or with whom I had enjoyed traveling. Many of these seasoned soldiers and air force personnel, only a few months later, participated in "Desert Storm" and the Gulf War of 1991.


1987 * 1988 * 1989 * 1990 * 1991-92


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