My oldest brother-in-law is a Jesuit priest living in Germany and this year he celebrated his 50th year as a priest and the 25th year of the founding of Haus Gries, a retreat house in the forests of northern Bavaria.
His life has been at times a little too exciting. I first met him in the mid-seventies when he had been released by the paramilitary groups in Argentina who caused so many innocent people to “disappear”. Before that he had taught theology at San Miguel University for twelve years or so. But his “crime” was living near the poor and trying to help them. It is a fine Christian crime, I think. After this six months or so of imprisonment, he came to the United States where most of his family was living, and stayed there about a year. He belonged to the Hungarian Jesuit Province, in exile. And after that year he returned to Germany and began to give many retreats. He has also written many books about the spiritual life, mostly in Hungarian, German, Spanish and English, but I think he has also been translated into other languages. In 1985 he was able to found Haus Gries and it has grown into a well-known retreat center. I’ve been lucky enough to visit there many times with my husband, his youngest brother. It is a place of amazing peace, and the people who live there (the staff is all volunteer and come for a year or two) are gentle peaceful people, at least that is how they seem to me.
Feri no longer runs the day to day business of the house, but continues to give retreats there as well as in Hungary, Belgium and even Argentina. I can close my eyes and imagine myself back in the beautiful chapel there where everyone sits on the floor and streams of light pour in through the stained glass window onto the low altar and we sing the hymns of Taize. A place like this is a gift to all who come there, indeed, a gift to the entire world. It makes me think of my favorite passage from Philippians 4:8 – “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”