Father Maurus Henrich
The most influential monk I ever knew was also the most lovable: Father Maurus Henrich (1908 – 1975). He was novice master at New Melleray for fifteen years. Five of his novices became abbots. His humble simplicity, kindness and spirituality made him so influential and lovable. During the novitiate he imparted to us both the spirit of our Order and the spirit of our house. They were so evident in him that we learned more from his quiet, constant example than from his verbal instructions. It was particularly edifying how he worked with us at manual labor. He told us a great number of monastic stories and anecdotes for our instruction, encouragement and even entertainment. He had a good sense of humor which helped keep the novices and all who came into contact with him happy. God seemed to keep him humble by many little mistakes in public, such as singing the wrong intonation in choir or getting the rubrics mixed up. It was beautiful the way he accepted these public humiliations, which often had a humorous aspect about them.
In 1960 ten of us from New Melleray went to help out at Our Lady of the Prairies near Winnipeg, Canada. Dom Fulgence took us to visit the Gray Nuns there. A Sister remarked how they prayed that more monks would come to the Prairies. Fr Maurus replied, “Sister, we are the answer to your prayers.” Before going to Canada, Fr. Maurus and I were already promised to help our monastery of Rawa Seneng in Indonesia. Since we were unable to get visas after more than a year of negotiations, it seemed safe to send us to Canada. But after five months there the visas were granted, so we had to return to New Melleray and leave for Indonesia as soon as possible.
Even when traveling Fr. Maurus led the life of a monk. He got his meditation and prayers in every day, as best he could. He also kept up the three devotions which he recommended to us as novices: a daily visit to the Blessed Sacrament, the rosary and the Way of the Cross. He always carried with him something for spiritual reading.
He was the perfect man for the Indonesian mission. The people there are so friendly and cheerful. Fr. Maurus blended right in with them. Java, being one of the most populated places of the world, people were all around, even close to the monastery. He particularly loved the children, and they loved him. He was also attracted by the native music, produced entirely by percussion instruments. After hearing Fr. Maurus’ sermons in chapter, the novices requested that he speak twice a week, for which the whole community was grateful. For me it was a delightful experience–like going through my novitiate again. He retold many old stories and added new ones. We always came away happy and edified.
Our mission completed after five years, we returned to New Melleray in 1965. It was then that Fr. Maurus’ spiritual life came into full bloom and the greatest fruitfulness. This was especially manifested by the peace and joy he radiated all around. He just lived the common life without any exceptions or privileges. He had no special work or office. This made the monk and man of God even more evident in him. He helped me many times in the bakery. Often after the end of work and he was all cleaned up he would walk by and see me working alone. Then without being asked or saying anything, he would lovingly step in and help so that I could finish on time for choir.
He had great love for Jesus and Mary, and spoke best when speaking about them. When he died he looked like a beautiful little child—and this sums up best his spiritual life!