Maria Werner (1711-1760)
Personalia of the blessed Sister Marie Werner, born Brantner
She was born on December 24, 1711 in Werven, a place in Salzburg, and christened in the Catholic religion. Her father, Martin Brantner, was a linen weaver by profession. Because her mother suffered a premature death, Marie had to live among strange people while she was still quite young. There must have been a hidden hand of God over her that she did not understand at the time; when she heard a Catholic priest preach about the suffering of God-something that did not often occur-she had to weep. It so happened that that she came to live with people who gathered as a family in the evenings to read from the Bible, and from Dr. Luther's Postilla, and even to sing Luther's songs. She was quite well among them. This caused her to leave her homeland with the other exiles in 1731. She was the only one from her family to do this, and she did it with such joy that neither her father nor the authorities, who spoke to her especially politely, could talk her into staying. She believed she would meet people among the Lutherans who lived in the manner about which she had heard read. And thus it pleased her that when she came to Augsburg, around Candlemas. She was immediately taken in by Brother and Sister Siers, who kept her in their house like a child, and every day let her enjoy a half hour of instruction with their children in how to read. After two years had slipped away, she came to a sweet old widow who likewise treated [Marie] as her own child. She also could not refuse [Marie] going to the awakened souls during the day, and she lived like this until Br. George Schmid, the Capist, came to Augsburg, through whom she heard about the Gemeine for the first time. From that hour on, she had no more peace in her heart because it seemed to her that she belonged to the Gemeine. As she had now learned that a beginning was being made in Marienborn, she wrote to the dear Jüngerin and discovered her order-which she made before her trip to Pennsylvania-that this woman from Salzburg should be taken to Marienborn. As soon as she [Marie] heard about this good embassy through Br. and Sr. Conrad Langen, she took her leave from the above-mentioned widow, and arrived in Herrnhaag on August 3, 1740 with Br. and Sr. Lorenzen. She was taken into the Gemeine in December of the same year, and in February 1741, she achieved Holy Communion with the Gemeine for the first time. In this year she also received her instructions from the dear Jünger, before his departure for Pennsylvania, that she should follow him [there] in the coming year. Accordingly, she came to Bethlehem with a whole colony of Brethren on September 29, 1742. She was the first Single Sister's Pflegerin in this land, but she had to travel here and there to serve her charges, or choir-relatives, who were scattered around because at the time there were no Single Sisters in Bethlehem. She did this with unflagging faithfulness and diligence, which work was blessed.
In the remarkable foundation that the Jünger made of mission and community matters in Bethlehem on November 13, 1742, she was assigned to a mission group that, besides her, was comprised of Br. and Sr. Kohn and Br. Gottlieb. The group moved through the land for several years and sought to serve the Savior's purpose where ever it was. In the meantime, a small beginning was made in Bethlehem for a nursery with a few little children, in which the man who is now her widower was employed. She was bound to him in marriage as a faithful helpmeet in this important area. The blessed Br. Friedrich Weber also came [to the nursery] at this time as a helper of Br. Christ. Werner with the little boys, and this dear brother went to the heavenly Gemeine only one day before our Blessed Sister. As a true and faithful mother she accepted this school with her whole heart, she was untiring by day and night, and often relieved the other women-helpers on their watches when they were weak, although she sapped her own bodily health in doing so. In January 1749, she moved with the nursery to Nazareth, and when in the following year this institution was staffed with Single Sisters, she returned, with her husband, to Bethlehem. She was already somewhat weak and infirm, and yet she could not refuse that service which was meaningful to her-in the children's school, which was then in Oley-and so she moved there after a short rest in Bethlehem. She served in the girl's school until it was dissolved in 1751, when she returned to Bethlehem. She was then treated medically, and for several years faithfully given sweat-baths and other good remedies. Because, however, certain fluids were clogged in the nerves, and because her natural progress was hindered and could not be restored due to frequent colds and fatigue, she surrendered to continual weakness of the body. Her fresh soul relieved much pain and supported the weak and infirm mortal body. From that time forward, she used a cane to walk, and, although this became onerous and severe, she attended the Gemeine celebrations quite often and was edifying and venerable to all the Brethren as a miserable and yet active maiden of the Lord. Among the Sisters of her Choir she was beloved and legitimated as a Helper and a diligent and loving spirit. In her marriage, she behaved and developed as a worthy likeness of His spouse, and her now-widowed husband found much comfort and encouragement in her. The sixteen-year course of this marriage was blessed with a little son who yearned in his mortal body only a half year. She often wore the mantle of disciple with priestly dignity, in the Gemeine as well as in the Married Person's Choir.
Her final sickness lasted nine weeks. Right at the beginning of her complete surrender, she said to her husband, who often and in particular during this year had been ailing, "I have prayed to Savior that you should not be sick, as long as I much lie here, so that you can wait with me," which came to pass. As she lay there, she was a blessing and example to all those who visited her, with her patience, sincere satisfaction, and beloved communion with the Man of Pain.
Her dearest verse, with which she sustained herself in this painful bed, was this: So I go into fluidity, that He may love me, through all my time of death, until the wedding day. What I do, it nears, goes to his face of death, etc. Oh! Be comforted and most delighted, etc. And until I can remain laying on the neck of my Husband, etc. And with that I will close, the hand to which I go will hold me, until I see him myself, and more like it.
She suffered with an exhausting hemorrhage, until at last one came which sapped her life's essence and strength ever more so that she laid there like a pure skeleton, but appeared truly venerable. Two days before her passing she said to her husband: "My bruises hurt me very much this night, and it came to me-how many wounds did my Savior have, as He was whipped, and then hung on the Cross. And yet I lie here on a good bed!" The last morning she had a gentle nap, three hours long. When she awoke, she said, "Oh how gently and blessedly I have rested, now I have assurance from my Savior that my dear hour will soon chime." This event blessedly followed today, August 12, around noon, under an incomparable liturgy from Br. Joseph, through which she also received the blessing of the Gemeine and her Choir, after she had brought her mortal life to 48 years, seven months, two weeks, and five days.
translation by Katherine E. Carté