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4th International Day of Prayer, Amsterdam 2000

Testimony by
Karl Siess († 20.02.2003), from Germany

My greetings to you all!

For me it is something very special and therefore a great joy to be here with you in Amsterdam, to thank Mary, the Mother of All Nations for her love and help.

As you all can see, my illness, multiple scleroses, confines me to a wheelchair. Therefore, since many years, I am dependent on other people’s assistance. Twenty-eight years ago, when I was doing a gardening course, I got the first symptoms of this illness, which gradually forced me to abandon my own wishes and plans regarding my life. This, however, made me discover Christ, the true life.

When this illness manifested itself for the first time, I was twenty years old and hoped as all young people do, for a career and also some human security. I wanted to get married and to build a big house for my future family. But it turned out otherwise.
Now I want to tell you something I never told anyone before.
Twenty-one years ago, one year after my examinations as a gardener, a self-help group of all kind of handicapped people had a meeting at the village sports hall. Just when I entered the sports hall, a young woman told before the microphone how, exactly seven years before, she had fallen ill and multiple scleroses had been diagnosed. She was young, pretty and very cheerful although she was confined to a wheelchair. Suddenly I was standing right in front of her. I could see her well and it was as if at that moment God asked me: ‘What would you do if this would happen to you?” I tried to evade the question but to no avail. Then I gave God the heartfelt answer: “If this would happen, I can only put all my trust in you.” Exactly seven years later the doctor told me that I had MS.

Two years later - at the time I was a gardener at a penitentiary - I had a very deep experience. It was as if God showed me three ways I could go.
The way of leading a sinful life.
The hard but right way of works
or the most difficult way, the royal way.

When for some time I considered the way of works, I realized that this was not the royal way I wanted to go. For the royal way would mean that I would no longer rely on the certainties the world offers, or live according to my own plans. Rather I should entrust myself as a child to the fatherly care of God, Therefore, for some time I considered entering a monastery as the best way of serving God but this was not possible because of my health. So I continued working as a gardener at the prison of Rottenburg.

No doubt at the time my prayer life was not strong enough to live such a demanding life. For the world regained its stronghold on me and again I tried to be my own boss. Relying on my own effort and strength I tried to build up something, straying from the narrow royal way, going against the will of God. But there was no longer any peace in my heart, and spiritually I experienced an inner void. For some years I had a terribly hard time.
Only God and Mary could me get out of that situation and that happened eight years ago at a Marian pilgrimage place, where I received the grace of a deep conversion. Through prayer and the Sacrament of Confession I finally came back to my original starting-point.
Without them I would never had the strength to give up my own living place, which I had built in spite of my illness.
In those days I had several acute attacks and because of this I had to stay for quite some time at the hospital and got more and more handicapped. Finally I couldn’t even stand anymore. Every day a prisoner had to carry me up and down the stairs to and from my workshop. It couldn’t go on like this. I had to stop working. This decision caused me many a sleepless night. But finally I let everything go.

Meditation on the suffering of Jesus and Mary and the daily celebration of the Eucharist gave me much consolation and peace. I understood more and more the value of the Eucharist and that for my own sake it is more pleasing to God when I spend much time before the Sacred Sacrament than doing all kind of work.
Twice the doctor strongly advised me to try to find a nursing home. Finally I would have to face it. But where would I be able to go to Mass every day? God took care of this, as well.
Since last summer I live in a nursing home at Horb where I can go to Mass every day and go to confession whenever I want. Jesus is always there in the tabernacle of the house chapel.

But how do I face my cross, my illness at the moment? For me as for all who are ill, it was a very difficult situation when all my plans for the future collapsed. But it made me realize that to do the will of the father is really better and more lasting than doing one’s own will.

It often came to my mind how few people Jesus understood, how He and Mary didn’t offer any resistance to the cross but rather gave their unconditional yes to the will of the Father.
This is also my royal way, my hidden treasure that is based on faith, obedience and trust. I have understood that true love never disappears and in suffering can even grow and become stronger.

But the struggle remains, also for me. Hardly has one battle been fought or the next one presents itself. Then it is always a great help for me to concentrate on the goal of my life, start praying and simply promise Jesus that in spite of my weakness I’ll go on following the narrow and steep road of the cross.
Praying and offering my suffering for the salvation of souls are for me pearls or little flowers, which I give to Mary, my coredeeming Mother. In her hands these pearls become even more precious before God.

Jesus wants us to become holy. That is the only thing of importance. How much that seems to us important here on earth, has little or no importance for our life later in heaven. When looking at the saints, I can only conclude that they have completely entrusted themselves to the Father and even prayed for their persecutors and torturers. So through his power I can also become holy.
In difficult situations I always try to imagine how Jesus and Mary would have acted in my situation. And that is what I am doing also at the moment, now that the way goes steeply up, to complete surrender, to the cross.

You should know that I feel my body slowly dying. But I am fine, I am happy. My staying in the nursing home has fulfilled my secret longing for spending more time with God. And the force of prayer has taught me to offer in love my illness, my helplessness and my cross to God, for the salvation of those who are still far away from God. I am really happy and feel a great joy in my heart, the joy to let things go in order to find God’s love before the tabernacle.

We cannot imagine God’s beauty and love. For he is a God of love. And when I finally will have completed the last part of my road, a great surprise will await me: for nothing more beautiful could happen to me than that the road of love ends in the arms of the heavenly Father.

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