Father Werenfried's Battle of the Bacon
“Now these, the poorest of our brethren, are in the deepest distress, and we cannot, with impunity, close our eyes to this fact. Those who can turn their heads away from so much suffering are not worthy of the name Christian.”
After his first encounter with the distress of defeated Germany, Father Werenfried returned to his abbey deeply shocked. On his arrival, he found that a retreat for priests was being held. He was invited to give a talk, and spoke for an hour and a half on the subject that filled his mind and heart.
At the end, he went round with his hat and took his first collection for his co-workers. This hat was later to become famous for the millions it collected. Some of the priests asked him to come and preach on the subject in their parishes. As Father Werenfried told the story:
One of these invitations included a tea party at the local Women’s Institute. This pious society was celebrating its golden jubilee, and besides cakes and tarts and thick ham-and-cheese sandwiches, the farmers’ wives felt the need of an official speaker. I was invited to enlighten the well-to-do agricultural circles on the subject of the bitter distress suffered in Germany.
I must have spoken well that afternoon. One hundred and fifty well-nourished country women forgot the fragrant coffee urns and the piles of tasty food and shed tears of pity for the hard fate of their sorely afflicted former enemies. When I ended my barrage on their tender country hearts, there was dead silence. Even the priest could not utter a word for the tears rolling down his cheeks.
As nobody spoke, I rose once more and declared encouragingly that the time had now come for the collection. Parish priest and farmers’ wives unanimously nodded their agreement, but then a better idea suddenly struck me. I proposed that each of those present should take a not-too-small piece of bacon out of the chimney and deliver it to the presbytery some time in the next few days. At the end of the week I would come with the car to collect it. Everyone consented and the Battle of the Bacon had begun.
In this first parish I collected more than a ton of bacon.
Knowing the German people needed material and spiritual aid, Father Werenfried had undertaken to assist the more than 3,000 poorly clad "rucksack priests" and their 6 million faithful. His Bacon Campaign expanded to more regions, and was a great success; donations and supplies poured in to the abbey. There, novices sliced and packaged the meat for shipment to the needy in Germany.
The effort — which earned Father Werenfried a reputation for inspired preaching and, to his mother’s indignation, a lifelong nickname of "The Bacon Priest" — garnered food for the displaced Germans, but it also produced a less tangible fruit: proof that there was hope for a return to the brotherly love lost during the war.
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