Gift unity

Gift unity

Memories of German history

Do you remember? The occupations of the German embassies in Prague and Warsaw in 1989, the opening of the border between Austria and Hungary, the Monday demonstrations in Leipzig and other places, the first opening of the Wall on November 9, 1989 and finally the Day of German Unity on October 3, 1990. Back then, they were eventful and eventful weeks that we all experienced with excitement. And many feelings accompanied us: worry and great fear, but also hope and joy. And when the unification treaty was finally signed, quite a few also folded their hands and thanked God. German unity was not just the work of people, it was also felt as a gift, a gift from above, from God.


There are two extreme positions that could be associated with this topic of “gift unity”, and which I would like to briefly suggest here.


Put your hands in your lap

On the one hand, one might think: if unity is a gift, then I cannot and do not need to do anything. Then I can put my hands in my lap and wait for unity to come from God. I would like to warn against this assumption. I am sure that German unity would never have come about without the efforts of many on both sides: politicians, scientists, representatives of the churches, artists and many ordinary citizens.

Furthermore, I am not only thinking of German unity. Christians are also divided into different denominations. And I am grateful and happy that many Christians do not put their hands in their laps and wait for God to make a difference, but rather that they cooperate and approach one another, even if they know that unity is ultimately a gift.

Ordered or forced unity

Unity cannot be made, let alone order. This is shown by the recent history of several European countries. The Soviet Union quickly fell apart during the time of glasnost and peristroika. In the former Yugoslavia, the 7 republics immediately declared their independence after Tito’s death. And even in countries like Great Britain or Spain, unity is sometimes at stake. A prescribed or even enforced unit seldom lasts.

So reality lies in the middle. Unity is a gift, but I can do a lot to ensure that this gift can become and remain a reality.

Appreciation as a breeding ground for unity

Unity needs another breeding ground for it to grow. This breeding ground is mutual respect. There are wonderful examples of this as well. Pope Paul VI met the Patriarch Athenagoras in 1964 and thus took an important step towards bringing the Orthodox and Catholic Churches closer together. And with his visit to Warsaw in 1970, Willy Brand certainly also set a milestone on the way to German unity. Of course, you cannot do the unity with such activities. With certainty, however, one can create the conditions on which the unity can then grow. Receiving gifts and doing something for them are not mutually exclusive.


Resignation and accommodating

The mutual appreciation that I show for the other is certainly a great gift that contributes a lot to unity. But there are other gifts that don’t have much to do with giving at first.

Even as a child I learned that I had to forego some things in the family and make compromises. I experienced that with my parents, then with my siblings and also with me. In the beginning, this waiver was certainly not voluntary, but rather forced. But later I was able to experience that this kindness and renunciation also contributed to the fact that we grew together as a family and that we are still in good contact with one another today.

Compromise and renunciation as our parishes grow together are of very topical importance. Here, a waiver is often necessary, e.g. when choosing a church as a parish church or when redistributing financial resources. If there is only anxiety that I don’t miss out, unity can never grow. Only when the common whole becomes more important to me than my own interests can a parish arise.

Gratitude: maintaining unity

You put a bouquet of flowers in the water to keep the flowers fresh for a long time. I go out carefully with a given bike so that I can ride it for a long time. Gifts want to be cared for. This is certainly the most beautiful way of appreciating gifts and thanking the giver of the gifts. That applies to the German unity that was given to us 30 years ago. This also applies to the unity of Christians, which we continue to strive for. And that certainly also applies to the unity in a convent, a religious community, a presbytery, a congregation.

Prelate Dr. Stefan Dybowski

7th, October 2021 monthly lecture St. Augustinus Monastery, Berlin-Lankwitz

My steps on the way to unity

My steps on the way to unity

In the course of the many thoughts that we have already given ourselves on the subject of “unity”, one thing has become very clear. Unity is not something that is there. Unity are relationships that arise, that can grow and be deepened, and which must be dealt with carefully so that they are not lost (see also the letter from Sr. Sybilla). So today I want to reflect with you on how unity can emerge and be deepened.


Unity starts with me

There is a realization that we make in the course of our lives – one sooner, the other later, and which is often very painful: I cannot bake my fellow human beings, i.e. bend them into the way I would like them to be. That would only be done by force and often takes bitter revenge. World history knows numerous examples of this, and many people can also tell of these experiences: parents, teachers, pastors. This is also an important insight for any community. I cannot achieve unity by using rules and regulations to urge others to do something together.

I cannot change the others. Change can only start with myself. This is how the first step towards unity begins with myself.


Unity grows gradually

One of the most famous parables of Jesus is the parable of the seeds. Nature takes a lot of time to grow and bear fruit. What applies to nature also applies to human life. Here are two current examples:

German unity

We can learn a lot from German history on the subject of unity. One of these experiences is that unity is slow to develop. After the period of demarcation in the “cold war”, a policy of rapprochement between the two German states followed in Germany. And it was a long road that led to reunification.


There are similar experiences in the field of ecumenism. Here, too, there are many efforts to bring the two major Christian denominations closer together.

Above all, it becomes clear that this approach is from below. People get to know each other, discover the lovable sides and strengths of the other and can thus overcome separations and divisions.


Unity costs something

Do you know the saying: “What doesn’t cost anything is also worth nothing.” I don’t think very much of this saying. It is similar to the misconception that medicine has to taste bitter if it is to help. But with the unity, I would say that it has its price. What does the unity cost?

Memories of school days: some children learned to read and arithmetic faster, some children took longer to do so. Our teacher had often shown a lot of patience so that the weaker students could also follow and the class would not be split into two groups.

Experiences on a hike together: the fast in the group had to wait again and again so that we as a group could reach the goal together.

Patience, consideration, the necessary humility … these are important steps on the way to unity.



Give a piece of you

I would like to tell you the most beautiful, but certainly also the most expensive price for the unity with the story of the salt man.

A salt man finally came to the sea on his wandering through the endless deserts. He had never seen the sea and stood in front of it, completely fascinated. He was impressed by the power of its waves and felt the freshness that emanated from it.

“Good day!” Said the salt man. – “Hello,” answered the sea. Who are you? ”Asked the salt man. – “I am the sea,” answered this one. “What does that mean?” Asked the salt man. “I don’t know you yet.” – “If you want to get to know me, you have to come closer.”

So the Salt man took a step closer, and then another step and another, until one foot was in the water. And indeed: suddenly he felt the wonderful freshness of the sea and its power. But when he came out of the water again and looked at his foot, the foot was gone.

“What did you do with my foot?” Asked the little salt man excitedly? “But the sea stayed calm:“ If you want to get to know me, you have to give a piece of yourself. ”-“ If you want to get to know me “You have to give a piece of yourself,” repeated the salt man, in order to memorize it well. And again he put one foot into the sea, and then the other, and on and on he went in and had the exhilarating feeling of getting to know the sea better and better.

                                                                                              (from Chinese)


If you want to get to know me, you have to give something of yourself … that applies to the emergence and growth of relationships, that also applies to the unity of a community.


Prelate Dr. Stefan Dybowski


13th, September 2021 monthly lecture St. Augustinus Monastery, Berlin-Lankwitz

unit that serves life

unit that serves life


Fishing net – memories of my childhood come back to life. When I went to the market to buy fish with my mother, the fishmonger came with a net, dipped the net once through the basin, and a fish was wriggling in the net that could no longer get out of it. I felt sorry for the fish.

Psalm 124: 7-8: Israel’s thanks for deliverance. “Our soul has escaped the hunter’s net like a bird; the web is torn and we are free. ”Networks symbolize being trapped.

Was this the intention of Jesus when he asked Peter: “You should become a fisherman of men”? Question to our pastoral care: do we want to catch people (also for Christ) who can then no longer escape …?

Nature as a builder

If I want to learn about networks, the first thing I would do is take a look at nature. One network that many are disgusted with is the spider web. The human brain, for example, is a terrific network. Different cells are connected to each other, form nodes (synapses), ensure the smooth transport of information and control impulses and even react when certain functions fail by forming new nerve tracts and switching points. He must have been a genius who created such networks. Would such a network also be conceivable for the transmission of our Christian faith?

A common basic idea

How is a network created?

A prerequisite for the functioning of a network is a common orientation towards a binding, strong and comprehensible value model (base values). How quickly did networks develop during the flood disasters on the Elbe and Oder in order to be able to help the people affected. Working for people in need – can be a common basic idea.

Do we have such a common basic idea? Could Caritas be such a common basic idea: “See need and act”? Or could narratives from the gospel of Jesus Christ be such a common basic idea from which a network is then formed.


Many people claim that they are well connected. They then also refer to their address directory in the calendar or on social media. But communication is more than just knowing people. Communication means having a lively relationship with the other. Such communication creates transparency and thus trust. So communication is an important foundation for unity.

Serve life

Communication presupposes an encounter at eye level. At this point, it is often argued that in a hierarchical system like the church, such communication on an equal footing does not exist. Here, too, a look into nature can help. In its systems, nature certainly knows superior and subordinate orders. Nevertheless, communication works in your organisms because it serves life. The apostle Paul’s picture of the human body and its members (1 Cor 12) shows very well how successful communication in a hierarchical system is possible – if it serves life.

Our doctor

Telling a story: the higher law

Have history discussed in groups: impressions, insights …

Through what Kurt did, a network has formed that many people have identified with.



Prelate Dr. Stefan Dybowski

August 9th, 2021 monthly lecture St. Augustinus Monastery, Berlin-Lankwitz Communication

Make the other big (bigger) Preservation and deepening of unity – very specifically

Make the other big (bigger) Preservation and deepening of unity – very specifically

You probably remember the letter from Sr. Sybilla and with it the words of the founder, Father Johannes Schneider. Unity is a relationship. It is not simply there from the start. It has to be built up and maintained. And it is also subject to the laws to which every relationship is subject, namely, it can change. It can get stronger, but it can also flatten and disappear completely. This applies to every community (state, church, parish), it also applies to personal communities such as families and friends, and of course also to religious orders. The promise of a vow or the wearing of a religious uniform dress does not constitute unity. Unity is therefore an inner relationship that connects people with one another.

Concrete growth of unity

Today I would like to give you a few spiritual impulses that you can look at and try out for yourself personally.

As a preliminary remark: start carefully if you decide to do so. Such specific exercises can be very demanding, but also very effective.


My right seat is empty …

You are probably familiar with the children’s game where a child is allowed to wish someone in the free space next to them. Of course we wanted our best friends here back then.

Unity begins with perception. Take the seat next to you (whether right or left) on the subject of your observation. Who is next to me today (in the bank in the chapel or at the table at lunch)? Did I talk to my neighbor, look at her, smile at her? Do I know how she is, whether something is oppressive for her, whether she is in pain? Or do I have to say for myself that the place next to me is really empty, at least in the sense that I don’t really care who is sitting there.


Collect treasures in heaven

In his parables, Jesus uses the image of collecting treasures several times. He compares the kingdom of God with a treasure in the field or a precious pearl (Mt 13: 44-46). And in the Sermon on the Mount he asks us to gather treasures that are not perishable (Mt 6: 19-21). The image of collecting treasures is a popular theme for retreats.

I would like to encourage you to look for treasures in a very specific way in your own community. A treasure makes a person rich. Who enriches your community? What if this sister no longer existed? We’d be missing something.

Another justice

The following thought is a bit difficult, if only because we humans are usually very sensitive to it: it’s about justice. Unity means that everyone is treated equally and the same rules apply to everyone. As young people in the family and at school, we paid close attention to this. When we felt that someone was being preferred, we felt it was unjust and demanded justice. In principle, I do not want to deviate from this attitude. To preserve a community and its unity, it is part of the fact that there are binding rules that apply to everyone and that unite everyone.

But at the latest the parable of the workers in the vineyard (Mt 20: 1-16) makes you think. Some workers mutiny: this is unjust. But with what reward do I do justice to everyone? – a question that parents, teachers, supervisors, etc. have to deal with again and again.


I found a nice answer to this in the story of Jan and grandfather. Stefanie has lost a precious chain and Jan thinks she should be punished. For him it is not fair that his grandfather forgive Stefanie. But the grandfather with his rich life experience knows more. He doesn’t want to live in a world like this because he would freeze (a fantastic visual language). Do you feel like you’re freezing in your community? And could you learn something from your grandfather on the subject of unity?


Prelate Dr. Stefan Dybowski

July 15, 2021 Monthly lecture St. Augustinus Monastery, Berlin-Lankwitz

The value of a community

The value of a community

Start with a spiritual exercise. Ask yourself: What is the value of a community for you, or more specifically: what is the value for you of this community in which you now live or in which you previously lived? And I’ll tell you right away: Don’t just look at this question in theory, but in everyday practical life.

I think that the pursuit of unity depends largely on the value you place on community. If the community is of value to you (and not only on paper in a constitution, but in everyday life), then you will also want to meet the concerns of the founder, Rev. Johannes Schneider, and seek and deepen the unity.


1 + 1 + 1 = 3

Why do people form a community?

There are many good reasons for joining a community:

– Strength in togetherness

Men and women can very quickly be overwhelmed by tasks, difficulties and hardship. The experience of not being alone strengthens everyone in what they do. You can achieve more together than alone.

– Difference in diversity

Creativity plays a big role in our lives. This applies to the design of everyday life as well as to solving problems. Working groups are therefore often formed. A community is a good space in which ideas can grow and develop.

– Joy in the community

By joining forces (e.g. when doing sports and games, experiencing nature, making music and singing, while traveling) people experience a lot of joy.

All of these experiences can be summed up briefly: Community strengthens and helps the individual. Or expressed mathematically: 1 + 1 + 1 = 3


More than the sum of the individuals

The criteria just mentioned speak in favor of a community, but are not necessarily mandatory for such a community. Each individual could also live a spiritual life without belonging to a community. You can also see and experience that: that a community is only sought and lived when I have a need (e.g. need for support). – But I dare to say that this alone is not enough to strive for unity. That is only possible if I see something “more” in the community that is valuable and worth striving for to me.


The value of communication

The following exercises were carried out at marriage seminars: Each couple should build a house with already labeled blocks. What was important to them was put in the foundation, what seemed unimportant to them was put on the rubble. The houses were then presented. Many couples have reported that it was not the presentation of the finished house that was decisive, but that the communication that took place during the construction of the house was particularly valuable.


The value of the superfluous

There is a great temptation to distinguish what is necessary from what is not necessary in life and to separate yourself from everything that is not necessary: ​​I do not need that, it is superfluous.

An interesting experiment in addition. To stand you need a few square centimeters of earth on which you have placed your feet. But if the earth (or better: the ground) were withdrawn from you all around, you would quickly get dizzy and scared. Even if I don’t need the floor around me to stand, they give me support and are important.

Spiritual exercise: collect in a table (with 2 columns) what is absolutely necessary and what is not absolutely necessary at first. And then go to the second column (not necessary) and see what value these things have for you.


The value of others

The strongest motivation for the value of the community still seems to me to be the appreciation of the individual. Joining a community is often shaped by the appreciation of another. Incidentally, calling stories also often have their origins in the fact that I learned to appreciate and love someone.


Search and deepen the unity

The value I see in the community is a good motivation to strive for and deepen unity. To put it provocatively: whoever sees the community as merely a functional association will use every opportunity to step out of the community internally and perhaps also externally. Conversely, however, the value that a community has for me can promote my own identification with the community and deepen my contribution to unity. Or again expressed mathematically: 1 + 1 + 1 = 4.


Prelate Dr. Stefan Dybowski

June 17th, 2021 monthly lecture St. Augustinus Monastery, Berlin-Lankwitz



Years back I gave a keynote speech on the subject of “Evangelical Council – Poverty” in one chapter. Since the evangelical counsels are  essential basis of our spiritual life, I hope to be able to give one or the other an impulse or a help for their own spiritual life:

All three evangelical counsels – and in this case especially poverty are not an end in themselves, but are an expression of the “life in abundance” promised in the New Testament (Joh. 10,10). This means that, as Sr. Zoe Marie Isenring writes in her book “The Woman in Apostolic Religious Congregations”, they should be “a means to be more and not less human”.

This sounded provocative to me at first and raised a few questions:

  1. Material poverty as such is not a value for me to strive for, but an injustice that we are to remedy on God’s behalf. God wants abundance for all people, also overcoming poverty. Since we cannot change these injustices with violence – i.e. new injustice – this aspect of poverty obliges us to a simple and undemanding way of life, to a responsible handling of property and becomes a duty of sharing out of solidarity with people, because that is what they do the essentials are missing. Understood in this way, poverty becomes a means of being more human for the community of people – the means of a more just world. Let us ask ourselves as individuals and as a community:

– How simple and undemanding is my lifestyle?

– Will my lifestyle and the life of the community become a sign or a stumbling block?

– Are we, for the people, the ones who solemnly take the vow of poverty and are now living comfortably, while the people outside are the ones who even have to live poverty?


  1. Poverty always has to do with renunciation. Conscious and free renunciation are inseparable from poverty. Where this aspect is missing, the vow becomes an empty phrase and our life becomes implausible. But poverty must not be reduced to just doing without. We are created as free and beloved daughters of God and God has given us the things of this world for use. We can use them with joy and responsibility. The vow of poverty does not release me and each of us from our responsibility for our own lives. The superior is not responsible for my life and also not for the fact that I did not get so many things in life or had to do without them! I was created by God in freedom and willed as a free person. Also and especially as a religious. Only when I see myself as loved and wanted and can accept the things of this world as gifts, am I able to let go of myself and everything, to continue to give and to do without. Let us ask ourselves as individuals and as a community:

– Do I experience myself as a daughter loved by God?

– Can I enjoy the things of this world?

– Can I see it as a gift or do I have to have it all?

– Do I know the difference between an insatiable “want to have” and a good “treat myself to something”?

– Can I also give something to others, be generous towards them?

– Can I do without  becoming bitter or grouchy?


  1. The vow of poverty only has a meaning and value if it becomes not just an external way of life but an internal attitude. Only when I am not attached to the things of this world am I truly free to follow Christ. But that then confronts me with the question: What does my heart depend on? What do I trust, do I really trust this God or do I have to take care of myself? This is probably the most essential, but also the most difficult aspect of the vow of poverty. Only those who are poor in this sense are always free for God’s call and can follow him – without obstructing marching baggage. This is not only about material things, but also, for example, positions in the community, at work or in personal life that you have worked for, but which can quickly become wealth. Let us ask ourselves as individuals and as a community:

– What does my heart depend on?

– Do I trust God that He is leading me or am I afraid of Him and his demands?

– Do I have to secure my life and therefore have or keep everything?

– How rich or poor am I really?

– What cannot or do not want to let go: the office or the task that I have held for so long; the convent where I feel so comfortable; the position that made me so respected …?


There is still a lot to be said about the vow of poverty. But they are only intended to be a small impulse for reflection and help us to understand and live the vow of poverty a new and more deeply.

Sr. Petra Ladig