Adrienne von Speyr - Aus meinem Leben - Fragment einer Selbstbiographie

Aus meinem Leben My Early Years

First published in 1968, a year after the Adrienne von Speyr’s death, this Autobiographical Fragment (as the original subtitle has it) contains her account of her own childhood and youth. As Hans Urs von Balthasar, the book’s editor, writes in his foreword, “the author’s primary focus was on her inner development, the significance that certain experiences, some pleasant and some difficult, would have for her later decisions. . . . Two themes weave their way like a scarlet thread through the labyrinth of her earliest years: an unshakable determination to become a physician and an equally unshakable determination to belong to God alone, to place her entire existence unreservedly at God’s disposal. Only as a negative aspect of this second theme can one grasp her otherwise almost incomprehensible antipathy toward the conventionally bourgeois, relatively superficial yet firmly anti-Catholic Protestantism of her surroundings.”

Editor’s Foreword by Hans Urs von Balthasar

We, the Children
Les Tilleuls
Primary School
Meeting Saint Ignatius
The Year 1911
Sunday School
My Father
The Waldau
The Last Two Years of Primary School
The Operation at Basel
The Progymnasium
A Walking Tour in the Alps
The Beginning of the War
The Second Year of the Progymnasium
The Fourth Year of Gymnasium (Spring 1917)
The Vision of Mary
The Death of My Father
Tuberculosis (Spring 1918)
Leysin (October 1918-July 1920)
Interlude on the Plains
Back in Leysin
Saint-Loup (September-December 1920)
The Waldau (December 1920-August 1921)
The Basel Girls’ Secondary School (August 1921-April 1923)
The Railway Bridge
Acquaintances, Graduation
The Beginning of Medical School (Easter-October 1923)
The Dissection Lab (Winter Semester 1923/1924)
The Bicycle Tour (Summer Semester 1924)
The Broken Leg (Winter Semester 1924/1925)
The Second Preparatory Year Nears (Summer Semester 1925)
The Neergard Affair (Winter Semester 1925/1926)
The Death of Professor Hotz (Summer Semester 1926)
The First of August

Editor’s Epilogue

Appendix: Grandmother’s House

The Vision of Mary

In that same month, November 1917, very early one morning, when it was barely light, I woke up because of a golden light that filled the whole wall above my bed, and I saw something like a picture of the Holy Virgin, surrounded by several other personages (who were somewhat in the background, while she was right in the foreground) and several angels, some of whom were as big as she, while others were like little children. It was like a tableau, and yet the Holy Virgin was alive, in heaven, and the angels were changing position. I believe this lasted for a very long time. I looked, as if praying without words, and I was struck with amazement; I had never seen anything so beautiful. At the beginning, all of the light was like very vibrant gold; it faded little by little, and, as it faded, the face and the hands of the Holy Virgin became more alive and clearer. I was not frightened in the least but filled with a new joy that was both intense and very sweet. Not for one instant did I have the impression of anything unreal, and it never entered my mind that I might have been the victim of any error.

If I remember correctly I said only one thing about it to Madeleine, relating the fact as something completely natural. Mad said only: “I would really have liked to have seen her too.” We never spoke of it again. The memory of this apparition remained very clear within me; for a long time it accompanied me like a wonderful secret; I possessed, as it were, a place of refuge. Later, I would have liked to have spoken about it to someone: Once or twice I was tempted to go see a priest and to speak about it to him; but I didn’t know any. I never thought of talking about it to a Protestant pastor, although I do not believe that I in any way knew, at that time, that I was going to have to become a Catholic. From then on, I had a sort of faraway tenderness for the Holy Virgin. I knew that one had to love her, but that in itself never really bothered me. However, after my Catholic Instructions began in earnest, I told the priest who was instructing me about it, knowing clearly that I had to do so.

When the Holy Virgin disappeared, I knelt down beside my bed, as I had made it a habit of doing since my birthday, and I think I prayed until it was time to go to school.