.- Excitement over the visit of Pope Benedict XVI in the small German town of Thyrnau, on the outskirts of Passau, has reached fever pitch. The nuns at the Monastery of St. Joseph have done little for the last several weeks but cut, sew, and embroider the vestments which the Holy Father will use during the celebration of the Mass at the Shrine of Alttöting on September 11.
The nineteen Cistercian nuns who live at the monastery, including the abbess, Mother Mechtild, said they feel very honored to have been given the task to embroider the pontifical coat-of-arms on the fine silk used for the vestments.
Sister Michaela, who is putting the final touches on the papal mitre, made totally by hand, said, “The most important thing is that it fits the Holy Father, that the size is correct and that it is comfortable.”
The nuns are not only sewing papal vestments and linens for the altars, but also the chasubles that will be worn by 30 other cardinals and bishops who will concelebrate at the Mass. The most difficult aspect of the work, said Sister Francisca, is “sewing as beautifully as possible, knowing that we have to race against the clock.”
Sister Monica, who is responsible for preparing the altar cloth, said she had to take into account such factors as the wind, and consequently she sewed small rows of wax into the seams on the borders.
“It is something extraordinary to have received this honor,” explained the abbess, as normally everything is brought from Rome. “To be able to sew and embroider something that the Holy Father himself is going to wear is something special,” she said.
When the Diocese of Passau sent its proposal to the Pope that the nuns prepare the ornaments, the Holy Father, knowing the reputation of the Cistercian Nuns at St. Joseph’s work, probably found it difficult to refuse.
“Each stitch is joined with our intentions,” the abbess said, “that the Pope will be healthy, that his words will be well-received, that his mission will be a success, that he will always be strong.”
While some sew, other nuns had the task of recording televised papal celebrations from the Vatican in order to study the figures embroidered on the Pope’s vestments and check them against their own work.