Night has fallen and a deep darkness has settled over the countryside and the Havel lakes around Kirchmöser. A group of men are standing on the Mühlenberg lookout near the village. The silence penetrates their souls. Gradually, the darkness fades away and the immense canopy of stars beckons them to wonder and amazement.

Deep feelings in front of the Brandenburg Prison

From here you seek a visual encounter with the Brandenburg Correctional Institution, the place where Franz Reinisch was imprisoned and eventually executed. Several of these men have walked this path many times and witnessed this ritual just as often. This does not prevent them from being moved and stirred anew each time, meditating on the self-giving of the life of the martyr of conscientious obedience, Franz Reinisch.

The silence is interrupted by the narration of Father Hans-Martin Samietz, who knows the history of this place perfectly well, as the “Brandenburg Carmel” (a term coined by Father Ludwig Wulf). Many people have come before – particularly Father Wulf – to bring life to this memorial of the sacrifice of Franz Reinisch’s life.

A spiritual journey that raises questions

This nocturnal pilgrimage to the Mühlenberg is part of Reinisch Night, a vigil on the night of Franz Reinisch’s death, August 20-21, which has been celebrated for more than 60 years. At this point, the men have already had a time of worship and still await the evening meal, the group assembly, the sermon at the lake and the Holy Mass. Many are already familiar with the evening’s format, others are new.

“What spiritual path are you on?” A question that introduces the evening sermon at the lake, and one that many of the men are working on from within. The tradition of preaching at the lake goes back to the time of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany), when church groups often had to expect being bugged. The lake was and is a place of great intimacy and confidentiality.

The Reinisch Night is the highlight of the Reinisch Gathering, which once again brought together some 20 men this year to the island of Kiehnwerder, just minutes from Kirchmöser and two hours from Berlin, for a ten-day stay in tents. This camping time is characterized by joy, fun and games and the occasional beer. Beach volleyball, sailing and fishing, swimming and campfires are as much a part of this as prayer, Mass, meditating and sharing about Franz Reinisch’s radical life surrender.

Reinischnacht in Kirchmöser

Franz Reinisch provokes and captivates

Another highlight of the Reinisch Meeting is the visit to the Brandenburg prison. This prison is still operational, and participants are allowed to pass through the gate after registering. At the place where Franz Reinisch was executed, Lisa Quaeschning, a well-known professional educator at the memorial site, answers questions. The topic is the latest historical discoveries and planned research projects at the site. The execution room is modeled after the original one and gives a feeling of confinement. Here, the men approach the brutal and inhuman reality of Franz Reinisch’s surrender of his life. With appropriate meditation and music, the confinement of the place dissolves into immensity and rises before God.

Franz Reinisch provokes and captivates with his self-surrender. For the men who gather at the Reinisch encounter, Franz is always an inspiration to examine the issues of their own lives. On August 26, it was time to disassemble and say goodbye, looking forward to the next encounter a year from now.