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Dawson and Burns, eds. The Persistence of Order, Vol. I. London: Sheed and Ward, 1931, 127. Reprinted by Cluny Media in 2019.

"Ida Friederike Coudenhove...is representative and indeed one of the leaders of the Youth Movement in Germany, more particularly of its Catholic manifestation, and is closely associated with the group headed by Romano Guardini."

T.F. Burns, 1931

“Only the Lover Discerns”:

A Brief Introduction to Ida Friederike Görres

by Hanna-Barbara Gerl-Falkovitz
translated by Jennifer S. Bryson

reprinted with permission from LOGOS: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture vol. 23, no. 4 (Fall 2020): 117 to 122.

About Ida Görres: Part One [1]

The author was born December 2, 1901, and given the mellifluous name Friederika Maria Anna von Coudenhove, as the sixth child of the Austrian diplomat Dr. Heinrich Graf von Coudenhove-Kalergi and the Japanese mother, Mitsuko Maria Thekla Aoyama at the Ronsperg estate in the Bohemian forest. In appearance, she clearly reflected her twofold European-Japanese ancestry. She also experienced her spiritual ancestry, from two so very different cultures, with intensity and not infrequently painfully: “Whether this great sadness, the merciless view of the world, is my inheritance from Asia? It may well be that I am part of something very old, wise in an ancient way, yet an unredeemed ancientness and wisdom.”

Her father, whom she barely remembered, died already at the age of fifty. Regarding her mother, she wrote:

Oh, her deeply tragic destiny could only be written by a great next-generation novelist, like Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind. Do you think she was even asked if she wanted to marry a European when all she knew of Europeans was that they were “white devils with red hair and fisheyes”? Her later bitter comment was that “It was worse than death. But Japanese girls obey.” A command from the father, not to be disobeyed. . . .Of her seven children, my mother only liked the two oldest, who were born while she was still in Japan, and she left us no doubt about this. . . . When I hear people here complain about “lack of warmth at home,” I almost have to laugh. We did not even know that there is such a thing to miss.

Having grown up in Austrian convent schools, the young girl first encountered the Church in its sheltering, though also its rigid form. It was not until the Catholic youth movement after 1918, in the Austrian Confederation of Neuland, that this image of the Church deepened to unanticipated vitality. She played a leading role in this religious renewal.

From 1923–1924, this young woman (she had chosen the name Ida as a childlike form of Friederike) was a novice with the Maria Ward nuns in Sankt Pölten for a brief period. Studying political science from 1925 to 1927 in Vienna, then the social sciences (1927– 1929) in Freiburg at the Women’s School for Social Work, then his- tory, church history, theology, philosophy from 1929 to 1931 at the university there brought her into contact with the concrete challenges of the era. She served from May 1932 until Easter 1935 as a “Diocesan Secretary for Young Women’s Ministry” in the diocese of Dresden-Meissen, more precisely as a spiritual thought-leader for Catholic youth. In Dresden, in particular, her lively, even fiery way of developing her thinking was already pronounced; her leadership was inspiring.

At this time of palpable external success, however, she was also burdened by a personal loneliness that she experienced deeply, grounded in “a childhood of bearing the weight of a stone,” a peculiarly loveless and parentless education. This loneliness was resolved by surprise, and yet not without a reluctant struggle, by attracting a slightly younger man.

When Ida Coudenhove met Carl-Joseph Görres (1905–1973), from Berlin, in Dresden, some people were almost disappointed with their engagement in the fall of 1934 and their marriage at Easter 1935 in Leipzig, because their ideal of a “Virgin of Orleans” seemed destroyed. Through his work as an engineer and business consultant, her husband, who complemented her in his spirituality on par with hers, selflessly made it possible for her to have the opportunity to work as a writer and theologian. In quick succession, her lengthier works emerged alongside many lectures and shorter writings on current issues, revolving around the Church and the saints. “Since I have no family,”—sorrowfully, she did not have children of her own, “all my strength . . . has been focused on the Church.”

In these years, the creative output of Ida Görres was astonishing. In 1943, in the middle of the war, she published a significant book about Therese of Lisieux,[2] and in 1946 a consequential, critical Letter about the Church. In 1949 three books followed simultaneously, which had ripened in the preceding years: The volume of poetry The Hidden Treasure; then Nocturnes: Diary and Notes; and On Marriage and on Being Single. [3] This “brood” continued in 1950 with The Incarnate Church. This astonishing, indeed exuberant, output was curbed in October 1950 by fierce episodes of illness, which of course, did not entirely interrupt this creative force and which she experienced as a purification.

The suffering did not leave her but was alleviated to the extent that she continued to write tirelessly. She lived through the Second Vatican Council at first with joyful attention but later more anxiously and continuously occupied with the consequences, which in her eyes were ambiguous. She made an effort to be open to new articulations and expressions, but she instinctively saw that which is indispensable in limbo. A telling title of hers reads: Demolition Squad in the Church. In 1969 she received an invitation to take part in the Würzburg Synod, at which the council was to be implemented in a timely manner. On May 15, 1971, Ida Görres presented her perspective on Worship Service and Sacrament[4] and collapsed immediately afterward. Although she had recently felt rejuvenated and refreshed, her brain hemorrhage was fatal. She died the same day in the Frankfurt Marian Hospital.

About Ida Görres: Part Two [5]

The current generation has almost forgotten the once famous author of the [early twentieth-century] German renouveau catholique, i.e. Catholic Renewal. Thirty years after her death [in 1971] and 100 years after her birthday, historian and theologian Ida Friederike Görres . . . has effectively been overtaken by silence—not only from the “classic” fading in the memory of the next generation, but also due to the cultural break after 1968, which was painful for her to observe.[6] Nothing seemed so distant then as her issues: the Church, the saints, marriage and virginity, woman in a highly charged complementarity with man. Concern with transmitting the truth of Christ consumed her towards the end of her life; she died in the very heated atmosphere of the Würzburg Synod in 1971, where she collapsed after passionately making a statement in a presentation about “Sacrament.” Her friends, of course, and those who met her, who were even accompanied, indeed led, by her, remember her—if they are still alive—with a veneration that indicates reverberation from a deep impression.[7]


Nevertheless, some harbingers of new recognition are surfacing today: Theological doctoral theses have been written in Innsbruck and Vienna,[8] in memory-rich Mooshausen,[9] they observed her centenary,[10] after several small depictions of her life,[11] a new edition of her poems appeared,[12] and a collection of letters is forthcoming.[13] Efforts to preserve the material with traces [of her] have begun.The existing publications, by no means exhaustive, testify to passionate yet restrained thinking, a supple and sparkling intellect, a youthful, romantic, and then more vocal faith tested by suffering.[14]

The newly accessible significance of Ida Friederike Görres is—apart from her sometimes enchanting language and analytical sharpness—undoubtedly in her hagiographic achievement, which encompasses an image of the Church that is equally established as well as open to development. Starting in the 1930s she became a public figure through striking biographies of saints, above all about women: Elisabeth of Hungary, Mary Ward, Redegund, Hedwig of Silesia; among male [saints] she dealt with Francis, and figures such as Heinrich Suso and Teilhard de Chardin. Her books were standard in the collections of Catholic libraries. With her master- piece about Therese of Lisieux,Görres opened the door to a new way of looking at not only the “great little one,” but also a complex approach to the phenomenon of holiness. While she presumably did not underestimate the word “modern,” it could be said that she initi- ated “modern hagiography”—a grasp of the inner, “human” face of the saints. Or as she wrote in her diary, “[...] the story of a person who turns from an ‘arch-Catholic’ into a Christian; a path within the Church from the exterior of ‘denomination’ to the interior of divine reality.”[15]

It was her request to be buried in her white kimono and with a “white requiem” at the Bergäcker cemetery in Freiburg. White is the Japanese color of mourning; this may have expressed “reconciliation” late in life with her mother. Joseph Ratzinger, who was then a professor at Tübingen, gave the memorial address at the Freiburg Cathedral on May 19, 1971. On her tombstone, next to the warrior Archangel Michael, so dear to her, are the words Cave adsum! —“Take heed. I’m here!”

Screen Shot 2021-03-01 at 8.30.55 PM.png

"St. Michael the Archangel"

by Timber and Sky.

Used with permission.

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Hanna-Barbara Gerl-Falkovitz

is professor emerita and chair of the European Institute for Philosophy and Religion at the Hochschule Heiligenkreuz in Austria. She earned her PhD and Habilitation at the University of Munich, Germany. She served as director of studies in Burg Rothenfels and she has an honorary doctorate from the Catholic Philosophical-Theological Hochschule Vallendar, Germany. She has taught at the universities in Munich, Bayreuth, Tubingen, Eichstatt, and Dresden. Her research, with an emphasis on the Catholic tradition, is focused on the intersection of modern religion and philosophy as well as phenomenology and the anthropology of the sexes. Her extensive list of publications includes books and academic articles on Romano Guardini, Edith Stein, Simone Weil, and many others. Gerl-Falkovitz has played a key role in preserving the legacy of Ida Friederike Görres.

  1. Hanna-BarbaraGerl-Falkovitz,“Zur Einstimmung,” in Von Ehe und von Einsamkeit: ein Beitrag in Briefen by Ida Friederike Görres (Vienna, Austria: Kairos Publications, 2012), 11–14. Görres first published this book in 1949. (I have translated this book into English, forthcoming 2021, tentatively titled On Marriage and on Being Single: Four Letters. —Translator.)

  2. Ida Friederike Görres, The Hidden Face: A Study of St Thérèse de Lisieux, trans. Richard and Clara Winston (first published in London: Burns & Oates, 1959 and New York: Pantheon, 1959), reprinted in 2003 by Ignatius Press. Initially published in German as Das verborgene Antlitz. Eine Studie über Therese von Lisieux, (Freiburg: Herder, 1943). The 1943 edition was destroyed during the war; it was republished in 1946 and then republished again later as Das Senfkorn von Lisieux: Neue Deutungen (Freiburg: Neue Deutungen, Herder, 1958), and then republished in German also in 1964 and 1998.

  3. Ida Friederike Görres, On Marriage and Being Single: Four Letters, trans. Jennifer Bryson, forthcoming 2021.

  4. Görres compiled the reflections on marriage that were prepared for the Würzburg Synod into a book: What Marriage Binds Forever: Reflections on the Indissolubility of Marriage, trans. Jennifer Bryson, forthcoming 2021.

  5. Hanna-Barbara Gerl-Falkovitz, “Weltüberwindung,” Eine Neue Entdeckung: Ida Friederike Görres über Newman. Vorwort” in Der Geopferte: Ein Anderer Blick auf John Henry Newman by Ida Friederike Görres (Vallendar-Schönstatt, Germany: Patris Verlag, 2003), 6–8. (I am currently translating this book into English, publication 2022. —Translator.)

  6. See, for example, Ida Friederike Görres, “ Wirklich die neue Phönixgestalt?” Über Kirche und Konzil: Unbekannte Briefe 1962–1971 an Paulus Gordon, ed. Hanna-Barbara Gerl- Falkovitz (Heiligenkreuz, Austria: Be & Be Verlag, 2015). These letters, explains Gerl-Falkovitz, “contain sharp, on target commentary about the societal and ecclesial severance with ‘the old ways.’”

  7. In her footnotes to this introduction, Gerl-Falkovitz remarks that she recalls this from her time as director of studies at Burg Rothenfels, in discussions with, among others, Alfons Rosenberg, Fr. Manfred Hörhammer, Beatrix Klaiber und Dr. Maria Kallab, and from conversations on the occasion of the conference there about Ida Friederike Görres in May 1980, documented in Burgbrief Burg Rothenfels, March 1980. Conversations with Fr. Paulus Gordan in the [19]90s and with Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn in 2000, who called her “the smartest woman” he had ever met, confirm the impression from that time. See for example the observations by Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn in Weltweite Kirche. Begegnungen und Erfahrungen in sechs Kontinenten 1909–1999, Stein am Rhein, (Christiana) 2000.

  8. Anna Findl-Ludescher, “Stützen kann nur, was widersteht,” Ida Friederike Görres— ihr Leben und ihre Kirchenschriften (Dissertation, Innsbruck 1998), Innsbruck/

  9. Wien1999(STS9).Michael Kleinert, Es wächst viel Brot in der Winternacht. Theologische Grundlinien im Werk von Ida Friederike Görres (Dissertation, Vienna 2000). Michael Kleinert, Studien zur systematischen und spirituellen Theologie 36, Würzburg (Echter) 2002.

  10. “From 1917 to 1966 Mooshausen was the residence of Parish Priest Josef Weiger (1883-1966), [Father Romano] Guardini’s best friend. A large circle of friends gathered in this rectory, and Guardini himself lived in the rectory from 1943–1945 when he had to leave Berlin . . . Ida Görres knew Fr. Weiger . . . Her sister Olga, who is buried near M[ooshausen] in Altenstadt an der Iller, may also have been acquainted with Fr. Weiger.” Hanna-Barbara Gerl-Falkovitz, email to the translator, March 16, 2020.

  11. At a conference September 28–30, 2001, on the topic “Piety and Revolution,” Andreas Batlogg discussed the conference in “Zwischen Pietät und Revolution. Neuentdeckung von Ida Friederike Görres?,” Stimmen der Zeit 12 (2001), 857–60.

  12. Hanna-BarbaraGerl-Falkovitz,“Görres,IdaFriederike,”inB.Ottnad(ed.),Baden- Württembergische Biographien II, (Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1999), 161–63; Gerl- Falkovitz, “Zwischen den Zeiten: Ida Friederike Görres (1901–1971),” in Ibid. Freundinnen. Christliche Frauen aus zwei Jahrtausenden, (Munich: Wewel Verlag, 1994), 121–32. Susanna Schmidt, “Ida Friederike Görres (1901–1971),” in Jürgen Aretz et al. (eds.), Zeitgeschichte in Lebensbildern. Aus dem deutschen Katholizismus des 19. und 20. Jahrhunderts 10 (Münster: Aschendorff, 2001), 179–90.

  13. Ida Friederike Görres, Gedichte, ed. and with an introduction by Hanna-Barbara Gerl-Falkovitz, (Mooshausen, Germany: Edition Mooshausen 2001, 2nd ed., 2002).

  14. Since Gerl-Falkovitz wrote this in 2003, she has since published this set of letters: Ida Friederike Görres, “ Wirklich die neue Phönixgestalt?” Über Kirche und Konzil: Unbekannte Briefe 1962–1971 an Paulus Gordon, ed. Hanna-Barbara Gerl-Falkovitz (Heiligenkreuz, Austria: Be & Be Verlag, 2015).

  15. There are archives in Freiburg and Burg Rothenfels, as well as the private archive of Hanna-Barbara Gerl-Falkovitz in Erlangen.

  16. Ida Friederike Görres, Nocturnen. Tagebuch und Aufzeichnungen (Frankfurt/Main, Germany: Knecht, 1949), 102.