Father Bonfilius Maria, his family name Franz Wagner, was born July 27, 1926 in Údolí u Nových Hradů. He successfully graduated from the town’s school in Nové Hrady and from the high school in České Velenice. When he was seventeen, he was recruited to the eastern front in WW2. He was one of the few of his battalion who survived. He also miraculously avoided being deported to a Russian camp for captives at the end of WW2. At that time he started to feel that he was being called to the priesthood but he was not allowed because he was of German origin.
After the death of his mother in 1948, he with the rest of his family secretly crossed the Czech-Austrian boarder. At Christmas of that year he joined the novitiate of the monastery of Servites in Innsbruck. In 1953 he was consecrated to the priesthood and he began his apostolic work, for which he besides the Tyrolean land honours, received the nickname „the Priest of Tyrol“. He served tirelessly, regardless of his own person, humbly and quietly. He used to be the first man up and about hurrying through the streets of Innsbruck by foot or by bike to encourage the sick people. He became a much sought-after confessor and preacher, to whom people came for consolation and encouragement not only from his own parish but also from different parts of Austria and Germany.
At the peak of his fruitful apostolic service and at the threshold of his retiring age the iron curtain fell. The superior at the time of the Tyrolean province sent out Fr. Bonfilius with the task to renew the ruined monastery of Servites in Nové Hrady. Fr. Bonfilius accepted this far from easy decision full of fear and at the same time pleasure and at the age of 65 he returned to his former home town which was now a completely different place where only a few memories and a handful of people that he had known remained. When he came he started to learn the Czech language so that he would be able to understand to the local people and that they would understand him. At the same time he began to renew the ruined monastery of Nové Hrady and the surrounding churches and chapels in Nové Hrady, Rychnov and Dobrá Voda. However the most admirable feature of the character of Fr. Bonfilius was his ability to renew people’s hearts, which he touched through his openness and friendliness.
In the last year of his life the vitality of Fr. Bonfilius was slowed by a serious illness and his „actio catholica“ was changing into „passio catholica“ - when he was not able to personally visit his parishioners, he cared for them through his prayers just as Jesus did on the Cross.
Father Bonfilius died on October 11, 2005 and is buried in the cemetery in Nové Hrady.
„Before I start to pray, I scrutinize my conscience on three points: Am I good? Is my prayer good? Is that what I pray for good for me?“
Fr. Bonfilius was a man of prayer. The breviary and the rosary were his weapons, which he took with him everywhere he went as the most essential things. When he was forced to miss his regular prayer times due to unavoidable circumstances, he would pray at night sometimes even until midnight, although he was constantly falling asleep from tiredness and exhaustion.
„Let us give love to men as much love as need and not as much as they deserve. The bigger the sinner and scoundrel, the more love he needs – and the worst man needs most love."
Love for his fellow men this was not a commandment for Fr. Bonfilius. Loving others for him was comparable to breathing for others. He did not use to worry about if he would be repaid or not. He endured endless phone calls full of problems and worries patiently, he took the suffering of the others upon himself and he helped selflessly.
„The name is good, but the boy isn’t. I am the biggest sinner in the town.“
In this way he used to joke about his name – good son (from Latin: bonus filius). According to Fr. Bonfilius there are three surprises that await us in heaven: „Really am I here? How it is possible that he is also here? What? She isn’t here?“
„Mommy gets nettles from father and children every day. Only one day a year, on Mother’s Day does she receive flowers. – And what does she do with the nettles? – She cooks a delicious, healthy tea from it.“
P. Fr. Bonfilius was never seen in a sad or gloomy mood. Despite constant worries about the renewal of the monastery in Nové Hrady and all of the parishes which were entrusted to him, he managed to keep his cheerfulness and was optimistic and good tempered at all times. He, with God’s help, managed to change all the difficulties and troubles into determination and effort, which brought forth rich fruits.
„If I can’t speak Czech properly, at least, I am going to greet everyone in Czech.“
Despite his age he learned the difficult Czech language quickly. His hearty and loud: „Pozdrav vás Pán Bůh!“ (Greetings from God) was the most natural and most effective rehabilitation of this almost forgotten but very nice greeting. He greeted while driving too – the passers-by used to say: „Father Bonfilius always blesses us from the car,“ and he really did. There are many witnesses that say his blessing brought good luck to a man, a house or a piece of work.
„All that I need, I have. What I don’t have, I don’t need.“
He took only little notice of his comfort and personal needs. He showed that even nowadays it is possible to live a life unbound by senseless requirement of consumption. In spite of the fact, that he himself didn’t have anything, he always gave generously to others, both materially and spiritually.
„My home is in heaven,“
This was the answer given by Fr. Bonfilius when asked by a TV editor if he felt that his home was more in Austria, where he had lived most of his life, or in the Czech Republic, where he was born. According to Fr. Bonfilius christians have only one common homeland, the Kingdom of Heaven. The boarders can change, countries appear and disappear and therefore it is not important where we live. Here, on Earth, we shall work, pray and live every moment so that God would be pleased.
„Czech is a nice language, it has seven cases and I am the eighth one!“
Although Sr. Ladislava, the sister who taught him Czech, used to say, „I am the best sleeping pill for him,“ she considered him to be her best student. It happened very often that when he returned in the late evening hours, he used to switch off the light already on the road. He did not want Sr. Ladislava to know that he was back, so he quickly jumped into bed and fell asleep. In spite of this, he managed to learn the Czech language so well that he was even able to build Czech puns.
„Even if I was going to the podium I still did not know what I was going to speak about.“
He said this after giving a sermon which had totally impressed his listeners. He let his thoughts and words be lead by the Holy Spirit, and he drew his inspiration from prayer. Often, he used only very few words instead of long interpretations when speaking – but each of these words were engraved on the hearts of his listeners. After a sermon in Lourdes a Frenchman came to him and said: „You know, I can’t speak German – but I understood all that you spoke about.“
„A biker rushing down from Dobrá Voda is being stopped by a policeman: „Stop, you don’t have a light!“ The biker yelled: „Out of my way, I don’t have any brakes!“
These were his pillars for a safe journey through life – the light of Christian faith, hope and love and the brakes of God’s commandments.
“The End of the World will be when the last farmer and the last priest die, because then there would be nobody to cultivate the land and nobody to pray for this world.“
In his childhood and youth he did a lot of agricultural work and he really understood what was meant by: “in the sweat of your face you shall eat your bread.” He used to appreciate hard work and he himself worked very hard even when at times it seemed as if his efforts were in vain. To renew the ruined monastery, to start the work for the salvation of souls there where despairing spiritual fallow had been – that demanded enormous energy and work and also unprecedented courage.