Brother Philipp (Willibald) Iff OSB passed away in the abbey infirmary of Münsterschwarzach at 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, 23 January 2019.
His life can only be written if at the top it is stated “Mary, ‘His Heavenly Queen.’” Her hand guided all his ways, at her hand he returned peacefully “to the eternal homeland.” Brother Philipp could sing all the strophes of this Würzburg hymn by heart up until his last days. The faith witnessed therein formed both his outer and inner life.
Willibald Iff came into the world in Retzstadt on 15 September 1925. His father Franz, and mother Barbara, looked after a farm so that after primary school, their son learned farming at home and school in the winter.
At just 18 years old, young Willibald was pulled into World War II. From August 1943 until the end of the war, he had to serve on three different fronts and sustained wounds several times. In April 1945, he left the troops in an unauthorized manner and escaped to his home village.
Seven years of life then transpired on his parents’ farm. In December 1952, Willibald entered the postulancy of the abbey. He became a novice under the name Brother Philipp on 6 May 1954, made his temporary profession on 10 May 1955, and committed himself for life in his perpetual profession on 15 May 1958. Brother Philipp was characterized throughout his life by his piety. This stability in the faith remained the backbone of his externally active life. It could be called the interplay of expected limits and new opportunities.
The war left wounds and scars behind in the young man for his whole life. But Willibald Iff conquered them by his own initiative. As a young brother — then trained as a master milker (1957) — Brother Philipp suffered a serious accident in a jump from the hay loft that put him on sick leave for almost a year.
There was a subsequent change in occupation. Brother Philipp trained from 1961 to 1963 as an electric machine builder. Having completed the journeyman’s exam, he worked until 1964 in the electrical department. For health reasons, there was need again for a change in position. From 1964 to 1965, we found him helping in the printing press. But soon thereafter came a transfer to the goldsmith shop. Here, this sensitive man learned the goldsmith’s craft, becoming a journeyman in 1971. From 1965 to 1985, countless vessels for Mass kits were produced through his artistic skill for our missionaries in Africa and Asia. In the seventies, this man, who constantly had bad feet, trained as a masseur in foot reflexology. In 1985, there came another change, this time to the procurator’s office.
Due to his age, Brother Philipp’s work ended, and he had to move to the infirmary. There, he was cared for very well and was gladly looked after by various caregivers for 14 years. We owe them all a great deal of thanks.
Brother Philipp was a faithful prayer leader for the daily rosary. His traditional piety was not always held in honor in the community. He also suffered from some misunderstandings. But in his steadfastness, he maintained interest in the way of the community and bore it with great compassion, praying for the concerns of the abbot. In his most essential vocation, Brother Philipp was a master of prayer.
Thus we are certain how lovingly his life was given to the Lord by Mary, and how prepared he was to be received by God.
To thank God for his life, we gathered for the Eucharist on Saturday 26 January 2019 at 10:30 a.m., with subsequent burial of Brother Philipp in the monastery cemetery.
Abbot Michael and the community of Münsterschwarzach