“Pilgrimage calls us to yield our own agendas and follow where we are being led.” —Christine Valters Painter, The Soul of a Pilgrim: Eight Practices for the Journey Within
Many times in the months leading up to the pilgrimage, I perused the informational brochure outlining where we would visit each day and where we would stay, anticipating the trip ahead. The pace and routine of the previous pilgrimage gave me a good idea of what to expect—but what is actually experienced lies in the gaps of the agenda, in the conversations and relationships with others, and in the details of the day that cannot be planned or controlled. This is where the grace of God enters—sometimes it is in the form of discomfort and challenges and other times in opportunities that new insights and “aha moments” of new understanding bring.
I am at a threshold, a doorway, entering into a time and space of letting go as I pray in my mantra—“Trust God, peace like a river flows.” I know that surrender can eventually bring peace, wonder, surprise, openness, vulnerability, and/or joy, but I also know that not surrendering can bring tension, worry, expectation, guilt, anger, resentment, and/or disappointment. I want to surrender to whatever the moment brings. And if and when those less desirable, more challenging moments come, I want to surrender self-judgment too. Ultimately, surrender is transformational—not in the moment, but over time. The experiences and the accompanying feelings will percolate over days, weeks, months, and begin to define a new part of my self.
“What’s your biggest takeaway?” many of my friends have asked.
My first thought is OMG, it was SO HOT!! How do people live without air conditioning?
The European heatwave made a big impression and impact, but it was only the last several days of our trip. There were many other takeaways that I will share as I travel through the itinerary in my reflections. Join me on the journey through Germany, Austria and Switzerland, the outer pilgrimage, and the inner pilgrimage as I share my biggest takeaways—
(the H thing was a total coincidence, but I took it as a good sign to keep writing.)
Hospitality is actually the biggest takeaway from the pilgrimage; the heat just happened to be the last impression. Just as with my cousin week, the entire group had the opportunity to give and receive hospitality throughout the pilgrimage. Fr. Volker Futter, Benedictine monk, priest of Christ the King Priory, trip planner and leader of the pilgrimage, is the epitome of hospitality and the most active, energetic man that I’ve ever met.
Throughout the trip, Fr. Volker was there for whoever wasn’t feeling well, for those who needed help, to give a hand to help each of us down the bus stairs, and waiting for whoever was trailing the group on the way to our next stop. Fr. Volker is a true gentleman with a heart for the one who needs compassion and comfort the most. He is an example for all of us to follow.
Monday, June 17 (continued)—After lunch, we have a chance to check into our rooms in the abbey guesthouse, do a little exploring on the grounds, and then meet for Mass in the abbey crypt to prayerfully begin our pilgrimage.
This first day at Münsterschwarzach Abbey is a reminder of how steeped in history and tradition Benedictine spirituality is. Since 1913, Missionary Benedictine monks have lived at Münsterschwarzach Abbey devoting their life to “ora et labora”, prayer and work, as part of the Missionary Benedictine Congregation of St. Ottilien. The monks follow the Rule of St. Benedict and pray the Divine Office five times a day, a ritual that originated in Jewish prayer during the Babylonian exile.
The Abbey has more than twenty monasteries around the world including Christ the King Priory in Schuyler, Nebraska, and does missionary work in twenty-two countries around the world. Among other things, the 100 monks who live at the Abbey run a junior high and high school with 800 students and a large retreat center. They also respond to the needs of the day by housing and caring for over thirty refugees, mainly from the Middle-East.
The current Abbey was consecrated in 1938. The crypt, where we meet for Mass, holds the relics of St. Felicity below the altar shrine. St. Felicity has been the patroness of the monastery since the 11th century. Abbot Michael Reepan OSB, along with Fr. Volker celebrated Mass.
We close with the song “Peace is flowing like a river,” which I also take as a good sign—so similar to my mantra—and with “A Pilgrim’s Prayer”—
If some things do not happen as they are scheduled, Lord, may I remember that I am a pilgrim not a tourist!
If I should get tired and inclined to become short-tempered, Lord, may I remember that I am a pilgrim not a tourist!
If my meal in a foreign country may not be to my particular liking, Lord, may I remember that I am a pilgrim not a tourist!
If any delays should occur and I should become anxious, Lord, may I remember that I am a pilgrim not a tourist!
If some other pilgrim is making noise so that I cannot hear the guide, Lord, may I remember that I am a pilgrim and not a tourist when I ask that person to be a bit more quiet!
If someone takes a better seat or more choice place, Lord, may I remember that I am a pilgrim not a tourist!
If I find myself last in line waiting, Lord, may I remember that I am a pilgrim not a tourist!
If the person in front of me buys the last item which I really wanted, may I remember that I am a pilgrim not a tourist!
If I should get a chance to help another person, who always seems to be annoying me, Lord, may I remember that I am a pilgrim not a tourist!
If someone is always the last one on the bus and I am always on time, may I remember that I am a pilgrim not a tourist!
But Lord, especially let me remember that what I find objectionable in another is really what you oftentimes find objectionable in me and let me remember this and forgive the other, as you are continually forgiving me! Amen.
We end the day with opportunities to tour the grounds, an outdoor concert, and conversation over beer and wine. Most pilgrims are exhausted as they arrived just today. We have a big day tomorrow! (Coming: Kloster Banz, Basilica of Vierzehnheiligen, Bamberg Cathedral, Pommersfelden Castle, Kirch Winery….yes, all in one day!!)