It’s been almost five months since I shared my last pilgrimage post about taking a day of rest in St. Johann, Austria (written also on a day of rest.) So, after a long rest from writing, it is with humility and humor that I attempt to finish the reflections I started many months ago.
To refresh my rested memory, I re-read the ten Benedictine Pilgrimage Reflections previously shared. I remembered anew some of the special experiences and insights that motivated me to share last summer. For that reason, it is important for me to finish what I start—to continue to reflect on what the pilgrimage meant for me and other pilgrims and to document the memories made.
But it is important to also honor a different kind of pilgrimage I have been on during my pilgrimage-posting hiatus—challenging experiences teaching, attending The Growing Edge retreat with Parker Palmer and Carrie Newcomer (of which I still want to write about), leading a SoulFully You retreat for ten women at St. Benedict Center, hosting family from out of state, visiting our daughter in Wisconsin, hosting our daughter and her boyfriend over Christmas, hosting Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s celebrations, starting a new semester of teaching, and well, living life.
I remind myself of the words of Julian of Norwich, “All shall be well.” I will finish when I finish. It is all a pilgrimage.
We do not need to travel a great distance to go on pilgrimage. It is more about choosing to be “attentive to the divine at work in our lives through deep listening, patience, opening ourselves to the gifts that arise in the midst of discomfort, and going out to our own inner wild edges to explore new frontiers.” (Shared previously in part 1)
Deep listening has sustained me—has been my roadmap for choosing what and how much to do, when and what to write about, when to be in community or when to take solitude—and has given me the hope and patience to journey the mini-pilgrimages within the one great (S)hero’s journey of life.
“The purpose of a pilgrimage is about setting aside a long period of time in which the only focus is to be the matters of the soul. Many believe a pilgrimage is about going away but it isn’t; it is about coming home… Many a time we believe we must go away from all that is familiar if we are to focus on our inner well-being because we feel it is the only way to escape all that drains and distracts us, allowing us to turn inward and tend to what ails us. Yet we do not need to go to the edges of the earth to learn who we are, only the edges of ourself.”― L.M. Browning, Seasons of Contemplation: A Book of Midnight Meditations
The mantra I adopted at the beginning of the Benedictine pilgrimage—Trust God, peace like a river flows—has been just as important at home as it was abroad. Just as I was in the present moment in Europe, I’ve needed to practice present moment attention while at home, to tend to what ails me even with the drains and distractions of every day life. It has been a pilgrimage to the edges of myself, one I did not need to leave home for—a journey of the soul, trusting that wounds heal and peace flows. More at 2020 Words of the Year: Carry On.
So let’s carry on! Let’s go to Switzerland together!
Monday, June 24—On the 17th day of travel, we make our last visit in Austria to the Abbey of Stams, a Cistercian Abbey located in one of Tyrol’s most scenic locations in the Tyrolean Upper Inn Valley. The abbey was founded in 1273 and is the burial place of the Dukes of Tyrol.
The church was one of my favorite baroque style churches, a little simpler than most. The high altar, the most famous piece of art in the abbey dating back to the 17th century, is the Tree of Life. Made by Bartelmä Stein, the altar has 84 gilded figurines throughout with more dominant figures of Adam and Eve on the left and right sides, a large Madonna in the center and scenes from the life of Christ and his mother, Mary on the top. It was a breathtaking experience to see the totality of the altar, but also to contemplate the detail pointing to the significance of our salvation history.
Spectacular views combined with the juxtaposition of medieval history and a modern high school made Stams the perfect farewell to Austria.
From Stams we cross the Arlberg mountains, making a quick stop at the peak of Arlberg, Austria.
We drive through the principality (country) of Liechtenstein, which takes all of 15 minutes to drive from east to west. It takes me longer to drive to school in the morning! And then welcome to Switzerland!
We make one of our favorite visits of the pilgrimage in the village of Uznach, at the Otmarsberg Abbey for Mass and a welcoming dinner.
We received the ultimate in Benedictine hospitality at St. Otmar’s Abbey, where I ran into Br. Ramon who spent 3 months in Schuyler! The monks greeted us with beverages, hosted Mass, gave an Abbey tour, served an amazing meal, entertained us with song and music from the psaltery, all surrounded by mountains…and then they stood at the end of the driveway and waved goodbye!￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼
The hospitality we received from the Benedictine monks at St. Otmarsberg stands out as a favorite memory for many of our pilgrims. The monks just celebrated 100 years of serving as a Benedictine mission in Uznach as one of the monasteries of the Congregation of Missionary Benedictines of St. Otillien. The monastery itself was rebuilt 30 years ago. (See more of their contemporary art here.)
After saying our goodbyes, we travel to our hotel in Einsiedeln.