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Benedictine Pilgrimage Reflections

Blessings and Challenges: A Benedictine Pilgrimage, The Last One

Our Benedictine Pilgrimage to Germany, Austria and Switzerland was both an outer and inner experience of hospitality, history, humor, humility, and heat, and always present in our hearts, home.  The H thing was a total coincidence that emerged when I started reflecting on the pilgrimage (Part 4), but I add blessings, opportunities, and challenges to this final reflection as well.

Blessings

There are too many blessings to count: time with dear friends from home, renewing friendships with those who had gone on pilgrimage five years ago, forming new and deepening relationships with oblates and others, so much laughter, the ritual of daily and morning prayers, a shared experience of faith, the joy and peace of monks and sisters, beautiful art, architecture, history, culture, delicious food, the leadership and positive attitude of Fr. Volker, a true gentleman with a heart for the one who needs compassion and comfort the most—the epitome of hospitality and the most active, energetic man that I have ever met and Fritz Minhard, a gracious, patient, well-informed, problem-solving, loving pilgrimage guide.

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The pilgrimage was an opportunity to be attentive to the divine—the beauty of the mountain views, the flowers blooming, the streams flowing through the valleys, the centuries-old buildings and winding pebble stoned streets, the cathedrals and small chapels, the candles and statues, the stained glass and candlelight, the inspiration and resilience to build great and simple buildings to honor the divine. Photo: Abbey of Banz

Continue reading “Blessings and Challenges: A Benedictine Pilgrimage, The Last One”

Our Own Sister Act: A Benedictine Pilgrimage, Part 17

Sunday, June 30Cologne, Dusseldorf, Neuss 

We had our last visit to a Benedictine monastery today. Greeted by oblates and sisters, we were welcomed with Mass, a true “unity in diversity” experience singing together in Latin, German and English, and an unexpected lunch and ice cream social afterward.

The Benedictine Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament Convent in Cologne extended us warm hospitality (and by warm, I mean so unbelievably HOT inside the church that the sweat was rolling….and yet, it was one of the most sacred experiences. I think I speak for all pilgrims, that we would not have missed this visit for anything.) The sisters are joy-filled, love to have fun and they love their ice cream, made from their own dairy cows out back.  See videos of Mass and music HEREContinue reading “Our Own Sister Act: A Benedictine Pilgrimage, Part 17”

Abbey of St. Hildegard: A Benedictine Pilgrimage, Part 16

Saturday, June 29St. Hildegard Abbey, Rhine River cruise

Our pilgrimage has been delightful, but make no mistake, there were still the occasional discomfort and irritation. Our hotel in Rüdesheim had a beautiful view of the Rhine River… and highly traveled train tracks. Yes, we could hear them all night long. But perhaps it was the stifling heat of a European heat wave that was more unbearable. International headlines read “Germany Records All-Time Hottest June Temperature.”

Germany set its all-time highest June temperature on Sunday, with 38.9 degrees Celsius (102 degrees Fahrenheit) recorded in the western state of Rhineland-Palatinate. The country has been baking in an early summer heat wave; however, Germany’s all-time high of 40.3 degrees Celsius still stands.

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It is very, very hot. But what most Americans do not realize is that there are few homes or establishments that have air-conditioning in Germany. It just does not get this hot. Fortunately, I packed a portable fan that I blew into my face all night long. Alright, enough complaining….

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We start our day with a drive to Hildegard von Bingen’s Abbey, high over the Rhine valley. The Church and grounds captured the spirit of the great mystic, theologian, composer, herbalist, pharmacist, negotiator, peacekeeper, and one of the first female doctors of the Church, Hildegard of Bingen. We hear from one of the sisters, celebrated Mass, and had time to wander the grounds and the gift shop. There was a peaceful, feminine, authentic sacredness about this Abbey. Continue reading “Abbey of St. Hildegard: A Benedictine Pilgrimage, Part 16”

Heidelberg Stole My Heart: A Benedictine Pilgrimage, Part 15

Friday, June 28—Heidelberg and Rudesheim

The previous evening, we had arrived in Heidelberg in time to walk the Old Town and to have dinner, but today we get to fully experience the ancient university town, known for stealing hearts. Heidelberg far exceeded my expectations; visiting the Heidelberg Palace, The Holy Spirit Church, and the Old Bridge were highlights of these last days on pilgrimage.

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IMG_6607Heidelberg is situated on the Necker River below the world-famous ruins of Heidelberg Palace, one of the finest examples of German Renaissance architecture constructed in 14th century Palatine. It was later destroyed in the 17th century but is considered the most magnificent ruin in Germany.

IMG_6623 Continue reading “Heidelberg Stole My Heart: A Benedictine Pilgrimage, Part 15”

Freiburg and Speyer: A Benedictine Pilgrimage, Part 14

Thursday, June 27—Freiburg and Speyer

Leaving the beautiful area of Lake Constance, we drive through Germany’s Black Forest with Freiburg im Breisgau in the region of Baden-Württemberg, Germany as our destination with morning Mass at St. Martin’s.  We have morning prayers on the bus—again, so relevant to our time of uncertainty. “Ten thousand fears cluster at my door…”

There is much comfort in Church tradition and the liturgy, which we take part in with daily Mass on pilgrimage. It is the beautiful cathedrals, their history, art, and architecture that remind us that through the centuries that people have struggled, feared, and fought and it is in sacred spaces we find hope and sustenance for the journey.

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Continue reading “Freiburg and Speyer: A Benedictine Pilgrimage, Part 14”

Reichenau Island at Lake Constance: Benedictine Pilgrimage, Part 13

Wednesday, June 26—Reichenau Island, Meersburg, Constance

Today we visit the beautiful and historic monastery island of Reichenau in Lake Constance, a quick stop in Meersburg, and a chance in the evening to do some exploring in Constance where we stay again for another night.

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Reichenau Island is one of 31 important sites in Germany that are on the UNESCO World Heritage List, a testimony to the religious and cultural role of this large Benedictine monastery of the Middle Ages. The Benedictine monastery was founded in 724, by Bishop Pirmin, considered to be the first abbot of Reichenau Monastery. The Monastery served as an imperial abbey during the Carolingian Empire, with special allegiance to the king, serving as Europe’s premier educational and training center. Continue reading “Reichenau Island at Lake Constance: Benedictine Pilgrimage, Part 13”

A Pharmacy in Einsiedeln; A Benedictine Pilgrimage, Part 12

Tuesday, June 25: Einsiedeln, Switzerland

We are in real-time now—no more procrastinating writing our pilgrimage memories!  It has been ONE YEAR to the day since the Benedictine Pilgrimage.

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Church bells wakened us in Einsiedeln, Switzerland at 5:30 am, plenty of time to get breakfast, pack for the day, and wait for the pharmacy, conveniently located across the street from our hotel, to open at 8 a.m.  Half the bus had contracted a vicious cold in the previous few days and was anxiously waiting for the pharmacy doors to open. Pharmacists in the store, and a few from our pilgrimage, listened to our symptoms and found us the best cold medicine and treatments to improve our health for the remainder of our pilgrimage.

13 Einseldein, Switzerland and Mt Pilate

We celebrated Mass at the Benedictine Abbey of Einsiedeln, well-known as a place of pilgrimage to see the “Black Virgin”, a carved wooden statue of the Madonna, darkened by candles burning cow fat from the 15th century. We celebrated Mass in the Chapel of Grace with the Black Madonna as a focal point.

13 Einseldein, Switzerland and Mt Pilate1

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IMG_5497 Continue reading “A Pharmacy in Einsiedeln; A Benedictine Pilgrimage, Part 12”

Return to Pilgrimage: Switzerland! Part 11

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. Continue reading “Return to Pilgrimage: Switzerland! Part 11”

St. Johann, a Day of Rest: A Benedictine Pilgrimage, Part 10

I had a day of rest today. A headache and a very bad night of sleep was cause for intentional grounding.  So it is appropriate that today I also share about my day of rest in St. Johann, Tirol, Austria.

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Amazing view from the balcony of my room. We stayed in St. Johann for three nights. It was wonderful to have a temporary home. Three days is the longest I stayed anywhere in 3 1/2 weeks. 

Sunday, June 23It was my 16th day of travel. Symptoms of a terrible cold that had started to work its way through the bus, combined with a forecast of rain, convinced me I should stay back from sight-seeing and take a day of rest.

I had visited Chiemsee, the day’s pilgrimage destination, with my cousins five years ago, so it made the decision to take this day off from travel much easier, admittedly despite a bit of FOMO. My dear friends, Joyce and Laura, left some breakfast for me in my room and said, “Go back to sleep.” And I did. Just like I did today when I realized going to school was not to be.

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I slept until 11:30 am (both then and today, so apparently rest was just what I needed), had a simple brunch and headed out to explore the town of St. Johann in search of throat drops and cold medicine. It was the right choice to sleep in and spend some time alone, but by myself I felt an acute sense of homesickness and a little bit lonely.  I reminded myself of the importance of balance—of being together and alone, of having activity and rest. This is what my body and spirit needed today. Continue reading “St. Johann, a Day of Rest: A Benedictine Pilgrimage, Part 10”

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