Intentions of the Holy Father for April

Ecology and Justice. That governments may foster the protection of creation and the just distribution of natural resources.
Hope for the Sick. That the Risen Lord may fill with hope the hearts of those who are being tested by pain and sickness.

A Few Pictures of Bavaria

My friend Trisha and I set out this morning to rent a car.  It took a while, but we finally set out by 2 p.m. from a rental car company to an enchanted destination that we had been planning to finish up with by 2 p.m.  We relaxed though, and decided to let Providence guide our adventure.  Along the way we had a few cool experiences. Driving on the autobahn with our manualtransmissionrentalcar (guys, back me up on this - it was awesome fun), we happened across a sign that said Autobahnkapelle. The word is a conglomerate of "auto-course" and "chapel." Trisha thought maybe it was a rest stop, because the obvious meaning was too weird. I shared her sentiments. Intrigued, we decided to stop. When we got there we saw that it was, in fact, a Catholic church in a countryvillage whose proximity to the autobahn prompted somebody in heavily (but now, unfortunately, not-so-practicing) Catholic Bavaria to build an off-ramp leading directly to it and then advertise its presence.

The off ramp led to a parking lot with this sign (it says "Mary-on-the-Road Church").  We followed the sign and arrived at this interesting piece of architecture, an honest attempt to be both modern and reverent, built in 1969.  Its architecturalinsides were more predictable than the people we met therein: a German woman who works with the local diocese, presumably at the parish, and three Senegalese - a man and two women.  They came in while Trisha and I were praying.  As I finished my prayers, they prepared to leave.  Suspecting the man of priestcraft, I approached and asked him in the language I heard him speak, "Excuse-moi, monsieur.  Est-ce que etez-vou un curé?"  ("Excuse me, sir?  Do you happen to be a priest?")  He told me that his name is Father Pierre, and so I asked him to give his blessing to Trisha and me.  He was happy to oblige.  Afterwards, we spent several moments speaking a few random words of French, German, and English to each other.  The German churchworker noted that we had in one little country chapel three whole continents.  It was a real blessing to meet a kind father and three wonderful sisters in our holy religion there, and so unexpectedly.  It was a Providential reminder that wherever we go, if we go with God, we go not alone.

The episode was very typical of the Catholic Church, I think, and also very beautiful.  Before I rush on, I want to note that the chapel itself was actual nice.  Modern and goofy, to be sure, but with a very high ceiling and a very clearly marked tabernacle visible throughout the place.  Above the altar hung a cross cut into a circle so that the thing looked like a Sacred Host.  Unusual, all of it, but none of it disrespectful or sacrilegious.  Again, very much like our beautiful Church, dear reader: goofy, unusual, but really a valiant attempt to honor God, and not a failure at doing so.  And like the Catholic Church, the most important thing is what happened inside.

A bit further in our journey we passed a late Romanesque church under renovation.  A gardener working in the cemetery helped us to find our way in.  It was simple and sparse, but the white walls reflected the little windowlighting well.

Our trip reached its climax as we pushed into the Alps further and wound from village to village, smaller and smaller as we drove.  At one point we came across a sign with the silhouette of a cow.  As we wondered what that might be, we came across a small traffic jam - 6 cars, more than we had seen in twice as many miles, backed up - waiting for a line of cows to be herded up the road.  My picture didn't come out so well, so maybe I'll add Trisha's later.

We saw the castle in the distance and drove into the village-like tourist-souvenir center at the foot of the mountain upon which the castle sat.  What you see below was the reward of our perseverance through rain and 80 or so miles of adventure: Schloss Neuschwannstein ("New Stone-swan Castle").

It was cloudy most of the day, rainy frequently, and always chilly.  It made for very gothic photography of a photogenic region that responds dazzlingly to the weather.  We parked halfway up the mountain and hiked up.  We'd arrived too late for the tour, but enjoyed walking around the perimeter and courtyard of the 19th century schloss (an ornamentalcastle) seen above.  On the drive home we stopped at a gasthaus ("Guest House") for dinner - excellent Bavarian fare.  We got back to our hosts' home around 9:30 or 10:00 p.m., dead tired and with some cool stories to share.

Our Father planned for us a much nicer adventure than we could have planned for ourselves.

And yes, I deliberately smooshed several nouns together, in honor of our Germanhosts.

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