It’s now ten days since I arrived home from Munich and I realise that I haven’t yet put up something about Altötting and other interesting places I visited. I’ve been working this week on some text for a future Passionist Vocations website. While the schools and universities are on holiday, things tend to be quieter than usual here, so I wanted to take advantage of the peace to make some progress on the website, which I have been promising to do for several months. Also, this month I have no trips to Mount Argus (our provincial house) or other houses for meetings. I’ve been enjoying that too
While I was in Munich, I went for a day to Altötting with Father Gregor. I knew that it was a shrine of Our Lady and that Pope John Paul had been there, but I didn’t know any more than that. In fact, it is more like a town of Our Lady than just a shrine. We went there on a weekday and it was not really crowded, but there were still plenty of pilgrims visiting the various holy places.
On the square at the heart of the town is the Gnadenkapelle, the Chapel of Grace, a small octagonal chapel which houses the miraculous image of Our Lady. Father Stefan had given me an English guidebook with a foreword written in January 2005 by Joseph Cardinal Ritzinger whose birthplace, Marktl am Inn, is just a few miles away; he writes:
I am very lucky to have been born near to Altötting and so pilgrimages together with my parents and brother and sister to this place of grace form a part of my earliest and most trasured memories. The most powerful impression was of course made by the Gnadenkapelle (Chapel of Grace), with its mysterious darkness, the preciously dressed black Madonna surrounded by offerings, the quiet prayer of many people, and the way in which people openly wear their crucifixes. The votive tablets bear witness to centuries of suffering, struggles, belief and the experience of mercy; all of this still touches my heart today exactly as it did all those years ago. The presence of a holy and healing grace, the grace of a mother, through which God’s grace is shared with us, can be felt here, comforting and quite real amid the hardships of the world that plague people in childhood, adulthood and old age and seek to be resolved….
I am thankful and glad that, even after the Council, Altötting has stayed as it was and always should be: a place of belief, prayer, a place to renew life in the Sacrament of penance, a place of festive liturgy, a place where we experience the Church as a motherly leading community, a place of hospitality, a place where you can spoil your body.
(In the context of his last remark, the Holy Father will, I’m sure, be happy to know that we had an excellent lunch, and strawberries and ice cream in the afternoon.)