Written by John Watters
Today marks the end of the Heritage Tour.
We took a trip this morning to Magdeburg, concluding a three-day journey that the body of St. Norbert had taken, in reverse, centuries before. We had seen his final resting place in Prague; stopped at the convent at Doksany where the procession transportjng his remains paused in 1627; and today, we toured the church where he had originally been interred.
The church is presently a performance space and modern art gallery, but the crypt where Norbert was buried has been preserved, and we were able to peer inside.
We then visited three Norbertines who reside in a small house in the city, and they treated us to that most American of celebrations, a backyard cookout. We enjoyed a beautiful, breezy afternoon in their company, and also toured their small church, built in the 1950s and holding a remarkable story associated with its crucifix.
The cross, created in the 1930s, originally belonged to another church in Magdeburg. The Christ figure is depicted without a crown of thorns or a wound in his side; when asked, the artist explained he was portraying Christ after he had commended his spirit to the Father, and thus, in a sense, already healed of his earthly wounds.
During World War II, the church that housed the cross was bombed, and explosions wracked the worship space. The Jesus figure was pierced by a piece of shrapnel … just below the heart. Today, the repaired location of the wound is betrayed by a lighter color of paint than the rest of the statue. It was the kind of story that gives you chills.
This evening, we’ll say farewell to our traveling companions over dinner. I have to say that on a trip filled with wonderful occasions, most of the best involved members of our group. We were a diverse bunch, but united by positive energy, good humor, and a unanimous commitment to respect and care for one another. Friendships were made, and I do hope they are lasting.
The trip exceeded all expectations, and not just in the quality of the company. The itinerary was well chosen, the accommodations first-rate, the food delicious (and seemingly endless).
To a person, my fellow travelers would acknowledge the debt we owe to Catherine Kasten, whose hard work before and during the trip did so much to make it so memorable.
Sincere thanks are due, too, to the Norbertines who accompanied us; Fr. Sal Cuccia, who helped manage the logistics of a trip that, due to traffic and other issues, was often running a little late or a little early; Fr. Ted Antry, who provided us with fascinating daily “Ted Talks” on the bus, giving us context for the places we were about to visit; and most of all to Fr. Jay Fostner, always first off the bus to greet our hosts, smoothly (usually!) guiding us through adventures in four countries, and in general just being a very effective troop leader to a bunch of eager scouts.
Not present, and deeply missed, was Fr. Andrew Ciferni, who mentored us throughout the year-long Cornerstone seminar but who was unable to join us on the trip itself due to surgery. He prepared us well, and the trip would have been far less enriching without the benefit of his insights. Thank you, Fr. Andrew!
Wonderful sightseeing, great people, and great fun; you could hardly ask for more. At the end of the day, though, the trip’s real purpose was to give us a better understanding of Norbertine heritage and history. In that respect, too, it was a tremendous success.
Beyond what I’ve written already, I’d like to be able to tell you more about this – about all the wonderful ways the Norbertine “story” was revealed to us over these two weeks.
I hope you have that opportunity; you’ll never forget it.