Monthly Archives: December 2016

Freising and the Feast Day of St. Korbinian

On our second to last day of vacation we planned to spend the night in Munich near the airport to alleviate the travel burden. For no other reason than proximity and price, Kimberly reserved us a hotel room at an old historic hotel in Freising which was an 800 m walk from the train station. Since the next day was Sunday, she figured I could go to Mass at the historic church central to the old European town.

Now all this turned out to be providential in the extreme. After dropping off our luggage we ventured around the cobblestone streets looking for a place to eat and to reconnoiter the church that I would visit early the next morning. The moment we got outside, church bells sounded and echoed from all directions. I thought it was simply signaling the hour but the clamor continued for over twenty minutes. I remember thinking, “does this happen every hour?” Seemed like such a frequent usage of the bells would take the charm out of it but maybe the townspeople have zoned it out of their mind and hearing.

Rain started to fall and the streets seem to empty has if a siesta had set in which, at about 2 PM, might have been reasonable were this not Germany. We walked along stumbling up steep cobblestone streets and narrow passages. The grounds of the church seemed empty advertising an “after hours” feeling. I just wanted to get a glimpse and see if Mass times were posted. Drawing closer we could hear some singing and faint music—probably choir practice.

We found what was the large wooden “front door” and Kimberly creaked it open, peaked in, looked around and walked through. I followed.

What I saw was not what I expected (a mostly empty church with plain clothes chorister singing in some corner). Not nearly: the expansive church was packed with people, many standing on the steps and back entry way. At the back was a huge raised area lined with clergy and at the head sat three seated men with vestments and large miters. Was this a Mass in the middle of the day? What is going on in here?

What we discovered was a celebration of the Feast Day of Saint Korbinian, patron of the city and the Freising-Munich diocese overall. This was not some old magnificent Church and monastery, but the very Cathedral and chair of the bishop—the same bishopric once shepherded by Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI). My undaunted wife marched up to the gallery where we sat overlooking the expanse of the Cathedral right next to the organ / orchestra loft. The whole ritual was saturated in the most glorious and sacred of music.  Before the altar at the bottom of the steps was what appeared to be the reliquary of Saint Korbinian himself which underwent an incensing and a walk around the sanctuary with a huge procession of bishops, priests and altar kids. As the bishop walked behind it, he laid hands on all the children for blessing. Others handed out medals, presumably of the saint, to any kid who wanted one—and who did not want one? Heck, I wanted one.

We were there for at least an hour and the “service” ended with the Salve Regina sung in the same tune we sing at St. Catherine. Of course I joined in—it was astounding.

Mass Tourism VII – St. Sebastian, Garmisch-Partenkirchen

See introduction to Mass Tourism series here for the motivation behind these essays.



Sunday morning (Nov 13), I left to attend St. Sebastian which posted a Latin Mass time of 10 AM. This tiny chapel in the middle of town at a sharp turn on the historic Ludwigstraße was built in 17th century and is the oldest church in Garmisch, if not the oldest building there altogether. All psyched up to attend Mass in a foreign country with no ability to “low-profile”, I arrived at the door which was locked shut. Peering through the dark windows, it seemed no one was there. A note tacked to the door revealed the situation, albeit in German. I was sure it stated that the Mass was postponed to 6PM. Nevertheless, I waited until the prescribed hour before returning to the apartment.

I decided to stop by the Netto market for bread but, wouldn’t you know, it was closed Sunday as were most businesses. Once upon a time it was true in America (and still in some towns)—that Sunday was a holy day of rest and one managed to reckon that fact into the week.

[Aside: Imbued by the culture, I have come to expect that stores will be open 24/7 for my convenience. I am convicted of the idea that we should return to a Closed-Sunday culture if not for religious purposes, but simply for the health and sanity of American society warped on money-making. Once attending a travel soccer game far away in Charlottesville, another father who I usually sat with was mocking the idea that local stores would be closed on Sunday for religious purposes (e.g. Chic-Fil-A). I just smirked in response but what I really wanted to say was, “You jerk! Do you think other families would like to spend time together at least one day of the week like you do? Is it so important that you get your hamburger value meal and a venti coffee at any hour of your life that others must scratch out a meager living to accommodate your every wish?” But I relented since I don’t exactly boycott businesses on Sunday myself.]

I returned to the chapel at the re-appointed time when all was dark and the streets were mostly empty. This time the chapel was open and some people had shown up. As I entered through the old wooden door, I immediately remember what Sigrid had told me, that there would be a group of people saying the rosary. I listened intently to determine what prayer was being uttered in German. The Fatima prayer almost sounded like the English version.

The chapel is very small, about 8 rows of pew split with a center aisle, each side wide enough to seat 3-4 people. There was absolutely nothing ergonomic about the sitting, the old pews possibly designed for function alone and no comfort—perhaps even mortification. I was forced to sit completely erect as the back rest shot a straight vertical with a seat slightly better than a 2×4 plank. Kneeling was no better, the kneeler raised so high, my feet could not touch the ground and my upper body ready to topple over the pew in front of me.

At the head of the church, the tabernacle was positioned tightly to the left side of the altar as if space would only allow that location. Above the altar was an old darkened painting of St. Sebastian, characteristically riddled with arrows and a doleful look heavenward.

Two priests entered through a side door, the celebrant being a man very young—around thirty—not something I imagine when I think of a Catholic priest. It was not just in my head that he fixed a prolonged stare on me–the oddity in this small chapel of senior women. Who let the American riff-raff in?

Ah but I had prepared my missal for this moment, reckoning that it was the 26th Sunday of Pentecost and my kindle at the ready with highlights. Mass started with Asperges, the traditional rite of sprinkling holy water on the congregation while the same traditional introit hymn is sung. The pews had been provisioned with a gray book Gotteslob which I saw in every church in Germany—an all-purpose book for the new liturgy and hymns. This chapel, however, had an additional small green booklet that was the hymns and responses for the High Latin Mass. For the most part, the Mass followed the words in my electronic Missal for the appointed day. Those parts where I was versed in the response, e.g. “Domine, non sum dignus ut intres sub tectum meum…” I made sure I was clearly heard so that everyone could be at ease that I just did not stumble into their singular worship service after touring Ludwigstraße purchasing bratwurst and souvenirs. American Riff-raff my foot!

Communion was kneeling at a 4-person altar rail which took all of 2 minutes. In this form of the Mass the communicant does not say Amen or anything—just quietly take the consecrated bread by mouth. I received the Eucharist in my mouth which I wasn’t nervous about. I think kneeling to take communion at an altar rail provides a certain level of security.

I meandered out of the Chapel after the final hymn. Waiting outside was the man sitting behind me. He was a distance from the door as if waiting for his spouse to pop out so that they could go home–typical. He looked at my brightly, “Guten Nacht.” I smiled and responded the same in my feeble German as I turned to go back to the apartment in the opposite direction.