Monthly Archives: December 2017

Mass Tourism X

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

The train to Regensburg was different—an old “cattle car” model with too many people. It was amazing we got a seat let alone two in the first-class cabin.

Disgorged at the Regensburg Hbf, we marched our way with the crowd of visitors to the town center in search of the entitlement City Pass that would provide free bus transportation. The swell of people explained why we could only get accommodations on the outskirts of town and the bus was our means there.

Before schlepping to the hotel, we toured the Christmas markets and narrow cobblestone lanes of the medieval city—the only one in Germany not bombed to smithereens during WWII. The terrifying St. Peter’s Cathedral was one of those treasures preserved in all its antiquity, with stained glass windows some of the oldest in the world. Even older is the Domspatzen boys choir—the oldest choir in the world started in 965 AD—whom we came to hear at the 10 AM Mass the next morning. The logistics of arriving via bus route did not appeal to us but what other choice did we have?

We toured the Cathedral during the day and exited out the side door into a courtyard. Across the way was a hotel, one that Kimberly supposedly considered but was booked solid. As we walked by the front door, Kimberly wondered if they just happen to have a vacancy.

Now this is classic Kimberly’s faith at work. In my head, I’m thinking, “Stick with the original plan, don’t screw with it or we’ll be out on the street.” In her head, “God will provide” On her suggestion to go in and inquire I relented—I recognized the pattern and somehow knew what was about to happen. Oh surprise, they had a vacant room available: double occupancy, on the quiet side near the cathedral. Indeed, when we checked into our very large room with 12-foot ceilings our entire view outside the window was eclipsed by the cathedral so close you could almost reach out and touch it. Kimberly was giddy: “God is good!”

We went back out to the crowded Christmas markets to get the Knacker sandwich for which Regensburg was famous. Night settled, and we decided to wander back to our most convenient hotel passing the cathedral on the way.

A young man working the front Domplatz gave us each a votive candle and invited us in to what was some sort of youth oriented Eucharistic adoration called Night Fever. Inside: On the central altar was a monstrance surrounded by kneeling people and candles on the steps. Young vocalists and a keyboardist stood next to one of the massive pillars to provide a ethereal, contemporary,l yet reverent musical atmosphere. At some point we approached and placed our candles on the steps, kneeling and pausing for a moment to pray, reflect, give thanks. To think that moments ago we were gawking American tourist interlopers; then as Catholics rightfully worshiping with our German brothers and sisters in an ancient Cathedral—the patrimony of all Christians should they come to the fullness of faith in the holy Mother Church.

This sentiment continued the next morning where we got to Mass early – or at least we thought it was early. All seats in the nave not obstructed by a massive pillar were firmly occupied. Oddly, the seats on the transepts were mostly empty and so we took a couple with a clear view of the altar. Eventually it was standing room only and a moment of guilt perturbed my conscience as many had to stand the entire Mass while I sat comfortably in the heated pew of the transept. The guilt was short lived as I recalled how every week I stand for the entire and lengthier divine liturgy as is customary for the Eastern Catholics. It’ll build character.

I learned later why our seats were so available at first: we could only see a sliver of the choir which was positioned way behind the altar down the back-corridor part of the cathedral appropriately called “the choir”. Nevertheless, our hearing was not at all impaired and with the first singing of the Kyrie I felt a shudder upon the beauty of such sound.

Although it was Novus Ordo, the Credo was sung in Latin with the same neumes as at St. Catherine but alternating stanzas between choir and congregation. Sunlight beamed down from the pointed arch windows and the smoke of the incense during offertory could be seen to rise higher and higher into the limitless vault like prayers of the saints rising up to heaven. The smells, the bells, and Kapelle of the Mass made it altogether awe inspiring. I must say that this Mass Tourism experience is ranked one of the highest and I thank Kimberly for supernaturally setting it up.

Mass Tourism IX

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

The plans were made in early summer with a sale on Icelandair from DC to Europe. Once again, we were going to visit divine and Catholic Garmisch-Partenkirchen but in December when the legendary Christmas markets abounded. Given the arduous events of the year, I wasn’t going to begrudge this time away—we needed it.

The only thought I gave to the date was how they squared with the work week. Only as the day approached did I realize our departure late on Saturday afternoon and flying across time zones all day Sunday would make it impossible to attend Mass on the day of obligation. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. It might be possible to attend Mass at wee St. Sebastian if they happen to have it Sunday evening. It was unlikely we’d be in Munich in the morning even if I knew of a place. Since Mom is a Byzantine, she doesn’t fret about such things.

And this is where God provided in a most peculiar way. While munching trail mix at gate A19 at Dulles with quite a lot of time to kill—arrived early, checked in fast, got through security which was completely empty and multiple security lanes to choose from—an announcement blared over the PA which I zoned out as per usual. Except my mind match-filtered on “Catholic mass” “chapel” within the usual gibberish of flight changes and people needing to get their late ass to the gate.

On the way to the chapel across from gate A31—a small hike—I imagined this mass attended by maybe 2 people—us—and their luggage.

We arrived at the chapel, a room for roughly two dozen people clearly adorned as generically hallowed. Some people showed up through the door the same time as we did: an Asian woman with the uniform of a domestic airline, a guy in a ski vest, and an older gentleman. A small altar stood at the back with goblet and opened book indicative of Mass preparation. On the left side were two men of Middle Eastern appearance prostrating on prayer rugs and rising again—clearing performing the daily prayers required of Islam. Not sure why they were there since the front door showed the regular vigil mass on Saturday at 5:45 PM which was nigh.

A few more showed up and sat in a chair or knelt on the carpeted floor – no kneelers in this chapel. The celebrant came out of a side room, an elderly priest with thinning white hair. Despite Muslims still doing their thing, Mass commenced on time. This was the first Sunday of Advent.

A religious sister across the aisle from me said the responses very loud and clear and I felt I needed to compete with her. I think she was a “shill” to help the sheepish make-shift congregants realize this was a Mass even though it was at an airport. It worked—people began to speak up.

After the liturgy of the word, the priest asked for a show of hands of who would be taking communion. Because we wolfed down trail mix minutes before, we did not raise our hands. He counted out an equivalent number of host bread and started the liturgy of the Eucharist.

At the sign of peace, the priest joined the group changing hands. What struck me is the truly catholic complexion of this little group—people of Asian, African, European, Latin American origins. Many may claim diversity, but only the catholic church can claim unity at the same time: one bread, one cup, one holy, catholic, and apostolic church. The original mega-church on which the sun does not set—accept no imitations.