Bavaria: On Wandering in a Catholic Landscape

Bavaria: On Wandering in a Catholic Landscape

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

By Tamara Isabell

PHOTO CREDIT: Migdalia Mass

The German word for hiking is ‘wandern,’ which brings to mind the cheerful act of wandering and the serendipity of discovery.  Pope Benedict has called his native Bavaria “a land so beautiful that it is easy to recognize that God is good and be happy.”  To wander in such a lovely, well-ordered landscape is to inevitably encounter God. 

Castell 2

Pope Benedict has called his native Bavaria “a land so beautiful that it is easy to recognize that God is good and to be happy.”  To wander in such a lovely, well-ordered landscape is to inevitably encounter God.

To think of a natural landscape as “well-ordered” might seem strange to Americans, as our forests loom with a particular sort of dark and thorny wildness, but in Bavaria one does not encounter such trials.   Bavarian land is blessed with gentle slopes, curving streams, and a verdant glow of health. 

The Bavarians, over the eons, have fitted themselves into this benevolent order and have developed the virtues to preserve and enhance the land.  Villages are tucked discreetly into the particular dales where they ought to go, with no urban sprawl.  Artful forest management has rendered the woodland hospitable to humans and wild creatures alike. Everywhere one sees evidence of man having been inspired by God’s bountiful Providence, and his respect and deference to that Providence.

Burgbernheim 1

Bavarian villages are tucked discreetly into the particular dales where they ought to go, with no urban sprawl.  Artful forest management has rendered the woodland hospitable to humans and wild creatures alike. Everywhere one sees evidence of man having been inspired by God’s bountiful Providence. What more perfect setting for Catholicism to flourish in?

What more perfect setting for Catholicism to flourish in?  We know the Faith takes hold everywhere, but one gets the sense it is bound to happen in such a place where the material world so clearly reaches out for and testifies to, His glory. 

We can imagine Saint Boniface and his early encounters with the roving Germanic tribes in that land. Were the forests themselves a bit darker and more unruly in those pagan times?  Nevertheless, Boniface recognized it as a land which wanted only a bit of industriousness on the part of man in service of God to perfect it.  So he took out his axe, hewing oaks into churches, allowing the grace of God to hew pagans into Christians.

And the fruits of their efforts have endured. 

Today’s Bavarians are the heirs of this Catholic landscape, created by God but embellished by the devout sweat of their ancestors. One can hardly round a bend in a Bavarian road without finding a roadside chapel, a crucifix, or a statue honoring Our Lady or a saint.  

Castell 3

Today’s Bavarians are the heirs of this Catholic landscape, created by God but embellished by the devout sweat of their ancestors. One can hardly round a bend in a Bavarian road without finding a roadside chapel, a crucifix, or a statue honoring Our Lady or a saint.  

Religious murals adorn Bavaria’s charming Fachwerk architecture.   The world-famous Passion Play in Oberammergau has been running steadily for almost 400 years, with every sign of running for the next 400, as well.   Annual festivals continuously revolve around harvest and religious events with an almost liturgical rhythm, celebrating everything from the humble asparagus to regional wines with a distinctly Christian joy for the simple and natural.

Whereas the Deutsche Bischofskonference reports a falling away from the Church in Germany as a whole (Editor’s Note: Today, under 30% of Germans identify themselves as “Catholic” – see here for the reasons) Bavaria maintains a strong 55%.  This is because the region is so tied to the Catholicism of its forefathers that it is impossible to imagine that bond ever being completely undone.  The Bavarians won’t stop calling themselves Catholic any more than they will stop calling themselves Bavarian, and for the same reason: it is their honorable and historical identity. To be Bavarian is to be Catholic, and both qualities spring from the same soil.

Kitzingen 2

The Bavarians won’t stop calling themselves Catholic any more than they will stop calling themselves Bavarian, and for the same reason: it is their honorable and historical identity. To be Bavarian is to be Catholic, and both qualities spring from the same soil.

The fierce independence of the Bavarian is connected to the cycles of his natural environment, and his Catholicism is a product and a reflection of that same environment. Although Europe’s postmodern secularism has infected Germany as a whole, it has not and will not gain the same ground in Bavaria. 

Just as God allows the fallen-away Catholic to stray a bit before calling him back to that which he has forgotten, the Bavarian will always be summoned by a rediscovery of the natural beauty all around him.  The patterns of life that have been built into that natural order form a rhythm that harkens to God. 

In a land so reflective of God’s own beauty, one can only wander so far.  All Bavarian paths wind their way back to their Creator — and the wanderer joyfully discovers that He is good. 

Uffenheim

Just as God allows the fallen-away Catholic to stray a bit before calling him back to that which he has forgotten, the Bavarian will always be summoned by a rediscovery of the natural beauty all around him.  The patterns of life that have been built into that natural order form a rhythm that harkens to God. 

 

Comments

comments

No Comments

Post A Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.