Don’t Say “Downpour” Till You Really Mean It

Posted on Posted in Ruminations, Updates

Our first stop on the way out of the Gasthof this morning was the church of the Fourteen Saints, named for 14 assorted saints who appeared, as children, with the infant Jesus to a shepherd in the field right in that spot. We have seen a fair number of Baroque churches across central Europe in our time, but this Rococo wonder beat them all. It would be useless to even try to describe it in words, so you’ll have to look at the photos to get a sense of it. Anne-Sylvie went to mass at 7 a.m. and her comment sums it up: trying to see and hear the priest during the consecration hidden among all the excessive splendor, she said to herself, “Where is my God?” But certainly she found Him in receiving the sacrament.

Then the day’s walk began with a steep uphill climb… and rain. And rain. And rain. It was the kind of rain that makes you say things like, “It’s so much nicer when it pours down hard instead of blowing horizontally,” really straining to look on the bright side. We slogged past fields of festering wheat—apparently Bavarian farmers are losing the crops in this rotten weather, and the floods across southern Bavaria today due to all the rain are surely only making it worse—and pathetic sunflowers that didn’t know which way to turn. Andrew had the wonderful foresight to get us umbrellas that are not only extremely lightweight but also extremely flexible—otherwise they’d have long since snapped in the gale-force winds.

After an hour and a half of pathetically slow progress, we took refuge in the chapel of St. Adelgundis up on top of the Staffelberg. It was empty and dark but wonderfully dry, so we said our morning prayers while our clothes dried out a bit and speculated as to why St. Adelgundis is depicted with a lobster crawling across her open Bible. (We found out later in the evening that it’s because this Frankish abbess [639-684] suffered from breast cancer, and is the patron saint of cancer; presumably the artist didn’t quite know the difference between a crab and a lobster, so intending to sculpt the former actually made the latter.)

Fortified with prayer and a handful of pretzels, we set out into the storm again. The path took us down the other side of the mountain… and that’s when the thunder and lightning started. This made me particularly eager to get the heck out of there, though Andrew pointed out that this was another good re-creating Luther moment, since according to legend he got caught in a thunderstorm in 1505 and in terror shouted, “St. Anne, help me! I will become a monk!”—and that’s how his whole career got started. Since, however, none of us were in a position to become a monk, I thought my idea of ceasing to be the tallest things in an open field was the better one.

We came out into Lofeld, got directions to a restaurant in heavily Bavarianized German, and found ourselves in the very embodiment of Gemütlichkeit at the Bräustübl, a little restaurant attached to a brewery—every town here seems to have one of its own—absolutely full of cheerful people chowing down. After a bitterly wet and cold morning, German home cooking was exactly what was needed.

Happily enough, after that the rain stopped though the clouds and wind kept up, so the rest of the day’s walk was much more tolerable and we could maintain a good pace all the way to Zapfendorf, where we’re once again sheltering from the rain. It was definitely the right choice not to bring the camping gear the first week!

And in conclusion I’d like to say that I’ve seen more than my lifetime’s allotment of slugs by now.

5 thoughts on “Don’t Say “Downpour” Till You Really Mean It

  1. Interesting, if “the legend” is true then Luther thought of himself as a monk…”help me St Anne, I will become a monk.” And there are the other quotes where he thought of himself as a monk, for instance, “I kept the rule of my order so strictly that I may say that if ever a monk got to heaven by his monkery it was I.” Your story about being in the storm made me think again of the “monk” discussion from a couple of days ago.

    Travel safe!

  2. Andrew and Sarah,

    So good to be reading your posts! It’s so well written. Keep up the good progress and informing stories. Watch out for that lightning.

    Best,

    -Ross

  3. Dear Wilsons: It is so fantastic what you are doing, especially for me as a Lutheran teaching in a Roman Catholic college (University of San Diego)! You are bringing back so many memories. In 1983, on my way to Rome for a celebration of Luther’s 500th birthday, I stayed at “Fourteen Saints” with Pastor Hans-Ludwig Wagner and his wife Eva who were giving me a tour of Bavaria. He was pastor of the “Church of the Reconciliation” on the grounds of the Dachau Camp Memorial.
    Yes, “the Rococo wonder of Fourteen Saints beats them all!” If I remember correctly, Hans-Ludwig said that Bavarian pastors in the “Confessing Church” were welcome to meet there secretly in the 1930’s. In any case, you are walking through areas filled with tremendous history, both wonderful and horrible, from Luther’s pilgrimage until today. Thank you for your vision and determination. May the Lord be with you every step of the way!

  4. Thanks for your sharing! Thanks for the pictures. We could use some rain in Ohio, but not too much. Aren’t we all “picky?” Sounds like I would feel like a martyr in the blowing rain, rather than a monk!

  5. It’s true that Luther often called himself a monk and spoke of monasticism generally. I suppose it’s more of a technical distinction to say that he wasn’t really a monk but a friar; or at least from our point of view, and probably Luther’s, the similarities between monks and friars were greater than their differences. But if you want to try to sort out what exactly it was that made Luther into Luther (so to speak), it’s helpful to zero in on the exact details of his life, and the piety forming an Augustinian friar would indeed have been different from that of a Benedictine monk.

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