After a quiet flight from Newark, I arrived in Switzerland today for the first time in what must be easily two decades. I’m traveling with a Catholic priest friend whom my family and I have known since I was seven years old. And that’s a few days ago now! We flew into Zurich and caught a train to Lucerne. I recognized the place immediately from the window of the Hotel des Alps. The lake and its wooden pedestrian Chapel Bridge are unmistakable – and beautiful from the window here. A lakeside lunch (and the spying of a Starbucks– my God, they are everywhere – a few steps away, was followed by a short nap gone long under the influence of jetlag (and a glass of red wine at lunch!). What I once believed living into Italy appears still to be true here in Switzerland now: you won’t go too wrong with the house red or white.
This evening, through a mix of light rain and sun anointed light reflected from the snow on the surrounding mountains, I took a stroll. In the tiny square outside our door here is the Catholic chapel of Saint Peter- simple, open, quiet. Every molecule of wood and stone in the place has been long anointed with human prayer, hearts opening to God. You can feel it. Or rather, that history of prayer embraces the visitor like the oldest and best of friends. I eventually found the large parish church of which Saint Peter’s is a part. It was closed by then, but I walked around the graves, neat and clean and loved I think, that surround it. I gave my mother in Hudson, New Hampshire a call as I stood at the gate there. She said, “You sound like you’re right down the street.”. I replied that I am, but it’s just a very long street. In that way, I’ve really come to feel over the years and over the distances I’ve traveled, the places I’ve lived, and the changes I’ve made in life, that we really always are standing in one another’s presence. Everyone you’ve known, everyone you’ve loved: they’re right here with you.
Speaking of which, old friend Jerry Galipeau is over this way, these days giving a retreat to some of the US military at Garmisch-Partkirchen in Germany. Jerry is an amazingly talented musician, a fine expert on liturgy, a good friend. His blog is worth a read often. It’s called “Gotta Sing Gotta Pray.”. Do yourself a favor, google it and head on over.
From somewhere nearby I hear the snoring – to call it gentle would be to lie outrageously – of my fellow traveler, Father Paul McLaughlin, irrepressible into his 80’s. Tomorrow we head into the Alps. Stay tuned!
I’ve posted some photos on Facebook. I’ll try eventually to place some here; if I can figure how to do so on the iPad WordPress app. Things were simpler when they were simpler (argue with that tautology if you can!).
By the way, Swiss efficiency combined with kindness and availability is as winning a combination today as it was in the 80’s.