It was a whirlwind trip but very fruitful for me and my companion, Sr. Monika of Baltimore Carmel, as we represented our Carmelite Association at the meeting of the German Federation of Carmelites. Also present were representatives of the French, British and Austrian Federations. It was rewarding to experience the strong bonds of friendship that have developed over the years with our sisters from these and other countries.
We began our visit in the Carmel of Dachau which was built on the outskirts of Dachau Concentration Camp. The camp, a place of horror in the last century, has become a place of peace and prayerful reflection. We prayed there for our country and our world, that love will triumph over violence and that humanity will never again suffer through such evil. While there is always a sense of the camp’s nearness, it doesn’t feel morbid or oppressive. The monastery is a haven of prayer and has a beauty and simplicity about it that nourishes life, as is evident in the spirit of the community.
From Dachau we traveled to Munsterschwarzach for the meeting. The meeting focused on Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si and its relation to our Carmelite spirituality. The facilitator helped immensely by often translating her remarks for the non-German sisters so that we were able to follow along. Even with the language barrier, it was a fruitful experience that helped me appreciate the Pope’s writings and renewed my own concern for our earth.
After the meeting we visited our Carmel in Hanover where we lived with the community and explored some of the riches of the German countryside and culture. Our sisters in Hanover have welcomed a family of refugees from Aleppo in Syria who were as eager to meet us as we were to meet them! We were inspired and pleased by the generous hospitality of our sisters who were able and willing to give up part of their guest space to give a home to this lovely family who has suffered so much.
The final leg of my trip was a stopover in the Carmel of Kirkintilloch (Glasgow), Scotland. There I renewed acquaintance with several of the sisters I had already met in the States and enjoyed the hospitality and the varied vistas (and weather!) of the Highlands.
Home—to the best place of all!