Hallo! Guten tag! Tschau! It is another snowy day here in the Austrian Alps, where (by the time you read this) our third week of classes has come to a close. After a whirlwind week of orientation, we unpacked and hit the ground running. Between the intense days of study and reading, however, there have been excursions to cathedrals both man-made and au-natural — that is, the forested mountains, nature’s cathedrals.
This morning began with a quick hike behind the Kartause following railroad tracks and frozen footprints up the mountain’s side before sledding back down on our coats. The weekend before, we worshipped in a Franciscan church in Salzburg. Today, in a centuries-old monastery church, the Kartause’s chapel. Tomorrow, in an ornate church somewhere in the historical city of Vienna. Already we have had so much to read, eat and see, and only two weeks have gone by.
Two challenging weeks. The theme presented at the beginning of the semester was “Ganz Anders,” which is German for “totally different.” In many ways the Kartause and Gaming experience as a whole is entirely different, but in other ways it is very similar. Both locations provide a mountaintop experience, though one is a bit more literal than the other. But getting to a mountain top requires a hike up first.
Still, the Franciscan University Gaming semester is full of rich lectures, heavy readings and campus charm. Jesus is still only a short walk away, professors and their families are not too far, and friends are even closer. Ganz Anders, yes, but still Franciscan. Still a training ground for the young church. A church across the pond in desperate need of a revival.
Though we have not been here long, this is what has caught my attention the most. There is so much need in the Church here. Yes, churches and religious shrines are everywhere, but that does not mean faith is a particularly meaningful part of everyone’s life the way it can be at Franciscan. It is one thing to hear about the state of the European Church back home, but it’s another thing to see it with your own eyes.
Europe is Ganz Anders, for better and for worse. We are fortunate enough to be a part of the revival. Though not all are called to catechesis or ministry overseas, we all share the universal call to holiness.
With that in mind, I challenge you to take the phrase “Ganz Anders” to prayer. Perhaps it isn’t main campus’ theme this semester, but it is how we should live every day. Totally different.
“Give us, O Lord, a steadfast heart, which no unworthy affection may drag downwards; give us an unconquered heart, which no tribulation can wear out; give us an upright heart, which no unworthy purpose may tempt aside. Bestow upon us also, O Lord our God, understanding to know you, diligence to seek you, wisdom to find you and a faithfulness that may finally embrace you; through Jesus Christ our Lord.” —St. Thomas Aquinas