Those of you who know me also know that I grew up in Vermont, and that mountains were a part of my childhood. It's hard to find that in Indiana, but coming to Switzerland was a bit like a homecoming.
We are here for several reasons: first, and most important, to connect with two longtime friends, Rudi and Therese Joss. I first met them more than 25 years ago, and we have continued to stay in touch throughout the years. Rudi just retired from oncology practice and research, and Therese is an active member of her own faith community and a marvelous violinist.
Over the years, we have watched each others' children grow, followed our mutual careers, even though one was in music and the other in medicine. They are, as we would say, friends that are a true gift – we seem to be able to simply pick up where we left off, and the joy and camaraderie of our time together is a great blessing.
Switzerland is unique in many ways, much more than just topography (which is breathtaking). South of the Gotthard Pass, the principal language is Italian. But cross the pass, and this changes immediately to Swiss-German. In the west of the country, the main language is French. It is a confederation of cantons, each with its own history and customs, and in many ways is similar to the way the United States is modeled by way of federal and state balances.
And here's something I also did not know: Roman Catholics make up a full one-third of the population in Switzerland. I had thought just the opposite, this being the land of Zwingli and Calvin. But just as in France, the number of clergy serving this Catholic population is stretched to the breaking point.
We are taking a few days to explore the Swiss countryside with our friends, but even so, will also be making a few important liturgical stops (always). We've planned a visit to Einsiedeln, the magnificent Benedictine monastery founded by Saint Meinrad (pay attention here, folks from southern Indiana!) We're also getting ready for our next big foray, back into the mountains of France, where we will visit Tamie and Taize.
There is ample chance for visiting the mountains, and marvel at the height and depth and grandeur of creation. As we made our way across the plains of Italy, near Milan, and saw the Alps looming on the horizon, the voice of the psalmist came into my head, whispering the little antiphon of Psalm One hundred and Twenty One:
"To the mountains I lift up my eyes; from where shall come my help?"
This picture was taken from the deck of our friends home in Kriens, outside of Luzerne.
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