Danube River, (Budapest, Hungary)
I am writing to you from Budapest, Hungary after having finished a brief one-hour river cruise on the Danube. The group I am with consists of thirty-one pilgrims, twenty from the east coast (New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania) and eleven from the west coast (Los Angeles area). Ultimately, we will wind up in Oberammergau to see the world famous Passion Play. Additionally, we visit Prague, (Czech Republic), Bratislava (Slovakia), Budapest (Hungary), Vienna (Austria) and Munich (Germany).
Needless to say, the days contain much activity. Every day there is a bus ride, sometimes for hours. Often there is a rather tight schedule, usually including Holy Mass in a local church. We tour the various cities. We unpack and pack as we move from hotel to hotel. We eat, sleep and drink. And we get tired.
The difficult task of the pilgrimage leader (me) is to keep the pilgrims on time and together. There are those who want to shop. There are those who need to use a bathroom. Some stop to take pictures. Some have difficulty walking and cannot navigate the cobblestone streets or the non-handicapped accessible stairs of old Europe. Some go off on their own and get separated from the group. Some barely make it across the street as the trolley-car rapidly approaches them. There is no better way to describe my task than like attempting to herd a bunch of stray cats. Jesus sometimes used the comparison of a shepherd with the flock. Either image suffices. Sheep may be somewhat easier to handle.
Some highlights for me of our trip (so far) included visiting the church and offering Mass where the famous statue of the Infant of Prague is housed, seeing the tomb of St. Adalbert (patron of the Polish church in Philadelphia where my parents were married) and offering Mass in Budapest where a portrait of Our Lady of Czestochowa was the centerpiece of the high altar of a beautiful baroque church just steps from our hotel.
Much more is planned for the days ahead and it will certainly take me some time to process all that I have and will experience. This trip was postponed for two years because of a certain pandemic. However, the situation in this part of the world seems to have returned to "normal." Tourists abound and there is no sign of the former restrictions on society for health reasons.
While I like to travel, I miss my parishioners and my parish. Some parishioners, however, are with me now. I will do my best not to lose any.
When I get back, there will be stories to tell, pictures to show and work to catch up with. However, I intend to enjoy the current surroundings and to spend time observing the various cultures.
In the meantime, it is almost dinner time (six hour time difference) and I need to check up on the rest of the bunch. Maybe I will get lucky and they all will be there and on time!
Please pray for me/us.
Fr Ed Namiotka