ARCHABBEY OF SANKT OTTILIEN
The Archabbey of Sankt Ottilien is a “monastery village” with a church, many different workshops and beautiful outdoor facilities. The church of the monastery, which is consecrated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, forms our centre. Here the monastic community with almost one hundred monks meets five times a day to praise God. St. Ottilien is the origin of the Benedictine Missionaries and was founded in 1887. From here many of our confreres have been sent to the whole world to announce the liberating message of the Gospel.
“Monks must live by the work of their hands” writes St. Benedict in his Rule. Thus, our brothers work in agriculture, in the farm shop and in various workshops of woodwork, ironwork, carpentry…
Special mention should be made of the work in the retreat house and in the guest house, the school, the publishing house and the monastery shop. All these activities are an expression of that mission at the service of the proclamation of the Kingdom. The construction of a new school is currently one of our great challenges.
Our Abbey has always wanted to walk the path of faith in a special way with young people. In the meantime, the renovation of our church tower has also been completed, and the nine bells alternately invite to pray. At the Second Vatican Council we were reminded: “Lift up our hearts”. And the assembly responds: “We lift them up to the Lord!” The tower of St. Ottilien’s church, which has a heart in its spire, wants to remind us of this every day.
I was a stranger and you took me
P. Pius Mühlbacher, osb
One year when I still lived in Uganda, I wanted to spend my local holiday on a two weeks motor bike tour crossing the West of the country which I had not yet seen. Knowing the great hospitality of Ugandan priests, I had planned to stay for the nights mainly in parish houses. Of course, when you are riding on a cross-country bike for a day, moreover most of the time passing over rough roads, not yet tarmacked, then you are properly dusty and tired, perhaps exhausted. And in this condition you simply go to the parish house, ring the bell and ask whether you perhaps could stay overnight. The only recommendation is your name with which you introduce yourself to the house keeper or the parish priest: “I am Fr. Pius from Tororo monastery, currently touring during my holidays the West of Uganda.”
Of course my white skin proved somehow the truth of this short introduction. But the few words were just enough that the house keeper let you in and offered you water to wash your hands and take a bucket-shower to refresh yourself and make you feel better. This could happen even when the parish priest had not yet returned from his own journey or pastoral trip throughout the parish. No reservation could be made as there were no mobile phones yet in the country and nobody asked you for a document that proved you were a Benedictine missionary and a priest of the dioceses of Tororo. Time and again I thought it would be impossible to call in like that in Germany: just knocking in the afternoon at the parish house, without prior warning or reservation, moreover covered with dust and sweat, and you are warmly received; they give you a shower according to their means and offer you full board accommodation. This is real hospitality, implementing the Gospel to the full: “I was a stranger and you took me.”
Hospitality does not calculate with any recompense or reward. You simply see the need of the stranger and act upon it, offering what is needed at the moment: it may be a shower, food and accommodation. It may be a friendly smile; you’re greeting to a strange person, or listening to his/her talk patiently. Along the camino with so many pilgrims passing through all the hostels every day, it may even need to let them strip off everything, give them a hot shower and treat all their belongings against bed bugs, in order to alleviate their pain and free them from the unwanted pests. Hospitality may also include finding a solution when someone approaches you late in the afternoon asking for a place where to sleep for a night, but without payment. You may even feel deterred by the cloud of a strong smell hovering around the dear guest, because he/she could not take a shower for days and had spent the nights in the open air. Not to shy away from such a “personal introduction” and help the stranger to get what is most needed for a human treatment at this particular situation, this is hospitality and true charity. The only criteria is, what the stranger needs in this moment to feel welcome, alleviated and treated like a human being with its personal dignity respected. When you act accordingly, give it to him/her, you change the stranger into your guest. Hospitality is an active virtue, which needs my own action out of love.
The most striking example in the Bible certainly is the story about the compassionate Samaritan who finds along his way by the road side a man robbed and half-dead in his misery and takes active care for the stranger, giving him first aid and transporting him with his own means to an In and asking the In-keeper to take care of him and paying for all the necessary treatment. This story offers a revealing insight into our human nature. We always are inclined to take “our people” for good and those of another race or nationality or language for bad – at least not as trustworthy as “my people” who speak my language and follow the traditions of my tribe or nation. The pilgrimage along the way to Santiago de Compostela provides plenty of opportunities to break up this deep prejudice we sub-consciously carry like a heavy weight in our backpack through our life. We also may discover how much we are puffed up by our job, our task or “dignity” that is connected with a certain office entrusted to us by the society. We are not much different to the priest or Levite who saw the victim of the brigands by the road side and turned away, because they did not have the time or had more urgent business to attend to.
Make our hearts
Be shaped by your Son’s heart
awaken in us the power of love,
so that we can be like him. Amen.
Wolfgang Öxler OSB, Archabbot
Thank you for joining us “in Camino,” for being a part of our humble project, for your prayers, for your assistance and for your company.
With your support you will contribute with food bags, sanitary material, water supply, cleaning kits…
See you next week!