Thursday, November 21, 2013

Signs of the Cross

We often hear about the death or at least significant decline of Christianity in Western Europe. On a recent business trip To Switzerland I spent some time in the town of Zug. Outwardly at least, signs of the faith were still very much in evidence.

There were two Catholic churches in town that were still active and quote close to each other. I attended Mass at St. Oswald's.

The Mass was conducted in Swiss. While I enjoy the experience of hearing the Mass in another language and understanding the meaning of what is being said even if I don't understand the words themselves, I couldn't help but pine for the good ol' days when Latin would be used in all locales. There's something to be said for the universal Church having a universal language.

Just up the hill from St. Oswald's (and starting at the lake everything in Zug is up the hill from something) was St. Michael's.

Further up the hill from the church was its well-manicured and immaculately maintained cemetery.

Not a bad view for your final resting place. There was also a beautifully simple open air chapel which has served the local faithful for many a year.

Just a short distance from the cemetery was a hiking path that led from Zug to the small village of Zugerberg which sits close to the top of the hill. I was told that it was a fairly easy hike so I decided to make the climb to Zugerberg. “Easy” turned out to be a bit of a relative term. While I’m sure the incline was nothing for a local, for a flatlander from Minnesota it proved more of a challenge.

Making my way up the path, I encountered stone Stations of the Cross which were embedded into the hillside.

Stations of the Cross on a public pathway? Alert the ACLU or more appropriately the SCLU (if such an organization even exists).

A bit further along, I found a weathered stone cross under a tree.

And finally, close to the summit, but not quite there was this crucifix looking down on the lake far below.

The practice of Christianity may indeed be on the decline in Switzerland as it is most of Europe (72% of the Swiss are adherents down from 98% in 1970), but the public symbols are still abundant. Their existence shows how deeply rooted Christianity is in the culture and provides at least a glimmer of hope for a future rebirth.