I've posted pictures from days two, three and four; I don't know when I'll be able to find another wireless connection to upload the next few days of pictures again, because I leave for Cologne (Köln) tomorrow morning. I will post more as soon as I find a good connection
This program, with the many days we've spent in and around Holland, has been a great experience, and has greatly enriched my faith. We've done so much in these short few days that I find myself rushed trying to simply type this blog entry, much less organize and post pictures on the Internet!
On Holland, Europe and Faith
After speaking many times to the very kind family that is hosting myself and my fellow seminarian Brian, attending a few different liturgical services (including Sunday Mass) and talking to a few complete strangers on the streets of Roermond, I have discovered that many problems exist for the Catholic Church of Holland (and, on a greater scale, Europe).
Very few people attend religious services; there is only one Mass on Sundays at the local parish, and only 50-70 people attend. Traditions such as courting without living together and marriage in general are seen as 'old fashioned' and sometimes even scoffed at! Marijuana is legal, and I have seen more than a few people smoking it. The Catholic Church is looked upon with scorn, and those who express Catholic sentiments are not allowed in public office (one man was quickly removed from office for simply expressing that he was personally opposed to homosexual marriage). There are many reasons to pray for Holland, as well as most of Europe, which is right now declining in religiosity.
However, I have found that those families who are hosting those of us from St. Louis, as well as many of the Catholics and priests whom I've met are on fire for their faith, and very kind to those around them. One complete stranger told me that Holland's problem is a lack of respect: respect for elders, for neighbors, for teachers and for religion or God. This is true in all parts of the world in which there are signs of trouble. I will pray for Europe, and most especially Holland (because it is not only a beautiful country, but also the home of my ancestors), that it may become a greater Catholic Christian region of the world, and its inhabitants may renew the religion and tradition that is on the brink of desolation.
On My Activities So Far
So far, I've had quite a few adventures; I've walked about two miles through a vineyard on a hillside in Rüdesheim, Germany, and I've been on my first cruise of the Rhine River there. I ate a raw herring fish (it was slimy, had a few scales on it, but wasn't as bad as I thought it would be). I visited many different cathedrals and old, beautiful churches, and I've been to a Mass which incorporated five or six different languages!
Throughout all these experiences, I have found, time and again, that it is Jesus from whom I must derive all my strength, for, without him, I am nothing, and my works are worthless. I have been fortunate to find out what America is like to someone with a European perspective; many do not think very highly of our homeland, and sometimes for very good reasons. I have found more and more that the root of problems all over the world is the lack of a strong foundation in religion and love of God. Without these necessary supports, the world will crumble at its foundations.
Unfortunately, with good news comes the bad: Tonight, while at a BBQ in Melick, I accidentally dropped my camera and, to my dismay, the lens will no longer open or operate. I have pictures from today that I will post as soon as possible. I do not yet know what the situation will be for the next few days of picture-taking. Perhaps I may borrow someone's camera, or I may simply post pictures from Fr. Butler or another fellow pilgrim.
I would like all who are reading this to say a quick prayer for the repentance and reconciliation of Europe, and most especially for the generous Dutch families who graciously let us remain with them for a few days.