Ad Limina Apostolorum (Blog) | St. Augustine's Library
Saturday, August 20, 2005

Cologne, Day 4 

We headed out at 8:30am again to hit a few more of the English-speaking catechetical sites. We ended up being able to catch only one, at an athletic field where Cardinal Mahoney was presenting. When we arrived some musicians were entertaining the rambunctious crowd. Everyone seems to really be playing off the multicultural aspect, trying to work different languages and cultures into the performances, which really gets the crowd excited. It's clearly one of the coolest aspects of being here, when an African drum troupe is set up next to a Scottish dance troupe. Thankfully, the element of devotion is up front and center: even if the song and dance riffs at the catechetical site are a bit cheesy, at least it's praise and worship, which the youth are really getting into.

We headed back to our hotel, where we were supposed to meet Joe Campo and his boys for lunch. Since the Pope is arriving this evening, the streets have started to close down and the public transportation is already full, so they asked us to drive out their way rather than face down the overcrowded tram system. We we drove back out there to Dusseldorf. Their film company, Grassroots, is working on a film project with us, and they had a television set up in the lobby so we could look over their work so far - fantastic stuff. This is the group that did God on the Streets of New York in the Spring. Grassroots is a ministry of the St. Joseph House in New York, which is a house for troubled youth started by Benedict Groeschel (his first project, before he began the CFR's). Youth come there from prisons, halfway houses or juvenile detention centers, youth who have a desire to reform and live a better life. Once in the house, they live a semi-monastic lifestyle, devoted to prayer and ministry. Joe Campo, a layman, runs the house. From there, he discerns the gifts of each boy, and puts them to work in different ministries. One of these is grassroots, for those gifted with film and photography. Joe took six boys to Cologne with him, ranging in age from sixteen to twenty-seven. They're rough around the edges, still fresh from the streets, but with a beautiful desire to serve Christ which is authentic and refreshing. Joe is a father figure for them, probably the only one they've ever had.

We decided to grab lunch back in Cologne rather than risk staying in Dusseldorf too long. We crammed the eight of us into our minivan and drove back. It was too late. The streets had already gradually began to shut down for the Pope's arrival. Once we got into the city, I would be driving down one street, and then a police van would pull out and block the street, diverting us onto another one, etc. We kept getting boxed in and circled around, so I decided it was best to abandon the car and work our way in by foot. I pulled it over to the side of a street, we unpacked our stuff and the boys' film equipment and started hiking. Fr. EJB had to take off: he wanted to be present for the Pope's arrival. Joe and the boys wanted to hike around the city, do some interviews, etc., so I decided to stick with them.

One street over the crowds were gathered, and we found out the Pope was due to drive down this street any second. We camped out for a few minutes, then the motorcycles started coming, avec sirens blaring. The boys set up their cameras and squirmed through the crowds into position. Then more police cars, and then the limos. There were four or five limos in the papal motorcade, and it wasn't easy to tell which one was the Pope's (apparently it had papal flags flying from the hood). It didn't help that the other limos were packed full of bishops and cardinals in the papal entourage, who were looking out the windows and grinning, as the cars drove by at 50mph. In the end, none of us were really sure we saw the pope in person at all. But the crowd was excited. The new chant for this pope, as I'm sure everyone has already heard on television, is the Italian (?) ''BE-ne-DETT-o!'' I haven't even heard any attempts at alternative chants, so this one really seems to be catching on as the universal papal chant (much as ''Giovanni-Paulo!'' was for JPII. Same intonation too, which is probably why it works so well.

Once the motorcade passed and the crowds dispersed, we headed down to the cathedral. By this time it was around 1:30pm. The Pope was headed to a boat, where he was to sail downstream and arrive at the cathedral around 4:00pm. The cathedral was a mess - the crowds had descended from all over the three cities, and thousands upon thousands had thronged to the cramped cathedral plazas. Various exits and roads had been blocked off, and even the public transportation in the immediate area was closed, so getting around was impossible. We finally found a restaurant with a table, and I bought the boys some lunch. We had a great time over lunch - they all drank sodas and ate off one another's plates. We talked about the spiritual renewal of Europe over fried potatoes and sausage.

After a quick lunch Joe and the boys started strategizing for getting photo shots. We were next to the cathedral, only a few feet from the street the popemobile would be driving down, but the crowds were twenty or thirty thick, so any chance of seeing the Pope from ground level was impossible. Joe slipped the waiter a twenty and he brought us up to the third floor of the restaurant, where the window tables had a clear shot of the road. They set up, but once the owner came out and saw us camped out there, he flew into a fury and ordered us out in no uncertain terms. At least Joe got his twenty back.

The security was very tight, but they found it hard to plug all the holes in the centuries-old plaza, so holes occasionally opened up. When one guard was distracted, Joe and the boys made their move to slip behind him, up the steps onto the cathedral level. One, the oldest, made it past, the others were discovered and turned away. They were overjoyed that Cliff had made it past, with a camera no less, and prayed that he'd get a good shot. With nowhere else to go, the rest of us headed around the cathedral through the closed subway tunnels. As we were walking, they saw another hole open up in the security, and made their move. I pulled back, lacking the daring that press usually have in these situations.

So, on my lonesome now, with my car on the other side of the city and inaccessible, I wandered around for a bit, then, worn out by the screaming crowds, I meandered down to the Legionaires coffeehouse, where they had the papal arrival on wide screen through live video feed. I caught it there with a cappuccino.

I then decided to search out the tombs of St. Albert and Duns Scotus. Scotus, as I was told, was in a side street just off the cathedral plaza. I found the church without a problem, but had a very hard time finding the tomb. For some reason the church had turned into an all-out campaign for the canonization of some 'Konrad something or other', with lifesize posters, statues, displays and literature in every nook and corner. I didn't see a single Franciscan: perhaps it wasn't their church. (The Franciscans have camped out at a 'Cafe Cappucino' spot they've set up near the cathedral, cute and highly effective, but interesting that the others chose to use churches and liturgies as their venue.) In the back corner was what looked like a cement coffin. Over it, in old German cast in wrought iron, I could make out DUNS SCOTUS. The 'coffin' was raised off the ground on a stand, with a set of candles in front of it, and a couple of flowers. Another panel on the wall, also quite old, indicated that Scotus had been re-interred here in a joint ceremony between the bishop of Rome and an Eastern patriarch. Probably quite recent, though I didn't catch the name of the Pope. The 'coffin' had a couple of simple symbols on it (papal keys, etc.), but not knowing much about Scotus' life, I couldn't decipher them. I knelt and said a prayer for self, friends, family, and the handful of my blog readers (without whom I wouldn't have known Scotus was here).

After heading back to the hotel to grab some dinner, I ventured back into the crowds again. I was a little unclear about St. Albert's resting place. I saw a St. Martin's church on the map and took a gander. As it turns out it was a Benedictine church, but well worth the mistake. The Benedictines were there in force, the good ones, sisters and brothers in full habits. A vespers service had just let out, and the Benedictines had put on an impressive show. Very solemn and reverent. I took a look around the church: beautiful and ancient, but no relics.

Outside St. Martin's I headed west, to the other side of the Cathedral, to check out a few churches over there. On the way I saw two brothers robed in white eating dinner in a cafe. I accosted them. No English, but what I needed to know wasn't that hard to communicate.

Me: Order of St. Dominic?

Dominicans: Jah.

Me: Heileger Albertus Magnus? Here? (with a gesture around the plaza)

Dominicans: Jah, Jah.

(they grabbed my map and pointed to the church); 'San Andreas'. I somehow managed to communicate that I had found Duns Scotus, but not St. Albert.

Dominicans (looking alarmed): Oh, no, no, no. Albertus Magnus. He ist much, much better.

So I took off for San Andreas, and found it without any problems. Shouldn't have been too hard. The Dominicans, also, were in full force there, having taken over a small plaza outside San Andreas, with tables and literature. Dominican sisters were handing out literature all over the plaza, and brothers and sisters were chatting up the pilgrims. Inside the church was worlds apart from any others I had visited. The Dominicans had slapped up posters on every available space, both around the entrance and over and beside every door, indicating 'SILENCIO' in every language on earth. They pulled no punches: this was no tourist spot, but a house of prayer. As a result, the church was dead silent, despite being full of worshippers and pilgrims. A perpetual adoration site was over in a side chapel, filled with pilgrims on their knees on the hard church floor. Just to the right of the adoration chapel, I found a display case with the vestments worn by St. Albert. Awesome.

I got a bit frustrated when I couldn't find Albert himself, so I accosted another Dominican by the entrance. 'Albertus Magnus?' He gestured silently to a small, low-cut door in the stone wall next to the high altar. It was a dark stairwell leading to a crypt below. All the way down: 'SILENCIO' signs everywhere. A full crypt at the bottom had some beautiful art pieces, in a space prepared for mass. In the back, a staircase leading to an even lower section of the crypt, where another stone 'coffin' stood, elevated above the ground and surrounded by candles. I knelt once again and said a prayer, for several intentions, especially for those who read my blog (don't worry, Polish Prince, you got a shout-out).

After visiting St. Albert, I had had enough for the day, so I hiked back to the hotel. I had hoped to get the car tonight, but it was late and the crowds hadn't even begun to disperse. If anything, they were getting rowdier. Many had turned into pubs as it got dark. The cathedral steps were something approaching a mosh pit. So I decided to fetch the car in the morning, if it was still there.

# posted by Jamie : 3:21 AM


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Ad Limina Apostolorum: An ecclesiastical term meaning a pilgrimage to the sepulchres of St. Peter and St. Paul at Rome, i.e., to the Basilica of the Prince of the Apostles and to the Basilica of St. Paul "outside the walls".

"Augustine of Hippo Refuting Heretic"
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