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Oberammergau’s plague

First slide

In a few weeks, I was supposed to lead a group of pilgrims from Baltimore to Oberammergau, Germany, with my husband, Chris Gunty, associate publisher and editor of the Catholic Review magazine. The odd coincidence — not being able to visit a town literally put on the map by a plague — is not lost on me. Oberammergau, like most of the world, has felt the pain of this plague — the coronavirus.

Flash back nearly 400 years to the small Bavarian town and the legend that surrounds it. The story goes that in the early 1600s, the bubonic plague was ravaging Bavaria. The small town of Oberammergau had escaped it until a local man returned home from working in a nearby village. He brought the plague with him. Half the town’s people died from it. In1633, the villagers asked God to spare them and promised they would perform a play on the Passion of Christ every 10 years. After that, the story is that no one in Oberammergau died of the plague.

This year was to be the 42nd Passion Play, performed every 10 years (except during some wartimes) since 1634. But not this year; it has been rescheduled for 2022.

The Passion Play, an incredible undertaking, draws in about 2,000 of the townspeople (the only people allowed to participate) as actors, musicians, extras in the huge choruses and backstage technicians. Some interesting tidbits: the actors must grow their hair and beards during the previous year; no machinery or noisy work may be done during the plays, performed in an outdoor amphitheater from mid-May to early October. The five-hour play, with an additional three-hour dinner break, is in German. We all know the story, but they provide a program in several different languages.

Oberammergau holds a special place in my heart. It’s where my husband and I started dating while covering Pope Benedict XVI’s trip to Bavaria in 2006. We were fortunate enough to return in 2010 to lead a pilgrimage that included seeing the Shroud of Turin and the Passion Play, two once-in-a-lifetime experiences in the same week. 

Interesting that we all find ourselves in a similar spot to the people of Oberammergau centuries ago — making a prayer-promise to God to be spared from a plague. What might this pandemic inspire?

Read more

Go to passionsspiele-oberammergau.de/en/home.


Finding inspiration

A few weeks ago, I wrote about finding inspiration and asked you to share where you find it, and several of you did.

Jake Kane from St. Veronica Church in Chantilly wrote:

“During this unprecedented period, I have sought to keep myself busy by sticking to a routine as much as possible. Knowing I would be confined inside our home, I decided to tackle the mess that is our basement. Cleaning and organizing a basement full of items from my wife and me as well as from our three now-grown daughters is a daunting task. 

“It definitely began as a chore to keep me busy rather than as a labor of love. My attitude changed as my time in the basement went on. I found so many long-forgotten items that brought me a great deal of joy. Our girls got a kick out of some of their old school work, pictures, awards, report cards, and the like that I uncovered and showed them. 

“It really reminded me that these wonderful children have always been such treasures for us. They have all turned out to be terrific young adults, too. I am grateful to have them in our lives and I am so very grateful to God for blessing us with them.

“Your article was enjoyable and I would definitely agree that finding inspiration when you aren't looking for it is an awesome gift!”

Thanks, Jake.

The Benedictine Sisters of Virginia, who had shared some sage advice for that piece, tweeted me:

“Our lives have not been as drastically changed as so many have. Know each of you are in our prayers always.”

Keep looking for the gift of inspiration, and thanks for reading the Catholic Herald, where we hope you might find some.

Augherton, Acting Editor and General Manager, can be reached at aaugherton@catholicherald.com. 


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020