People often speak of ‘coincidences’ when paths cross or events that seem related but unusual come together in amazing ways. Personally, I think there are no coincidences, just those times when our awareness has been broken open and our defenses lowered so that we can see the whole picture.
So, I did not think it a coincidence to discover that our friends, Gernot and Christina, were active meditators, attended a meditation group several times a month and every few months, attended a meditation retreat at the Haus der Stille.
In mid-May and again in late May, they invited us there . The first time was for a Mass at the chapel, and the second time was for a silent weekend retreat. Bill and I attended together the first, which was followed by a lunch in the reception hall (more opportunity for meeting great Austrian people!), and a hike in the area around the Haus der Stille on the Markus Weg. I alone attended the second, a Zen-style retreat, with maybe 14 others from various parts of Austria.
The Haus der Stille is located in the countryside not too far from Graz. It’s surrounded by farm houses and fields. Once, it belonged to a order of RC sisters, but then was purchased by the Franciscans. A priest ( Fr. Karl Maderner, OFM, friar, priest) had a vision to create a beautiful space for worship and contemplation. He succeeded in so many ways.
Today the Haus der Stille offers individuals and groups the opportunity for quiet and reflection. The chapel invites one to the same. The Mass held there is contemplative in nature, although a ‘regular’ mass, and it is very inclusive. Some people kneel on prayer benches or sit on cushions; others use chairs. It’s inclusive in other ways as well. The first thing one sees upon arriving is the word ‘peace’ spelled out in a field being used by sheep to (safely) graze. The second thing is a semi-circle of monuments to world religions (named) and in the center,one to the unknown Mystery. As we walked up, I was pinching myself to make sure this was ‘real’!
The ‘Stillegarten’, with labyrinth and ‘stations’ for reflection that consist of readings from all the world’s great religions and poets, is lovely. On my retreat there I walked that area several times a day.
Perhaps one of the more interesting aspects of the Haus der Stille is not only the immediate area but the path known as Markus Weg (Mark’s Way). It’s a 4 km long trail with 13 stations of words from the Gospel of Mark, other words of silence, beautiful sculpture/art and a place to rest. It connects with another trail, “Ermutigungsweg” which features 7 stations with spiritual encouragement, to make a 8.5 km long circuit. You may walk alone, as part of a group, and you may remain silent, or you may wish to leave thoughts on paper provided at each station. This was a project of the Haus der Stille, in cooperation with Holy Cross parish, and the political entities in Styria and it was dedicated only two years ago.
Walking the ‘weg’ I was once again reminded that the road we travel is already within us. As I opened myself to sights, noises, smells, tastes and touch (exterior and interior), I became one with the journey that is the way.