Along The Path

I’ve read about a time when parts of Canada were religiously divided, Protestant and Catholic, with not much interaction between them. Religion, especially in rural areas, played a big part in people’s daily lives.

There were traces of that when I lived in the Ottawa Valley in the late 1980s. I remember being told that in the town of Eganville the Roman Catholics lived on one side of the river, Protestants on the other. And I remember a municipal election in Pembroke where there was a steady stream of nuns visiting one of the candidates on election night – no doubt who the church was supporting in that contest. I don’t remember things being like that growing up in the city – even in highly Catholic Montreal.

The area of Germany I live in has those same religious divides, going back centuries before the Canadian ones. Towns are known for being either Protestant or Catholic. Back in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries Europe had religious wars, and has hopefully evolved beyond that.

I haven’t asked the people I know if the religious identity of the towns is more a matter of tradition than faith. I suspect it is. Church attendance here, like in most places in the West, is only a small fraction of the population.

Sulzburg is, as I understand it, a Protestant town in a Roman Catholic area. The church, St. Cyriak, was once Catholic but has been Lutheran for about 500 years. There is a Catholic church in town, but it looks to me to be about 50 years old. St. Cyriak’s has been around for more than a millennium.

When I go walking in the area, it is not uncommon to find roadside, or should I say path-side, shrines. Most are older, more than a century, but someone maintains them. Today’s example I discovered when walking between Dottingen and Heitersheim.

When a culture loses its religious faith it seems to become detached from its roots, to drift away from things once thought to be important. I’ve been thinking about that as I have read reports on restrictions on free speech planned by Canada’s government.

There are positions held 50 or 100 years ago that are no longer in vogue. Times and attitudes have changed, for better or for worse. I wonder if those in government understand that what they see as enlightened and acceptable may not be seen the same way in the future? I wonder if they have any anchor to their lives and their policies, or whether, having cut themselves off from their roots, they are just drifting, grasping onto whatever seems convenient?

I don’t think those are the thoughts this particular shrine was supposed to inspire. I am though grateful to whomever put this reminder of faith by the pathway.


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