Waiting to board our train to Germany, suddenly mass confusion breaks out as we are all mustered to the one side of the Gare du Nord station a rumour then emerges that a bag has been left on an incoming train. The Parisian police and special forces swoop in on the station. Justifiably any event of this nature is a cause for extreme caution particularly as Paris is on high alert since the November attacks.
A mere 30 minutes past our scheduled departure time we are now ready to board our train to Cologne. The bag scare was a false alarm. Four hours later the spires of the magnificent Cologne Cathedral are visible in a distance. We have arrived.
Our first morning in Cologne begins with Mass at the Dom (Cathedral). The pilgrims are on awe of the size of the Cathedral which surprisingly took only 200 years to complete. The Cathedral houses the relics of the three Magi whose names tradition gives as Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar. The Magi, ancient wanderers who went in search of the Christ child guided by the light of a star are an apt symbol for our own pilgrimage as we too search for the Christ within us and around us.
Today in Cologne is bitterly cold. Scattered but heavy raindrops fall upon us and so we take refuge beneath the golden arches of McDonald’s for a hot coffee. As the rain becomes more steady, I decide to abandon our plans for the day and put in place an alternative schedule.
Gods providence led us to a very warm and hearty welcome at Augusto’s steakhouse, in the shadow of St Martins Church in the old town. A great afternoon was had by all. Some pilgrims decided that we should resume our planned activities and took a stroll to the 4711 Cologne house where the famed Eau de Cologne is brewed. Unfortunately that day of all days the 4711 was closed for renovations. One pilgrim remarked, “Things haven’t gone our way today” I couldn’t help but think that in one sense she was right but what we did get was something better! That night at our pilgrims meeting all of our pilgrims expressed their enjoyment of what we did in Cologne that day.
In the morning which we were leaving Cologne we celebrated a very early morning Mass in the church of St Aposteln. The Mass was a small affair, very intimate. Without the presence of our group there would have been maybe six other people present. Yet for many of our pilgrims this Mass was perhaps the most memorable. Sensing that we were from a foreign land the Priest celebrant invited us to sing the final hymn. In gratitude to Our Lady we sang Si ou alofa oe … That church, perhaps any church in Germany had never before heard the Samoan language being sung. What a wonderful end to our time in Germany.