On Wednesday of this week, I was welcomed to the beautiful city of Maastricht, about an hour's drive from Leuven. One of our College's students, Alexander de Graaf Woutering, is a priest of the Roermond Diocese that includes this city with plenty of roots going back to Roman times. Our visit was not primarily a touristic one; Father Alexander wanted me to see the wonderful Basilica of Saint Servatius ("Sint-Servaas" in Dutch) through the eyes of its pastor for almost two decades, Monsignor Matthieu Hanneman [http://www.sintservaas.nl].
Sint-Servaas was a fourth-century Armenian Christian who first traveled to Jerusalem, and then up to present-day Belgium as one of the founding "apostles" of Christianity in the region. From very early on after his death in 384 AD in Maastricht, the site of his burial was venerated by locals and eventually became a favored destination of Europe's Christian pilgrims.
Msgr. Hanneman and Alexander led me through the ancient basilica of Sint-Servaas, guiding me to a number of places not usually open to tourists. Their enthusiastic explanations and intepretations of what I was seeing allowed me to see the church's details as they see them, with love and appreciation for what they were showing to me was infectious. The highlight of the visit was being led to the burial crypt of Servaas himself beneath the floor of the nave of the basilica. There, Msgr. Henneman unlocked two wrought iron gates to allow me into the heart of the crypt. A stone sarcophogus was set within and though most of Servaas' bones were long ago scattered to many other churches in the region as relics, still here within the original tomb remain some elements of his mortal body. As this has been for many centuries one of Christian Europe's significant pilgrimage sites, I felt as I stood within the crypt that I was unexpectedly making a first stage of my own pilgrimage by joining the hundreds of thousands of pilgrims across the ages who had already visited Servaas. I set my hands upon his tomb, knelt for a moment, asked him for a bit of help along the Way that I will soon be commencing, and gave his tomb a little pat of appreciation.
These old time apostles have become special to me. Jacob/James/Jacques/Santiago did this to me: by following his Way three years ago I came to understand in a much richer way that these Old Holies are still with us and we are all brothers and sisters in the same family, one that is not bound by centuries or death. Jesus Christ took care of that. So having greeted Servaas to the east in Maastricht, I now feel ready to look south and west to Compostela and my old friend there who I presume upon to be awaiting a return visit.
On another note, I visited the orthopedist earlier today. He identified my problem as the meniscus on the inside of my right knee, probably worn and torn a bit. But if I can walk on it, he said, walk. So I shall walk, troubled meniscus or not.