It's been busy - but finally getting the chance to write about my recent trip to Latvia. First question: "Why Latvia?" Because one of my seminary classmates, Fr. Paul Klavis, is from Lativa. He grew up in Latvia but came all the way to the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio for seminary. It was there that we met. We were friends in seminary and, despite years and distance, remained in contact on occasion. We even traveled together to the Holy Land in the first few years after we were ordained.
One of the things that Cardinal O'Brien encouraged me to do was to take some time and travel. When you are here in Europe, nothing is really that far away. So, while the Cardinal was in the USA, I decided to take a few days and visit my old friend, Paul.
I arrived late on Tuesday evening - about 10pm - but it was still light! Latvia is rather far north - if you look on the map, it is about as far north as the southern shores of Alaska. So there is lots of light in the summer - which means lots of darkness in the winter - but I'm glad I didn't experience that. I arrived and Fr. Paul met me at the airport. We returned to the seminary - where he is the rector - and shared some wine and stories. The next morning I rose early for Mass with the seminary community. Here's their chapel:
Following breakfast with the seminarians, Fr. Paul and I headed out to visit the Turaida Castle. It was very important for Latvia's history - a medieval brick castle which once was the home of the Archbishop of Latvia. Although it once had fallen into great disrepair they have done a wonderful job of restoration. It was fascinating to visit.
|Fr. Paul Klavins|
After a little lunch we headed to the shore - where Fr. Paul says he swims at least once a week - ALL YEAR LONG! I cannot imagine, swimming in the WINTER! But he says it is good for his health. Physical? Maybe. Mental? Not so sure. Our first stop, however, was a tower that had been built giving you a view of the surrounding area. It was pretty, but SCARY! The thing shook in the wind. I didn't stay up there very long...
|He doesn't know I took this...|
The next day was Corpus Christi (the first of two I celebrated that week - I had it again back in Rome on Sunday. See, the Feast is actually scheduled in the calendar for the Thursday after Pentecost, but most everywhere has transferred it to the next Sunday). We walked and walked and walked... First to the Cathedral for Mass.
Fr. Paul had some things to do so Deacon and I headed off into town to explore the old part of Riga.
|Town hall Square and the House of Blackheads|
|St. Roland - Patron of Riga|
|View from the spire of St. Peter's church|
|The Dome church - once Catholic - but no more|
|The Freedom Monument - erected after Latvia first gained its independence in 1935|
|Inside the Dome church|
|In front of the Freedom Monument|
We also stopped at some very beautiful Orthodox churches - but I didn't take photos inside.
Next day we visited several museums: the KGB museum (depressing), the History of Occupation museum (both Soviet and German), and the History of Riga museum. We eventually found our way to the market and walked around a bit. That evening Fr. Paul and I went to the river and strolled along the banks.
Saturday morning (the day I returned to Rome) Fr. Paul asked me to celebrate Mass for the seminary in English - something they do regularly. I was happy to do so. The seminarians were all great men - all learning and speaking English. I enjoyed meeting them and learning from them.
Those are the highlights of my trip to Latvia. It was a good experience.