Kirchhundem-Kohlhagen (51.044686 | 8.076475)
"I lift up mine eyes unto the mountains: whence cometh my help." (Psalm 121). The couple hiked up from the village below. Now the two are standing and talking with Sister Thomasa at the steps of the sanctuary. They chat about garden herbs. As they take their leave, the nun wishes them another "wonderful day." Both turn again, the woman says, "Honestly, it's not such a beautiful day today." Sister Thomasa examines her with alert eyes, waits. The woman hesitates, it is visible that she is struggling with herself. Then she says, "Today our son was diagnosed. Cancer. That's why we came up here." Where will help come from? - "Werden will be thinking of your son," the nurse says, "we'll include him in our prayers. I wish you all the strength right now."
When they have left, the nurse says to me, "Look..." Earlier, we had talked about what gives her such joy about tending a pilgrimage site: "People always come with a request. A family member is sick. Someone is dying. Parents are worried about a child who is in danger of going astray." And what can she do then? "Just be there. Listening. People know that whatever they entrust to me is safe in my heart." That's true presence, I think: receiving, listening, empathizing.
I lift my eyes to the mountains..." Some years, 30,000 pilgrims make their way up Kohlhagen, 500 meters above sea level. To pray, to seek comfort in difficult times, or, as one priest put it, "to let the Mother of God have their backs." For them, the sanctuary is a refueling station. They are attracted by a Pietà from the 15th century. Although small in stature, it dominates the left side altar. It seems primitive, rather roughly carved out of wood, somehow fitting the harsh landscape of the mountains and valleys around it. But what captivates me is her posture and facial expression. She, who has just had to cope with a heavy loss, the cruel death on the cross of her beloved son, seems to be looking... yes, at what? Depending on the axis of her gaze, she either focuses on her son or looks strangely blankly into the distance.
Three fingers of the left hand she puts on her heart - does she point to the Trinity of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit? And then the facial features: Because I am used to seeing the face of a Pietà marked by pain, at first I thought I recognized that here, too. But the longer I stay and let it work on me, the more its face seems to relax. It shows kindness. A strange calmness. Even joy about the "It is done"?
Perhaps it is this ambiguity that attracts comfort seekers in droves. Most of them on foot, on the many crossroads that lead to the Kohlhagen. School classes and kindergartens come in buses at first, then, after a cheerfully noisy picnic at the edge of the gathering place, become unusually quiet. And finally, every two years, the pilgrims on horseback and in carriages. They will continue to find blessing and assistance there. The "Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ" will be replaced by Pallottine Fathers who want to lead a spiritual center on Kohlhagen in the future. The hospitality for all, whether they are doing well or badly, remains. The Madonna, too. She has been there for 500 years. And looks at the Son, in the distance, at the confessors and supplicants, more enigmatic than the Mona Lisa.
Author: Michael Gleich
Hikers' parking lot Wegescheid (between Kirchhundem - Wirme and Varste).
Short, varied and comfortable round trip, without major differences in altitude (with the exception of a few short climbs), with cultural highlight (pilgrimage church) and refreshment stop.
For further information please contact the Tourist Information Lennestadt-Kirchhundem: Tel: 0 27 23 - 60 88 00, e-mail: email@example.com