My Trip Through Bavaria


What do you know about monks and nuns? Up until last week, I didn’t know anything about them. I’m still no expert, but I figure now I know more than the average person you’re likely to meet. I spent the better part of last week staying at the Templar Convent in Munich, Germany.

The Abbot over the place is Father Archangel. What a name, right? He’s a very interesting fellow. You rarely see him without his priestly garb. It’s so different from anything I can relate to that for the most part, I never knew what to say. When I first met him and he found this was my first time to Germany, and I had never seen the churches in the area, he immediately decided he would take me to see them. I ran back to my cramped room armed with two rather large awkwardly placed pianos and grabbed my camera. We set out right after breakfast.

I quickly found that Archangel isn’t the best driver. I’m pretty sure we got a ticket from his excessive speeding, and at one point, I’m pretty sure we almost took out an old lady. It looked like we barely missed her as we rounded a rather sharp corner. He didn’t seem bothered by either incident. I just kept praying under my breath. I’ve learned to do that a lot over here when I’m in the car.

As we began to tour the churches scattered around Bavaria, they all began to blend together. I found they all look a lot a like. Every time I stepped inside one of the churches, it set me back for a second. Archangel enjoyed watching my expressions. I couldn’t help but think that if man can do something like this what it must look like in Heaven.

My favorite part was always the organ pipes in the back of the church, but all of it was pretty amazing. There’s so much detail in every square inch it’d take days to really take it all in. I only had minutes, so for the most part, I just remained in a state of awe. Although, I did grow tired of the endless portrayals of Jesus as a limp-handshake kind of guy who is never seen without his mother and is always surrounded by endless amounts of flying naked babies. I mean, come on… He’s the King of Kings!

But I digress. I learned some really interesting things along the way as well. I learned what the Templars are all about. They’re an interesting bunch. They are not Catholics, and they’re quick to tell you so. There’s a lot I could say, but the thing I found most important is they love God, and they are not afraid of work. They’d put most people to shame. They are constantly looking to serve, and they do it with all they have. There’s much to be admired.

I was also surprised to find monks and nuns are real people. That may sound a bit odd, but I always had it in my head that they were a strange hybrid destined to live in solitude with no personality. I was wrong. One of the monks there is named Augustine. He is hilarious, and I found every single one of them are normal people for the most part just like you and me. They have hopes and dreams, fears and concerns. They love, they live, and they’re happy. They’re the real deal. We don’t agree on some things, but I believe there’s respect due to someone who gives up everything in order to devote their lives to serve God whether or not you agree on how they go about it.

There were a lot of funny things that happened along the way, but it would take a long time to tell all the stories. Archangel is a ridiculous driver. Add a phone call and heavy rain to the mix on mountain roads, and things get real interesting real quick. I saw a church that was built in the 6th century. Billy never can remember Augustine’s name. Most days, he referred to him as Argentina. At first, this seemed to throw people off, but as time passed, we all knew what he meant. I’ve never seen more crucifixes or statues of Mary in my life. I told some friends the only thing I can liken it to is walking into a gas station bathroom in Mexico. How’s that for a classy comparison?

All in all, if you want an accurate portrayal of the Templars and the churches in Bavaria, I’m probably not your best source. All I can tell you is it’s really something. I’ll carry the memories of Bavaria with me always.

All the best from Austria.



All Aboard!

My grandfather, Jerry Hanna, was a locomotive engineer who worked for the Santa Fe Railroad. He grew up in Texas, and in this part of Texas, most were either ranchers or railroaders. My mother’s family was pretty much equal parts both. So in a sense, I imagine it’s fitting enough for me to say my family built the West.

I’ve always loved trains. I grew up listening to the trains blow their whistle as they rumbled through town each night. Everything about an old locomotive is filled with nostalgia. They represent a bygone era. This town owes much of its heritage to Santa Fe Railroad, so there’s remnants of that history all about. There’s even a locomotive called “Whistle Stop” in the midst of Cleburne’s Hulen Park, and it’s the center of our Christmas parade each year.

My mom’s father was killed in a car accident when she was only a very young girl. It was an immeasurable tragedy that had a tremendous impact on our family, and the reverberations of that event are still felt to this day. I know him only from stories and pictures, but I am often told how my brother and I remind everyone of him. My hope has always been to live a life that would make him proud and further build upon the foundation of faith, family, and honest hard-work, he and so many others in my family have laid.

In the last few months, the Lord has spoken to me quite a lot about my grandfather and His desire to restore all that was lost. In the midst of this season of praying into these things, my mom gave me two very special gifts, her father’s pocket watch and railroad pin. It’s a beautiful Hamilton pocket watch that was widely used by the railroad because of its reliability. It has a well-worn patina in places from his daily use. It was with him in the accident, so it still bears a scar upon its face. The glass was replaced, and it was then put away in a box not to tick for decades, until recently.

I love pocket watches and antique clocks and so did my grandfather. He collected clocks, dogs, and high-end guns. We would have had a lot in common. He even played bass guitar. My mom has two of my grandfather’s antique clocks. One has not worked in nearly a decade while the other has not worked since he was alive. I decided to take both to a local business that cleans and restores clocks, recently. For about a month now, they have been working and chiming again. In the midst of getting all of these clocks and watches working, I cannot help but consider it significant symbolism. With each tick and chime, they seem to say, “It is time.”