Eat, Pray, Fast! Our stay at the religious congregation of the Pallottines in Salzburg.

Place yourself right in the middle of the city of Salzburg, yet surrounded by forests. Imagine listening to the sound of birds and cowbells, breathing in the fresh forest air yet humming to the sounds of the city, faint in the distance. My friends and I have found a place like this. It is the Pallottines residence right on top of Salzburg’s prominent Mönchsberg hill, marking the seat of a congregation of Catholic monks.

Ankommen und auftanken: Blick

Christina and I enjoy the evening view of the Pallottines residence in Salzburg. Hard to believe we are right inside the world-famous city of Salzburg here!

 

The Pallottines are by no means detached from the world, though. They strive to remain very connected indeed, celebrating a religious mass with smart phones and QR codes! It does sound unusual, right? Read on to learn more.

 

“We are no typical religious order, such as the Benedictines for instance. Our congregation is held up by promises, not vows. You may call us, ‘world priests’ …”

I am quoting Rector Rüdiger Kiefer here, head of a congregation of seven monks altogether. Upon arrival, he welcomes us at the sunny terrace of the Johannesschlössl, a former nobility palace that is now the residence of the Pallottines in Salzburg. He patiently attends to all our questions about the history of the Pallottines. They were founded as a religious congregation in 1830 by Vincenzo Pallotti, who served as confessor to the pope in Rome. He wanted for the Pallottines to form a “Church of all Christians, not just clergymen”.

Today still, the Pallottines focus on people and society by promoting trending topics such as fasting, and fasting in the context of a monastery. There are regular offers to come and take time off in the course of a fasting retreat here. During our two-day stay with the Pallottines, we have become witness to the welcoming of a new fasting group at the monastery guesthouse.

Einladung zur allerersten Gesprächsrunde mit Rektor Rüdiger Kiefer bei den Pallottinern in Salzburg ...

Talking to Rector Rüdiger Kiefer (centre) and Managing Director Ulrich Walder (left) at the Pallottines’ residence in Salzburg …

 

... hier lernen wir auch die Fastengruppe

… where soon we get to mix and mingle with a new set of guests, who have come here to fast for a week.

 

Blick auf die Kuhweide neben dem Johannesschlössl der Pallottiner in Salzburg: Kurz muss ich blinzeln, denn ich glaube mich auf einer Alm!

This is the view stepping out from our guesthouse at the Pallottines’ residence on top of the Mönchsberg hill! You would never believe yourself to be right inside of the city of Salzburg, would you?

 

Der Spaziergang durch die nahe gelegenen Wälder bestätigt uns in der Annahme, dass wir tatsächlich "mitten in Salzburg" sind! Ein wirklicher herrlicher Ort, um für ein paar Tage weg und zur Ruhe zu kommen.

It is a perfect place to relax and rewind for a few days.

 

So what’s the story behind (religious) fasting here?

I have to admit, I’m all ears when it comes to fasting. Ever since experiencing its transformative and healing powers for the first time in early 2018 (read my blog post about it here – it was a truly special experience!), I want to go back and experience it once more. Just like the Pallottines, I look at voluntary periods of abstinence from food not as missing out on something, but rather as gaining something. “You can look at it as a period of gaining fresh focus”, Rector Rüdiger Kiefer explains. “It is what all our fasting groups love about coming here.”

Anhalten, zur Ruhe kommen: Beispielsweise beim zauberhaften Ausblick vom Dach des Johannesschlössl über den Salzburger Mönchsberg.

There are many great view points here to look at things from a fresh perspective. See the famous fortress Hohensalzburg in the distance? It is just about visible in the summer haze (top right corner).

 

Immer wieder gut für ein Gespräch: Rektor Rüdiger Kiefer (rechts im Bild) und Direktor Ulrich Walder, welche uns bei den Pallottinern auf das Herzlichste begrüßt haben.

Thank you, Rector Rüdiger Kiefer (on the right) and Managing Director Ulrich Walder for taking so much time to answer all our questions about the Pallottines and their many offers here in Salzburg.

 

What’s involved when staying with a religious congregation such as the Pallottines?

You may ask yourself this: What if I am not particularly keen on fasting? May I still come as a guest, and stay with the Pallottines in Salzburg? You may. Check out the following images, which will give you a bit more of a clue as to what to expect.

Blick auf einen Teil des Johannesschlössl der Pallottiner - jenen Teil übrigens, in dem früher die Verlagswerkstätte der Gemeinschaft

The so-called Johannesschlössl of the Pallottines is a former nobility palace right on top of the Mönchsberg hill, and has been run by the religious congregation of the Pallottines for just under 100 years.

 

Mein Gästezimmer ist im zweiten Stock mit dieser Aussicht über den schönen, parkähnlichen Innenhof ...

My guest room features this wonderful view of the park inside the palace …

 

... es gibt auch Zimmer, die direkt waldseitig liegen ...

… there are more rooms whose windows face the forest on the other side …

 

... gespeist wird, wenn nicht im Freien auf der großen Terrasse, dann in der ehemaligen Kapelle des Johannesschlössl ...

… and if you do not come here to fast, all meals are served in the former chapel of the palace, now a small banqueting hall …

 

... Mahlzeit mit dieser erfrischenden Jause nach einem langen, heißen Sommertag bei den Pallottinern.

… because it’s summer, we have enjoyed our delicious, refreshing meals outside on the terrace.

 

What’s up next? Pallottines, QUO VADIS?

Soon enough, the Pallottines will celebrate their 200th anniversary. “The truth is that our European congregations are dying out, but our missions in Asia and Africa grow rapidly”, Rector Rüdiger Kiefer as well as Father Büttner confirm a growing tendency among many monastery congregations in Europe. Through innovative offers, such as monastery fasting retreats or celebrating religious mass with smart phones, they hope to stay connected with modern-day society.

I have never in my wildest dreams imagined to meet a priest who openly welcomes smart phones to a mass! But then, the Pallottines are clever at reconciling seeming contradictions – fasting and enjoying life, using smart phones and participating in a religious mass. It is what I like about them, I must say. Do visit the Pallottines in Salzburg on your next visit to the world-famous city, and find out for yourself!

Rektor Rüdiger Kiefer im priesterlichen Ordensgewand der Pallottiner

Rector Rüdiger Kiefer invites us to listen and use our smart phones while attending his mass …

 

... die Herzlichkeit seiner Predigt, gerade gegenüber jungen Leuten und wie er daran erinnert, das Handy für gute Zwecke zu verwenden, gefällt mir sehr.

… I really like how he integrates his ideas with the young people, too!

 

Das Gespräch mit Pater Büttner ist ebenfalls sehr aufschlussreich ...

Father Büttner, himself close to 90 years old, entertains us with this vivid life stories …

 

... und einmal mehr kann ich es kaum glauben, dass ich nur zehn Minuten von den Pallottinern entfernt vor diesem weltberühmten Ausblick stehe.

… and yes, this is the “world view” of the famous Hohensalzburg Fortress when stepping out of the Pallottines’ residence, at just five minutes walk through the Mönchsberg hill forest!

 

Grüße vom Salzburger Mönchsberg: Liebe Pallottiner, ich denke, wir kommen wieder!

Yes, we will gladly come and visit again! Thank you for your hospitality.

 

Learn even more about our stay with the Pallottines in my Instagram Highlight here. I have also published these travel photographs of our stay with the Pallottines, and in the city of Salzburg:

 

Disclaimer: We have been invited by the Austrian Association of Monasteries, Abbeys & Convents “Klösterreich” on this trip to the Pallottines in Salzburg. All opinions are my own.

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