Croatia with the Holy Rollers
After all the beer and sinning in Germany, I joined my godmother on a group tour of the Jesuit mission work in Croatia for a little soul-cleansing. Although I was concerned about traveling with a church group, this is one fun-loving group of holy rollers!
We started in Zagreb, Croatia’s capital, a beautiful city full of museums, churches, and streets and alleys crowded with cafes. Incredible Croatian designer shops line pedestrian streets, although there’s no Gucci boutique. It was difficult to keep walking toward anything productive, like seeing a museum, because if I didn’t want to stop in a shop and buy something, I wanted to stop at a sidewalk cafe for coffee. I think that similar to Turkey, where it’s always a good time for tea, in Croatia it’s always a good time for coffee.
Despite all the tempting distractions we did manage to see a few historical/cultural sites.
Since a Jesuit priest is traveling with the group, we have mass every night in a different church, giving us an hour or so to really see a church. Most of the Croatian cathedrals are built in a combination of Gothic, baroque and other random European styles, but generally very ornately, so there’s plenty of artistic works to admire. At the really old cathedrals, we’ve been joining Father Waters on the altar, in centuries-old carved wooden stalls where the monks used to sit, it all feels very holy.
At the University of Zagreb, we visited the Jesuits who run the theology and religion faculties. Amazingly, 80% of the students are female. As with most educational institutions in Croatia, the university was originally founded by the Jesuits. At several times in Croatia’s history, Catholics were suppressed (by the Austrian-Hungarian empire, or outright banned (by the Communists). Most of the universities and schools were taken over by the communists and are now run by the state. The Jesuits, of course, are still doing good works. Most impressive is the mosaic that a Jesuit priest is creating for the parish church. He’s been working for six years and expects to be finished in another 2.