I swiftly abandoned the thought of a Hajj to Mecca when I watched the throngs of pilgrims in the dusty heat so far away. To escape the suffocating heat of Geneva I locked on a pilgrimage to the nearby mountains of central Switzerland. My short pilgrimage trek from the picturesque village of Sachseln on the shore of Lake Sarnen to the helmet of Flüeli-Ranft took leisurely one hour.
It is an important starting/stopping point of the Saint Jacob’s pilgrimage route that can take a devout pilgrim graced with physical and spiritual stamina supported by his baton to the holy Santiago de Compostela in the north-western end of Spain, walking for a few months.
A light breeze soothed the sun. Descending to Flüeli-Ranft, a small enchanting place encircled by lush hills and seeing a tiny white chapel overlooking a few old wooden houses was purely serene. In one of them was born Niklaus von Flüe (1417-1487) the legendary peace-loving mystic, better known as Brother Klaus.
Here I drew the energy from the natural surroundings, a visual jewel and an active paradise for body and soul.
Brother Klaus was canonized in 1947 by Pope Paul II. He was from a big farmer family and illiterate. His life was not easy; he worked hard, married and raised a family of ten children. At the age of thirty-seven he left the family with the consent of his wife Dorothea and practiced “miracle fasting”. According to the legend he lived without eating for twenty years in a hermit’s cell that he built. There he recognized that one cannot begin a new life just anywhere. Real life of a saint is shouldering responsibility in public affairs, business, farming, family and social affairs. Besides being very simple and human, he was well-known in Europe as a superb mediator and a mystic. The Swiss people inherited his message of peace and reconciliation and made him their national patron saint. His message is deeply ingrained in the Swiss tradition and mind-set. No wonder Switzerland has been the leading peace-maker of the world.
It is amazing that it took me forty six years to discover Brother Klaus. There is much truth in the saying that the darkest zone is at the foot of the candle light! I perceived that this wonderful Swiss tradition quietly flourishes in the life around me, a model of practical spirituality.
I saw numerous artistic religious monuments, modern and classical, exposed along the route. But the simplicity of the wooden cross brought me to my knees and I sought Brother Klaus’s help to bring peace and joy in our troubled world.