And so ... we find ourselves in Austria again. How could it be otherwise when our precious 16-month-old granddaughter Amelia is here? The wonders of FaceTime technology not withstanding, the need to be present with her at every developmental stage is overwhelming. She never fails to exceed expectations in every possible way.
When we were here in October I noted my surprise that Austria was more of a Catholic country than I had thought. Although I was speaking in a historical context, specifically post reformation, some readers noted that Austria is hardly Catholic in the sense of practicing the faith. Here are a few statistics for the record: As of 2011 Austria was 64 percent Catholic and 3.8 percent Protestant. Twelve percent of Austrians claimed no religion in 2001. Less than one third of Catholics have regular church attendance.
It is somewhat interesting that part of the decline in Catholics in Austria may be the requirement to give 1 percent of their income to the church in order to be a member. Declining to be a member of the church is a way of avoiding this tax.
Also, my family and I arrived in Austria just as the country rejected the Donald Trump of Austria, Norbert Hofer, of the right-wing populist Freedom Party, as their presidential candidate. The final tally was 50.3 percent to 49.7 percent in favor of Alexander van der Bellen of the Green Party. Interesting things and disturbing things are happening in Europe at this time.
Other figures with similarities to Trump are also rising in Europe and other places. Jean-Marie Le Pen in France is one example given. There definitely seems to be a general movement to the right. There is also the coming referendum in Great Britain regarding its continuation in the European Union, which is troubling. Several reasons can be given for these events, but only time will determine what it all means.
Explore Pope Francis' environmental encyclical: Get this free readers' guide when you sign up for the weekly Eco Catholic email.
I should also briefly mention that we just returned from an overnight visit to Prague. It is a beautiful city. The people there seem to be very religious. My wife has a strong personal devotion to the Infant Child of Prague. We visited the church and the statue, and it was an important moment for her. The church had three Masses going that afternoon, and all were full. We also did a lot of walking in the old town. There are souvenir shops every 10 feet or so. I think we stopped at most of them.
I have been working on this post for two weeks now, so I think it is time to send it in. It is not easy to write with Amelia around. She wants to play with my laptop, which is not a good thing since it is on its last legs without her help. When she finally goes to bed I am too tired to write anything.
At any rate we have had another great trip. It will also be good to get back home and catch up on all the developments concerning the election and other matters.
Just $5 a month supports NCR's independent Catholic journalism.
We are committed to keeping our online journalism open and available to as many readers as possible. To do that, we need your help. Join NCR Forward, our new membership program.
Looking for comments?
We've suspended comments on NCRonline.org for a while. If you missed that announcement, learn more about our decision here.