Arriving home at 5.30 am after a flight delayed by sixteen hours can leave a jaded feeling, but it did give time to ponder the country in which we spent a week.
Andorra is an indefinable place. A mountain principality since 1278, the princes are the President of France and the Catholic Bishop of Seu d’Urgell, a strange combination of secular modern Europe and medieval Christendom.
Catalan is one of the official languages, along with Spanish and French; it means everything is trilingual. If you throw in the English translation which is thrown in to cater to monoglot tourists like myself, it means notices of quite simple things can become very long.
Yet despite all the external influences, its mountainous remoteness creates the sense of a place apart. This is not Spain, it is not France; it is not Catalonia, it is its own place.
It can accommodate the traditions and the influences and the words of other places and yet remain somewhere like no other place.
The throngs of tourists, including members of Russia’s new middle classes, far from diluting a sense of the place, actually add to it. They seem almost a statement by this little country that it is its own master, a seal against too strong influences by the huge neighbours that sandwich the little tract of land in the Pyrenees.
There seemed a lesson for Christians in Andorra’s retention of its independence and identity. Called to be in the world, but not of it, there is an imperative to hold on to our Christian identity in the face of the overwhelming pressures around us. Like the mountain principality welcoming its many and diverse tourists, we are called to friendship with everyone we meet, sharing something of the treasure we have in Jesus. Like Andorra’s odd constitutional arrangements, perhaps we are even called to be eccentric in order to be the people we are called to be.