Wednesday, July 4, 2012

A Pilgrimage - 2012

For the most part, when I have thought of pilgrimage, Rome or Jerusalem or Lourdes have come to mind.  Being residents of the New World, our opportunities are certainly more limited, but not unavailable.  I found some very interesting places worthy of pilgrimage on my journey this summer that are not out of reach for the average traveller.

I recently returned from our family vacation which, as always, included a pilgrimage of sorts to one or more of the temples of baseball - in this case, Louisville, Cleveland and Pittsburgh.  While the Louisville Slugger Factory Museum did provide a shrine for lumber used by baseball legends, and the Indians and Pirates both won (possibly a miracle in itself) - we found more than just baseball on this journey.

Enroute to Louisville, we stopped at the Shrine of Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville, Alabama.  This place is probably best known for being the home of founder Mother Angelica and the EWTN daily mass broadcasts.  It is run by the Poor Claires of Perpetual Adoration.  It is a very lovely church, and the grounds also have a Lourdes grotto.

Our next stop was at the Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani in Trappist, Kentucky.  This Trappist community was the home of Thomas Merton and remains an active religious community.  It is the motherhouse of the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, Georgia.  Unfortunately, my schedule prevented my participation in a liturgy with the brothers - I will have to get back!  A mass for the intentions of the Lay Dominicans del Espiritu Santo was offered on June 28 at Gethsemani.

Chaplets for the Louisville Dominican Priests
On Father's Day, we attended mass at the Church of St. Louis Bertrand in Louisville.   This church is staffed by Domincans from the Province of St. Joseph (Eastern USA).  It was quite a treat to get Dominican preaching on Father's Day!  (travel note: I encourage you to check the Dominican provincial websites for church locations - that is how I found St. Louis Bretrand).  On behalf of our Lay Dominican group, I presented the Dominican priests with the chaplets we had prayed over at our last meeting.

Just west of Pittsburgh, we visited the Franciscan University at Steubenville, Ohio.  The campus was bustling with activity as a priests/deacons/seminarian conference was in progress.  I even ran into a Domincan brother from the House of Studies in Washington, DC.  The campus is quite beautiful.  In addition to the campus chapel, there are also a number of "prayer-worthy" sites, including a re-creation of the chapel where St. Francis founded his order - more information here. 

Me before waddling back to the car
When I visited the Strip District in Pittsburgh, I expected to get a Primanti Brothers sandwich and waddle my way back to my vehicle.  I did not expect to find a Blessed John Paul II connection.  On the northern end of the Strip is the Church of Stanislaus Kostka.  This church was visited by then Cardinal Wotija in 1969 - for the full story visit the website here.  Like Chicago and Cleveland, Pittsburgh has a vibrant Polish community - the perogi's and cabbage rolls around the corner from St. Stanislaus were great!  A site I did not discover until it was too late to visit is St. Anthony's Chapel  The chapel contains 5,000 relics and I am sure it is worth a visit.  Be warned, it is only open in the afternoons on Saturday-Thursday, so if you are there on a Friday you'll be out of luck like me!

With the exception of the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament, all of these places are relatively close together.  I never thought I would find such places of faith and devotion on this trip.  I guess you never know unless you really look.

Yes, we all need to really look - and look close.  As the Fortnight for Freedom reaches its climax today, my recent voyage illustrates what can be accomplished by people of faith in a free society.  None of these places were constructed by a government program.  For the most part, they were made by people of faith banding together for a common purpose to glorify Our Lord and Savior.  It is the Body of Christ in action.  We are that Body in action.   

Keep the Faith - Pray for Freedom.