10 April 2020

BOOK EXCERPT: Walking the Via Dolorosa

Book, Figure 36
For this very unusual Good Friday during the Pandemic of 2020, when for the first time in centuries the streets of Jerusalem may well be almost empty of pilgrims, I decided to share the account of my own walking the Via Dolorosa during my pilgrimage to the Holy Land in August 2018, as recounted in my new book, Holy Ramblings: Travelogues, Commentaries, and Meditations on Pilgrimages Far and Wide, available through links at www.holyramblings.com.

It was our last day on the ground, in the afternoon, after spending the day walking down the Mount of Olives from the site of the Ascension to the Basilica of the Agony (also called the Church of All Nations), lunch and a short tour of the Holy Shroud exhibit at the Notre Dame Centre, and entering the Old City of Jerusalem through the Lions’ Gate and visiting the Church of St. Anne and the adjacent ruins of the Pools of Bethesda….

27 March 2020

Pilgrimage in a time of Pestilence

Presenting a chapter from my new book about pilgrimage – HOLY RAMBLINGS: Travelogues, Commentaries, and Meditations on Pilgrimages Far and Near. Available in ebook and print formats: www.holyramblings.com
Well, a week or so ago, just when this period of enforced solitude was beginning, I was talking with the office manager of my parish, the Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, Natchitoches, Louisiana, and I asked her, “Does my timing suck, or what?” After months of work, much longer than I anticipated when I started this project back in the summer, I finally had received a box full of paperbacks, was ready to seek permission from the rector of the basilica to place a few in the gift shop, and announce their availability there as well as from the online merchants that can be accessed through the link above. Then this happened, the new world of social distancing went into effect, public Masses were suspended indefinitely in the Diocese of Alexandria, and the gift shop closed. I ultimately decided on the smaller-scale online roll-out that I started Wednesday evening via Facebook, of which this is a continuation – with a bonus.
Besides meditation on what exactly pilgrimage is and why it seems to be an almost exclusively Catholic thing among modern Christians, followed by detailed day-by-day narratives of my three “big” pilgrimages over the past few years – to Rome and Italy, to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, and to the Holy Land – I also spend a couple of chapters surveying the wider world of pilgrimage, discussing the most popular destinations around the world as well as these United States. With the world currently on shutdown, however, the pilgrimage industry as well as basically any other nonessential travel at virtually any level has screeched to a halt. Quarantine, “stay-at-home,” call it what you will, suddenly we are all largely confined to our abodes with a great deal of time on our hands even if we are part of this grand new experiment in work-from-home, “telecommuting,” again call it what you will. What better way to spend some of that time than going on a pilgrimage?
After those surveys of “pilgrimages far” (around the world) and “near” (around the United States), I tackle the subject of “pilgrimages here,” at home – literally – by various means including the new possibilities afforded by modern technology. Here follows that chapter, with commentary after….

17 November 2019

35th Anniversary Trip - New Orleans, Lousiana

Our Lady of Prompt Succor
Thirty-five years ago today my wife and I married, on the day before my 23rd birthday. Do the math yourself. Last weekend we decided to make a weekend of it in New Orleans. Besides wandering around a bit in the French Quarter, we made a micro pilgrimage out if it by going to two shrines we'd never been to before. Here is an account of the past couple of days….

Friday 15 November
We drove from Natchitoches to New Orleans, checked in to the Prince Conti Hotel in the French Quarter, at 830 Conti Street, just a block from Bourbon Street. It was a nice room, overlooking the street, but were we to stay here again, we would ask for something not facing the street. It was quite loud late into the early morning hours. We walked from there a couple of blocks along Dauphine Street to Deanie’s Restaurant, where we had a really nice meal. While we waited to be seated, Anne had an Amaretto Sour and I had an Old Fashioned – excellent! After the meal, we walked back to the hotel and settled in for the evening.

27 July 2019

Friday 26 July – The Shroud of Turin Museum, Cathedral of St. John Berchmans, Shreveport, Louisiana

Source: Museum web page [LINK]
Yes – Shreveport, Louisiana.

Shreveport, Louisiana, possesses the third-largest collection of materials related to the Holy Shroud of Turin in the world. Which is absolutely amazing, when you think about it. How did Shreveport come to be the home of such treasures?

The tale can be told a couple of different ways. I will start it in Shreveport itself, with a happy confluence of events bringing together two individuals with longstanding interest in the Shroud.

02 May 2019

Why was our tour of the Painted Churches a "Pilgrimage"?

Medieval Pilgrims [Source: LINK]
The web site of the Greater Schulenburg Chamber of Commerce (LINK) refers to visits to the Painted Churches around Schulenburg as “tours,” whether contracted through the Chamber with one of their guides such as was ours [LINK], or “self-guided.” In contrast, I call what we undertook a “pilgrimage.” What is the difference?

03 April 2019

Wednesday 03 April -- 2019 Texas Painted Churches Day 3

Blue Bell and Bluebonnets -- It's Texas!
Today was the journey home, and although I hoped to squeeze in one more Painted Church, it was not to be.

We got Blue Bell ice cream, though!

Briefly, I slept in again until almost 08:00, then Anne and I went down to the lobby for breakfast. It was full -- a condition worsened by the hotel booking an 08:00 private meeting in a closed-off part of the dining area during the posted breakfast hours. Not cool! The worker minding the breakfast bar was very apologetic, and oversaw pulling together some of the lounge furniture as a makeshift expansion to the dining area that some of us used.

Some of our party had left already; others passed through on their way out as we ate; some visited with us. In all, I think we were probably all out of the hotel by 09:30 or so, going our separate ways.

02 April 2019

Tuesday 02 April -- 2019 Texas Painted Churches Day 2

L-R: Sydney, Sonny, Susan, Sue, Rita, Gwen, JoAnn, Ray,
Jeff, Carol, Anne, Kent, and our guide Wanda
Church of the Assumption of Mary, Praha
Although it was very cool -- mid 30s F -- when we first got up, it was an almost cloudless blue sky and warmed up nicely into the low 70s. It was perfect weather for our pilgrimage tour of the Painted Churches

Our hotel had a complementary breakfast bar in the lobby from 06:00-09:00. I got to bed late, woke up a couple of times and took a while to go back to sleep, and then slept best in those early-morning hours.... Anne woke me up about 08:00. I hurriedly got ready and we headed down to breakfast, including the requisite Texas-shaped Belgian Waffle.

Yeah! Texas!

Most of our party had already been there, but we visited with a couple.

I had sent out a text that Anne and I were heading for the Chamber of Commerce/Tourists' Center for 09:30, with the tour to begin at 10:00. We settled up with the Chamber and met our tour guide, the delightful Wanda, as our group assembled there. I purchased my usual coffee mug as well as a large map with an extensive description of the local churches and a DVD of a 2001 documentary about the Painted Churches. The Chamber made reservations for our lunch for 13:00 at Sirilo's Cafe (the other suggestion was the Oak Ridge Smokehouse which we'd had supper at last night), and we headed out pretty much dead on 10:00. We were three vehicles; Wanda rode with Anne and myself and one other of our number, Sydney; the nine others of our group distributed between two vehicles that followed us. We in the lead car therefore benefited from Wanda's running commentary on much else about Schulenburg besides the Painted Churches.