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Taking Your Faith on Vacation
By Susan Hines-Brigger


Catholic Treasures Waiting to Be Found
R&R—Religion and Relaxation
Tips for Your Trips
For Teens: Putting Your Stamp on a Trip
For Kids: Making Travel Fun


Now that the school year has ended, many families are packing up and heading off on a family vacation.

Depending on location and itinerary, those vacations can be a time of relaxation and adventure. They can also be a time of spiritual renewal and discovery.

Catholic Treasures Waiting to Be Found

A couple of years ago my husband, Mark, and I took our daughter, Madison, on vacation to Mackinaw City, Michigan. I think we expected to see mostly lighthouses along the shoreline of the Great Lakes, but what we found was an even greater treat.

It seemed that everywhere we traveled we found some Catholic connection or bit of Catholic history. There was the statue of Father Jacques Marquette in the middle of town on Mackinac Island. And it seemed that everywhere we drove we saw signs heralding Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, a young Native American woman who converted to Christianity.

That trip was not our only experience of finding bits of Catholic history or culture on our travels. It seems that on every vacation or excursion we find some religious treasure.

For example, when we visited Yellowstone National Park we attended Mass in an outdoor amphitheater, surrounded by the beauty of God’s creation. And on a trip to Colorado I had the privilege of seeing the unique chapel at the Air Force Academy.

R&R—Religion and Relaxation

There are also religious sites that can serve as vacations all unto themselves. My parents visited Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville, Illinois, with their friends on vacation.

And my husband’s parents visited The University of Notre Dame last year to see the campus’s many distinctly religious treasures, such as the grotto and the library’s famous mosaic nicknamed “Touchdown Jesus.”

Some people turn their vacation into a pilgrimage. I had this opportunity a few years ago when I traveled to Ireland with a group for a retreat on Celtic spirituality. I got to see the beauty of Ireland, but I also came back spiritually refreshed and renewed.

I also know people who consider going on retreat a vacation—even if they don’t do any sightseeing—because it gives them a break from the hustle and bustle of their everyday lives. There are many monasteries and retreat houses throughout the country that accept guests.

Tips for Your Trips

So whether your family’s going to Disney World, attending a retreat or just staying at home, remember that there are always ways to include your faith in your vacation plans. Here are some suggestions:

• Keep a running file of brochures or articles about interesting Catholic sites your family can visit. For instance, check out the article “San Antonio: The City of St. Anthony” about San Antonio’s missions—including the Alamo.

• If you’re on vacation in another town and need to find a church, visit www. or call 1-410-676-6000.

• Not planning on taking a vacation this year? Try to find some places around town that you can visit, such as the local cathedral. Or maybe there are some local events with religious connections in which you can take part. For example, every Good Friday at Holy Cross-Immaculata Parish in Cincinnati people recite the rosary as they climb 85 steps up Mt. Adams to the church. Attend Mass at a different parish in your own town. It can be an interesting and enriching journey.

• Make sure to include the whole family in vacation planning. By allowing everyone to select something that interests him or her, you may find yourself on an adventure you might have otherwise passed up.

• If you’re a member of AAA, check out their Tour Books. Many Catholic tourist attractions are listed, along with necessary information. Your local library and the Internet are also good places to find information.

• Keep an eye on your parish bulletin. Oftentimes various parish organizations will sponsor trips or retreats.

• Check out the following books: The Liguori Guide to Catholic USA: A Treasury of Churches, Schools, Monuments, Shrines and Monasteries, by Jay Copp; Marian Shrines of the United States: A Pilgrim’s Travel Guide, by Theresa Santa Czarnopys and Thomas M. Santa or Catholic Shrines and Places of Pilgrimage in the United States, from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

• Create a family scrapbook of your vacations/adventures. Have each family member contribute to the project by offering things such as their favorite part of the trip, something they learned, something that surprised them, etc.

• Before leaving on vacation, say a brief prayer for a safe trip. This prayer is a tradition among Oldenburg, Indiana, Franciscans: “Jesus, Mary and Joseph, be with us on our way. Angels of God, guard and protect us, that we may reach our destination in peace and safety.” Some people always add, “St. Patrick, grant us all green lights!”

Next Month: Let the Games Begin



For Teens: Putting Your Stamp on a Trip

Family vacations when I was a teenager were tricky things. At that point, my interests were not exactly in line with those of my parents. So the potential for conflict was ever present—that is, until my parents looked at me one day and said, “Well, what would you like to do?” I really appreciated the opportunity to give input on what interested me, and the fact that my parents were willing to engage in activities they might not find interesting, but I did. I was also more willing to join excursions they planned.

It was amazing how something so simple made vacations much more enjoyable for all of us. So as your family is planning your next vacation, make sure you speak up and tell them what you’d like to see and do. Doing so may make for a nicer trip for everyone.

For Kids: Making Travel Fun

The anticipation of getting to a vacation spot can seem overwhelming at times—long car rides, waiting in airports, etc. Help pass the time by playing some games.

One of my family’s favorites is “I’m going on vacation, and I’m taking...” The first person says something to take on vacation that begins with the letter A. The next person then has to repeat what the previous person said, then add something beginning with the letter B, and so on. The winner is the person who can remember all the things to bring on vacation.

For other car games, check your local library or the Internet or see if your mom and dad remember any that they used to play. You can also buy some games, like Car Bingo.


Do you have ideas or suggestions for topics you'd like to see addressed in this column? If so, send them to me at “Faith-filled Family,” 28 W. Liberty Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202-6498, or e-mail them to

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