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.
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
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
R&RReligion 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
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.
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. masstimes.org
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
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