School’s out! (Or just about, depending where you live.) Although the weather has been reticent to cooperate, summer is just about here and families will be enjoying lots of quality time, whether at home or traveling. Our family usually took extended road trips, sometimes to the coast, other times wherever Dad’s annual scholarly conference took place. Always, it was an adventure – five kids in a van pretty much ensures that.
Something we often enjoyed was attending Mass in different places, noting the similarities and differences from our own parish. It is a teaching moment as we can show our children through experience what the universal Church is all about. Taking a vacation away from home does not mean we take a vacation from worshiping God. On the contrary, it is a special time to pray for His protection and to spend a little more relaxed time in communion with Him.
Wherever we travel, there are usually sites of special interest to Catholics that may surprise us. One summer, we were in Saint Louis, Missouri. I knew that they had a big Sacred Heart school there (in fact, I think there are two) and we thought we would drive by and have a look. I attended the Sacred Heart school in Montreal, and my daughters were students there at the time, so we had a particular interest. There was a chapel there that we hoped to see, but as it turned out it was closed at the time, as was the school, of course. However, one of the sisters spotted us looking around and came out to speak with us. When she found out that we were fellow Sacred Hearters, she invited us to tour the school, which actually contained a little museum with loads of information and artifacts related to its founding and its foundress, Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne. She was a remarkable woman, both gutsy and holy, and I was so grateful for the opportunity to learn more about her. It was a splendid afternoon and I have had a real affection for Saint Rose Philippine ever since.
There are many interesting shrines and other holy sites everywhere. Several years ago, a friend of ours who is very religious, called to say he was coming to town and wanted to visit the relics of all the saints and blesseds in the city. Huh? We were clueless. Sure enough, when he arrived, he had a list of convents and chapels where the remains of their holy founders could be reverenced. Many also had small museums, gift shops, and so on. Who knew? Montreal is particularly chock-full of such sites, but wherever there is a Catholic community, there is a history worth exploring.
The history of Catholics in the Americas is our history and connecting with our roots is important for sustaining our faith. We might occasionally get fed up with the Church when the pastor is a jerk or the bishop is ineffective. Being cognizant of the breadth of our faith, identifying with those who suffered and died for it, truly helps us to appreciate its true meaning. This is especially helpful when forming our children because, frankly, it is grossly underplayed in current catechesis.
So, this summer, why not explore our Catholic faith and history? And just to make it easy, there is actually a website guide to offer assistance, whether we are at home or away: The Catholic Travel Guide. I have linked to the “destinations” page, but if you are interested in cruises, festivals, or other topics, the full site offers information on a variety of Catholic vacation ideas.