Last week, we talked about Our Lady of Lourdes and the idea of a virtual pilgrimage to Lourdes. That got us thinking. With spring break on the way, why not “pray America first?” We’re talking about taking a domestic pilgrimage right here in the U.S.A. We may not have antiquity on our side, like Europe and the Holy Land, but we’ve got plenty of special places to visit, nonetheless.
We’re just mentioning a few here, just to give you an idea of all that’s out there:
National Shrine of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha (Fonda, NY): In her short 24 years of life, Saint Kateri made quite an impression. The “Lily of the Mohawks” devoted herself entirely to care for the sick as well as to long hours of prayer and penance.
The Catholic Memorial at Ground Zero (New York City): St. Peter's Church and its nearby St. Joseph’s Chapel were once neighbors of the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers, until those towers fell on September 11, 2001. In St. Joseph’s chapel, you’ll find a stirring memorial to the lives lost that day.
Central Association of the Miraculous Medal (Philadelphia): For those of us who wear the Miraculous Medal and can’t make our way to St. Catherine Laboure’s locale in Paris, this shrine—with its 500 pieces of Marian art—is a wonderful place to celebrate that special devotion.
Shrine of Saint Gianna (Warminster): St. Gianna is a new saint on the scene, but this physician who gave her life for her unborn child has quite a following. The shrine offers pilgrims an opportunity to venerate a pair of St. Gianna’s gloves.
Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche (St. Augustine): Founded in 1565, this shrine to the “nursing Madonna” was the site of the first Mass in America.
If Mickey were a churchmouse, this would be the place for him, with its outdoor chapel, 56,000 square foot Basilica, Rosary Garden and museum. I've been to Mass there. It's a wonderful place.
Immaculate Conception Catholic Church (Taft): Here you’ll find a first-class relic of Blessed Jose Sanchez del Rio, who was martyred at the age of 14 as he fought for religious freedom against the Mexican government. When soldiers tried to make him denounce his faith he shouted, “Viva Cristo Rey” or “Long Live Christ the King.”
The Painted Churches of Texas (Central Texas)
Not all immigrants came to America through Ellis Island; there was also Galveston, know as the “Ellis Island of the West” After their arrival, German, Austrian and Czech immigrants made their homes in Texas, building lovely churches featuring frescoes and paintings reminiscent of what each of them might have called “old country.”
Basilica of San Carlos Borromeo (Carmel): Padre Junipero Serra—we call him “Saint” now—founded this National Historic Landmark in 1771. It has five museums, including the room belonging to its founder.
California Missions (Various Locations): Between San Diego and Sonoma, there are twenty-one missions waiting for you to visit them. Most are still active parishes, so you may just arrive in time for Mass.
But wait! There’s more!
As we said earlier, these are just a few of the many pilgrimage opportunities you can find along the highways and byways of America. You can all of these and many more at The Catholic Travel Guide, Catholic Shrines and Catholic Pilgrimage Sites.
And don’t forget that Pope Francis has opened the door to “Holy Door” pilgrimages throughout the world in honor of the Jubilee Year of Mercy. Check with your diocese to find out where the nearest ones to you are.
Are there pilgrimage sites near you that we missed? Favorite places you've visited? Please share!