To the Valley

Back on the road. Since many of my friends are currently buried under a mountain of snow, I thought you’d appreciate that the weather in Arizona was warm and mild this weekend. You’re welcome.

Work-related business placed me in the capital city this week, which meant a lot of spare time for visits around the Valley. It started at my parish of choice, Holy Family Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, the Eastern church in communion with Rome. The church home is based in Kerala, India, and many of the parishioners at Holy Family, and others around the country, have come to the U.S. from that part of the country. I met more than a dozen parishioners, each friendlier than the next.

Following Mass, I stopped in at the original home of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Scottsdale. Located right in the heart of the city’s trendy arts district, the chapel has been beautifully restored.

Finally, on my way out, I couldn’t pass up visiting the breathtaking Chapel of the Holy Cross in Sedona. Perched atop one of the area’s many red rock hills, the chapel is a must-see for any traveling Catholic.

Also, if it makes my cold-weather friends feel better, I’m currently stuck in Western New Mexico, victim of the rare winter storm that is blanketing roads that are tricky to traverse even in the most benign times.

Chapel of the Holy Cross in Sedona
The view from below.
Scottsdale’s original Our Lady of Perpetual Help.
Holy Family Syro-Malabar Catholic Church.
From St. Mary’s Basilica in Phoenix.

Yukon? More than Okay

The third Sunday of Advent put me in touch with the great people of Yukon, Oklahoma, and St. John Nepomuk.

When I first envisioned how the trip would unfold, I imagined that in addition to my Mass visits, I would also spend time at parishes attending the kind of ancillary activities that so dominated my life when our kids were in Catholic school – CYO games, BINGO, fund-raising dinners, etc. Alas, in many places, these types of events haven’t fully returned since the pandemic.

That’s one of the things that made my trip to Oklahoma so satisfying (there were actually lots of things). Besides attending several Masses at the parish outside Oklahoma City, I got to spend time and engage with people outside the church vestibule, including participating in the Dirty Santa (aka White Elephant aka Yankee Swap) gift exchange at the Knights of Columbus Christmas Party.

I hope to get more opportunities like this in the back half of my experience, which will resume at the end of this month with my second western swing.

I’m not sure if I fully captured the beauty of this image, owing to my marginal photography skills.
The front of the parish on Garth Brooks Blvd.
A mural inside the adoration chapel at St. John of Nepomuk. The artist used real parishioners as his models. I dined with the wonderful gentleman who was the model for the face of God.
Another mural, this one at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cathedral in Oklahoma City. The mural depicts many of the major Catholic figures in the state’s history, including Blessed Stanley Rother, the first U.S-born martyr.

Back to Baltimore (and beyond)

The end of the first week of Advent took me to Maryland, my first visit there since son Ian graduated college. It was nice getting back.

On Saturday, Dec. 4, I had a busy, church-filled weekend, starting with a Daily Mass at St. John in Westminster, then a radio interview with the fantastic Danny Gallagher at WSJF on the campus of St. Joseph in Sykesville. Finally, it was on to Our Lady of the Fields in Millersville, my designated stop on the 52 Masses caravan.

Yet, it was really the night before, in Baltimore, that drew me to the area. On Friday, I was at St. Vincent de Paul parish right in the heart of the downtown. For 30 years, Deacon Ed Stoops of Our Lady of the Fields has spent nearly every Friday night traveling to the heart of Baltimore to provide food and other necessities to the city’s most impoverished people.

Now in his mid-80s and mostly retired, Deacon Ed remains committed to this ministry, Breaking Bread with the Hungry. It was a privilege not just to be there and see the mutual respect that exists between him and the guests, but also to do my small part by handing out gloves and hats to gird the guests against the fast approach of winter weather.

I have some photos of my Saturday trips, but nothing from Friday. However, a cameraman from The Catholic Review was there as part of a nice write-up, and you can follow this link to both the story and photo of me having a great conversation with Wendell, one of many who call themselves Deacon Ed’s friends.

Here’s a link to the Catholic Review Radio page, where you can listen to the interview I did with them.

At St. Joseph in Sykesville.
A young lad receives First Holy Communion at St. John in Westminster.
Our Lady of the Fields in MIllersville.

Happy 500th

My other stop in November was a midweek visit to San Juan. I needed to get there in Calendar Year 2021, as this is the 500th anniversary of the Catedral Metropolitana Basilica de San Juan Batista, making it the second-oldest in the Western Hemisphere (behind only the cathedral in the Dominican Republic).

The Cathedral is a popular site on any tour of San Juan’s Old Town, so the daily Mass I attended was taking place around a steady stream of tour groups and solo travelers. Some of them even take in the Mass. I met and had a nice conversation with one of those Mass-going tourists, a Catholic convert from the Baptist faith who lives in Utah, which is, of course, just who you would expect to find in San Juan.

I was given a tour of the facility by Luis Jay Rivera Marcano, a young man who is in charge of all the art that belongs to the cathedral. The tour does not include the crypt below the altar, which houses 19 deceased bishops, but is now inaccessible to all due to previous construction.

But it did include a site the average tourist doesn’t get to see: the 500-year-old spiral staircase located in a space behind the altar. I provided Exhibit A why that staircase is not on the normal tour, as I missed the final step on my descent and went sprawling down, a tumble that didn’t just wound my pride, but swelled my ankle a few sizes past normal. Nonetheless, it was a great experience in Puerto Rico’s capital city.

The Catedral

The staircase that got the better of me.
The burial site of Luis Aponte Martinez, the island’s only Cardinal.
Nineteen bishops are buried beneath the altar, though they’re inaccessible to anyone now.
And just because it’s 23 degrees outside my home right now, the Atlantic.

The Beauty of the Bay

A long weekend in Wisconsin kept me quite busy, with five church visits during the daylight hours as well as a couple of nights in a hunting lodge (that’s the focus of the profile).

It started at St. Norbert’s, home to the National Shrine of St. Joseph, a parish run by the Norbertines located just outside Green Bay. It’s also the home parish of my publisher, who I met for the first time in person.

Saturday night took me to St. Jude the Apostle in Oshkosh, followed by Sunday Masses at the Kaukauna Catholic Parishes, a tri-parish community. I attended the liturgy at Holy Cross and St. Katharine Drexel-St. Mary, while sneaking over to St. Katharine-St. Francis just to check it out.

As you’ll see below, all of the locations I visited are pretty darn beautiful.

The entrance to the Shrine of St. Joseph on the campus of St. Norbert College.
St. Joseph Shrine.
St. Norbert Abbey.
Outside St. Jude the Apostle in Oshkosh.
The Catholic Churches of Kaukauna – St. Katharine Drexel, St. Mary.
St. Katharine Drexel – St. Francis.
Holy Cross.