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Who says they don’t build beautiful churches any more?

One of the over-reactions (in our opinion) to Vatican II in the 1970’s was a desire to minimize the architectural beauty of many new churches being built.  Liturgical experts were brought in to explain why things needed to change….although Vatican II never said anything to that effect.  Suddenly we had bland, ugly buildings with a plain table and two candles for an altar.  It was simplistic taken to extremes.  The tabernacle may….or may not…have been visible to the congregation.  In other words, tradition was to be despised and we all needed to “get with the times”.  Of course, we know where that led….but that is another story for another time.

Priests and lay people hoping to build more traditional buildings often had to fight their own diocese to accomplish it……making quite a few compromises along the way.  Fighting the architectural commitees of their diocese was often an uphill battle.  Keeping the tabernacle in a prominent position was certainly one of those battles…in some cases it was practically in the broom closet.

St Clare of Assisi Catholic Church in Charleston, SC
Saint Clare of Assisi Catholic Church

But the pendulum has begun to swing back, and there is a growing  appreciation (you might even say a hunger) for greater beauty in the sanctuary.  Utilitarian is beginning to be replaced by Gothic or Baroque styles of buildings.  Many of the churches being built today have a more traditional look….and some older churches are being remodeled to look traditional.

While many parishes in the Northeast and Midwest have found it necessary to close, the “sun belt” states have seen tremendous growth over the last few decades.  The South was formerly called “the Bible Belt” due to its heavy Protestant influence…just don’t tell them that Catholics wrote the Bible!.   Along with that growth came the need to build new churches to accommodate the many Catholics moving into these states.

It is always sad to see some of these beautiful old churches close, especially those with such features as marble altars, old stained glass windows, hand-carved statuary, etc.  But as many cities aged, and people moved out of the area, these churches had such low attendance that they were forced to close and either torn down or turned into something else.  The magnificent features that made them so beautiful were sold off.

Fortunately, in some cases, the contents of these churches were purchased and used in new church construction elsewhere.

One example of this is the new sanctuary building for Saint Clare of Assisi Catholic Church in Charleston, South Carolina.  The building committee had found out that the Sisters of Saint Joseph Convent in Pittsburgh, built in 1897, was designated to be sold and the chapel furnishings auctioned off.

It said that some things are not coincidences, they are God-incidences.  And this is certainly one of them.  The new building here in Charleston was designed so that the windows would be fitted with clear glass until a future time when the parish could afford stained glass windows.  They needed 12 windows.

The chapel in the Sisters of Saint Joseph Chapel had 12 stained-glass windows designed by renowned German window maker Franz Mayer of Munich!  And they fit their architects’ design for the new church by a matter of inches (the 120 year-old windows were 18 feet tall by 8 feet wide).  Not only that, two of them depicted Saint Clare of Assisi!  Coincidence?  We think not.

According to the pastor, Rev. Gregory West of St. Clare of Assisi, the church paid about $450,000 for the windows and their removal.  New ones would have cost many times more than that, he said.

In addition, they have also purchased  the Stations of the Cross, the high altar (reredos), the main altar, statues of Saint Joseph, the Blessed Mother, Saint Clare of Assisi, and a baptismal font.  They will all have a new home here at Saint Clare of Assisi Parish in Charleston.

Here in South Carolina you will find a church that inspires you with its architecture. The address might confuse you, but Daniel Island is a planned community within the city of Charleston.

Address:  990 Etiwan Park Street, Daniel Island.  (by the way, Etiwan, also spelled Ittiwan is the native American tribe that lived here). They were located approximately 30 miles northeast of Charleston, South Carolina.

Click here for the official website of Saint Clare of Assisi Parish in Charleston.  You can also find them on Twitter and Facebook.

Photos courtesy Saint Clare Catholic Church, Charleston, SC

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FRANCE (Paris) Annual Paris to Chartres Pilgrimage

The Paris-Chartres Pilgrimage occurs every year on the Feast of Pentecost in early summer, and is a multi-generational, multi-national gathering of Catholics who draw closer to God through the centuries-old act of pilgrimage.

The walk is roughly 62 miles over 3 days—beginning at daybreak on the Saturday before Pentecost, and ending with an afternoon mass on the Monday after Pentecost.

Chartres Cathedral
Chartres Cathedral

The trek takes 8,000-10,000 pilgrims from the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris, through the French countryside to the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Chartres. Participants brave the weather, blisters, and humble food and accommodations as an act of faith and an act of reparation in these modern times.

The theme for the 2019 Pilgrimage is “THE PEACE OF CHRIST THROUGH THE REIGN OF CHRIST”.

Pilgrims will meet in front of Notre-Dame de Paris at 6:00 am on June 22, 2023 where the journey of faith on foot begins.

Click here for the official Chartres Pilgrimage  website.

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From Bucket List to Life Decision: A Pilgrim’s Story

Select International ToursThe following article is posted with permission by Select International tours:

As you might imagine, we hear a lot of stories from pilgrims. Every so often, one stands out. When Elizabeth emailed us, her story stood out; WAY out.


Elizabeth on the Sea of Galilee

Elizabeth on the Sea of Galilee

I recently went on a pilgrimage with Jason Evert to the Holy Lands through Select International. While there, God called me to come back to work with His people…I have a flexible schedule starting in October and would love to be there for a few months.”

Elizabeth was so moved by her visit to Bethlehem that she wanted to return there to volunteer with our charity, Select to Give, for a few months! She had heard the call to serve the poor and marginalized children of the Holy Land while on pilgrimage. You just can’t ignore how amazing a story that is.

Even as a young child, the Catholic Faith was a major anchor point in her family. Her Grandmother had the family over often for Holy Family Club. Club meetings were filled with rosary making, crafts, and coloring. The common theme in all the activities were the stories and teaching of Jesus, the Blessed Mother, and the Saints. The family marked the liturgical year with gatherings. Eating together every Sunday during Advent, on feast days, and during Holy Days of obligation.

Another anchor point in Elizabeth’s family was service. Her mother, a Special Education Teacher, taught her the value of serving the less fortunate. Elizabeth was sure that she was on a path to serve people with special needs too until she faced a severe illness with crippling pain. As she lay in bed waiting for doctors to heal her unknown condition, she was moved by the care she received and decided that she wanted to help kids like her, who were scared, sick, and hurting. So she decided to become a children’s ICU nurse. God had something different in mind.

Elizabeth was offered an opportunity to be an adult ICU nurse. She quickly found that the people she was caring for were also scared, sick, and hurting. She knew that she was there to help, but more importantly, she knew that God had placed her there to share His love for the suffering. So she allowed her faith to guide her and prayed for and with the patients and their families. “I am there to help them heal or to help them come home,” she said.

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, Elizabeth was again called in a direction she hadn’t anticipated. The nursing shortage was significant and she was specially prepared to help. She had the needed skills, but she was also free to move without any firm ties to a particular place. She offered up the stability of a normal job to God and became a traveling ICU nurse. One assignment took her to New Orleans, where she stumbled upon Jason Evert’s Podcast.

During an episode, she heard Jason mention that he was taking a group of pilgrims to the Holy Land. “The Holy Land was number one on my bucket list,” Elizabeth remembers. Her job as a traveling ICU nurse allowed her flexibility in scheduling and the funds to take the trip, so she said, “Yes.”

It seems like everyone who travels to the Holy Land has a significant personal experience. For Elizabeth, it was a homecoming. “As a traveler, you make every place your home. Going there, I felt loved, seen, and known.” She felt so much peace in Galilee, but the calling to serve came in Bethlehem.

Elizabeth in the Church of the Nativity

Elizabeth in the Church of the Nativity

Elizabeth visited the Church of the Nativity and stood in line to touch the spot where Our Lord was born. Then in that small little place inside of a massive church, she distinctly heard God say, “Happy birthday, Elizabeth. Welcome home.” But God wasn’t done talking. The group spent more time touring and all throughout the day, Elizabeth felt called to “come home” to Bethlehem.

“Okay God; if this is what you want, give me a way.” She prayed.

The last activity of her pilgrimage day in Bethlehem was a Sharing the Bread meal with a local Christian family. This program, run by our Select to Give 501(c)(3) charity, gives pilgrims a chance to share a meal in the home of a Christian family from Bethlehem.  As Elizabeth’s group was preparing to go to this special dinner, a representative of Select to Give was telling them about all of the programs that the charity supports, including the Hogar Nino Dios home for severely disabled children. During the presentation, he mentioned that anyone could volunteer to help.

Here was a chance to use all the skills and all the blessings that God had given her. It was like all the plans she had over the years–the ones that God always seemed to laugh at–were finally lining up. The opportunity would satisfy her desire to help the special needs community like her mother. It would capitalize on the skills she had learned as an ICU nurse. It would require the depth of faith that her Grandmother had fostered in her youth. And the job she took in the world’s time of need allowed her the freedom to take a long volunteer assignment without the challenges most people would face. Perhaps God had her ideas in mind all along.

Alright, Lord. If this is your way, let’s do this.” She prayed. Then she typed out an email to Select to Give, offering to volunteer for three months in Bethlehem.

When you meet Elizabeth, you quickly realize that her willingness to serve is built into the fabric of her being. She truly loves to help. “There is a joy I get [working] with the disabled community…Mom always says they are God’s little pieces of Heaven.’ They give me more than I could ever give them.”  But what stands out most is her ability to trust God with major life decisions, especially when there are far more questions than answers. She has learned that God will always provide when He calls her to serve.

Select International Tours is excited and honored to help Elizabeth to serve in Bethlehem beginning this month (December 2022) and will cover Elizabeth’s roundtrip airfare for her volunteer stay in Bethlehem. There will be other expenses, including food and lodging. Elizabeth has set up a GoFundMe page and is accepting donations. If you are moved by her story and would like to help, please consider giving by clicking HERE.

We are so excited to follow Elizabeth’s story over the next few months. Please watch our social media accounts and blog for updates. We know that God has amazing things for her in Bethlehem and beyond. Please join us in praying for Elizabeth and the work that she is doing in the Holy Land.

After this, I don’t know where I’m going.” She tells me. But somehow, we’re sure God has big plans for her life. And while she cannot see the future, she knows who is in control. “When I just give it to Him, my life is abundantly blessed more and more.”

Are you ready to see what God has in store for you on a pilgrimage?


Editor’s Note:  Although Select International does advertise on our site, this is not a paid-for ad, but a great testimony that we wanted to share with our readers.
Select International does tremendous work not only in organizing pilgrimages but in helping give back to the people living in the Holy Land through their charitable organization Select to Give.
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Do you know the tradition of the “Christmas Nail”?

One of the best things about Advent and Christmas is discovering the many varied traditions that families have passed down through the generations.  When you travel….whether locally or abroad….you will often find traditions that have endured for centuries.

SAtory of the Christmas NailOne of these traditions is the “Christmas nail”.   Supposedly resembling the nails used to attach Jesus to the cross, it is a reminder of the true meaning of Christmas….that the birth of Christ was subsequently followed by His crucifixion and then His resurrection.

It is fitting that the nail is placed on a tree….since He was crucified by hanging Him on a tree.

Many families put the Christmas nail near the center of the tree, to remind them that Christ should be at the center of their lives.  It is a great way to bring Christ back in to Christmas.

Get one for your family and start a new tradition.

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A priest died…and I was not sorry

His name was Father Alan.  I had known him since 1998 and traveled with him on several occasions.  He was  a former U.S. Air Force chaplain..he had to take a medical discharge due to an illness and had been denied the compensation he deserved.  He led pilgrimage groups to such diverse places as Mexico, Ireland, Spain and Medjugorje.  He had Parkinsons Disease, but it had not progressed so far that he was not able to perform his Priestly duties and lead pilgrimage groups.

A few pilgrims complained…he was unable to take showers easily and so his body odor became a distraction.  Of course, they probably did not realize the cause.  It was a sacrifice for him to lead pilgrimage groups, but he never refused if asked.  And many of us benefited greatly from his spiritual advice.

As time went on, he could no longer keep up his daily routine, as the disease had taken its’ toll.  I believe he spent his last few months in a nursing home….I am ashamed to say, I did not bother to find out.

I lost track of Father, as can easily happen in this busy world of ours.  I wish I had not, but nothing I can do about that now.  Finally, after the fact, I found out that he had died in 2016.  Then….something odd I suppose…I was happy for him.  As Christians we know that we are pilgrims on a journey….yet how few people in this world feel that way.  Even those who profess to be Christians can sometimes have this inordinate fear of death.

And yet, I could not bring myself to feel sorry for Father Alan.  He would probably spend some time in purgatory, as we all do (I wish more priests would point this out at funerals….(most of them use the “he/she is in a better place line), but he was going to take his last pilgrimage and was definitely headed for heaven……where his sufferings would be over.

So, it was almost with a sense of gladness that I learned of his death.  Hard to explain…especially non-believers, but there it is.

I guess what brought it to mind was All Souls Day…and the references to praying for the dead.  Father Alan is in my prayer intentions….but I also ask for his intercession when I pray the rosary, because something tells me he has cleared the hurdle called purgatory and is now in heaven with the saints.

You will find his obituary here…along with a few tributes from the many people whose lives he touched and enriched.

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One Solitary Life

Here is a man who was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another obscure village, where He worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty, and then for three years He was an itinerant preacher.

He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never owned a home. He never had a family. He never went to college. He never put his foot inside a big city. He never traveled two hundred miles from the place where He was born. He never did one of the things that usually accompany greatness. He had no credentials but Himself. He had nothing to do with this world except the naked power of His divine manhood.

While still a young man, the tide of public opinion turned against Him. His friends ran away. One of them denied Him. He was turned over to His enemies. He went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed to a cross between two thieves. His executioners gambled for the only piece of property He had on earth while He was dying—and that was his coat. When he was dead He was taken down and laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.

Nineteen wide centuries have come and gone and today He is the centerpiece of the human race and the leader of the column of progress. I am far within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched, and all the navies that ever were built, and all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned, put together have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as has that One Solitary Life.

JAMES ALLAN FRANCIS, One Solitary Life, pp. 1–7 (1963).
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2021 proclaimed a Holy Year in Santiago de Compostela

The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, site of the tomb of Saint James (often referred to as Saint Jacob in Spain). has proclaimed the year 2021 a Holy Year at the shrine.   The last time the Holy Year was celebrated here was in 2010……it will not occur here again  until 2027.

A Holy Year is proclaimed when the 25th of July (Commemoration of the Martyrdom of Saint James) falls on a Sunday, which happens to occur in 2021.  This originated in 1122 with Pope Callixtus II, and was later confirmed by Pope Alexander III through the Bull “Regis aeterni” from 1179, granting it perpetuity.

On December 31, 2020, according to the rite…after the reading of the pope’s message… Archbishop Julián Barrio knocked on the door three times with a hammer and the door was opened.

According to tradition, pilgrims who walk to Santiago de Compostela during a Holy Year and Pass through the Holy Door of the Santiago Cathedral are granted a plenary indulgence.  To gain this indulgence you must not only walk through the Holy Door in Santiago de Compostela’s cathedral to the Apostle’s tomb, but also confess your sins, pray for the Pope, attend Mass, and take communion.

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Free Eye-Opening conference Sunday to support Christians in the Holy Land

You know how passionate we are about supporting Christian families in the Holy Land, who suffer persecution and are, sad to say, a minority in the land of Jesus’ birth.

Please join a FREE 90-minute online conference called Renew Hope for the Holy Land on Sunday, November 15, 2020, at 7 PM EST to learn about our Christian brothers and sister living in the Holy Land.

Registration for this event is FREE and during it, you will hear from Christians who are living in the Holy Land right now as well as Jeff Cavins, Gus Lloyd, Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio and many other prominent speakers, evangelists, and authors.

This will be an eye-opening introduction to the situation our brothers and sisters in the Holy Land face every day and will end with a time to ask questions. Learn more at https://selecttogive.org/hope/

Again, registration is free, visit https://selecttogive.org/hope/ to learn more and register for FREE.

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Hopeless? Turn to Saint Philomena

One of the most popular saints among Catholics is Saint Philomena, patroness of impossible causes.  As Saint John Vianney said: “To Saint Philomena God refuses nothing.”   Or as Pope Gregory XVI said:  “Whatever you ask from her, she will obtain for you”.

Her shrine in Italy at Mugnano de Cardinale, Avellino, is a short distance from Naples.  Churches around the world will honor her on her Feast Day August 11th.

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Ban on cruising in U.S. waters extended

The Centers for Disease Control had banned cruising in U.S. waters through July 24, 2020. For those cruise ports that are in U.S.waters, that meant no cruises departing from the U.S. whatsoever.  That would also apply, of course, to Transatlantic crossings docking in the U.S.

Under the new extension, cruising will not resume until October 1 at the earliest.  We suspect that even this date is highly likely to change.

The Canadian government has also come down hard:  it is banning all large cruise ships that carry more than 100 people until Oct 31, 2020.  Again we suspect that will not be the last we hear.

The Miami Herald reports that since June 23, some 1,000 cruise ship crew members have developed either confirmed or suspected cases of the coronavirus while living aboard mostly empty ships waiting off the U.S. coast.  Click here for the video from the Miami Herald  (external link).

Although this is a disappointment for passengers, it is an absolute tragedy for many crew members.  These men and women are often from impoverished countries and rely on earnings to help support their families back home.  While quarantined  in port, they are not receiving any pay…and in many cases they are not able to return to their home countries.  It is a nightmare scenario.

We would hope there might be some way to help these crew members….and we would like to hear from you if you have any information or are aware of any organized efforts to help them financially.  We’d be happy to post it on our site.  Of course, your prayers should come first.

Find out about cruises for Catholics on our cruise page.