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My loving tribute to Our Lady of Guadalupe

 

I am a person who does not like crowds, so you would think that attending the Feast Day celebrations of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City on December 12 would be something I would avoid at all costs.  After all, well over one million (some estimates say 5 million) people pack the shrine on the Feast Day.  And yet I have always relished the times that I have been blessed to attend.

Join me as I reminisce about my first visit to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. On the evening prior to the Feast Day, those of us in our tour group who were more adventuresome decided to taxi to the Basilica. Traditionally many famous Mexican singers, performers and high ranking politicians show up for the festivities that start around 10:00 p.m. This lovely tribute goes on deep into the night and the love songs (Las Mananitas”) sung to Our Lady and the devotion the locals show for her is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.  These are memories I’ll hold deep in my heart forever.

On the Feast Day itself (December 12th) we excitedly boarded our tour bus to take us to the Basilica.   But what a surprise was waiting for us!  Buses were restricted from getting too close to the shrine and we had to be dropped off quite a few blocks from there.  At this point we walked the rest of the way….something that turned out to be a blessing.  As usual, God’s plans are better than ours.

The Feast Day is a family event..here a man brings his young child to the Basilica.
The Feast Day is a family event..here a man brings his young child to the Basilica.

As we walked along with throngs of others all headed in the same direction, we experienced a real feeling of pilgrimage; unity with our fellow Catholics.  Those alongside us were mostly Mexican pilgrims, both individuals and whole families, carrying placards of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Many had walked for miles, and sometimes for days, to get here.  We passed young people rousing themselves from sleep as they had camped out overnight.  These heartwarming images help you to appreciate how universal and vibrant our Catholic Faith is.

There is more to the Shrine than just the Basilica that contains the miraculous Tilma of Juan Diego, although that is certainly the high point.  I think many of us were surprised that the grounds encompass both the new and old Basilica (now leaning as if it will fall any moment).   You can also see the room where Saint Juan Diego lived out the rest of his life after the apparitions and his simple grave.

Upon entering the grounds where the Basilica is located, we were presented with a kaleidoscope of sights.  We were greeted by descendants of those original Aztecs dancing in the ancient dress as would have been worn at the pagan festivals prior to the apparitions to Juan Diego. The dancers reverently process in to the Basilica symbolizing the shift from the old pagan religion to the new religion of Christianity that they now so enthusiastically embrace.  The colorful dancers add a festive atmosphere to the Celebration of the feast day.

Mount Tepeyac overlooks the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe
Mount Tepeyac overlooks the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe

But what moved me the most was that in the midst of it all was the Monastery built atop the Hill of Tepeyac.  This is where Juan Diego first encountered Our Lady!  The climb is steep, but unlike the time of the apparitions, there are now stairs to make the climb relatively easy (remember you are at a high altitude, so go easy if you have breathing problems).

Even the youngest get to join in the dances.
Even the youngest get to join in the dances.

It might seem more like a carnival than a religious event….. because the Mexican people do not pigeon-hole their faith in to just one hour on Sundays.  It is a part of their daily life.

One of the native dancers
One of the native dancers outside the Basilica.

Faith, culture and daily life all come together in this magical land, and nowhere is that more evident than here on December 12th each year.

If you can’t make it to the Shrine on that date, try to find some of the many festivals nearby celebrating this Patroness of the Americas.  Or maybe you can catch some of the action on one of the Spanish-language TV networks (don’t even need to speak Spanish to enjoy the celebration)  or perhaps one of the Catholic TV networks such as EWTN.

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Top 5 European train routes that are faster by train than plane

 

We often think of flying being a faster way to travel from city to city in Europe, but often that is not the case.

When you consider time spent in the long check-in lines at the airport (along with having to be there about two hours early) versus most trains requiring you to be there only 30 minutes prior to departure,  there is a great time savings there.

Then there is the fact that most train stations are in the heart of the city,  while most airports are a bus or cab drive away, train travel comes out not only faster but also cheaper than plane travel.

Consider the following infographic:

 

Infographic courtesy GoEuro….your source for train and bus tickets in Europe.

 

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Pilgrimage of Cabrini University to Mother Cabrini’s Birthplace

My name is Mignon Toppino. I am a Junior studying Religious Studies and Social Justice at Cabrini University. This past June I was blessed with the opportunity to go on an eleven-day Italy Pilgrimage with Select International Tours. The experiences I had on this pilgrimage opened my heart up to greater growth and learning of who I am and who my heavenly Father is.

Before attending Cabrini University in Radnor, PA, I attended Cabrini High School in New Orleans, LA. So, I grew up learning from and about Mother Cabrini. Going to Mother Cabrini’s birthplace was truly the highlight of the trip for me. Being able to be in the presence of the relic of Mother Cabrini’s heart was such an awakening moment. It’s quite difficult for me to really form the right words that describe the amount of joy, peace, love, and beauty I felt in those moments. I do know I have never felt surer of God’s love and mercy.

Our pilgrimage group with the statue of Mother Cabrini
Our pilgrimage group with the statue of Mother Cabrini

To explain to you fully what this whole experience meant to me and what I learned from it, I must explain what season of life I was in before the trip. I was having a great struggle with loving myself, seeing the face of Christ in myself, and hearing and understanding God’s voice.

To say that this trip was simply a great trip with beautiful opportunities would not be completely honest, because for me this trip was transformative. Everyday since the trip, I have learned a little more, I have started to love myself a little bit more, and by God’s grace this beauty will not stop. This trip was so transformative for me because it taught me the power of intentionality.

Diving deeper into Mother Cabrini’s story I learned how she was a very intentional women. Like her, I must intentionally remember who I am, and what my Heavenly Father calls women of faith to do, which is to love and serve their brothers and sisters. I owe all of who I am and all of my life experiences to my Heavenly Father, for everyday despite my sins and faults he chooses to love me and desires a deep and intimate relationship with me. I am unbelievably blessed but not only by the love of Christ but for the bond and relationship I have made with Mother Cabrini over the years. I can tell you for a fact that without Mother Cabrini’s life of love, faith, and bravery, my life would not be what it is today.

Note: the photo here is the group at Chiesa del Santissimo Redentore e Santa Francesca Cabrini
(Church of the Most Holy Redeemer and St Frances Cabrini).  The skull of St Frances Xavier Cabrini rests within this church. It is placed within a wax figure of her likeness as shown here.

Her place of birth is Sant’ Angelo de Lodigiano

The above article was re-posted with permission from Select International Tours.

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Travel Insurance during hurricane season….is it too late?

Hurricane SymbolThe Atlantic hurricane season is active this year, and for those traveling (especially on cruises) you need to be aware of what coverage you may have on travel insurance. Most beaches and tourist attractions begin to close a few days before forecast landfall if it is going to be a category 3 (sustained winds of 111-129 mph). The highest is category 5 with sustained winds over 136 miles per hour.  The danger is not just the wind but also the torrential rainfall that accompanies hurricanes (especially if it is slow-moving).

And, of course, if you are booked on a cruise the itinerary could likely be changed, but that should be covered by the cruise lines.  However, if the cruise  does go ahead (perhaps with some port substitutions) and you simply cannot get to the point of departure due to the hurricane, then you will wish that you had taken out travel insurance, because the cruise line will almost certainly not refund your money.

Many travel insurance policies include coverage for hurricanes that impact travel, as long as the policy was purchased before the storm was named.

Travelers who had a policy in place prior to the naming of the storm including Trip Cancellation and Travel Delay, may be protected in event of cancellation.

If it was purchased after that point, it won’t cover hurricane-related travel changes, said Steven Benna, a marketing specialist with travel insurance comparison website Squaremouth.

The Hurricane Lane Travel Insurance Information Center explains coverage related to the storm.

This database is regularly updated by Squaremouth’s travel insurance experts with answers frequently asked questions, official provider position statements, travel alerts and notices, and other information as the storm develops. Information is subject to change at any time.

Many airlines will offer to waive change fees, etc. so if you have booked air it is best to check with the airline.

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Santa Fe – The Cradle of Catholicism in the US

We often go out of the US on Catholic Pilgrimages, but do we know about the amazing Catholic history of the US itself? In Santa Fe, New Mexico, Mass was being celebrated 14 years before the pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock, and you can visit the oldest church in continuous use in the US to see where that happened, and where the first martyrs in the US died for their Catholic Faith. Santa Fe and the surrounding area is home to amazing sites of Catholic spirituality.

A bit further North, the Santuario de Chimayo is termed “The Lourdes of the United States,” where Christ is known to bring about miraculous healings and where devout pilgrims, descendants of the first Spanish settlers in the 1600’s, still walk on foot to visit from around the state every year.

Do you know the Story of St. Joseph’s Staircase–a miraculous architectural feature in the Chapel of the Sisters of Loretto that pious tradition tells us was built by St. Joseph himself? Science backs up the tradition, as a NASA study on the wood of the staircase stated that its molecular structure was not of a plant that could have grown on our planet. It is something you need to witness with your own eyes.

These are just a tiny few of the amazing experiences Santa Fe holds for devout Catholics.

We would like to invite you to visit and to stay at a beautiful historic downtown Santa Fe adobe house owned by Familia Victricis, an Association of the Faithful in the Archdiocese. Contact Giovanna at (505) 490-2775 or [email protected]. We would love to share pictures of the house, and special itineraries, guided by local priests, historians, and EWTN personality AnnaMaria Cardinalli are available.

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A Tale of Two Saint Dominics…a Little-Known Connection

Most of us know of Saint Dominic de Guzman, founder of the Dominican Order.  We celebrate his feast day on August 8.

But there is another Saint Dominic from whom he got his name. That saint’s name is Saint Dominic of Silos. He lived in the 11th Century and became known for his gifts of healing, among other things.    People came from far and wide to beg his intercession.

Tradition tells us of a woman who had a dream before her son’s conception in which she saw a hound racing through the world igniting everything with a flaming torch.  Troubled by this dream, she went to pray at the Benedictine abbey of San Domingo de Silos where Saint Dominic of Silos was buried. When her son was born, the parents named him Dominic, and he grew up to become Saint Dominic de Guzman, who founded the Dominican Order.

You can find his tomb in the Basilica of  Our Lady Help of Christians in Bologna. This dream was indeed prophetic. Dominic did ignite the world with sacred truth through his preaching.

Saint Dominic de Silos is buried in the Abbey that he helped re-build: the famous monastery at Santo Domingo de Silos.  You have no doubt heard the hauntingly beautiful CD of the monks performing the Benedictine Chant….they are from this monastery!

Let’s pray for the intercession of these two great saints.

 

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The Oberammergau Passion Play is two years off, so what’s the rush?

As we write this in August 2018, it would seem that signing up for a pilgrimage to the famous Oberammergau Passion Play in 2010 would be a bit premature.  The small town of Oberammergau, in Bavaria, is transformed every 10 years as the famous Passion Play is enacted every day from May 16 to October 4, 2020.  The villagers fill the many roles in the play that are often handed down from generation to generation.

If you wish to attend, you can make your own arrangements and buy your own tickets, or you can book with many of the tour companies offering pilgrimages to the play.  Some of these tours are just a few days long, but many others combine other locations as well.

One itinerary we find particularly interesting is combining the Holy Land with Oberammergau.  You will travel to the Holy Land and see where it all began, from the Annunciation to the Crucifixion, and then on to Germany to visit the Ettal Monastery, the Weiss Church, Munich and then the highlight of the trip:  witnessing the passion Play.  This itinerary, offered by Select International Tours, has six departures scheduled in 2020…..and two of them are already sold out!  So now you see how important it is to sign up early.  There are a limited number of seats and a limited number of performances, so once they are gone, they are gone until 2030.

You can check out the Official Oberammergau Passion Play website here.

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The Latest on the Wildfires in Greece

The worst wildfires to hit Greece in more than 10 years are burning in the country’s Attica region around Athens, evacuating many residents from the region. As of July 24, at least 74 people have died in the wildfires, and more than 100 others have been injured.

Many travel insurance policies have coverage for natural disasters, including wildfires, but in most cases you will have to have bought the insurance before the fire started.

The Greece Wildfires Travel Insurance Information Center explains coverage for the fires. This resource is regularly updated by Squaremouth’s travel insurance experts with answers to frequently asked questions, official provider positions statements, and more. Information is subject to change at any time.

Questions? Squaremouth’s travel insurance experts are on hand to answer your questions about coverage for the fires. They are available from 8am to 10pm ET daily by chat and by phone at 1-800-240-0369.

If you are currently in Greece and affected by the wildfires, contact your provider’s 24-Hour Emergency Assistance for help.

You may be covered to cancel your upcoming trip to Greece, or return home early, if you meet your policy’s requirements.  You can get more information here.

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Five Surprising Facts You Should Know About Trains in Europe

5 Surprising Facts You Should Know About Trains in Europe | Save A Train

Trains in Europe are a big thing; we love our rails, and we’ll choose them over any other type of transportation at any time. Apart from getting from point A to point B in a swift, comfortable and reliable manner, there’s so much most of you aren’t even aware of about train transportation.

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Ever wondered what a pilgrimage is like for deaf people?

Many of us who travel on pilgrimages are used to hearing the priest celebrating Mass in holy shrines around the world, listening to local guides explain various sites, and enjoying the sounds of a new location.  But what if you are deaf?  To be honest, we never considered it before….and yet there are many Catholics who are deaf.

So, do they miss out on much of the pilgrimage?  Yes, presumably they do.

Unless, of course, you could go on a pilgrimage led by a priest who is deaf himself, and uses sign language as he celebrates Mass.

Pretty long odds that you could find one, unless it happens to be Father Michael Depcik, who is actually deaf himself, and who currently ministers to deaf Catholics in the Archdiocese of Detroit.

Here is a link to his story.  And here is his blog.

And probably even longer odds that he would be accompanied by a religious sister who also knew English sign language.  But, again, they beat the odds with Sister Kathleen Monica Schipani, the Director of the Archdiocesan Office for Persons with Disabilities and the Deaf Apostolate and who is an expert in signing.

Here is a link to Sister Kathleen’s story.

And……..then we found a pilgrimage offered by Select International Tours which has both of them leading the group.

Unfortunately, even though it is not until October 2019, we have been told that it is already sold out!  But we found the story so interesting that we wanted to share it with you anyway, and hopefully there will be more pilgrimages for the deaf in the future.

As we said, we never had considered the difficulty a deaf person might have in fully participating in a pilgrimage..or in the life of the Church in general.

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