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Lourdes Grotto to remain closed for several weeks

The flooding at the Shrine at Lourdes, France has proven to be much more devastating than the floods of 2012.  Mathias Terrier, the sanctuary’s communications director, has indicated that it will be several weeks, if not longer, before the Shrine will be open to pilgrims.  

Click here for a video showing the damage.

Naturally this is a huge disappointment to those who already had trips planned here.  Those going with an organized group should contact their tour operator or group organizer to find out what changes have been made to their itinerary.

Most tour operators probably cannot cancel their tours at such short notice and we are not sure if trip cancellation/interruption insurance will come in to play in this case. Of course there are a few “cancel for any reason” policies that probably will cover this if you cancel. We invite any tour operators or insurance providers to comment on our blog.  

It is also an economic disaster for the hotels in Lourdes, many of which have suffered flood damage; and even those that have not will undoubtedly be hurt by the lack of visitors over the peak summer season.  

We will keep you updated with all the latest news from the shrine.

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Lourdes Shrine remains partially closed due to flooding

The latest news is that the Shrine is officially closed at the moment.  As of Tuesday most activities, including Masses at the Grotto, had been cancelled due to the the flooding that has taken place this week.  The only Masses were in the upper Basilica of the Shrine.  

The situation has worsened since then and now the Shrine is temporarily closed to pilgrims.

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World Youth Day phone lines now Open

World Youth Day 2013 Logo
World Youth Day 2013

A new phone line is now open for information on World Youth Day 2013 in Brazil.  The phone line is open from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., but is not toll-free so you will have to pay international phone charges.  Of course if you are attending WYD 2013 and are in Brazil it will not be an international call.    The number to call is (country code 55) + (21) 2122-8050.  Those answering the phones will be able to communicate in Portuguese (the language spoken in Brazil), English and Spanish.

  Click here for all the details.

You can also email them at: contact@rio2013.com.  Emails are answered in Portuguese, English, Spanish, Italian, French, German and Polish.  Please note that many of the answers you are looking for are on the official World Youth Day website, so they ask that you go there first.

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Catholics need permission to do this on the beach!

What bride-to-be hasn’t secretly imagined the incredibly romantic image of herself and her loved one on the beach standing in the sand, waves gently lapping, seagulls soaring overhead and loving family and friends looking on as they become man and wife.
OK, let’s get back to reality.  You know that weddings on the beach are subject to sudden tropical showers, sand crabs, and  grandma’s walker getting stuck in the sand. And most importantly, as pointed out in a previous blog post, Catholic weddings must be performed on consecrated ground, so that pretty much rules out a beach wedding, right?  Not necessarily!  In the last few years some wise resort owners have decided that they are missing out on the Catholic wedding market.  One of these is the Gran Caribe Resort in Cancun, Mexico shown in the photos below.

Our Lady of Guadalupe Chapel Gran Caribe Real
Our Lady of Guadalupe Chapel Gran Caribe Resort
Altar at Our Lady of Guadalupe Chapel Gran Caribe Resort
The Altar at Our Lady of Guadalupe Chapel at Gran Caribe Resort

To take much of the stress out of the wedding there are wedding planners who help to coordinate everything at your destination and also put you in touch with a local  Roman Catholic priest in good standing.  And, the prices seem to be a bargain compared to many other countries.



If you are thinking of an exotic setting you might also consider staying at a resort and getting married in a Catholic church nearby.  Some of these are either overlooking—or on—the ocean.   An example is Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church in Ocho Rios, Jamaica.  Their website clearly spells out the requirements,  and has contact information for those interested.  

Also, there are wedding destination firms that arrange Catholic weddings in Antigua, Barbados, Curacao, St Kitts & Nevis and St Lucia, with packages starting around $2.000. U.S. that include most everything for a small party. 

Here are the steps you need to prepare for your Catholic destination wedding:

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Flooding in Lourdes


The heavy rains in Europe have made visiting Lourdes, France a challenge.  On June 18th the Grotto was again flooded, as it had been in 2012.  There have been interruptions due to flooding.  If you heading there on your own you may want to check ahead, but don’t let that stop you from visiting the shrine. We expect the situation to return to normal within a few days. 

Click here for a video from the official Lourdes website.

Just a side note:  some independent travelers are mis-spelling Lourdes in their  GPS, leaving the  letter S off the town’s name and thereby going to the wrong town.  There actually is a town named Lourde just south of Toulouse, so be careful that you are headed in the right direction.  The shrine at Lourdes is roughly 100 miles Southwest  of Toulouse whereas the small town of Lourde is only a few miles south of Toulouse.   

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It’s not Fathers Day everywhere

Many countries celebrate the third Sunday in May as Father’s Day but others do not.  Fathers Day originated in the U.S. in the 1920’s as a counter point to Mother’s Day although it did not gain much popularity in the early days.  

Perhaps one of the most notable exceptions is that of Italy.  They celebrate on March 19th, Feast Day of Saint Joseph.  We think this is rather fitting since Saint Joseph was the foster father of Jesus and a great example to fathers everywhere.  

Regardless of where or when, we salute fathers, step-fathers, foster-fathers and God-Fathers everywhere (hope we mentioned all categories).

For an interesting look at how the Feast of Saint Joseph is celebrated not only in Italy but around the world click our webpage here.

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Strike season in Europe

With the austerity measures hitting home in several European countries you can count on transportation strikes throughout the summer.  Why summer?  Well, that’s high tourist season for European destinations and so that is where the unions can cause the most disruption and have the most leverage in their demands.

Recently France has announced a 3-day strike of air traffic controllers beginning June 11, also a general strike has been called in Portugal for June 27, and the busy tourist season has just begun.  So how do strikes effect your travel plans?  Well, if you are traveling in a group you will no doubt have someone in charge who will help to work around whatever problems arise (see below for an example where this did not work out too well).  Independent travelers, you too need to be aware of the situation and, above all, be flexible.

The good news is most Catholic sites (churches, some museums, etc.) will probably not close, even if state-run museums do.  If possible, call ahead to find out.  You don’t want to break your neck getting to a location only to find that it is not even open.

While you cannot eliminate them, there are a few things you can do to help lessen the effects of a strike on your travel plans.

1. Make yourself aware of pending strikes before you leave.  Most of these are announced days—or even weeks—in advance, giving you time to adjust your plans.  Here is one site that claims to notify of air cancellations…..we will continue to look for others.

2. Purchase travel insurance that covers trip interruption for unforeseen events.  This is a complicated subject, for example you must purchase the insurance before the strike is announced. After the strike is announced, most insurers will not cover you since it’s not an unforeseen event. Check with the travel insurance company and especially look at the fine print. Many travel insurance providers will post a list  of dates and airlines that are not covered.

3. Try to keep bookings as flexible as possible unless you plan to stay in one place for a period of several days.  Pay as little in advance as possible, in the event that it’s nonrefundable.

4.  Have a back-up plan.  If you think that a strike is likely, then figure out in advance what you might do in that situation and come up with an alternative plan.   Spur of the moment decisions, under stress, are not always the best ones.

5.  Most importantly— learn to enjoy the moment.  Being stranded somewhere could present a golden opportunity.  In other words, make the best of  an unpleasant situation.  That is what sets the smart traveler apart from the befuddled tourist who allows their whole trip to be ruined because of a failure to adjust to  unavoidable circumstances.

6.  Finally, don’t put off that trip.  Plan as best you can, then relax….don’t let your fear of the unknown or lack of being in total control prevent you from travelling. 

Remember what I said about how being in a group means someone will take charge?  

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Pope Francis announces his summer schedule

The month of July is obviously a very popular time for Catholics to travel to Rome and one of the highlights is the opportunity to see the Pope at a general audience on Wednesdays or perhaps when he says the Angelus in Saint Peter’s Square on Sundays.  Unfortunately that is usually the same month that most Popes leave Rome for the Papal residence at nearby Castel Gandolfo and the weekly Papal audiences are often cancelled.

It has been announced by Prefecture of the Pontifical Household that Pope Francis will not be going to Castel Gandolfo but will be staying in Rome at the Domus Sanctae Marthae Residence where he has been living since becoming Pope.  However, the weekly Wednesday audiences will be cancelled during most of July (there will be a Wednesday audience on July 3rd) and not resume until Wednesday August 7.  This will disappoint many so if you or someone you know is planning to be in Rome during that time period let them know in advance.  

Castel Gandolfo, summer Papal ResidencePope Francis will be traveling to Castel Gandolfo on Sunday July 14th to say the Angelus and the public is welcome so that is your best chance to see him if you will be in Rome during this time period. Those who watched the departure of Pope Benedict XVI on EWTN will no doubt recognize the building on the left. Click here for more details about Castel Gandofo and how to get there.

Pope Francis heads off to World Youth Day in Brazil on July 21st and won’t return until around the first of August.

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Free children’s admission to museums in Italy for non-Europeans


Until recently the state-run museums and archeological sites in Italy granted free admission to minors who came from European Union countries; however, minors visiting from non-EU member countries were charged admission.  This included such famous sites as the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, the Colosseum in Rome, the National Archeological Museum in Naples and many more.  At 15 Euros or more per admission that could put quite a dent in a family’s budget when traveling with children, or probably even more of a dent for minors traveling alone (the EU defines a minor as being under age 18).  So this is welcome news for those coming from the U.K., Australia, U.S. or other countries outside the European Union.

Note that this does not apply to private museums (notably such places as the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel) which will continue to charge admission for minors.

For a complete list of state-owned museums check out this page on Wikipedia to help you in your travel plans.

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Attending Mass while on a cruise–will there be a priest on board?

One of the most frequent searches we get are from Catholic cruisers who are wondering about attending mass while on a cruise.  This is certainly a concern if the cruise is taking place over a weekend, as most do.  At one time several major cruise lines did offer to have a priest on board but I suppose due to political correctness or just lack of interest many of those lines no longer do.  There was quite a bit of fuss on some Catholic forums back in 2010 when Celebrity Cruises announced that they would no longer have priests on board their ships.  Now only two cruise lines have priests on board every cruise:  Holland America and Costa.  Several other cruise lines promise to have priests on board for special cruises such as Christmas, Easter or re-positioning cruises.

The rationale for have a Catholic priest on board is different from other Christians in that Catholics are required to attend Mass on Sunday unless there are very unusual circumstances.  Being on a cruise…or en-route somewhere…can be a valid reason for missing Mass but still many people want to make this part of their week regardless.

Mass on board a cruise ship for the crew
Mass photo courtesy of Apostleship of the Sea

Many crew members of these ships come from predominantly Catholic countries such as the Philippines and are gone for months at a time.  Since the ships are rarely in port for more than a day they have very limited opportunity to attend Mass.  We would like to see Catholics stand up not only for themselves as customers of the cruise line but also for these crew members by letting the cruise lines know that the presence of a priest on board will enter into their decision whether to cruise with them or not.  It would not take many people to get the message across, but if we don’t stand up and express our opinion with our money then nothing will change.  Naturally that cannot be the only deciding factor but it can be one of the reasons you choose a particular line.  You can then make your vacation part of your vocation, which is to evangelize.