My Place in the Sun, July 13: Let’s Take a Road Trip!

My place in the sun

Recently, we have welcomed some relief from the rain and enjoyed beautiful summer days. On one of those lovely days, I took a drive. I enjoy the opportunity to see the countryside, the fields and hills and lakes and towns that are part of our diocese. Before I knew it, however, I was stalled in traffic. Ever so slowly, I made my way to the police officer who was offering directions. His message: a Fourth of July parade, common to so many towns on this special holiday, would block my way for some time. Parking was not available so I decided to wait it out in the car.

   The time was not wasted. One of the thoughts that came to mind was my Catholic Sun article. I knew the general theme for the next issue was Catholic Road Trips. So, as I patiently waited for the parade to pass, I decided on four road trip suggestions.

The Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs at Auriesville, New York

   This beautiful shrine sits atop a hill overlooking a bend in the Mohawk River. During the 1640’s three French Jesuit missionaries, Father Isaac Jogues and his two lay companions, Rene Goupil and John Lalonde, were killed by the Mohawks while bringing Christianity to the New World. These three, along with five Jesuit priests martyred in Canada during the same decade, were canonized in 1930 as the eight North American Martyrs. Auriesville is also thought to be the birthplace of St. Kateri Tekawitha.

   For 130 years, from 1885 to 2015, the Society of Jesus operated a shrine at Auriesville. Pilgrims from all over North America flocked to the site. In 1930, the Jesuits built the imposing coliseum church, with five separate altars grouped around the center with the capacity for 6,000 worshipers. Today the shrine and the visitors’ center are operated by a non-profit group, The Friends of Our Lady of Martyrs Shrine.

   The second century Church Father Tertullian wrote, “The blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church,” implying that the martyrs’ willing sacrifice of their lives leads to the conversion of others. A visit to Auriesville, touring the grounds, learning about the faith of the early missionaries, participating at Mass in the coliseum church, and praying quietly at the gravesite of the martyrs nourishes and strengthens our faith. It helps us to accept our call to live our faith as “missionary disciples.”

Our Lady of Victory National Shrine & Basilica in Lackawanna, New York

   Our Lady of Victory Basilica is a Catholic parish church as well as a national shrine. Due to the multiple charities of the founder, Father Nelson Baker, the shrine attracts thousands of visitors annually from across the globe.

   A visit to the basilica is an opportunity to learn about Father Baker’s life and work. A museum, on the lower level of the basilica, takes visitors on a tour of Father Baker’s life and charitable works, many of which continue to this day. By means of artifacts from his life, cherished memories of people impacted by his ministry, and interesting facts and figures along the way, the museum illustrates both the history and present-day impact of Father Baker’s Legacy of Caring.

   The imposing basilica offers a rich experience of Christian art that enlightens and strengthens faith. From the huge bronze doors that open to the worship space, revealing pews of rare African mahogany; to the five giant ceiling murals depicting Mary as Queen of Patriarchs, Apostles, Angels, Prophets, and Martyrs; to the main altar and the adjoining seven smaller altars and the exquisitely detailed stained glass windows, the basilica stands as symbol of one man’s steadfast faith and devotion to our Blessed Mother.

The Monastery at Piffard, New York

   The Abbey of the Genesee is home to some 30 contemplative monks belonging to the order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance, more commonly known as the Trappists. The monks are dedicated to seeking union with God, through Jesus Christ, in a community of brothers. “They lead a monastic way of life in solitude and silence, in assiduous prayer and joyful penitence” (Trappist Constituion, 2).

   The monks welcome visitors to join the community for liturgical prayer in the Abbey Church or to spend time in solitary prayer. One of the monks is available throughout the day to provide assistance and answer questions.

   Perhaps you have heard of Monks’ Bread. Nearly every monk has a share in the common work of baking Monks’ Bread or working in the specialty bakery. A large modern bakery produces nine varieties of bread. On your visit, be sure to visit the bread store. Most likely, you will not go away empty-handed. A variety of Monks’ Bread products from the Piffard bakery, along with select products from other monastic communities, is available in the bread store.

Saint Marianne Cope Shrine & Museum in Syracuse

   Marianne Cope, a Sister of St. Francis, was canonized in 2012. A woman of great valor, this beloved mother of outcasts spent her early years in Central New York as a leader in the field of health care and education. Responding to a call to care for the poor sick on the Sandwich Islands, she devoted 35 years to caring for those afflicted with Hansen’s disease on Kalaupapa, Molokai, Hawaii. Through displays highlighting St. Marianne Cope’s stories and artifacts, audio-visual exhibits, and educational outreach, the museum shares Marianne’s message of respect and compassion.

   Each site noted above has a website. Check them out if you intend to take a road trip. Directions, times for liturgical services, museum hours, procedures for arranging a tour, and so much more is readily available. Most of the websites offer the opportunity to take a virtual tour. You do not need to get in the car and drive to the location! You can sit at your computer and enjoy a tour of the site from the comfort of your home.

   There is much to learn, appreciate, and enjoy at each of the sites. They offer inspiration for all of us as we continue to know, live, and share our faith.

   If you have a prayer intention you would like me to consider during the weeks ahead, please mail it to my attention at 240 E. Onondaga St., Syracuse, N.Y. 13202.