Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The summer is a good time to relax, visit our friends and relatives, travel around, and PRAY! We don’t necessarily need to do one thing or the other, but this letter will give a few suggestions of some holy sites to visit.
The closest shrine we have is the North American Martyrs Shrine (Our Lady of Martyrs) in Aurisville NY, near Albany. This place reminds us that there were many men and women who gave their lives as martyrs killed at the beginning of the colonization of the United States. Isaac Jogues and his companions arrived there in the mid 1600s to evangelize the Huron. After being captured by the Mohawks, they were brought to this location where they gave their lives for the sake of the Gospel. There are some verses of his last moments in which, although he knew he was going to die, he was praying for those people. We know that his blood was not shed in vain, as it bore fruit through St. Kateri Tekakwitha. We can pray there to ask the Lord to help us to be constant in our faith and be able to be a witness of God’s love to those around us.
In the north, there is the Our Lady of Ephesus House of Prayer located in Jamaica, VT. It is an exact replica of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s house in Ephesus, where she lived in prayer with St John in the last years of her life. The replica is one of four in the whole world, and it sits on a 190-acre prayer ground. The original house, according to the tradition, was transported by angels to Loretto, Italy during the Arab invasion. Today, there is a famous shrine there. It is always such an incredible experience to see that the Blessed Mother did not live in a palace, but in a humble abode.
For those going to New York, there are two holy attractions there. The first one is the house of Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first American-born saint. Before she moved to Emmitsburg, Pennsylvania where she founded a religious order to care for the Native and Afro-Americans, she lived right in front of Battery Park. Across the street from the Staten Island Ferry, you can find her house that sits between two high skyscrapers. The second holy site in New York is the Shrine of Mother Cabrini, the first saint in America. Mother Cabrini founded many orphanages across the US and abroad to care mainly for immigrants and poor children. Located near Cloisters in Washington Heights, there is a chapel where her remains can be found. St. Patrick Cathedral is also a great place to stop and say a prayer contemplating such a beautiful church.
For those staying in Massachusetts, there are a few places that are accessible on a one-day trip. The first place is the Divine Mercy Shrine. Located in Western Mass, by the shires, Stockbridge offers a beautiful and peaceful place to rest, contemplate, and pray. There one can touch the mercy of God, who out of love created us and is willing to forgive anything and everything. Another place, also a Divine Mercy Shrine, is the recently opened John Paul II Shrine in Salem, MA. There, in the midst of the historical site of the beginnings of the colonization of Massachusetts, sits a relic with the blood of Saint John Paul II. I remember when I saw him at the World Youth Day in 2002 in Canada. Towards the end of his life, when his Parkinson was very advanced, one would expect him to speak with a soft voice that was very feeble. Instead, he spoke about God with a great strength and zeal. Salem is no longer known by the witches, but also for the home of the relic of JP II.
We do not necessarily even need to go beyond Boston for a holy trip. The recently renovated Cathedral of the Holy Cross is certainly a place that we all must visit. Not only is it the mother Church of Boston, but it is one of the most beautiful cathedrals in the US. Even for those who have been before, it is certainly worth a second visit.
I hope this encourages you to look for the Lord while having fun and traveling around! As Christians, we never take vacation from prayer or from the Lord. May the Blessed Mother protect all of us during these weeks and may she bring us together again after the summer.
Father Steven Clemence