Mass In Yellowstone NP, Wyoming


From the windows of the rec room, there is a panoramic view of the mists still rising off of Yellowstone Lake. (Okay, not in this picture.) Mass is about to begin and the young celebrant is scurrying around, arranging the altar, consulting with the pianist and greeting tourists – some in their Sunday best, some in hiking apparel.


It is interesting to note that the murmur of voices is at a far lower level than in many Catholic churches these days. Is it because we naturally respect the sacred ground we are visiting? I know that my own awe and humility are greatly increased by the wonders of Yellowstone. 


The altar is a card table, the lectern a music stand, but somehow it feels as if we are in an ancient cathedral. We are. Sometimes it is difficult to find Mass while traveling. Many National Parks, through the diligent efforts of the local Catholic communities, and even sometimes through the efforts of the local diocese, will have Sunday Mass scheduled. This may not be posted in the guide books or newsletters, but a query at one of the lodges in the park is likely to turn up a schedule of Sunday services for several denominations. Even if a regularly scheduled Mass is not available, I have found that sometimes a visiting priest is kind enough to ask for a place to celebrate Mass and pass the word as to location and time.


Yellowstone Lake Lodge is such an ethereal setting for Mass. I have to wonder if this might not be a little taste of heaven.

Check out these posts, too:

Oregon’s Best For Last – Mt. Hood

Great Sand Dunes NP and Preserve, CO

Grand Canyon Pilgrimage

Grand Canyon Caverns

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Santo Nino de Atocha, Chimayo, New Mexico

 

On the same road trip to El Santuario, Chimayo, we discovered another chapel I hadn’t seen before. Just a few hundred yards from El Santuario is the Chapel to Santo Nino de Atocha. According to legend, when loved ones were imprisoned, the Christ child would come and take food and water to them. When the families saw the worn out shoes on the statue of little Jesus, they would replace them with new ones, which would soon become worn out as well, as Santo Nino continued to bring provisions to their imprisoned loved ones.

 

 

Santo Nino de Atocha Chapel is dedicated to children. Its whimsical décor is reminiscent of childhood, with carved trees, birds, flowers and fanciful sculptures. A nearby shrine holds hundreds of pairs of tiny shoes, thank you tokens for miracles received. A Milagros chapel inside the shrine holds hundreds of other tiny gifts, left in gratitude for healings received.

 

 

During WWII, many National Guardsmen from this area of New Mexico died. Survivors attributed their lives to the intercession of Santo Nino de Atocha. Devotion to Jesus as Santo Nino had been encouraged by Severiano Medina, who built the chapel near El Santuario, in gratitude for healing from a severe illness. 

 

 

 

Today, the chapel is fully restored and a delightful dessert to the serious meal of El Santuario de Chimayo. One does not have to walk very far from either one for some distinctive New Mexico chile.

 


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The Family Rosary

Lately my 9 year old has been wanting to say the Rosary as a family.  I am thrilled with this new development, as I have been trying to encourage it for years, but I wonder what has brought it on.  Naturally, he has several fairly nice rosaries, as well as some funky plastic ones.  He knows how to say the Rosary, as we frequently say it in the car (with or without his participation) and it is said before Sunday Mass at our church and at the holy hour we attend on Thursdays.  Yet, this family Rosary has been instigated at his request.

He does have a special intention – the healing of his 9 year old cousin who is having open-heart surgery in a few weeks.  But why this particular prayer method?  I can only think that, in addition to divine inspiration at work in his heart, all our family discussions, in which there are many disagreements, seem to meet in agreement on one thing – the power of praying the Family Rosary.  Thanks be to God!

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First Saturday Devotions – Substance or Superstition?

Today is the first Saturday of June.  My dad’s roses are blooming profusely.  After so many Marian celebrations last month, my thoughts have turned to the First Saturdays and how they got started.  It’s been a few years since Catholic school, and I live out in the sticks, where we’re lucky to have “daily” Mass once a week.  So I did a little research on the First Saturdays.

The “official” First Saturday Marian Devotions with their attendant “promises” originated with the apparitions of Our Blessed Mother to the children at Fatima.  But Saturday had already long been a special day of devotion to Our Lady.  According to Marian Devotions in the Domestic Church, by the ninth century, Saturday devotion to Mary had already become popular.  Marian Catechist explains that, according to several theologians of the 12th and 13th centuries,  “ Mary continued to believe, demonstrating her deep faith by never doubting for a moment her Son’s promise of resurrection”.  They also give several other reasons and traditions for Saturday Masses being dedicated to Mary before Fatima.  So, long tradition.  
Okay, what about post-Fatima?  My favorite take on our current practice of this devotion is at the Bearing Blog.  I can totally relate to the author’s reference to superstition and selfish intentions.  I returned to wearing the brown scapular and the chapel veil a few years ago.  As I put on or remove my scapular, I dedicate myself to Mary, and ask her to help me to practice modesty, purity and holiness (I need LOTS of help!).  As I put on my chapel veil for Mass or Eucharistic Devotion, I ask for humility and to remember to try to be of service to the other members of Christ’s body.  It really irritates me to hear the scapular promoted as a talisman to protect a person from harm and/or hell.  The scapular in itself is just a piece of brown scratchy cloth.  It is what it symbolizes that is sacramental and only in that is it nourishing to the spiritual life.
In the same way, to complete the Five First Saturdays, including Holy Communion, Confession, fifteen minutes meditation, and five decades of the Rosary, just to benefit from the Promises – that Our Lady will “assist at the hour of death with all the graces necessary for salvation”,  seems abhorrent to me.  On the surface.  More on that in a few lines.  For one thing, there is a fifth requirement to the fulfillment of the Promise – that the devotion be performed “with the intention of making reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary”.  Someone who isn’t sincere, will not be able to complete all Five Saturdays without this intention.  Even if one starts without that intention, it seems to grow on you in the practice.  Secondly, look at the promise.  What are the “graces necessary for salvation”?  Ponder that.  This devotion is not just another easy ticket into heaven.
 
So what about the superficial motive of performing the devotion just to benefit from the Promise?  When I was a child in Catholic school I performed many of the various recommended devotions our rich and ancient tradition makes available to us.  I was sincere and devout about them at the time.  I stored up a few treasures in heaven.  Then I became a teenager and then an adult.  I finally went the way of the world, and even left the church for a few years.  What’s my point?  I came back.  I returned hungry for the Eucharist.  Starved for teaching and direction for following Jesus.  I came back with a desire to amend my life and be a better person.  Was it because of all those novenas I made as a child?  Was it because of all the prayers of my parents and loved ones?  
 
Certainly I’m not any more special than any other child of the Father.  I can’t offer any tangible proof, but I’m certainly not going to discount the power of a Promise.  I hope I have a ways to go before I have need of that final assistance.  Making another round of Five First Saturdays would undoubtedly benefit me now, as well as later.
 
 
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The Pilgrim Virgin of Guadalupe

A couple of months ago I was priviledged to participate in the pilgrimage of Our Lady of Guadalupe within our Mexican community.  Once a year, a couple from Prescott brings a life-size portrait of the Virgin to our small town and She visits a number of homes where we gather for a nightly rosary, singing and a snack or meal afterwards.  The food is always wonderful, the fellowship is comforting and the prayer time is liberating.  More than one person has remarked on the relief experienced after laying his or her troubles at the feet of Our Lady.

This last visit lasted two months.  Though it was often difficult to drag myself out of the house in the evening, when all I wanted was to eat a simple meal in front of the TV or read a good book, once I got there the power of shared prayer and devotions worked its healing magic on my weary body and mind.

Now that the Pilgrim Virgin has moved on, I struggle to say my daily rosary.  The day gets so busy that when evening finally comes I am so tired that I fall into bed, reach over for my beads and maybe make it past the opening prayers before sleep overtakes me.  On days when we have somewhere to go, we manage to say the rosary in the car.  Living 50 miles from anywhere does have its perks.  Sometimes my best time to say the rosary is in the evenings when I am topping off water troughs for the animals.  The rhythm of the prayers, the cool of the mountain evening and the glory of the Arizona sunset just seem to lend themselves to meditation.  Even then, frequently the boy is pestering me to play cowboy squirt guns or throw the baseball with him.  Well, we keep trying.  And we are truly blessed!

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