Of penance and preparation and pilgrimage

We are headed into a time of true spiritual warfare.  The signs of this are thick in the air about us now.

We would do well to get ourselves ready.  We need good examinations of conscience, good confessions, good Communions – always GOOD Communions.  We might also do well to unite ourselves to larger groups in specific tasks.  One reader here in another thread suggested a daily Rosary until Divine Mercy Sunday for the reconciliation of the SSPX.  That’s just one idea, but it is a good one, since the potential division of those many good people from the Church is one of those signs I am talking about, especially when the Church is under grave attacks from secular forces.

We need good spiritual reading, and some silence each day.  We should introduce small mortifications if we haven’t already.

My I also suggest trying to cultivate a habit of saying during the day (along with your Angelus, etc.) and quite often little phrases such as “My Jesus, mercy!”?

I am talking about basics, right?  Things we should be doing anyway?  Prayers before meals?  Examining our consciences daily?  Mortifications?  Turning our minds to God and calling on help from His holy saints?  Asking our Guardian Angel for help?  Works of mercy?  Catholics should do all these things.  I suppose what I am driving at, beyond just doing them, is to do them with an increasing sense of gratitude for God’s gifts and a rededication of our hearts to His.

As I have mentioned more than once, the concept of the pilgrimage, in particular the Camino of Santiago de Compostella, has been growing in my mind.

Another Catholic practice for doing penance for past sins or also readying oneself for a major change in life is a pilgrimage.  Arriving at a Holy Shrine and praying there can be a grace-filled turning point, but so is the actual journey to get there.

We of the Church Militant are warrior pilgrims on the march to our heavenly Fatherland.  In making a pilgrimage we manifest outwardly something of that interior identity we have as baptized members of the Lord’s Mystical Body here on earth.

Perhaps you could think about a trip to a nearby Shrine, if not that of Santiago or the other great pilgrimage places.  There are any number of “National Shrines” around our respective countries.  For example, in my neck of the woods there is the National Shrine of St. Paul, the Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul, Minnesota.  Near Detroit is the Shrine of the Little Flower.  In Washington DC is the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. In NY state there is a Shrine of the North American Martyrs.  In England there is a Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham.  In Quebec there is St. Anne de Beaupre.  Once you start paying attention, you find shrines everywhere.

Just a few rambling thoughts, for what they are worth.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Thom says:

    Father, in my researches I’ve found plenty of good resources on the more practical elements of walking the Camino. Might I recommend the following site:


    The forum is especially good.

  2. Marion Ancilla Mariae says:

    Thanks for mentioning pilgrimages, Father. If a person lives within reasonable driving distance of one of our country’s magnificent cathedrals or basilicas, it is possible to make an informal, unofficial, solo pilgrimage. This is one of my favorite things in the world to do. I find it works best if I allow the best part of a day, and if I take care of any transportation requirements the day before – such as fueling up, checking of tires, getting quarters for parking, etc. It is good to have a schedule for your pilgrimage, and to center this around celebrations happening at your site, such as Holy Mass, Exposition and Benediction, recitation of the Holy Rosary before the Blessed Sacrament, and confessions.

    When I desperately need a favor from Our Lady, I will use a vacation day to visit her at the Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. In addition to the magnificent Great Upper Church and the lower level Crypt Church, there are several dozens side altars and chapels which honor Our Lady under her various titles. During my pilgrimage, in addition to attending Holy Mass, and praying the Rosary, I make way way to each and every one of these side altars and chapels throughout the building, and venerate Our Lady for just a minute or two at each one, and ask her to obtain for me from her Son the favor I have in mind. I may light one or two candles during the visit.

    There’s nothing set or official or special required to do such a pilgrimage; this pilgrimage amounts to little else than a child visiting her mother to spend time with her, and also to ask her special help.

    Abundant graces have always been the fruit of every one of these mini-pilgrimages, sometimes they appear to me to have been of a miraculous nature – after years of making things impossible in the family for example, an obstreperous and adamant relative softens and at last relents, and everyone about dies of shock, for example

    There may be indulgences attached to visits to some cathedrals and basilicas, and these are good to research before your visit. And of course a plenary indulgence may be gained by a visit to even the smallest chapel or oratory by reciting the Holy Rosary before the Blessed Sacrament (exposed or reserved) and praying for the Holy Father’s intention, under the other usual conditions.

  3. acardnal says:

    Good advice, Fr. Z.

  4. pm125 says:

    Between the news ( and reality ) of critical, unkind, and relentless finger pointing at the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy and faithful by the federal government democratic party ,
    the pictures on the headers here ( the solitary walker on the beautiful but dark walkway going toward or away from the viewer & now the dark storm cloud over the Vatican ),
    the calls for unity and preparation in the face of the joyless oppressors,
    and the censorship of traditional religion type places on the superhighway,
    and the fact that most of the unaware faithful subject to only mainstream reporting;
    I grow more worried about tomorrow and even tonight’s unknown developments.

  5. acardnal says:

    In Wisconsin we have the beautiful Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary Help of Christian at Holy Hill where the Carmelites reside and offer daily Mass and confession. This is my favorite shrine! Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York will offer a Mass of Thanksgiving there on April 28. https://www.holyhill.com/

    The Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe near La Crosse was built under the auspices of Cardinal Raymond Burke when he was bishop there.

    And the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Champion where the Blessed Mother appeared is near Green Bay. http://www.shrineofourladyofgoodhelp.com/

    I have been to the first two shrines more than once. Perhaps I will visit the shrine in Champion this summer.

  6. Flos Carmeli says:

    I was just reading this today about the coming persecutions:

    And then I got to this post, with some very concrete suggestions on how to be prepared. Thank you.

  7. Manhattan Trid says:

    For those in the NYC area there is a great opportunity upcoming:
    The Third Annual Pilgrimage of New York
    When: Saturday, March 24, 2012 (Rain date: March 31, 2012)
    Time: 9:00 AM – 7:30 PM
    Where: The Shrine of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini- New York, NY (Where her first class relics are!)
    Cost: Free

    Details: The Third Annual Pilgrimage of New York! Please visit http://www.pofnyc.org to learn more about this event and to register for it. You must register in advance in order to participate in this event. The top of Manhattan to the bottom of Manhattan! Stops at the Church of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the Church of St. Francis Xavier and the World Trade Center Memorial. 13.5 total miles! Don’t worry, it’s all downhill! Saturday, March 24th, 2012 (Rain date: Saturday, March 31st, 2012) 9:00 A.M. Opening Prayers The Shrine of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini 701 Fort Washington Avenue New York, N.Y. 10040 6:30 P.M. Pilgrim’s Mass The Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton 7 State Street New York, N.Y. 10004 You must register in advance at http://www.pofnyc.org in order to participate in this event. Registration ends at midnight on Saturday, March 17th, 2012. This event is being sponsored by: The Cathedral of Saint Patrick Young Adults / The Defenders of the Holy Trinity / http://www.Events4JC.org / Holy Name of Jesus Young Adults / Pilgrimage for Our Children’s Future / Young Catholic New York.

  8. mrsmontoya says:

    As I write this, a busload of Catholic High School seniors, all good young men, is pulling away from our retreat center after their Kairos retreat. They are happy, energized, high-spirited, *good* guys, not afraid to be Catholic. They give me hope.

  9. Don’t forget the Shrine of Blessed Margaret of Castello (O.P.) in Columbus, Ohio: patroness of the unwanted. (And also my Dominican patroness, and patroness of my chapter of lay Dominicans.)

  10. Elizabeth says:

    Acardnal, you mentioned Holy Hill. Wonderful idea. I’ve been wanting to go up there for some time now. For any southern Wisconsin or Chicago area folks that are of the Traditional mind, on Saturday, June 2nd, the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest will be traveling to Holy Hill for a day-pilgrimage. I don’t know if they’re still getting a bus as in the past. I’ve heard that they are continually surprised at how many people show up from all over, hundreds. A day full of prayer, sermons, walking the beautiful grounds, and of course the most beautiful Traditional Holy Mass. If you live on the southside of Chicago, you can probably arrange to get on their bus. Otherwise, you can just meet them there. Their link, if you don’t mind, Father: http://www.institute-christ-king.org/chicago/

  11. acardnal says:

    @Elizabeth: Speaking of the the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, a TLM society of apostolic life in union the the Pope, they have a parish in Wausau, Wisconsin given to them by their former bishop of La Crosse, who? Yes, the now Cardinal Raymond Burke! Any way, I have spent three glorious days in Wausau attending the TLM daily. Wonderful order of priestly life. Thanks for letting me know about the June 2nd date.

  12. In Canada, in the province of Ontario, Fr. Z., is the Martyr`s Shrine in Midland area (next to Barrie). It is on a large piece of property and even has an Irish piece garden, (although I`ve scoured the net and it too underwent a partial `Spirit of Vatican II` wreckovation).

  13. HeatherPA says:

    The Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes in Emmitsburg, MD is SO peaceful and spiritually soothing. We have gone there whenever we can and I can powerfully feel Our Lady and Our Lord there when I go. It has many devotions that one can do outside along the paths, Stations, the Rosary… One earns an indulgence for going there prayerfully (under the usual conditions.
    Great Topic!! Spiritual combat is what we all need to be ready and fully armored for!

  14. brjeromeleo says:

    Don’t forget the National Shrine of the Divine Mercy, in Stockbridge, MA. Bautiful grounds, beautiful Church and served by the wonderful Marians of the Immacualte Conception.

  15. Marion Ancilla Mariae says:

    Another commenter mentioned “the coming persecution.” I agree that we ought to pray to God for the grace to be prepared for whatever trials He may choose to send us. I don’t agree that we are anywhere close to being where the Church was at the time of the French Revolution, or the Spanish Civil War, or the Cultural Revolution in China.

    “There are thousand things that have to happen in order; we are on number eight; you’re talking about number 692.” Apollo XIII (1995) Screenplay by William Broyles Jr. and Al Reinert

    “Let’s work the problem, people.” (Ditto.)

  16. Centristian says:

    I’m intrigued by the shrine known as El Santuario de Chimayo in Chimayo, New Mexico. It’s billed as something of a “Lourdes” of America, a site known for healing miracles. Instead of healing waters, however, El Santuario is known for it’s healing “dirt” or “holy dirt”, on the spot where a miraculous crucifix (an image known as “Nuestro Senor de Esquipulas”) was discovered around 1800.

    The crucifix that was found on the site was apparently brought to the nearby Francisan priory, but in the morning it was gone. It was found again where it was originally discovered. This happened a few times until they finally got the hint and built a chapel on the spot where the cross was found. That crucifix is preserved to this day as the altar cross of the chapel that was built, and people come from around the world to make pilgrimages to the Santuario, and to take with them some of the healing “holy dirt”. It is one of seven old Franciscan missionary chapels in the area, including the celebrated “children’s shrine” of Santo Nino de Atocha.

    For any in North America who want a pilgrimage with a Spanish atmosphere about it but just can’t make it all the way to Spain to walk the Camino, this seems like a great alternative. You can learn more about it here:


    Be sure then to click on the link to holypilgrim . us that is highlighted in the text. That will take you to a map of all the old Franciscan mission churches that are found along the various suggested pilgrimage routes. To see and read more about each site, click on the little crosses on the map.

  17. Kathleen10 says:

    Thank you Father Z, good reminders. I agree with you about spiritual warfare, and we can see the effects of it’s realities already, in our current American-cultural situation.

    In Massachusetts there is a very nice shrine, La Salette, in, I believe, Mansfield, Massachusetts, or nearby. I haven’t been in awhile, but on your good suggestion I may go soon. I hope it’s as nice as it was, with stairs leading up to larger than lifesize stations of the cross. At Christmas-time, La Salette has in the past had incredible lights, just incredible.

    Father, have you mentioned the upcoming Rallies on March 23rd? I don’t know if there is a place on the site where you mention them, but if not, it is an important day, where we all get the opportunity to make a statement about our opposition to HHS mandates to deny Americans the religious freedoms we have had as a matter of course for as long as we have been a country. In 1621 men, women and children came here to escape the religious persecution they were experiencing in their homelands, mostly England. Now we find it rearing it’s ugly head here in America, in 2012. Here is an opportunity for us to peacefully but firmly make a statement about this horrible legislation in our own backyards. There are 100 sites across the US that will host rallies, usually in our capitols. Google something like RALLY MARCH 23 and you will surely find it.
    These are the kinds of activities we can do to push back against those who would deny us our religious freedom, and sadly, there is a growing number who would. The time has definitely come to be more vocal in our defense of our rights, and our faith. We can be polite, but definite. We don’t have to apologize for demanding our rights, we are entitled to them! We take our marching orders from Jesus, not from our government. We MUST be vocal, or the enemies of freedom and religious liberty will have the final word, and we must never allow that. The time has come. Speak up!

  18. James Joseph says:

    Fr. Z.

    I have found a really great priest giving really great advice on the Sacrament of Confession… I might add that he is Coptic Orthodox.


    In another video he talks about get this…. the maniple tucked in his sleeve.

  19. swilson18 says:

    Great advice Father! I have been reading and applying St. Francis de Sales “Introduction to the Devout Life” this Lent and your thoughts are “spot on” in unison with this great saint.

  20. JKnott says:

    Thank you for the good advice Father.
    The beautiful Shrine of the Divine Mercy is in Stockbridge, Massachusetts

  21. Kerry says:

    Father, does being constantly mortified at the administration’s machinations count as daily mortification? Heh. (And a sign for the times, for the 23rd, “IHS”, not hhs.)

  22. bookworm says:

    This is on my bucket list — the Shrine of St. Joseph in St. Louis:


  23. Dan says:

    Here is the Facebook page for the annual Pilgrimage for Restoration. It’s a 60-plus mile walk from Lake George to the Shrine of the North American Martyrs in Auriesville, N.Y. Held in September.


  24. cathgrl says:

    Also, the Basilica and National Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation in Carey Ohio.


    The late Fr. John Hardon, S.J. visited this shrine at the age of 4 with his widowed mother. This is where he did his first “holy hour” of adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

  25. acardnal says:

    God bless the Servant of God Fr. John Hardon, S.J. I learned SOOOOO much from his writings and lectures.

  26. Gaetano says:

    There is a wondrous four-day walking pilgrimage from Great Meadows, NJ to the Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa in Doylestown, MD.

    Most of the pilgrims are Polish speakers, but there is an English-speaking group run by the Capuchin Friars of the Renewal. In fact, CFR novices must make the pilgrimage as part of their formation.


  27. irishgirl says:

    @ Dan: Glad you mentioned the ‘Pilgrimage for the Catholic Restoration’ at Auriesville Shrine. How long have you been going to it?
    I’ve been to that pilgrimage since 2000 (with the exception of 2003, when I couldn’t get the time off from work).
    I partially did the walk in 2000 from the Kateri Tekakwitha Shrine in Fonda, but my legs gave out three-quarters of the way up a ‘verrry steep’ hill, and I got a ride on one of the shuttles for the remaining journey to Auriesville.
    Now when I go, I stay up at Auriesville and wait for the walkers, holding my replica of St. Joan of Arc’s battle standard. You can’t miss seeing me with that!
    And I keep hoping that someday Father Z will come to Upstate New York and have a blognic at Auriesville-perhaps this year, with the upcoming canonization of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha?

  28. irishgirl says:

    @ Kathleen10: Just so you know, the LaSalette Shrine is in Attleboro, Massachusetts, not Mansfield (unless the town’s name has changed since my only visit in 1975).
    I remember seeing pictures of the annual Christmas Lights show in the gift shop.
    There are two other LaSalette shrines in the Northeast-one in Enfield, New Hampshire (just over the Vermont border), the other in eastern New York (name escapes me right now). I’ve been to both of these as well.

  29. irishgirl says:

    The name of the town where the NY State LaSalette shrine came back to me overnight:
    It’s in Altamont.
    [I’m losing my mind in my old age]

  30. Tina in Ashburn says:

    In Washington D.C. there is also the “Holy Land in America” at the Franciscan Monastery. http://www.myfranciscan.org/
    A visit gets you the same indulgence as a real trip to the Holy Land. It is one of the best-kept secrets of DC. The church and grounds are beautiful, with many areas for devotions. The garden includes a huge replica of the Shrine of Lourdes, plus a rosary walk, a replica of the tomb of the dormition of Mary, and a replica of the little church that St Francis restored.
    Inside, the church has huge, magnificent painted bas-relief scenes such as the Transfiguration and the Crucifixion, and a faithful full-sized replica of the tomb of Jesus.
    Underneath the church are many full-sized replicas of the catacombs, and some altars, and the place of birth of Jesus in Bethlehem.
    As a child, I remember the place was hoppin’, handling many pilgrims with a huge double-line cafeteria that was always busy, across the street, now gone. Today the place is much calmer, but all the wonderful things are still there.

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