Wednesday, November 30, 2016

My Year of Mercy Pilgrimage

“To go on pilgrimage is not simply to visit a place to admire its treasures of nature, art or history. To go on pilgrimage really means to step out of ourselves in order to encounter God where he has revealed himself, where his grace has shone with particular splendor and produced rich fruits of conversion and holiness among those who believe." ~Pope Benedict XVI

The Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy has drawn to a close.  There were so many unique aspects of this Year of Mercy, opportunities for outreach, evangelization, repentance, and forgiveness.  I was excited for this Jubilee for many reasons, but visiting holy doors became the most memorable part of the past year.

Normally found only in the Major Basilicas in Rome and a handful of other churches around the world and unsealed only every 25 years, Holy Doors were opened temporarily in every Diocese during this Extraordinary Jubilee.  From December 8, 2015 to November 20, 2016, making a pilgrimage to a holy door didn't require a trip to Rome, but was attainable in one's own Diocese.

If you need a little background info on the Extraordinary Jubilee or the Holy Doors, check out these links:
  • You can find info about the Holy Door in Rome here and the Year of Mercy here.
  • Info about the holy doors in the US from the USCCB here.
  • The site I used to find holy doors here.
  • My activities for the holy door here and Year of Mercy here.
I had planned on visiting a few holy doors throughout the year, and after going through my first one in January, I somewhat jokingly took a selfie with the door and posted it on instagram.  That was the start of a super fun year exploring churches around the US and documenting it all with #holydoorselfie.  I ended up journeying to nineteen different doors in ten different states!

I know people who got to walk through THE Holy Door in Rome, or who even got to visit holy doors in several different countries, but I still loved my little local-ish pilgrimage.  Why? Because I think that this Year of Mercy showed that God is not far away- His mercy and grace and truth are right there for the taking.  This opportunity for pilgrimage also made my traveling a little more intentional- while on a roadtrip or excursion, we looked for opportunities to stop and visit these churches. This led to finding daily Mass, time for prayer, conversations with parishioners, and other "accidental" holy moments and pauses during the trip. Viewing the stunning and unique architecture and art of each church was a great witness to the beauty and splendor found in our faith.

While the Year of Mercy might be over, and the holy doors closed, this opportunity for a pilgrimage of the heart remains.  The invitational nature of the Jubilee Year still asks us to be "merciful like the Father," and accept his mercy in return.  We can continue to take the time to visit churches, both locally and while traveling, as a way to expose ourselves to beauty and truth.  And we can allow Christ to fully cross the threshold of our heart, which is really the only holy door that matters.

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If you're still reading, and if you're curious what holy doors I traveled to, here's my recap!  Kudos to the beautiful churches that were welcoming to pilgrims with well marked doors, helpful websites, and wide visiting hours.  And many thanks to the traveling companions that were along on my various roadtrips and supported my requests for these special stops- Emily, Luke, Shirley, Rachel, Danielle, Kayla, and Emily. :)

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This was my first holy door, and I got to make a quiet, private visit to the church after a speaking engagement.  That quiet church is probably the only reason I took the time to take a selfie, which is where is all started.  Sacred Heart is just breathtakingly beautiful, and I highly recommend a visit if you are in Peoria.

Made a quick stop here on our way to a concert.  This place hasn't been nicknamed Catholic Disneyland lightly- U of I's Newman Center offers so much for its Catholic students, including this beautiful church.

Visited here on my first trip to Colorado to meet my brand new nephew.  My sister and I went in to the Cathedral to visit the holy door, but we couldn't find it.  Turns out they had a holy gate leading into the church property!

This door was at my sister and her husband's home church, so I actually went through it several times during my visits to see her.  Corpus Christi is such a wonderful parish!

It was May before I made it to the holy door at my own Cathedral.  Due to renovations it was a little more challenging to visit.  I took my class there on a field trip and one of our guides talked to the workers and moved a couple of things so that we could walk through- you can still see the caution sign in the background. :)

Indianapolis marked the first door on my just-out-of-school impromptu roadtrip to the Appalachian Mountains.  Luckily my friend Danielle was up for some stops along the way!

We loved Christ the Kind Cathedral- definitely some super interesting and unique design elements inside the church, always bringing to mind Christ as King with crown designs found throughout the structure.  They also had added glass panels in the vestibule with verses and quotes about mercy that were a neat touch.

This basilica-Wow.  The layers of design were fascinating.  I loved the ceiling and the stained glass and the historical stories of the construction of the church.  Note to parish employees- having a pamphlet or info on the website about the history of the church for visitors (or parishioners) is super welcoming and a fascinating way to encourage connection to the structure that houses your church.

I want to go back and visit Sacred Heart after they finish their new construction project!  While researching the location, I saw their design plans for the new cathedral and they are just breathtaking.  Go visit their website and see the plans!  It was fun to visit the current cathedral and see the new construction side by side.

My favorite part of Incarnation Cathedral in Nashville was the detailed panel ceiling.  Think I could pull that off in a house someday? ;)

This was the beginning of another roundtrip later in the summer with my friend Kayla, and was one of the few churches that I didn't actually get to go inside, but I'm still  "counting" it as a visit.  Assumption Church is just across the street from the state capitol, so we enjoyed the outside of both buildings.

Usually modern architecture is not my favorite, but after reading the story of this cathedral's design, I was totally won over.  The bishop involved in the new construction wanted it modeled after the grain silos that dot the landscape and represent the agricultural backbone of the midwest.

The "Cathedral of the Plains" is my favorite landmark along Interstate 70, and while I've driven past is many times in the past few years on my way back and forth to Colorado, this was only the second time I've been able to stop inside.  I absolutely love the story of the church's construction-how the local farmers worked together to help build what remains an amazing architectural wonder.

Cathedral of the Risen Christ, Lincoln, NE
What can I say?  The blue stained glass in the vestibule of this Cathedral was just stunning.  The outdoor statues and prayer spaces were also lovely.

Regretfully, this was another church where the timing didn't work out to get to go inside.  I want to go back though, because I loved everything about the outer design and detail, so I just have to see the inside!

This trip to LaCrosse wasn't just to visit the holy door- Shirley and Emily and I actually traveled to  meet Dr. Gianna Emanuela Molla, the daughter of one of my favorite Saints, St. Gianna Molla.  She was the sweetest, loveliest lady, and hugging her felt like I was hugging a little bit of heaven.  Having a holy door there to visit just added to the memories.

Also in LaCross is the fabulous Gothic St. Joseph the Workman Cathedral.  We found it "accidentally" after dinner and then planned to go back for Mass in the morning.  The stately structure brings to mind the inside of a ship, so appropriate for the church, our ark in stormy waters.  This was the first time I've seen a church with a large sanctuary and also small sanctuary behind that shared the same altar.  The priest could just turn around and celebrate Mass in the church or the chapel- very unique!

St. Raphael was going to be added to the list of churches I tried to visit at but couldn't get inside.  It had super limited visiting hours, but we stopped anyway just in case.  After walking around and verifying that all the doors were locked, we went back to the front door to take a picture...and found that it was propped open!  The door had definitely been closed a few minutes before, so we accepted it as a little favor from St. Raphael himself and went inside.  I wish that all of the lights had been on so that I could enjoy the exquisite detail of the high altar.  This holy door (the fanciest I saw!) should give you some indication of how pretty the whole church was.

Daylight savings time makes this selfie look like it was taken late at night instead of just late in the afternoon like it really was. I'm glad I was able to get the Diocese of Peoria's great Year of Mercy logo in the background.

And I know I already listed this one, but I think using my own Cathedral as a bookend for this journey is appropriate.  The renovations at St. Mary's in Peoria are complete, and the results are just amazingly wonderful.  Coming to my cathedral always feels a bit like coming home, and now the surrounding beauty just fills me with even more wonder and awe.  I snapped one last holy door selfie there just days before the Year of Mercy drew to a close.

There you have it- 19 doors, 10 states.  It might have been simple, but it was a fun journey.
Did you have the chance to visit any holy doors?  What pilgrimage, big or small, has had an impact on your life?

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

New {Liturgical} Year Resolutions

I don't always set New Year's Resolutions-do you?  I do however like to start something new with the Seasons of Advent and Lent- times that the Church invites us to reset, slow down, and go deeper in our faith.

Advent is my favorite Liturgical Season.  I think its the waiting, the hope, the fulfilled promises.  Last year on the first Sunday of Advent, I decided to formalize something I had been doing in prayer and study already.  I wrote:
"Scripture doodling. That's what I'm calling it anyways.  It helps me focus, helps me memorize, and helps me treasure God's Word.  I often spend time doodling on Sundays using the Sunday Readings from Mass.  Today, as I sat down to pray, I realized that the first Sunday of Advent, the beginning of a new Liturgical Year, is a great time for, well, a new year's resolution.  So I've decided to be a little more intentional about this idea.  I broke out an unused journal, labeled the top of each page with all the coming Sundays this year, and started today.  My goal is to spend time meditating on the Readings for each Sunday for the rest of the year and doodle a selected verse every week.  I'll be documenting the journey each Sunday on Instagram using the hashtag #SundayReadingsScriptureDoodle.  Come follow along, and jump in if you like!"

And I did it!  Each Sunday, I handlettered a verse from one of the Sunday Mass Readings.  The hardest part was often the choosing- there is so much rich text that deciding which verse to use was tough!

It made me slow down and read the Readings both before and after Sunday.  It also helped me ensure that I took time in Scripture each Sunday, which is a busy day for a church employee.

I usually left the notebook open to that page all week, letting myself dwell on that Scripture and memorize a lot of them.  I'm a visual learner, so the images and lettering helped the words stick in my head.

 I also kept a running list of prayer intentions and praises on the back of that week's Scripture doodle.  It was a reminder to pray, and now it remains as a reminder of God's provision.

My notebook traveled all over with me (literally, across the country) and was frequently thrown in my purse or bag.  It survived well, and will stay on my prayer table as something I treasure.  If you're interested, I used a ruled 5 x 8.5 soft cover moleskine (affiliate link).  It had enough pages for each Sunday as long as I used both sides of the heavy coverpages in the front and the back.
(And after some readers asked, a few of my favorite pens include these, these, and these.) (affiliate links)

I saw this as an artistic activity to help me stretch and learn new lettering styles.  But it certainly isn't reserved for the "artistic."  There is something about writing that helps our brain process and remember text. If you want to join in, your own handwriting and favorite pens are enough to doodle and reflect on the verses you choose.

I'm so glad that I made this New Liturgical Year Resolution, and I am ready with a fresh notebook to begin again this Sunday.  I'd love to have you join me!  Sit down, doodle, pray, and reflect on the beauty of the Sunday Mass Readings.  Then snap a photo and tag me or #SundayReadingsScriptureDoodle so I can follow along with your journey!

I just posted a few of my favorites in the photos above.  Here's a montage of all 52 Scripture Doodles.  You can see them all up close on my Instagram account or by searching #SundayReadingsScriptureDoodles. Do you see a favorite?

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Keeping Advent, Advent

I LOVE Advent.  The preparing, the waiting, the hope, the peaceful promise.

Do you want to keep Advent, Advent in your home or classroom?  Here are some ideas for you to use with your kiddos to keep and celebrate the season of Advent:

Looking for music to keep you in the season?  Check out this Advent Song Playlist:

And videos are always a great addition in the classroom:

Make a Peg Doll Nativity:

Or this All Natural Peg Doll Nativity:

And some Animals for a Peg Doll Nativity:

Printable Advent Candles for an Advent Wreath:

What Advent Looks Like printable:
What Christmas Looks Like printable:

Or the whole Liturgical Year coloring book:

Wandering Wise Men: 
An alternate activity to Elf on the Shelf, I used the Wise Men from our classroom Nativity to emphasize the waiting and preparing and seeking that is required of us during Advent.  Click on the images to go to the posts with 15 different ideas.


O Antiphon Coloring Book, Mini Book, and Ornaments:

Seeking our Savior: An Advent Detective Journey based on Scripture, showing how Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled in Christ.  Printable coloring book, Scripture cards, mini craft projects, and a leaders guide.

 Advent Jeopardy Trivia games here and here.

 Party Like a Saint- A December-Saint-Themed Advent Party with crafts and games.

What if they had email?  Youth Group Advent lesson idea putting the Christmas story in a new perspective.

 A Stocking For Jesus: Activities to go along with the book, including some Advent printables.

Nativity Photo Booth, putting all of those Nativity play costumes and props to good use!

Advent Prayer Ring- Great for Youth Groups or Bible Studies:

My Gift- An Epiphany Readers' Theater:

Journaling Coloring Pages for each Sunday of Lent:

How will you be keeping Advent this year?

Linking up with the Siena Sisters Blog Hop- Go check out our landing page for more ideas on keeping Advent, Advent.