We are embarking on a pilgrimage – yes, a trek on the Saint James Way (El Camino de Santiago), but a journey bookended by the famous Marian apparitions at Lourdes, France and Fatima, Portugal.  Map  As many Catholics do, I have a special affinity for Mary, our Mother!

On New Year’s Day of this year (the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary) our pastor, Father Ed Oen CPPS offered several comments about Mary that made me think about the pilgrimage that we were planning.  From his sermon:  “… Mary looked back on her life and she also looked forward with hope and trust in God to what was to be.”  …  “She didn’t know what God had in store for her.”  …  “As we look ahead, we cannot see forward, but we know God is with us.”  …  “Each of us will be on a spiritual journey in 2017.  There will be many ordinary days and some extraordinary ones.”  Obviously, Father’s words were part of a larger message, but these specific lines seemed to especially ring true on this pilgrimage that we were beginning to plan at that time.  So, a great message to start the year, and words to keep in mind as we journey forward on this pilgrimage.  Thank you Father Oen!

Because I am possibly addressing a fairly wide audience, I wanted to offer some additional background information.       Mary appeared to Bernadette in Lourdes (southern France) in 1858.  Interestingly, and coincidentally, that is the same year that Saint Benedict’s College was founded in Atchison, Kansas.  You see, just three years before, Peter Henry Lemke OSB came to Kansas and in 1857 St. Benedict’s Abbey was established in Atchison.  It was in 1859 that Fr. Edmund Langenfelder OSB, a Benedictine monk, came to Wildcat (St. Benedict) in Nemaha County to bring the sacraments and say the first Mass for the immigrants from Germany and Ireland.  The Benedictine monks brought the Catholic faith to our area, and faithfully and continuously (with a few very short exceptions) served our parish of St. Mary’s and our community from 1859 until 2009.  In addition, the nuns from Mount Saint Scholastica also faithfully and continuously served in our school (and area schools) from 18×9 to about 2014.  I, for one, will be eternally grateful for both the monks and the nuns instilling in our ancestors and us our Catholic faith and Benedictine values.

 As most of you know, the grotto in St. Benedict is fashioned with the grotto in Lourdes in mind.  In addition, the Benedictine College campus also has a beautiful grotto that is fashioned after Lourdes.   For this reason, I wanted to begin our journey there, in Lourdes.  For additional information, you might wish to check out this link – http://www.catholicpilgrims.com/lourdes/bg_lourdes_conception.htm

Ultimately, after finishing the Saint James Way, we intend to culminate our trip by visiting Fatima.  Mary appeared to three children; Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta in 1917.  Thus, we will visit Fatima, Portugal on this 100th year anniversary!!  For additional information, you might wish to check out this link – http://www.theholyrosary.org/fatimaapparitions

We are taking many of you along with us – in our thoughts and in our prayers!  Please pray for us too, as we make this pilgrimage for not only ourselves but also you!

So awesome!!  We can’t wait to get started!