Just prior to a summer 2003 family vacation to Disney World, Gail Coniglio had developed a devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe. She made the 3-½ hour trip quite frequently in the summer with her husband and two young children. They always made time for Mass. One year, they went to Mary, Queen of the Universe Shrine in Orlando, which happened to be on the feast of the Queenship of Mary, for which the shrine is named.
“I prayed with my family in this little side chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe. I prayed to the pregnant virgin so that I would become pregnant.”
The following summer, they returned to the shrine to give thanks. Gail was pregnant with her third child.
That first visit inspired Gail to want a statue of Our Lady for her yard. She prayed about it on the way home with her family. The very next day their neighbor called.
“I’ve had this statue of Our Blessed Mother just sitting in my garage for over 10 years,” the neighbor said, “I was just wondering if you would like it?”
It was a powerful witness to prayer that had come through making their Catholic faith a part of vacation.
Typically, summer vacations indulge the senses, open up the world, and promote a good time in the quest of relaxation. Most people don’t associate vacations with a time to grow in our faith. But to be truly refreshed, both physically and spiritually, vacations should also be a time to grow closer to God and family, according to John Hale, a devout Catholic and president of Corporate Travel Service, that is celebrating its 50th year of service in the travel industry this year.
“God created us; he is written in our hearts,” Hale said. “The Holy Spirit dwells in us, so if we rest, we should really rest in him.”
Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI shared this sentiment and made several suggestions about summer vacations during his own vacation at Castel Gandolfo in 2012. He said vacations can be used to renew relationships with family and God, taking time off from our hectic lives to do so. “I would like to recommend that during this time of vacation, you revivify your spirits by contemplating the splendors of Creation,” he said. “…Let us remember that the divine reality is hidden in our daily lives like the seed in the soil.”
Vacations should be a break from the daily distractions.
“During family vacations, it’s important to circle the wagons and be a family–no phones, no TV, no video games,” said Hale whose own five children range in age from fifteen to seven. “It becomes so much easier to get kids off those things because there are much better things to do just getting out into nature.”
Going on an actual pilgrimage for vacation is a way to mix fun with experiencing your faith up close and personal. Hale said he coordinates over 100 religious pilgrimages abroad annually including cruises and trips to Rome and the Church approved apparition sites of Lourdes, France and Fatima, Portugal. Corporate Travel is also planning a special 50 year anniversary trip to Italy this February ( $1,965 to mark their beginning in 1965.). He described such pilgrimages as opportunities to get out of our comfort zone because in addition to seeing religious sites up close, the language, foods and customs are different. “It softens our heart,” said Hale. “We are off guard and much more open and more docile to the Holy Spirit. It is in that physical reality that God can move us along and in our relationship with him.”
“To experience places of significance to the faith, helps children make it concrete so they own it more,” he said. “Pilgrimages also help children to be more easy-going since they learn to roll with things and go with the flow when other people are involved.” Mixing fun with theology and teaching during a pilgrimage is such a seamless mix, according to Hale. “You might be riding a camel one minute and deep in prayer the next. I never met a family who said they did not benefit in travel.”
Pilgrimages don’t have to be exotic or an expensive a trip to Europe. There are many trips in the U.S. you can take and do on your own. For example, a trip to the studios of the Eternal Word Television Network near Birmingham, Alabama and the Eucharistic Pilgrimage they offer to the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville, Alabama makes a wonderful trip for the entire family along beautiful the countryside of the deep South.
Although Corporate Travel specializes in experiential travel such as choir tours and festivals and cruises, taking one-day trips to historical cities such as Montreal and Quebec to visit Catholic holy sites including the shrine of St. Anne de Beaupre can be a wonderful experience for the family.
Easy Ideas to Make Every Vacation Catholic
- Bring holy water. Bless your family and car before starting.
- Start the trip with a prayer for safety and end it with one of thanksgiving.
- Games and conversation are special when everyone is in the car together.
- Pray a rosary while traveling.
- Listen to inspirational CD’s.
- Find the nearest Church where you are staying; stop in and make a visit. Plan ahead for where you will go to Sunday Mass and consider making time for Daily Mass… both at your destination and en route.
- Have the kids take turns doing the daily Mass readings.
- Bring inspirational reading such as the lives of the saints or a good Catholic book you just haven’t had time to read.
- Don’t leave your prayer routine at home. Allow for quiet time to spend with Jesus
- Check out the local shrines.
- Find and listen to Catholic radio in the areas you pass through.
- When enjoying the scenery, marvel at it being part of God’s creation.
- Put together a pilgrimage to visit Catholic shrines or churches.
Whatever you do, and wherever you go this summer, take your faith with you. Vacation is a break from daily routine. By including God, there can be no better rest.
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