Kevin’s Travel Blog-7: Catching Up

Hello Everyone! It has been a week since my last update and I apologize for the delay in posting. Events have moved quickly and I simply could not find the time to devote to writing the latest on my journeys.

Since my last post I finished my time in St. Louis and then travelled up to Wisconsin. From there I went to Libertyville/Marytown, Illinois then to the South Bend, Indiana area. Today I arrived in Cincinnati where I am staying with friends until early next week.

After thinking about the more recent destinations of my road trip, I have decided to keep the details to a minimum. They have been intensely spiritual and deeply meaningful. Thus I shall refrain from an in-depth recounting.

On Tuesday, June 14th, I did get out to see my friend “BK.” We went to a restaurant called O’Leary’s in Sappington, Missouri where we stayed until midnight (about 3 hours). BK brought another friend of his for the fellowship and conversation.

Let me tell you about said conversation—it was quite a HOOT! BK’s friend was quite straightforward in relaying his thoughts on various topics of interest in Catholicism. I am happy to have had the pleasure of making his acquaintance. I may not have known this gentleman prior to being introduced to him, but this is part of what my road trip is all about—God, faith, friends, fellowship, and the experience of being on the road.

I left St. Louis the next morning (Wednesday) at exactly 7 p.m. CT. It was a quick goodbye to my hosts as they were off to work. The trip to Wisconsin took about 7 hours—yes, seven hours. I stopped only once for gas around Exit 1 (I think it was in Wisconsin, but it might have been the last exit in Illinois on the border). There was no “Welcome to Wisconsin” sign, a fact which sort of irked me as I am making it a point to locate such signs as I drive past them.

At any rate, I made it to Wisconsin in one piece between 2-2:30 p.m. I stayed at the Mt. Tabor Retreat Center. It has been about five years since last I saw it. Walking around the center brought back so many memories. Joining me in this walk down memory lane was a friend from Minnesota who braved the long road just to come over and see me.

As a point of etiquette, I wanted to make sure that my friend arrived after I did. I was delayed in getting to the center and so we arrived at roughly the same time. I am grateful to my friend who had to deal with my travels down memory lane whilst becoming oriented to the area and seeing me. It was not a small amount of patience and for that I am grateful.

My friend and I had a nice dinner together (LCHF-friendly, of course) later that evening and a good conversation. We were both tired from our respective travels. I stayed up a little later though and retired around 10 or 11 p.m. I was up somewhere around 6 a.m. and made breakfast for my friend and a few other people who were at the center.

Shortly thereafter, my friend and I went to the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Champion, WI. We attended Mass, went to the gift shop and stopped by their relatively new coffee house. I found a few gems in the gift shop. We also went down to the apparition room which houses the spot where Our Lady appeared to Adele Brise.

There is a priest in the Diocese of Green Bay (which has jurisdiction over the Shrine) named Fr. Edward Looney. He is a self-described “Marian Enthusiast” and fellow member of the Mariological Society of America. The Shrine now carries some of his books and I managed to find one and took a picture with it. He was in France at the time and so I posted the picture on Facebook.

KJS_Looney-2

 

Please note that the Internet signal at the Shrine is not all that good. Yeah…just saying. Since one is there to pray, this is not an issue anyway.

My friend and I drove back to the center where we had a fairly quiet afternoon talking with the retreat center directors. My friend then left to head back home. After saying goodbye, I went out to dinner with some folks at the retreat center and then went to visit other friends who live in the area and whom I have not seen in three years. Stupidly, though I’m sure the great city of Appleton does not mind, I paid a parking meter after 6 p.m. when I did not have to do so.

From this particular visit I went back to the center where I retired for the evening after talking with the folks at the retreat center. The next day I was up somewhere between 5 and 6 a.m. to make ready for my impending departure. After taking care of some details, I had to run out for an errand or two, then go see another friend and her husband. Regretfully, it was a quick meeting as my time was running short. I had to be back by noon at the retreat center.

Long story short, I did get back to the retreat center around 12 or 12:15. I put my stuff by the door and said my goodbyes, though the directors were not in at that time. By 12:45 I was on the road once more, heading for Libertyville, Illinois to attend a retreat for the American Oblates of the Monastery of St. Benedict in Norcia, Italy. The retreat was held at the National Shrine of St. Maximilian Kolbe, a.k.a. “Marytown.”

This retreat is personal and so I shall not go into many details. It suffices to say that I arrived in Marytown at 3:15 p.m. The grounds were stunning, both interiorly and exteriorly. I had never been in Marytown before and did not know what to expect. It was surprising for me to see all of the, what I shall call, “Catholic eye candy.” Statues, pictures, paintings, woodwork were all features of Marytown. I was taken by the beauty of the place.

The Prior of the Norcia monastery, Fr. Cassian Folsom, O.S.B., was the retreat master. 15-20 Oblates were treated to a 4-conferences retreat on prayer, a rather full complement of the various monastic offices, and, of course, a lot of Latin and Gregorian Chant. For Holy Mass, the usus antiquior and usus recentior were celebrated in the Mater Dolorosa chapel.

Quick story: on Sunday morning a woman came up to me in the dining room and inquired about my group. She wanted to know if we were going to be celebrating Mass in the main chapel. She had heard the Gregorian Chant and was quite taken by it. Such is the beauty of the Chant and it changes people’s lives. We were blessed to have both Fr. Cassian and Dr. Peter Kwasniewski who have good voices for the Chant.

On Sunday the 19th, I left Libertyville after having a nice and unexpected conversation with two of the Franciscan Friars and another guest. I arrived at my next destination—around South Bend, Indiana—around 6:40 p.m. Eastern time (I was now in the Eastern Time Zone). Here I stayed with another good friend until earlier today.

While in South Bend I had the pleasure of many excellent conversations on all things Catholic. Some of these will be with me forever. Good friends, good food and good company. People may never know the blessing of such good friends and I am grateful to God for such people. One of them arranged for me to give a talk on the Prayer to St. Michael at a house in the South Bend area used by the Society of Christian Doctrine (St. George Preca).

 

We were at the house until around 10:30/11 p.m. and then I returned to my host’s house where I was up until 2:20 or so with more conversations. Amazingly enough, I was up 4 hours later and getting ready to head out the door for my trip to Cincinnati where I am currently writing this entry. I will be around until early next week, so if you know me and are in the area, drop me a line and we can try to meet!

Alrighty, dear readers, that is about it for this post! I enter into some further serious time during my ongoing road trip. It’s now the second half and we plow-on! Here’s to faith, friends, food, and fellowship!!

-Kevin J. Symonds