Tuesday, July 10, 2012

My FIrst Pilgrimage EVER

My first pilgrimage was today.

I knew that a pilgrimage is not supposed to be predictable. It is about the journey. Journeys take on a life of their own.

Today's journey certainly had a life of its own.

My daughter and I began our day with morning Mass at our parish. In the middle of Mass, I realized that I didn't feel my usual self. I was very sleepy.

That's when I realized that I took my evening medicine (with its soporific side effect) this morning instead of reaching for my over-the-counter allergy pill. Wrong medicine. Definitely the wrong medicine.

I labored through Mass, and we headed back home for some coffee before hitting the road for the Shrine at Starkenburg, Missouri.

We took the scenic route - an hour on the back roads of Missouri. Beautiful, but few bathroom opportunities. Did I mention that I had coffee before this trip?

Finally, we made it to the Shrine.

It was about 11:30. A number of cars were parked in the lot already. It's the second Tuesday of the month, and that means a noon Mass at the Shrine.

We were going to slip in and slip out before Mass - since we had already been to Mass today. So, we found an unlocked door into the chapel and stepped inside. We had noticed a German shepherd dog on the front steps, and when we opened the chapel door, he dashed inside. He was half-way down the aisle before I caught him by the collar and coaxed him out the doors. I was mortified. The faithful who were praying looked at me. I wanted to explain that it wasn't my dog. Really. I have never seen that dog before!

My daughter and I took a deep breath and finally slipped into the back row. As we prayed, the dog whined so loudly that everyone could hear it.

We prayed for our special intentions and decided to visit the Shrine.

There he was. Waiting for us. His tail wagging joyfully. I decided to descend the steps and go into the Shrine alone. My daughter stayed with our new canine companion so that he would not follow me into the holy space. The sign out front reminded visitors to be quiet and reverent. I suspected that meant Fido was not invited inside although there was no front door to keep him from entering.

When I came out of the Shrine and mounted the steps, my daughter informed me that Fido had been nearly impossible to restrain. I told my daughter to go on ahead and pray in the Shrine. Perhaps Fido would stay with me while she prayed.

I didn't want her to miss the chance to pray after everything that went into this pilgrimage.

The dog jerked away from me and bounded down the steps.

People were parking and walking to the church in greater numbers. Once again, I wanted to announce that I did not know this dog at all. I've never seen him before! Honest!

We left after that. Fido stayed behind. Our last glimpse of him was from the parking lot.

Later, I took my daughter to lunch. I asked her what her favorite part of the pilgrimage was. Her face brightened.

"When the dog followed us."

I laughed. I worry too much what people think. And I realized, there was something of value that came out of this journey.

There is something about myself I need to amend.

It doesn't matter if others misunderstand or think they know me when they don't. It doesn't matter if they draw conclusions about me that are far from accurate. I worry too much what people think.

I have only to love God.

Today, God planted a dog at the Shrine. He permitted that dog to enter into His Holy Place and make it half way to the Tabernacle. He inspired that dog to descend the steps to His Holy Shrine.

I think He did all of this to tell me to lighten up.

I'm with my daughter. The dog following us -- that was the best part.


  1. Very nice post Denise. It is always amazing for me how God uses the little things to teach me or show me areas in my life where I could use a little growth. Your thoughts on Fido speak volumes to me too! Thank you & God bless.

  2. Hi Denise! Nice to meet you. I stumbled into your blog when I googled "cloud of witnesses at catholic Mass". The post I found mentioned that St. Teresa of Avila is your biggest fan. I think you're right. When I clicked on your most recent post I read that you went on your first pilgrimage EVER and I knew our paths had crossed for sure... I am on my first pilgrimage ever. In Spain. Tomorrow I will be in Avila. I promise to say a prayer for you and look for a little something to bring home for you. I live in Virginia. God is so good and it's great to be on this journey with you!

    Allison welch

  3. Hi Denise, nice to "meet you". I found your blog when I googled "cloud of witnesses at Catholic Mass." I read there that St. Teresa of Avila is your biggest fan. I think you're right. When I read your most recent post that you are on your first pilgrimage EVER I knew it was divine providence. I too am on my first pilgrimage. Tomorrow I will be in...Avila. I promise to say a prayer for you and look for a little something to bring home for you from St. Teresa. I live in Virgina. It's great to be on this journey with you!