Archive for August, 2022

All right, time for the traditional Where we went, why and where we stayed post.

Except life has changed, so, well, no “we” is involved. That has positive and negatives, which will be the subject of another post. This is more practical.

(Previous travel posts here. It’s not comprehensive, but it’s got most of the big ones of the past few years.)


The focus was New Mexico, with stops along the way in Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas.


I drove because I wanted this to be a more meandering kind of trip, I wanted to take stuff like hiking poles without having to worry about checking luggage, car rental rates and availability are problematic right now, and I bought and paid (completely) for this used 2018 Mazda 3 hatchback two years ago with the intention of driving the hell out of around the country for the next few years.

(Update: I am rethinking that now because of ground clearance issues and the Mazda3. I won’t do anything different for a year – until at least one of the two guys in college gets out – but I did find it limiting – for example, I didn’t go to the Monastery of Christ in the Desert because the way in (and out) is a 13-mile gravel road, which looked, at the beginning at least, more gutted than I’d expected. The car probably would have done fine – well, okay – but the journey would have stressed me out, especially considering what I’d experienced earlier in the week, tire-wise.)

Also – I should add that driving is not a chore for me. I can drive all day, take few breaks (much to the dismay of any passengers) and just….go.

I offer this simply as information that might help random readers plan a similar – or very different – trip.

Where and When:

Sunday, August 21: Drove from Birmingham to Subiaco, Arkansas

Stops: Oxford and Clarksdale, Mississippi

Monday, August 22: Drove from Subiaco to Tucumcari, New Mexico

Stops: Clear Creek Monastery in Oklahoma, Okemah, Oklahoma, and the huge cross off I-40 near Groom, Texas.

Tuesday, August 23: Drove from Tucumcari to Abiquiu, New Mexico

Stop: Santa Rosa, New Mexico, various small missions in New Mexico including San Miguel del Vado – and, of course, Discount Tires in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Wednesday, August 25: Taos.

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Thursday, August 26: Ghost Ranch

Friday, August 27: Towards Taos, again.

Saturday, August 28: Abiquiu to Santa Fe

Mass at Santa Rosa mission ruins, procession honoring St. Rose, tour of O’Keefe home and studio in Abiquiu, Santa Fe Opera

Sunday, August 29: Santa Fe, Las Vegas & Pecos

Monday, August 30: Drove from Santa Fe to Shreveport, Louisiana

Stops: Palo Duro Canyon, Capstone Canyon, Turkey, Texas

Tuesday, August 31: Drove from Shreveport to Birmingham

Stops: Mississippi Welcome Center off I-20 overlooking the river.

Arrived home around 2:30 pm

Where I stayed:

In Subiaco, I stayed at the guesthouse of Subiaco Abbey. It was lovely and perfect. I didn’t do any meals, but you can pay for those and eat in the refectory. Availability of rooms is, of course, dependent on the retreat schedule, but just email the guesthouse, and they will respond very quickly. I’d definitely stay there again.

In Tucumarci, I used the paltry amount of Choice Hotel points I had gathered over the years, and paid $17 for a room at the EconoLodge – it was shockingly clean and updated. I mean, the view was…the view. But the room was absolutely fine.

In Abiquiu, I stayed in this gem, about which I raved here.

In Santa Fe, I stayed at this, through Airbnb – it was nice – albeit with weak internet – and very well located for my purpose – near the Santa Fe Opera. Others might want to be closer to the Plaza and downtown, but I knew I’d be driving back from the opera at night, and I wanted to be close (although..nothing in Santa Fe is very far apart, as I discovered).

Shreveport? Does it matter? A Country Inn and Suites, if you insist. Let’s just say that the area near the Shreveport airport is crowded with hotels, but it’s an extremely sketchy area if that might bother you.

What I ate:

Well, food, of course. My life was not filled with great meals on this trip, mostly because when traveling – well, most of the time – I only eat one meal a day (I don’t do breakfast, for example, unless I’m in a place where there are good bagels and/or I’m with others), and for much of the time, I was in a place with few choices – and then my Santa Fe time was brief and weirdly timed.

But: two good meals I did have were at:

Rancho de Chimayo, near the Chimayo Sanctuary/Shrine – Carne Adovada.


An amazing green chile stew at Cafe Sierra Negra in Abiquiu. I would have returned there the next night, but I didn’t get back into the area until about 7:15, and they close at 7, understandably, but sadly.

I would also like to say that my one goal in travelling through Texas (twice in a week) was to have smoked brisket. It’s all I wanted. But what I discovered is that more barbecue places than you might expect outside of large cities are closed on Mondays – and both days I was in Texas? Mondays. So I was basically out of luck there.

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St. Aidan – August 31

(Also – St. Raymond Nonnatus – about whom I wrote here a couple of years ago.)

Today is the memorial of St. Aidan, the founder of the Lindisfarne Abbey – which we visited just a couple of months ago, recounted here.

What it’s about:

Possibly the holiest site of Anglo-Saxon England, Lindisfarne was founded by St. Aidan, an Irish monk, who came from Iona, the centre of Christianity in Scotland. St Aidan converted Northumbria to Christianity at the invitation of its king, Oswald. St. Aidan founded Lindisfarne Monastery on Holy Island in 635, becoming its first Abbot and Bishop. The Lindisfarne Gospels, a 7th century illuminated Latin manuscript written here, is now in the British Museum.

I also wrote about St. Aidan earlier this year on the occasion of the memorial of the Venerable Bede:

Among other lessons in holy living,Aidan left the clergy a most salutary example of abstinence and continence; it was the highest commendation of his doctrine with all men, that he taught nothing that he did not practise in his life among his brethren; for he neither sought nor loved anything of this world, but delighted in distributing immediately among the poor whom he met whatsoever was given him by the kings or rich men of the world. He was wont to traverse both town and country on foot, never on horseback, unless compelled by some urgent necessity; to the end that, as he went, he might turn aside to any whomsoever he saw, whether rich or poor, and call upon them, if infidels, to receive the mystery of the faith, or, if they were believers, strengthen them in the faith, and stir them up by words and actions to giving of alms and the performance of good works.

His course of life was so different from the slothfulness of our times, that all those who bore him company, whether they were tonsured or laymen, had to study either reading the Scriptures, or learning psalms. This was the daily employment of himself and all that were with him, wheresoever they went; and if it happened, which was but seldom, that he was invited to the king’s table, he went with one or two clerks, and having taken a little food, made haste to be gone, either to read with his brethren or to pray. At that time, many religious men and women, led by his example, adopted the custom of prolonging their fast on Wednesdays and Fridays, till the ninth hour, throughout the year, except during the fifty days after Easter. Never, through fear or respect of persons, did he keep silence with regard to the sins of the rich; but was wont to correct them with a severe rebuke. He never gave money to the powerful men of the world, but only food, if he happened to entertain them; and, on the contrary, whatsoever gifts of money he received from the rich, he either distributed, as has been said, for the use of the poor, or bestowed in ransoming such as had been wrongfully sold for slaves. Moreover, he afterwards made many of those he had ransomed his disciples, and after having taught and instructed them, advanced them to priest’s orders.

It is said, that when King Oswald had asked a bishop of the Scots to administer the Word of faith to him and his nation, there was first sent to him another man of more harsh disposition, who, after preaching for some time to the English and meeting with no success, not being gladly heard by the people, returned home, and in an assembly of the elders reported, that he had not been able to do any good by his teaching to the nation to whom he had been sent, because they were intractable men, and of a stubborn and barbarous disposition.

They then, it is said, held a council and seriously debated what was to be done, being desirous that the nation should obtain the salvation it demanded, but grieving that they had not received the preacher sent to them.

Then said Aidan, who was also present in the council, to the priest in question, “Methinks, brother, that you were more severe to your unlearned hearers than you ought to have been, and did not at first, conformably to the Apostolic rule, give them the milk of more easy doctrine, till, being by degrees nourished with the Word of God, they should be capable of receiving that which is more perfect and of performing the higher precepts of God.” 

Having heard these words, all present turned their attention to him and began diligently to weigh what he had said, and they decided that he was worthy to be made a bishop, and that he was the man who ought to be sent to instruct the unbelieving and unlearned; since he was found to be endued preeminently with the grace of discretion, which is the mother of the virtues. So they ordained him and sent him forth to preach; and, as time went on, his other virtues became apparent, as well as that temperate discretion which had marked him at first.


This ideal is one we encounter over and over in our history. The ideal of absolute commitment to the evangelical counsels on the part of the consecrated, the ideal held up to be lived, as much as possible, by those dwelling in the world as well – to be focused, ultimately, on Christ and let your life reflect, not your own desires, but his love. We strive, we fail, but, as the last part of that passage indicates, we’re gently brought along according to our capabilities, but – with the ideal always in sight, not as judgment, but as a promise. For nothing else we rest our eyes on can promise anything that lasts, can it?

Well, as I said at the beginning – we read history these days, trying to figure out the present in light of the past. Because it’s all there: uncertain times, the threat of collapse and death, looking to earthly idols for solace, the constant struggle to be faithful, religious leaders who might or might not be actually focused on Christ.

And somehow, the answers always end up being the same. Somehow, that always happens, doesn’t it?

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Bags unpacked, laundry done, southwestern dust washed off and vacuumed out of the car, and so here we are:

Yesterday, I drove from Santa Fe, New Mexico to Shreveport, Louisiana, with a few stops on the way. Today I drove to Alabama from Shreveport – a hop, skip and not even a jump. I was open to taking another day along the way initially, but as time went on, I started getting antsy – my usual end-of-trip I hope the house is okay hope the pipes didn’t burst for some reason hope no one broke in…and I just want to get back to make sure everything’s okay.

(I have neighbors who are apprised of my comings and goings and who watch out for me – as I watch out for them – but still. They wouldn’t necessarily know if there was a water issue inside or if someone had broken in. So…I get antsy.)

(Plus September is going to be quite busy, mostly with family-related things, not empty nest shenanigans, and I was also feeling the need to be alone in my house before all of that began.)


So let’s do this. I’ll briefly survey the last couple of days Out West, then tomorrow or the next day, I’ll do my usual summary of where I went, where I stayed, and why. Perhaps I’ll have More Thoughts as well. Excited yet?

Where were we?

Oh yes, Sunday.

Sunday morning, I went to Mass at the Cathedral downtown. It’s quite lovely. I’ll refrain from playing the dreadful Mass Critic game, as well.

(For now. Just know that if in time, you read a post that begins, A few weeks ago, I was at Mass – oh, not here, but somewhere far away – you might be able to connect some dots.

After Mass, I wandered around the Plaza area a bit. My plan had been to go to the Georgia O’Keefe museum directly after Mass, but when I arrived there, I saw a sign sternly telling me that RESERVATIONS ARE REQUIRED.

Oh, okay. Dutifully, I opened up the phone and made the first available reservation – 12:30, and commenced wandering.

Shopping with the Native American vendors who sell at the Palace of Governors, chatting with a few, going into a few shops and then the Loretto Chapel and, of more interest to me, frankly, San Miguel Chapel – the oldest Christian structure in the United States. The story of it is rather interesting – it’s owned, not by the Archdiocese, but by a St. Michael’s High School, which is in turn a Christian Brothers institution.

(The TLM was celebrated there until…well, fill in the blanks. I’m sure you can.)

I was very impressed by the San Miguel situation. It was opened at the designated time, and there was a docent in the chapel, talking, explaining and being very helpful in general – and there was a lot of signage giving the background of the structure as well.

That was great to see – and rare in terms of historic Catholic structures. As you have heard me say too many times before.

Finally – to the O’Keefe museum. I was extremely annoyed (but quietly so) because ahead of me in line when it was time to check in were two women who DID NOT HAVE RESERVATIONS but were allowed admittance anyway. Well, that just goes to show – usually I’m assertive about things like this, and find that it pays – and I guess it would have, as it turns out.

There on the far left is one of the paintings of the black door which I wrote about before. The middle painting, I think, is my favorite of the O’Keefe works to which I’ve been exposed on this trip, especially after seeing the landscape and hearing the docent’s insights about it on the tour last week.

Anyway, the O’Keefe museum is nice, but. It offers a good overview of her life and career, and features one of my favorite of her paintings, but the collection is quite small, especially considering the normal price – $18. Too much – way too much – for the size of the collection.

After this, I got back in my car and decided to finish up what I began on Tuesday, the Day of the Tires – the Pecos National Historical Monument.

I began, though, by going out further, intending to hit Pecos on my way back towards Santa Fe. I went out to Las Vegas, New Mexico, which was supposed to be an interesting little town. There were a few well-reviewed restaurants out there, all of which were either closed or closing by the time I arrived, so oh well, who needs to eat anyway. Not me, for sure.

The downtown area is certainly picturesque in that Western-town kind of way, although most of the storefronts are dusty and empty. Also in that Western-town kind of way. What’s interesting though, is that chunks of the film No Country for Old Men were filmed here – most of the “town” sections – while most of the country sections were filmed around Marfa, Texas. So, for example, the hotel scene was filmed in and around this, yes, hotel.

There was this striking statue in the square, erected for the intentions of those impacted by addiction, especially the mothers of the addicted – Our Lady of Sorrows.

Which is, incidentally, the name of one of the parishes in town, and this was the highlight of my brief Las Vegas trip (no, not that Las Vegas) – the interior of Our Lady of Sorrows parish which was, honestly, breathtaking.

Above the original altar were statues representing the crucifixion, above them were electric lights in a blue painted sky, and behind them, painted on the wall, were other figures associated with the crucifixion narrative – the two thieves, the soldiers and so on. I’m sorry my photo didn’t capture the background, but I found it charming and moving. Cheesy, some might say, and sure. But of a time and place – I’m guessing the 20’s-40’s, since using electricity in this way in churches became popular in the 20’s – of its own, and I am very grateful that the parishioners and ministers of this parish over the years have chosen to keep it as it was. When I opened the door that afternoon, I was surprised by two things: first, that the doors were unlocked – and secondly, at the impact of this tableau. Lovely.

Time to circle back – to Pecos this time, at last, with just a bit of PTSD as my emotions revisited the place of the Tire Bubble. It was a relatively quick walk around the site, with the typically excellent NPS signage, respectful of all the cultures and tensions represented here.

Before leaving the area, a quick trip up to the gates of the Pecos Monastery – had to! A monastery! But I didn’t attempt to visit because it was getting late. Pecos was famous back in the day for being one of the centers of the Catholic Charismatic Movement in the US. I don’t know what it’s like now, but at least it’s still there!

I knew I’d want to do computer work when I got back, but as I’d discovered, the internet in my rental was not great. It was in a nice part of town, and the place was good, but they had my internet operating off of a booster from the main house, and it just wasn’t enough.

So, thank you Whole Foods, for having a place where I could work and have a beer without feeling like I was taking up unwarranted space. Me and the three young women, whom I suspect were studens at St. John’s because they were studying the Odyssey and cursing up a storm as they did so, incidentally. It was…entertaining.

Let’s finish this up.

Monday morning, time to get going and head back east. Good-bye, cute casita with the bad internet!

I won’t bore you with my thought processes during the Day of Driving – let’s just say that while Shreveport was a general goal, I had no place in particular in mind to stay, and, depending on how the day went, actually contemplated…going the whole way home. Seriously.

But no, that didn’t happen. I did make a couple of wonderful stops – they were brief, but satisfying.

First, Palo Duro Canyon.

Miles and miles of the landscape on the left..then…BOOM.

Looky there. It’s a whole in the ground.

It’s the second-largest canyon in the United States (you can guess the first), and a state park, south of Amarillo. I didn’t go to the state park, having read that good views of the canyon could be had by driving on 207 between Claude and Silverton. It would add time to my drive, but it’s all about the journey, isn’t it?

Since I wouldn’t be hiking or dawdling, I decided the drive would be good enough – and it was. A beautiful descent and ascent into the canyon, a drive popular with motorcyclists for obvious reasons.

Continuing just a few miles east of Silverton, I arrived at Quitaque (pronunciation helpfully offered on the sign) and the short road up to Capstone Canyon State Park. I thought this canyon was even prettier than Palo Duro – plus it has the official Bison Herd of Texas or something, and prairie dogs. It would be a great canyon in which to hike – but not on a late August day when it was 95 degrees and you were the only person in sight in the whole park except for an older couple that had just parked their RV in one of the campsites, after a lengthy discussion with the visitors’ center attendant about which spot would have the best views.

And just a few miles beyond that was Turkey, Texas, hometown of Bob Wills. And don’t you forget it!

After that point, I only got out of the car once – to get gas somewhere north of Fort Worth – until Shreveport, and I’m telling you, when I did emerge in Shreveport and enter my hotel room, I have never felt such a dramatic change in atmosphere. After being out west for a week, I walked into that room and thought Why is everything WET?

It was weird and not pleasant.


Here’s a nice view of the Mississippi River from the I-20 Welcome Center.

Of course, I have reflections on various aspects of this trip, including the meta-empty-nest aspect, but guys, let me just upload these photos and call it a night, okay?

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St. Jeanne Jugan – August 30

Of the many saints we could celebrate today, she’s the one I’ll pick. 

She is the foundress of the Little Sisters of the Poor.

J.D. Flynn has a good section on her in today’s edition of The Pillar. 

Years ago, I wrote a reflection based on a homily I heard preached at Casa Maria. It relates to St. Jeanne Jugan:

The retreat master this past weekend was a Discalced Carmelite and the retreat was for Third-Order Carmelites (ah…that explains the big scapulars. Got it.) . He preached a very good homily tying together the Scriptures, the canonization of the saints that had taken place that day (he was quick enough to look up the Holy Father’s homily so he could quote from it at 11am Mass),  and, well, life.

What struck me about his homily was his description of three of the newly canonized – St. Damien, St. Jeanne Jugan, and St. Rafael Arnaiz Baron, as “outcasts” of a sort: St. Damien for his life among the lepers; St. Jeanne Jugan because of her removal as superior of the community she founded, and St. Rafael because of his health problems (diabetes), which prohibited him from joining the Trappists in the way he had hoped (he was able to become an Oblate, but not a brother or priest)

Sell all you have and give the money to the poor.

Give it all up – everything you have. Everything.

Pope Benedict’s homily:

“What must I do to inherit eternal life?” This is the question that opens the brief dialogue we heard in the Gospel, between a man, identified elsewhere as the rich young man, and Jesus (cf Mk 10:17-30). We do not have very many details about this nameless character: all the same from the little we do have we are able to perceive his sincere desire to attain eternal life by living an honest and virtuous existence on earth. In fact he knows the commandments and has obeyed them since childhood. And yet all of this, while important, is not sufficient — says Jesus — there is one thing missing, but it is an essential thing. Seeing then that he is willing, the Divine Master looks at him with love and proposes the qualitative leap, he calls him to the heroism of sanctity, he asks him to abandon everything and follow him: “Sell what you own and give the money to the poor…then come, follow me!” (V. 21).

“Then come, follow me!” This is the Christian vocation that flows from a proposal of love by the Lord, and that can be realized only thanks to our loving reply. Jesus invites his disciples to the total giving of their lives, without calculation or personal gain, with unfailing trust in God. The saints welcome this demanding invitation and set about following the crucified and risen Christ with humble docility. Their perfection, in the logic of a faith that is humanly incomprehensible at times, consists in no longer placing themselves at the center, but choosing to go against the flow and live according to the Gospel.

More on St. Jeanne Jugan, including the time Charles Dickens met her:

Jeanne chose the name Sister Mary of the Cross but was commonly known as Mother Marie of the Cross. She would often say, “the poor are Our Lord.” Locals began to call her humble sisters and their hospitality efforts, the Little Sisters of the Poor. 

In 1851 a small group of Little Sisters crossed the English Channel to establish the first home outside France, in a London suburb. Spain was next, followed by Belgium, Ireland, North Africa and North America. In just the last decade, new homes for the elderly have opened in India, Peru, and the Philippines. 

Like the grain of what that falls to the earth and dies, Jeanne’s life has produced great fruit that continues today—but she was not always honored or appreciated during her life.  One day a new priest who was put in charge of the young congregation decided to replace Jeanne as superior and place her in retirement without any say in the decision.  While others protested what was viewed as an injustice, Jeanne simply accepted it as the will of God, and went about begging for contributions to support the growing order. The priest was later removed by the Holy See in 1890. Jeanne told her sisters, “We are grafted into the cross and we must carry it joyfully unto death.” When she died 27 years later, few of the young Little Sisters even knew that she was the foundress.

Once after meeting Jeanne Jugan, Charles Dickens said, “there is in this woman something so calm, and so holy, that in seeing her I know myself to be in the presence of a superior being. Her words went straight to my heart, so that my eyes, I know not how, filled with tears.”  

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That’s about all you get today:

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Holy Reminders

It’s what they call them over EWTN way down the road – you know, religious statues, pictures and other geegaws. 

Here’s a good one for your prayer corner.

From the Museo de Bellas Artes in Seville, during our 2019 visit. And yes, yes, yes – today’s Sunday. But it’s also August 29, so there you go – the Beheading of St. John the Baptist.

From B16, in 2012

This last Wednesday of the month of August is the liturgical Memorial of the martyrdom of St John the Baptist, the Precursor of Jesus. In the Roman Calendar, he is the only saint whose birth and death, through martyrdom, are celebrated on the same day (in his case, 24 June). Today’s Memorial commemoration dates back to the dedication of a crypt in Sebaste, Samaria, where his head had already been venerated since the middle of the fourth century. The devotion later extended to Jerusalem, both in the Churches of the East and in Rome, with the title of the Beheading of St John the Baptist. In the Roman Martyrology reference is made to a second discovery of the precious relic, translated for the occasion to the Church of San Silvestro in Campo Marzio, Rome.


These small historical references help us to understand how ancient and deeply-rooted is the veneration of John the Baptist. His role in relation to Jesus stands out clearly in the Gospels. St Luke in particular recounts his birth, his life in the wilderness and his preaching, while in today’s Gospel St Mark tells us of his dramatic death. John the Baptist began his preaching under the Emperor Tiberius in about 27-28 A.D., and the unambiguous invitation he addressed to the people, who flocked to listen to him, was to prepare the way to welcome the Lord, to straighten the crooked paths of their lives through a radical conversion of heart (cf. Lk 3:4).

However, John the Baptist did not limit himself to teaching repentance or conversion. Instead, in recognizing Jesus as the “Lamb of God” who came to take away the sin of the world (Jn 1:29), he had the profound humility to hold up Jesus as the One sent by God, drawing back so that he might take the lead, and be heard and followed. As his last act the Baptist witnessed with his blood to faithfulness to God’s commandments, without giving in or withdrawing, carrying out his mission to the very end. In the 9th century the Venerable Bede says in one of his Homilies: “St John gave his life for [Christ]. He was not ordered to deny Jesus Christ, but was ordered to keep silent about the truth” (cf. Homily 23: CCL 122, 354). And he did not keep silent about the truth and thus died for Christ who is the Truth. Precisely for love of the truth he did not stoop to compromises and did not fear to address strong words to anyone who had strayed from God’s path.

We see this great figure, this force in the Passion, in resistance to the powerful. We wonder: what gave birth to this life, to this interiority so strong, so upright, so consistent, spent so totally for God in preparing the way for Jesus? The answer is simple: it was born from the relationship with God, from prayer, which was the thread that guided him throughout his existence. John was the divine gift for which his parents Zechariah and Elizabeth had been praying for so many years (cf. Lk 1:13); a great gift, humanly impossible to hope for, because they were both advanced in years and Elizabeth was barren (cf. Lk 1:7); yet nothing is impossible to God (cf. Lk 1:36). The announcement of this birth happened precisely in the place of prayer, in the temple of Jerusalem, indeed it happened when Zechariah had the great privilege of entering the holiest place in the temple to offer incense to the Lord (cf. Lk 1:8-20). John the Baptist’s birth was also marked by prayer: the Benedictus, the hymn of joy, praise and thanksgiving which Zechariah raises to the Lord and which we recite every morning in Lauds, exalts God’s action in history and prophetically indicates the mission of their son John: to go before the Son of God made flesh to prepare his ways (cf. Lk 1:67-79).

The entire existence of the Forerunner of Jesus was nourished by his relationship with God, particularly the period he spent in desert regions (cf. Lk 1:80). The desert regions are places of temptation but also where man acquires a sense of his own poverty because once deprived of material support and security, he understands that the only steadfast reference point is God himself. John the Baptist, however, is not only a man of prayer, in permanent contact with God, but also a guide in this relationship. The Evangelist Luke, recalling the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples, the Our Father, notes that the request was formulated by the disciples in these words: “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his own disciples” (cf. Lk 11:1).

Dear brothers and sisters, celebrating the martyrdom of St John the Baptist reminds us too, Christians of this time, that with love for Christ, for his words and for the Truth, we cannot stoop to compromises. The Truth is Truth; there are no compromises. Christian life demands, so to speak, the “martyrdom” of daily fidelity to the Gospel, the courage, that is, to let Christ grow within us and let him be the One who guides our thought and our actions. However, this can happen in our life only if we have a solid relationship with God. Prayer is not time wasted, it does not take away time from our activities, even apostolic activities, but exactly the opposite is true: only if we are able to have a faithful, constant and trusting life of prayer will God himself give us the ability and strength to live happily and serenely, to surmount difficulties and to witness courageously to him. St John the Baptist, intercede for us, that we may be ever able to preserve the primacy of God in our life. Thank you.

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Coming to you from Whole Foods….

Well, for the first time on this trip, I’m staying at a place with less-than optimal internet, which is ironic since this is the most expensive place in which I’ve stayed (which is not saying a whole lot, but still. It’s in a somewhat chi-chi part of town and the owner has the rental casita on a booster from the main house. Even if I plant myself right next to the contraption, photos still don’t load. Let’s see if Whole Foods comes through.)

Update: It did.

(And you wonder – why not just wait until tomorrow? Because I don’t know where I’ll be tomorrow – I may not have internet all day, at all – and I don’t want a huge backload of this type of writing. I have other things I need/want to do when I get home.)

Saturday morning was my last morning in the lovely, perfect Tiny House outside of Abiquiu, New Mexico. Here’s the listing – it’s not on the normal rental sites, but on a site geared more towards campers. Hipcamp features campsites, yes, but also lists lodgings that are perhaps on campsites (yurts, cabins, treehouses) and spots like this. It’s also on VRBO. I do believe that the gentleman who owns the property built the house and probably designed it as well. It’s cunning, smart, and cozy – and as you can see, the location can’t be beat.

Good-bye Tiny House!

I cleaned up, packed up and headed out to Mass.



As I mentioned somewhere – perhaps it was on Instagram – I’d discovered a couple of days before that since this parish, now St. Thomas the Apostle, was originally founded as St. Rose of Lima in the colonial period, her feastday (which was Monday) is celebrated with a fiesta, that begins with Mass in the ruins of the original mission.

Not something I’m going to miss, amiright?

There were probably 75 people there, mostly Hispanic. The Mass was in English, with all music in Spanish and the Agnus Dei in Latin. The priest was Vietnamese. It was a lovely Mass, in a beautiful, moving setting.

I was standing in the back, and there were probably twenty people behind and around me.

Followed by a procession – not Eucharistic, but with images of St. Rose and the Blessed Virgin – into town. It was escorted by folks on horseback and the fire department. It’s about a two mile journey, and I wasn’t going to walk it, so while I waited, I headed down to the Chamo River for a bit of a break.

The procession arrived – my position was from the parking lot of the famed Bode’s General Store – which is the main shopping stop in Abiquiu.

Up to the fiesta. The church, St. Thomas was open, so of course I took a look. As you can see, it’s peppered with images of both St. Thomas and St. Rose.

I understand the mayordomo is a common role in churches down here. Don’t you think it’s a good idea to have an official parish mayordomo instead of the unofficial jockeying for the spot that’s inevitable anyway?

To cap off an already very interesting morning, I discovered that the O’Keefe house and studio was doing special tours from 1-3. Abiquiu residents were free, and non-residents were asked to give a suggested $20 donation, which would then go to benefit the church. I’m in!

It was not the full tour, of course – more of a walk through with a docent, who gave the basics, but didn’t go in depth. I didn’t get any photo of her studio because there were a few people in there already. But I did get photos of her perfect mid-century mod sitting room – the rocks on her window sill are just part of O’Keefe’s rock collection, which she enjoyed rearranging and studying. The black door is a subject she painted quite a bit.

The setting is….unbelievable. And yes, inspiring.

And remember, it’s just around the corner from the Penitente Morada.

Time to hit the road south to Santa Fe. I stopped in Romero’s fruit stand to pick up some chile powder and some chili-sprinkled dried fruit, then kept going. My rental wouldn’t be ready until 4, so I continued to the Plaza, walked around a bit, got my bearings, saw the Cathedral exterior, where folks were arriving for Mass. Then back up to the rental, through clothes in the washing machine, and then….to the opera!

This was the last night of the season for the Santa Fe Opera, which is performed, of course, in this quite stunning setting, open to the west, so the setting sun provides a backdrop for at least part of the evening, and then twinkling lights for the rest. It’s a gorgeous place.

As I considered attending this performance, I noted that tickets were somewhat scarce, and of course, not cheap. I was willing to pay a couple hundred bucks for the tickets, but then read somewhere about standing room tickets – for $15. How to get them? It’s not on the website. Are they available just on the day? Is it a lottery? What’s up? So, I did the radical thing – called the box office.

“Oh, you can buy them now, over the phone,” she said.

Well, that’s a done deal, then.

There are maybe two dozen standing room spaces, and understand this is not a Globe Groundlings situation where you’re just standing in a crowd. There’s a designated area all along the back of the Orchestra seats – the mixing board is in the middle – with stands on which you can lean, and which also have the little translation screens. Really – I would definitely do it again.

I’m especially glad that I only paid $15 because…wow, this production was not good. This review expresses my reaction in a much more knowledgeable way than I could manage. It just did not work, although the second act was better than the first.

But you know what? It was 12 minutes from my rental, and hearing the singing and the music in that setting for that price is not something I’m going to complain about.

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St. Augustine – August 28

Yes, it’s Sunday, but today, of course, is his feastday.

Pope Benedict XVI was a great student of Augustine, and devoted many public addresses to him, starting with five general audience talks.

January 9, 2008

January 16

January 30

February 20

February 27

But there is a last step to Augustine’s journey, a third conversion, that brought him every day of his life to ask God for pardon. Initially, he thought that once he was baptized, in the life of communion with Christ, in the sacraments, in the Eucharistic celebration, he would attain the life proposed in the Sermon on the Mount: the perfection bestowed by Baptism and reconfirmed in the Eucharist. During the last part of his life he understood that what he had concluded at the beginning about the Sermon on the Mount – that is, now that we are Christians, we live this ideal permanently – was mistaken. Only Christ himself truly and completely accomplishes the Sermon on the Mount. We always need to be washed by Christ, who washes our feet, and be renewed by him. We need permanent conversion. Until the end we need this humility that recognizes that we are sinners journeying along, until the Lord gives us his hand definitively and introduces us into eternal life. It was in this final attitude of humility, lived day after day, that Augustine died.

This attitude of profound humility before the only Lord Jesus led him also to experience an intellectual humility. Augustine, in fact, who is one of the great figures in the history of thought, in the last years of his life wanted to submit all his numerous works to a clear, critical examination. This was the origin of the Retractationum (“Revision”), which placed his truly great theological thought within the humble and holy faith that he simply refers to by the name Catholic, that is, of the Church. He wrote in this truly original book: “I understood that only One is truly perfect, and that the words of the Sermon on the Mount are completely realized in only One – in Jesus Christ himself. The whole Church, instead – all of us, including the Apostles -, must pray everyday: Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us” (De Sermone Domini in Monte, I, 19, 1-3).

Augustine converted to Christ who is truth and love, followed him throughout his life and became a model for every human being, for all of us in search of God. This is why I wanted to ideally conclude my Pilgrimage to Pavia by consigning to the Church and to the world, before the tomb of this great lover of God, my first Encyclical entitled Deus Caritas Est. I owe much, in fact, especially in the first part, to Augustine’s thought. Even today, as in his time, humanity needs to know and above all to live this fundamental reality: God is love, and the encounter with him is the only response to the restlessness of the human heart; a heart inhabited by hope, still perhaps obscure and unconscious in many of our contemporaries but which already today opens us Christians to the future, so much so that St Paul wrote that “in this hope we were saved” (Rom 8: 24). I wished to devote my second Encyclical to hope, Spe Salvi, and it is also largely indebted to Augustine and his encounter with God.

In a beautiful passage, St Augustine defines prayer as the expression of desire and affirms that God responds by moving our hearts toward him. On our part we must purify our desires and our hopes to welcome the sweetness of God (cf. In I Ioannis 4, 6). Indeed, only this opening of ourselves to others saves us. Let us pray, therefore, that we can follow the example of this great convert every day of our lives, and in every moment of our life encounter the Lord Jesus, the only One who saves us, purifies us and gives us true joy, true life.

In April 2007, he made a visit to Pavia, where Augustine’s tomb is located (see below), and his talks related to the saint during that voyage are on this page.

Augustine lived in the first person and explored to their depths the questions that man carries in his heart, and investigated his capacity to open himself to the infinity of God.

From Notre Dame’s John Cavadini:

(In this lecture – offered as part of Notre Dame’s pre-home game “Saturday with the Saints” series – Cavadini begins by explaining what the phrase “hermeneutic of suspicion” means – and then explores Augustine’s understanding of pride and humility: Augustine, he says, reminds us to embrace a “hermeneutic of suspicion” towards ourselves, first, our motivations and then the culture at large, by judging whether they are rooted in pride or humble gratitude – which is the foundation of praise – to God. )

Study of the Head of St. Augustine, for the painting of the Madonna and Child with Saint Augustine and Bonifacius (1846), Eduard Jakob von Steinle (Austrian, Vienna 1810–1886 Frankfurt am Main), Graphite, pink wash, and white bodycolor

Augustine drily comments in a sermon that the Cross is the Incarnate Word’s chaired professorship, the place from which he teaches as magister, and yet there are not many would-be educational leaders vying for that particular Chair, which, I suppose, could be called the Word-Made-Flesh Professorship of Suffering Love and Compassionate Self-Gift, endowed not with cash but with blood. Can we listen, Augustine asks us, to Professor Jesus? Can we afford to let that love seep into our own closed hearts? And suddenly, out of gratitude for the sacrifice of love, for something so beautiful, we, in love with something completely non-prestigious, non-excellent as we have come to construe and constrain it, blurt out “Thank you! Thank you, thank you, thank you!” “You burst my bonds asunder, and to you will I offer a sacrifice of praise”—a sacrifice that extends not only to my lips and my heart but becomes a “Thank you” that even enters “all my bones” so that even they cry out the question, “Who is like you, O Lord?” And then he answers, “I am your salvation.” And then, maybe even we reply:

Late have I loved you, Beauty ever ancient and ever new, Late have I loved you! . . . You called, shouted, broke through my deafness; you flared, blazed, banished my blindness; you lavished your fragrance, I gasped, and now I pant for you; I tasted you, and I hunger and thirst; you touched me, and I burned for your peace (Confessions, 10.xx).

As I tediously remind you every time I highlight these GA talks on the Fathers or the Apostles, I wrote study guides for both collections that are both available as free pdfs.

The Apostles

The Fathers.

(Since both the talks and the study guides are available at not cost- well, there’s your no-cost adult ed discussion group, if you like.)

Here are the pages on Augustine.

He’s in the Loyola Kids Book o’ Saints, under “Saints are people who help us understand God.” The first two pages:


In 2011, we went to Milan, where we saw two Augustine-related sites. First, 

In the crypt of the Duomo – the baptistry where St. Ambrose baptized St. Augustine:

"amy welborn"

"amy welborn"

The site was apparently discovered during excavations for the M1 Metro line, and there’s a door through which you can see a passageway to the Metro and busy travelers, if they bother, can also see in:

We took a day trip to Pavia, which was wonderful. I love how in Europe, you can hop on the train, ride for 30 minutes, and emerge into a new little city, fully of its own history, culture and traditions. 

Augustine’s tomb is in Pavia – yes. (Monica’s is in Rome). No photos inside, but here’s the exterior of the church. 

How did his remains get to Pavia? Quite a story, that. It’s here. 

More photos of Pavia from that website here. 

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St. Monica – August 27

Today is St. Monica’s day. She’s in the Loyola Kids Book of Saints, in the section, “Saints are people who love their families.”

Me on St. Monica in Living Faith in 2014:
We may not all be mothers, as Monica was, but we all have had one. Our relationships with our mothers might be terrible or beautiful, or somewhere in an in-between place: bewildering, regretful and hopeful. Desire lies at the heart of our mistakes and successes as parents, caretakers and children. Monica desired her son Augustine’s salvation, and Augustine yearned for a love that would not die. Around and around they went. What is it I desire for others? Is it that, above all, they find authentic, lasting joy?

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My favorite thing about Wide Open Spaces is the sight of rain in the distance. Lots of that today.

Not because of it, but just because I needed to, I took most of the day for writing and catching up, not venturing out until 3-ish. At which point I got back on the high road to Taos, intending to make a couple of stops at places I’d missed the first time, and then going to the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge – then circling back down this way.

Well, I didn’t make all the stops because I was trying to outmaneuver those thunder clouds much of the time. I enjoy watching them, but I didn’t particularly want to be in them. I don’t begrudge them their rain at all – they need it badly, and it’s great to see the “Forest Fire Risk” gauges at “low,” which they are right now.

So not a lot of photos today. But:

From my front porch this morning.

Then at the bridge, there was a huge storm that I’d skirted while driving, but reached Taos while I was there. My poor photography can’t capture it, but it was massive, with lots of lightening – quite fascinating to watch – from a distance.

The bridge is the…fifth highest in the US.

On the way up, a stop this establishment in Dixon – it seems like a good place to shop and get quality food. The folks I saw in and around reinforced my sense of the artsy/boho/alternative quality of the demographic around here. I just grabbed a pastry from, I think, a Santa Fe bakery. Ah yes – this one. If I had a freezer, I would have definitely gotten a loaf of the green chile bread.

Then closer to home (for one more night) in El Rito, a church and…something else.

That’s it, that’s all, watch out for that rain!

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