May 13, 2005

Faithful Lines / Shirley Vogler Meister

Savoring unexpected and good traveling

Shortly before submitting my Feb. 25 column to TheCriterion—in which I shared how my husband, Paul, and I had not traveled much in recent years—an opportunity arose for us to do just that. Our eldest daughter, Donna, invited us to join her family in April in Santa Fe, N.M., where her husband was attending professional ­conferences.

Just before our departure last month, Paul and I prayed for safety during the ­17-day auto trip, and I asked God to allow spring to precede us everywhere. It did, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas and Illinois were beautiful, but when we returned home, Indiana surpassed them all.

Visiting relatives and friends and out-of-the-way places highlighted our time, but the only place I yearned to see was Santa Fe’s Loretto Chapel. There, a story about St. Joseph comes alive. The Sisters of Loretta prayed a novena to him, hoping to find a way to build a staircase in a small space. On the last day of their prayers, a gray-haired man with a donkey and three tools arrived, took on the task then disappeared after it was finished. Modern engineers cannot explain how this miraculous spiral staircase remains in place.

Also memorable were a Spanish-English Mass at St. Anne Church in Tucumcari, N.M., as well as Mass at St. Francis Cathedral in Santa Fe, where the Our Lady of Grace girls’ choir from San Francisco, shared their angelic voices. But the local song leader surely must’ve been a soprano with the Santa Fe Opera! We also watched five babies baptized—very solemn yet very ­celebratory.

Nor will I forget viewing stars from mountains near Colorado Springs while visiting Paul’s vintage-railroading buddy whose wife (like me) is supportive of such interests. She recalled a time when we spent hours waiting outside the Alpine Tunnel while our husbands spelunked into watery darkness with photo-opportunity hopes. Laughing, she reminded us about how she confidently read a book while I prayed for their safety.

This trip, praying in the oldest church in America—Santa Fe’s San Miguel—was also an awesome experience, with our 5-year-old grandson being allowed to ring an antiquated Spanish church bell repeatedly.

Since Paul was committed to photograph the first Communion Mass in our parish, we returned a little early, but not before we returned to Abilene, Kan., where years ago we took our daughters to see the Eisenhower Memorial. The city also conjures scenes from the cowboy movies from my childhood—cattle drives through the dusty streets of the town and other “true grit” adventures of the Old West.

After so many years of having no vacations, this turned out to be a relaxed and appreciated getaway. Perhaps it will inspire a wanderlust for additional pleasant experiences down the road.

(Shirley Vogler Meister, a member of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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