Turn Summer Travel into a Pilgrimage

by | Jun 19, 2023 | Family, Vacation

For many families, summer is a time to travel. In our family, the destination is often determined by our travel ball team schedule. When this happens, we do our best to make it a vacation before or after the games, visiting places such as New Mexico, Colorado, Florida, and Louisiana.

Early in this sports-travel experience we discovered new and interesting Catholic sites to visit. You might say it happened by accident, but I like to think God led us to it. While planning to attend our very first tournament in another state, I created a list of “things to do if we have a half-day or full-day break in the tournament schedule.” The Mother Cabrini Shrine in Golden, Colorado caught my eye, made the list, and one afternoon we tentatively drove up the winding mountain road to their Chapel and Main Building.

The experience overwhelmed us with its natural beauty, miraculous Grotto, various prayer gardens, and especially the pilgrimage climb of 373 steps to the Mount of the Sacred Heart. While our older daughters excitedly pointed out this or that item they felt really spoke to them, it was the moment our 3-year-old wandered off to “speak to Jesus” that stopped us in our tracks.

Since that time, we’ve purposefully kept an eye out for Catholic sites to incorporate into our itinerary, ranging from cathedrals to shrines and other historic places. Some were planned, others were not. After stopping in Santa Fe, New Mexico to visit the Loretto Chapel staircase attributed to St. Joseph, we spontaneously walked into the nearby Cathedral Basilica only to discover an adobe side chapel honoring La Conquistadora and containing an extensive number of relics. Up to that moment, we had a very limited experience with relics.

Over these recent years of travel, we’ve noticed a growing interest and influence not only in our own spiritual development and reverence, but also in our children. They no longer roll their eyes when we say we’re stopping to see a church; instead they’re seeking to find their own connection with the place to share with the family. A painted church in Texas contained a statue of everyone’s confirmation saint! I found a devotion to Our Lady of Prompt Succor in New Orleans and now she is one of my most powerful intercessors.

Attending Mass

One item not always under our control while traveling is attending Sunday Mass. Because we have a set schedule of baseball events, finding a local parish with Mass at an open opportunity is challenging. When schedules conflict we’ve been known to listen to Mass on EWTN radio while driving.

However, when the call to receive the Eucharist was just so strong, God opened opportunities for us to attend Mass at parishes away from home. Near the end of two weeks of travel, we returned to the hotel from our games with barely enough time to shower, change, and drive to a nearby local parish for Saturday Vigil Mass, where we received a warm welcome by the greeters. As we chatted with one of the parishioners after Mass, my husband put his arm around me and said, “I didn’t know how much I needed the Mass today.”

From The Oldest Church to America’s First Marian Shrine, we’ve encountered numerous opportunities to continue seeking Christ. As you make summer travel plans, don’t forget that even while traveling we still need Jesus.

Of Sound Mind and Spirit Podcast

Listen to the Of Sound Mind and Spirit Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, iHeartRadio – anywhere you listen to podcasts. Use the player below to listen to episode 04 – Finding Faith on Vacation.


Shelly Henley Kelly