My family and I are on a one-year trip across the United States as we reconnect as a family, experience the natural wonders in the world God created, and see Catholicism – in all its uniqueness and beauty – across the country. This is our journey.
After spending almost an entire month of our year-long journey in Colorado, we knew we had to move on! We headed south into New Mexico, entering through the wide-open deserts of the north. Our first stay at the Navajo Lake Campground has turned into one of our favorite stays so far … the grounds were beautiful, full of local fishing holes for the boys and running trails for me.
It was nice to relax; for the entire five-day stay, we didn’t leave the campground once. We’ve started to settle into a nice routine, with a bit of exercise after breakfast followed by homeschool (which we are loving), a late lunch, and then fishing in the afternoons. I could get used to this!
The first major city we visited in New Mexico was Santa Fe. There was so much old-world charm to love! Mass at the Cathedral Basilica, built in 1886, was breathtaking. The traditional feel of the basilica warmed my heart … tall vaulted ceilings, Corinthian columns down the main nave, historic stations of the cross, beautiful candles throughout, the sweet smell of incense filling the air … just so wonderful.
We’ve never seen so many first-degree relics in one place, either! St. John Paul II’s mitre, St. Therese of Lisieux’s basket, St. Anthony of Padua’s bone fragment, a lock of St. Teresa of Calcutta’s hair – just to mention a few. Such a gift to be here.
The weekend in Santa Fe coincided with the 46th annual festival at El Rancho de las Golondrinas. Individuals, dressed in character from times long ago, quite literally made it a “working ranch” – even if only for a day. Together, we made wreaths from grass, pressed apples into sweet cider, learned the process behind cabin making, watched the beautifully dressed women perform traditional Mexican dance, received a freshly made nail from the blacksmith (it was still warm), and learned a ton of interesting facts from the cotton and wool dyers. Did you know that the reason jeans fade is that indigo is not water soluble, and therefore isn’t absorbed by the fabric and instead clings to just the outside? Me either!
I admit to feeling like a bit of a pilgrim lately, and even more so when we visited Sanctuario de Guadalupe, the oldest standing shrine in the United States. It was built in the 1770’s to commemorate the apparition of Mary in 1531 to the Aztec peasant Juan Diego of Tepeyac, Mexico.
Juan Diego’s story is told through six mosaics adorning the grounds, and a large rosary is printed into the concrete at the foot of her statue. The historic chapel, with its three-foot wide adobe walls, stands beside the newer church; it serves as an art history museum for the parish. The gorgeous altar still stands, depicting the largest painting of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the US today.
Seeing the Loretto staircase in person – after having watched the movie so many years ago – literally brought me to tears. This small chapel was commissioned by the Sisters of Loretto in 1873, and built almost entirely from locally-quarried sandstone. It was, however, built mistakenly without a staircase to the choir loft. The nuns prayed for nine straight days to St. Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters – and on the last day of the novena, a stranger arrived at the church and offered to build the staircase. He worked alone, using only a few simple hand tools. When it was complete, he quietly slipped away. This miraculous construction seemed to have been by St. Joseph himself!
We also ended up making an unplanned – and undesired — stop at the Urgent Care Clinic. It seems my back isn’t taking kindly to all the hours sitting in the car for these drives. Prayers that everything heals well … and soon. In the meantime, I’ve been working on a few special sewing projects. I miss sewing more than I anticipated, so – since I couldn’t fit my sewing machine into the camper – I started designing some fabrics that I can’t wait to try out once we get home. I’m most excited about the sew-a-saints, little fabric dolls that children can sew all by themselves. I learned to sew as a child, and teaching others to sew, too, is something I’m passionate about. Exited to have the opportunity to broaden and begin sharing that on this trip.
Our last stop in New Mexico was in Albuquerque for the Hot Air Balloon Festival. I wish I could describe what 500 color drenched balloons flying overhead in the morning sky looks like, or what the intense burning heat from the fire as it filled the balloons feels like, or what the sound of the gas hissing upwards into the fabric balloons sounds like. The days at the festival felt like a bit of magic.
We woke each morning at 5:45 AM to the brisk 41-degree air, climbed on top of the camper’s roof, and snuggled in for the show. Like magic, you would spot one, then another, then twenty more slowly glow in the morning light. Balloons of all shapes and sizes filled the sky. We saw Smokey the Bear, a POW-MIA balloon with 3-D barbed wire, a pair of giant green boots, and even Jesus take to the sky. Such an absolutely amazing sight. Truly this was an experience we will never forget!
We’re so excited for this trip on the road as we explore the natural wonders that our beautiful country holds, and as we visit cathedrals, shrines, and see the beauty of our faith along the way! We invite you to join us for the adventure both here on CatholicMom.com and on our Instagram account, where we’re sharing regular updates of our trip. If you’re in an area we’re visiting, we would love to meet up!
Copyright 2019 Jen Frost