The Duluth Pilgrimage, finis


During my time inside St. Monica’s Church, I learned the reason why people were willing to cross hundreds or thousands of miles to venerate the body of a saint.  Prior to this, I rather agreed with the opinion of Reynard the Fox, the great trickster of medieval folklore: why travel hundreds of miles on a pilgrimage when one can pray and repent at home just as easily?

Then again, I did not expect the tangible sensation of holiness after Mass as I walked up to the St. Maria Goretti’s relics.  While advancing through the line, I prayed the prayer of forgiveness the priest had told us to say during the homily: “Jesus Christ, in imitation of St. Maria Goretti, I forgive N.”  As I thought of the people I ought to forgive, I felt so strongly the presence of St. Maria Goretti and Our Lord, a presence filled with peaceful love, that I could hardly credit it.  How can one describe accurately the love and presence of persons so holy?  One could almost imagine oneself on the threshold of heaven!  If people always feel such love when approaching a saint’s relics, no wonder so many used to undertake pilgrimages! Religion is no dead ritual, but acts of connecting again to the Source of Life Eternal.


Near the front of the line, I received two prayer cards: one for St. Maria Goretti and the other for Alessandro Serenelli.  The former had a portrait of the saint which her mother said was a near perfect likeness.  (No photographs exist of the saint.)  Unfortunately, the line was now moving at full speed, and the ushers found the old Korean lady ahead of me too slow, since she spent seven or eight seconds by the relics.  Conversely, I went to the middle of the casket, touched the two prayer cards and my rosary to it–thus making them third class relics, and walked on.  The ushers actually thanked me for my speedy efficiency.  The moment was enough, however, as I again felt the presence of the saint when I touched the reliquary.

Leaving the worship space, I headed to the stall where they sold prayer cards, books, and other merchandise related to St. Maria, the proceeds of which would go toward the long overdue renovation of her house in Nuttuno.  I purchased two books at $12 each, which I intended to eventually pass on to my brother and our parents.  I was tempted to approach the relics again, but I feared lest the ushers thought I would be trying to obtain more than the allotted two prayer cards.  Also, the lateness of the hour dictated that I make my way back as soon as possible.

Bridge across Tennessee River

The scenery, covered by darkness, held fewer charms than during the day.  Though, I’ve found that I love crossing the Tennessee River at night.  I doubt whether I’ve ever driven through fog covered mountains before this, and doubt whether I shall do so again.  Surprisingly, a level stretch of road proved the most dangerous as my attention wavered enought that I almost drove off the side of the road.  Little else of note happened on the drive.  Lilith held my interest even more on the drive back than on the way there.

I at last arrived home with five new treasures from this experience.  Four I would give away, but God assures us that what we give away we own more securely than what we keep.  And, I shall never forget the experience of the pilgrimage to Duluth.

Has this series of posts influenced the way my dear readers perceive the Catholic practice of venerating relics, or does the practice appear as strange and medieval as it has to you prior to this? 🙂


8 comments on “The Duluth Pilgrimage, finis

  1. I’m not someone who venerates saints’ relics often, but when I do, I like having the saints inspire me through the stories of their lives. Someday, I’ll definitely go visit Don Bosco’s oratory in Italy. I’ve got a lot of gratitude for him and the educational system that he and the Salesians founded with the help of God. And I think that visiting saints’ relics is like a way of renewing and strengthening one’s relationship with God. Saints are great reminders of God’s presence here on earth, don’t you think, MediOta?


    • The saints are an excellent reminder of how God still works among us. After all, Christ’s main mission was to change humanity from the inside, and the saints show this interior change more than us poor sinners.

      I wish you luck in being able to visit the Oratory one day! My father just told me about a place in Philadelphia with 5,000 relics, which makes me very curious to see how many saints are represented there. Apparently, only the Vatican has more.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. jubilare says:

    I’m leery of discounting anyone’s religious experience, and even more leery of discounting a practice that has benefited countless Christians.
    I do not quite understand the veneration of the saints in Catholic practice, but that is no argument against it.


    • Yeah, I felt obliged to add my experience of St. Maria Goretti, but things like that can’t be proved. There is a great difference between the Catholic and Protestant view on the order of grace, because the Catholic understanding is more hierarchical, while Protestants believe in a more “direct access” system. It goes back to that article I wrote about inequality. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • jubilare says:

        Things that cannot be proved still need to be spoken of, I think. People, especially generally reliable people, are too often shamed into silence.

        Years back I was living with a friend in a rented house. There was an unused door between our rooms up against which I had my bed. I woke in the middle of the night to one of my cats freaking out at the door as if he was chasing a mouse, but I immediately felt this oppressive malevolence that I thought was in the house but not in my room. Being a “rational” person, I thought that it was probably in my own head, but as I also believe in the supernatural, I began to pray. Eventually, the presence lifted and I went back to sleep.
        The next day, I felt prompted to ask my friend if anything had happened. I hesitated, at first, as it seemed a stupid question, but I ended up asking anyway. The blood drained out of her face and she sat down and told me.
        She had what she thought was a nightmare of an invisible female presence sitting on her chest and strangling her. She had tried to pray and was not able to do so until an angelic presence appeared beside her bed and prayed for her. Then the demonic presence fled.
        She and I were both stunned as, without the corroboration of the other we would each have convinced ourselves that it was all in our head.
        I told her that what she described sounded like a succubus, something she had never heard of.
        Later, she called her mother to ask for more prayer, and her mother went silent for a bit, then said that the same thing had happened to her some years ago.
        …all that to say that the upshot was that she and I both were somewhat more willing to talk about this experience to friends. In doing so, I’ve found out that several of my friends have also had supernatural encounters but were afraid to speak of them for fear of sounding silly.
        People get ridiculed for speaking about the supernatural, but the flip side of that means that countless people go through life with their supernatural experiences bottled up with no outlet. I cannot think that is a good thing.

        Ha! True. I’m not familiar with the phrase “the order of grace,” (I have a lot of reading I need to do…) but I do not believe that all souls are equal or the same in the sight of God.
        I do believe in more “direct access,” though. That largely comes down to how I see Christ behaving in the Gospels and the tearing of the curtain in the Temple.


      • Yes, it is good to speak about the supernatural for those reasons. And I must admit to having felt the presence of evil on occasion. Spiritual combat is real! The sign of the cross is particularly effective in situations like that followed by prayer.

        That souls hold unequal places in the sight of God is why Catholics have recourse to the saints. Of course, God values and loves our prayers spoken directly to Him, but God also loves glorifying his servants, especially those who went on before us, which is why some prayers only or more quickly get answered through the medium of His saints.

        Liked by 1 person

      • jubilare says:

        It is, indeed, real! Terribly real.
        I’ve found the name of our Lord spoken aloud is also very powerful when one is under attack.

        “but God also loves glorifying his servants, especially those who went on before us,”
        I have never heard it put in those terms. I like it.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Definitely, Fulton Sheen says the three most powerful weapons against the devil are the name of Jesus, calling upon the blood of Christ (the cross must be closely tied to this), and devotion to Mary.

        God’s generosity is amazing. We shall only fully realize it when we are in heaven.

        Liked by 1 person

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