Saint Thomas Aquinas

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Pilgrimage 2015 St Maria Goretti-St Augustine

On Friday October 31st I had the pleasure of meeting St Maria Goretti in Orlando, Florida. I arrived on Friday afternoon and was able to go through the line several times to visit with this wonderful Saint. Saint Maria is surely a model for those trying to live virtuous upstanding lives in the midst of a moral cesspool which we find ourselves in today. St. Maria gave up her life rather than give up her virginity. Her attacker eventually repented and truly converted to the Catholic faith living the last half or more of his life in extreme penance and suffering for his sins. He murdered Maria at the age of 20, he spent 30 years in prison. This story demonstrates how a true Saint behaves in the midst of horrible trials. It also shows us what it means to truly be sorry for your sins and how true conversion can change a person. Alessandro, her attacker turned from a life of horrible sin once Maria came to him in a dream handing him 14 lilies for each of the times he stabbed her while he was in prison. Before Maria died she told the priest that she wanted Alessandro to be with her in heaven. He died at the age of 80 after having spent many years in penance living with the Franciscans. In his last letter at the age of 80 he wrote the following: "Resigned, I atoned for my sin. Little Maria was truly my light, my protectress. With her help, I served those 27 years in prison well. When society accepted me back among its members, I tried to live honestly. With angelic charity, the sons of St. Francis, the minor Capuchins of the Marches, welcomed me among them not as a servant, but as a brother. I have lived with them for 24 years. Now I look serenely to the time in which I will be admitted to the vision of God, to embrace my dear ones once again, and to be close to my guardian angel, Maria Goretti, and her dear mother, Assunta." When I first came to her relics I felt a great hope and peace being near her. I was also moved by the many people who came out to visit her. I recommend reading the life of this incredible Saint.

The next day the trip continued to Saint Augustine. Saint Augustine is a city with plenty of charm and a rich and complex history. I really enjoy history so I set out to not only see many of the Catholic sites, but also an old boarding house which gave me an idea of how some of St Augustine's people lived during the colonial era. The Mission of Nombre de Dios and Shrine of Our Lady of Leche is wonderful place to spend a little time. The old mission chapel is nice spot to stop and pray before Our Lady. With the changing of hands between the English the Spanish, the raiding pirates, and the severe weather of the area, this little chapel has been burned, damaged, destroyed and rebuilt many times. The small statue of Our Lady of Leche is a miniature of the one in the Cathedral-Basilica. This place is very special to our Catholic heritage in the US. It is the first place the Spanish set foot on American soil and held the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and it was the first permanent community of priests here as well. There is a small ancient cemetery on the beautiful grounds near the water. If you get the chance to stop by it is worth your time. There is also a nice gift shop on the left side of the chapel. You can learn more here.

The Cathedral-Basilica is also worth going to. It also has been rebuilt from a fire but is very charming with its Spanish-esque character. The most eye catching piece in the Cathedral is the statue of Our Lady of Leche on the back choir loft.

The streets of the old town are charming and a pleasure to roam about. Although the shops are touristy, there are some historic places worth checking out. I went to the old Ximenez-Fatio Boarding House for an afternoon tour of one of the oldest buildings in St Augustine. In an hour I learned a lot about the history of the city and the streets nearby. This boarding house was for the upper class, and you actually had to have a written invitation to be able to stay here. Each room has a bed with a mosquito net, bed pan and other necessities of that time. The small bathtub surely looks like a chore to get in and out of! Seeing how even the rich lived back then makes me think we are way too spoiled today. I recommend taking an hour to walk through this house and learn about the history of the city.

There is also a wonderful Orthodox Shrine of St. Photios that is worth going to visit. It is right in the old historic area and it is free to go inside. The iconography is fantastic. I will let the pictures do the talking.

Castillo de San Marcos is a historic fort built right on the inlet waterway to St Augustine. It was built to protect the city and has never been taken by force. I spent a couple of hours going through the self guided tour.

Here are some pictures of the historic district as I walked around. All in all it was a nice two day adventure.