River Cruising on the Danube 4 days of bliss

We were headed to Europe for April  and while we were going to be close we chose to take two river cruises along the Danube River.   The first portion was one of a really short duration of 4 days 3 nights.  It was on Avalon Waterways.   They give the option of doing a cruise tour type vacation but for this we chose only the cruise portion.   Meaning we opted not to do the on site stay at the hotel portion.   The Danube is Europe’s second largest river and is definitely a river cruise to take if only for the picturesque beauty of the region.

Photo by Travel with T

The Danube Flows through Austria, Germany, Slovakia, Croatia, Bulgaria, Romania Ukraine, Serbia there are very many choices for cruises and lengths along the river.  Our Choice was the Vienna, Budapest, Dürnstein and Passau portion.  This one fit our schedule and we wanted to make sure we hit Melk Abby and Budapest so it was a perfect fit for us.

high rise buildings at nighttime
Photo by Felix Mittermeier

 By the time we arrived for our cruise we had already been in Belgium, Czech Republic, and Germany so I have to say we were a little tired.   Because we knew we were going to see a couple of places twice we opted for a more relaxed style.   Hitting one of the tours one day and then touring the city the next day on our own.  This worked out well for us.

architecture bratislava bratislava castle building
Photo by Pixabay

The Danube is filled with many not to miss sites Budapest and Vienna being two of them.  In Budapest we chose an on and off bus stopping at the places we wanted to tour and just driving by hearing the oration of the places we did not have a desire to see.  The castle is a definite must do as it is filled with museums that you can tour and a walking area that over looks Budapest.

multicolored buildings photo
Photo by Julius Silver

My favorite was St. Mattias which is in the city area or portion of the castle area of Budapest.  The history is fascinating on it’s own.   The church and the area had been sacked by the Turks.  It was built in 1255 and it the 1500’s when Buda was captured by the Turks it was turned into a mosque and when Hungary regained control in the 1600’s it was again a Catholic church.

St Matthius Buda

st Matthius

On the 3rd day on this Cruise you will visit Melk Abby and it’s incredible Austrian history.  It one of the most ornate churches we have visited on this trip and although beautiful is almost too ornate.  The history of it’s Austrian heritage and influence of the Hapsburg Dynasty is apparent as you tour the area.   We saw the library the only real part of the Abby that looks historic from the inside.  The rest of the tour is basically through a museum.  The museum itself is interesting but very different in style and almost too modern.   Perhaps it appeals to others but I did not find it very appealing.

Travel with Grace and Style
Beautiful Passau

On our fourth and final day we cruised into Passau it’s a beautiful and very picturesque town on the confluence of Inn, Ilz, and Danube rivers.  We walked through the narrow streets in the town.  We decided to use our time here to hike the trail up to Veste Oberhaus and experience some living history with the 800 year old fortress.  It’s one of Europe’s largest preserved Castle complex.  The hike itself is not for the faint of heart but what a great view as you make your way up to the Castle.

adventure agriculture bavaria city
Photo by Markus Spiske

This wonderful cruise with Avalon takes you through some of Europe’s most picturesque regions and is a true delight.   The Danube is a piece of beauty that should not be missed.  I would love to help you discover Europe on this wonderful cruise.  Please contact me with any questions or to schedule your own journey into river cruising.   If you happened to have scheduled a trip and are looking for things to do each of my links take you to the destination and towards items that await you.  Each time you use it to book your excursion I receive credit and it helps to pay for my blogging.  So please book away.

Remember travel is the only thing that truly makes you richer.




A Journey of Grace through dryness cont,..2

Porta Santa
The door is always open for us

As par for course I have been distracted and my journey is more zigged than zagged and I can never seem to be consistent enough to actually finish something.  It is always like that for me it appears.  The world enters and I have lost sight of the my journey and goal.  So here I find myself months after I opened Mathew Kelly’s book starting over or continuing on day 5 and where I should have been months and months ago.  I truly understand God can make everything anew including me I just pray he helps me on my journey to again begin anew.

church of St Therese Mount Merrion Dublin
My journey through loss remembering my child with prayers

So I find as I reflect on the paralytic Jesus told to rise I am in the company of those whose only thought was the paralytic physical needs.  Like the crowd perhaps I have only been concerned with my own physical needs as I let my own spiritual needs languish.


My reflection continues to the Sabbath and how it would be at the center of the Jewish life.  I often find I myself go to Mass and it is truly the highlight of my week only to find by Wednesday my center is now fading into the background of my daily life.

Ghent Belgium Castle Chapel 

As I continue my reflection for day 5 and the story of the raising of Lazarus from death,  I understand I am blessed.   It is here in this story I find hope.  It is here Jesus raises us all out of the depths of despair, loss, sin, and indifference and offers us all redemption.   My challenge today is what is holding me back from Christ?  What are the obstacles in my own path?

Blessings in Christ,


The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb Alter Piece Pilgrimage Ghent Belgium

In Spring we had a chance to visit some long time friends in Belgium.  We were going to be there a few days and I had done the research on pilgrimage sites prior to visiting Belgium.  As I travel I search out Catholic sites that I might make a pilgrimage too.  I take with me all the prayers of my family, friends, and my own prayers as I go to make the journey.   For me the journey is a journey of prayer and it often brings me closer to Christ.  I touched on the making a pilgrimage in my blog post “What is meaningful travel”   As I make my pilgrimage I go as others have before me searching for healing, faith, and hope.  I make a point to light a candle in all of my pilgrimage places for my daughter whom I lost to suicide.  The pilgrimage is always a journey as much for her as it is for me.  So this time it was the Ghent in Belgium to see “The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb Altarpiece.”

Ghent is located in the Flemish region of Belgium.  It is the capital and the largest city in the East Flanders province.  Started as a city at the confluence of rivers in the late middle ages.  It’s a beautiful city where you can enjoy a cup of caffe or perhaps a pint while sitting on the banks of the river.


We made a day trip to Ghent to see the sights and sounds of the lovely city.  Not too big and not too small it’s filled with the medieval castles, and interesting little bars it is definitely and interesting place to travel.


My main goal was to enjoy time with long time friends and enjoy a visit to the masterpiece known as “The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb” located in St. Bavo’s Cathedral.  Built in 1895 to replace St Josephs that was too small.  St Bavo’s stands on the site of a 10th century church and a 12th century Romanesque style church in the heart of Ghent.

St Bavo’s Cathedral

The altarpiece has quite a unique history in that part of it’s notoriety is it’s one of the most stolen piece of artwork of all time.   It’s known to have been stolen by Napoleon, it was nearly burned by Calvinist, desperately sought by the Nazis, and a part of it has been missing for 80 years, foraged, stolen, dismembered make up the fascinating history of this piece of art work.


Yet, my interest was the actual work itself depicting from the annunciation to the symbolic sacrifice of Christ shown with the “mystic lamb” on the alter surrounded by a heavenly field all in adoration and the lamb bleeding into the holy grail.  Unfortunately most of my pictures were blurry.  So this is really  the only one I have but you can see the light reflection on it.

Alter Masterpiece
The Mystic Lamb photo credit Travel with Grace and Style

I was not to be dissapointed as when I reached the Alter Piece it was indeed incredible.   It’s was a little amusing to view very few actually taking a moment of time to see the piece.  I am sure many were there just to visit the church and as they were making there own stop in Ghent.   As I was standing at that painting I was aware of just how large my faith is.  The faith of centuries depicted throughout history in various works of art and I was in Ghent standing in front of one.

mystic Lamb Closed
The Panels when closed photo credit pinterest

The Alter Piece itself is almost a story of Christianity as it contains Adam and Eve as well as the “Mystical Lamb” in the center.  Proudly displaying the lamb which signifies Christ sacrifice being poured out for the many.   The chalice displayed in what I can only imagine for Catholics to represent indeed the one cup available to all.   The significance is powerful.  As I look around I am not sure many saw that are were aware of the historical significance of the painting at all.

Ghent Alter piece
God Almighty Credit WGAHU

As I travel throughout these pilgrimage sites I wonder if in a hurry to check things off we are actually missing these beautiful moments.  Times we can step back in time and just awe at the majesty of God depicted in art.  The great art of our faith it seems is almost lost in the time we live in not unlike the pilgrimage.

red and white angels printed on green red and purple round rug
The beauty of faith

It has not been lost on me and I continue to travel throughout he world to view the beauty of the church as displayed in various cultures.   I hope to be able to continue to find awe in a 1500 century painting or special place the pilgrims felt the touch of God.  I pray that I never lose the wonder that is God.   That I am able to always feel so small in these amazing places.

The only picture I took that was not blurry

Perhaps my encounters come from my overwhelming acceptance in understanding that even with the loss of my child I can still bloom.  Because of my trust in God and my faith I can even through loss find such beauty in the world.  It’s it the classic Catholic thought to accept suffering is a gift of God and in suffering we have come so close to Christ on the Cross that we can feel the breath of a kiss.  Who would not find joy in the kiss of Christ?

“Pain and suffering have come into your life, but remember pain, sorrow, suffering are but the kiss of Jesus – a sign that you have come so close to Him that He can kiss you.”

― Mother Teresa

My time in Ghent was just a day as I returned to spend the rest of my visit with a friend I had not seen in 20 plus years.  Sometimes in your life you are lucky enough to meet people who will be woven into a tapestry of your life.  These people you are blessed to find and you may not see them for years but when you renew the old friendship you discover the same love that existed from your youth.  That joy of discovering a lost treasure is renewed as you share a meal and drink.

Nothing like sharing a beer with good friends

In Belgium I found good friends, beautiful art reflecting my faith, and the good laughter that comes from relaxing and enjoying a beer sharing the stories that make us who we are.

restaurant love romantic dinner
Photo by Breakingpic on Pexels.com

I hope to go back if only to again enjoy a pint and share a moment of time with the gift known as friends.

If you haven’t been to Belgium and need help planning your trip to visit the Alter piece of the Mystical Lamb do not hesitate to call me and I would love to help you.

If you are looking for things to do consider using my link and I get credit for you as you make your travel plans to Ghent, Belgium.

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Blessings in Christ Friends


Siena: St. Catherine of Siena my pilgrimage to visit a doctor of the church

In my travel blogs I often write about a destination or place with pointers and things to do at the destination.   Sometimes though I write on a little more personal nature and this post will touch on a travel style where I make pilgrimages.   This will be a little more personal and involve a lot of my own faith.  So this is your disclaimer if this is something that does not appeal to you.  It’s my personal reflection on my visit to see Siena and my pilgrimage journey to St. Catherine.

St. Catherine of Siena

St Catherine was born in Siena one of the most beautiful places in Italy.  Sienna is filled with museums, art, culture, and incredible culinary offerings.  This was not the reason I chose to visit though.  Many people come visit Siena for just those reasons but mine was a faith journey.  A pilgrimage was the reason I was visiting.   I travel quite often for pilgrimage reasons.  It’s quite often the reason I choose a destination.

Beauty is indescribable on a pilgrimage

There are many reason’s for my pilgrimage to Siena but the one that is always in the forefront is I lost my daughter to suicide. It makes you feel powerless and strips you of everything you know. In my journey through suicide I refused to let this loss also be a loss of my own self into despair and downward spirals. I chose to trust Christ.   So I journey and make pilgrimages to bring myself closer to Christ through prayer, travel, and closer to understanding my own faith.

Carrying my own cross
Everyone’s Cross is different

She came from a large family and her parents had 25 children many did not survive.  St Catherine was the youngest.  She is most remembered for her ability to meet with the Pope in Avignon and help him to understand he needed to return to Rome.  It was a miracle in itself she was able to meet with the Pope, this uneducated, woman, a nun much less convince him to return from exile to the seat of Rome.

city village italy town
The beauty of ages cities is captured beautifully in prayer there

There a rich history from this simple woman who was not educated and had not even learned to read or write.  It is documented she was illiterate most of her life only learning later towards the end of her life how to somewhat read and right.  She is a powerful example within my own faith and for the world as what can be accomplished in faith and trust in Christ.  Saint Catherine of Siena pronounced as one of the doctors for the church in 1970 which is in my lifetime.  Saint Catherine was canonized in 1461. Her feast day is April 29.  She remains one of the most influential women in the Catholic Church.  

Siena filled with prayer from pilgrims throughout the world

Pope Benedict has a wonderful description of Catherine.

Pope Benedict explains:

Like the Sienese saint, every believer feels the need to be conformed with the sentiments of the heart of Christ to love God and his neighbour as Christ himself loves.
And we can all let our hearts be transformed and learn to love like Christ in a familiarity with him that is nourished by prayer, by meditation on the Word of God and by the sacraments, above all by receiving Holy Communion frequently and with devotion.
Catherine also belongs to the throng of Saints devoted to the Eucharist with which I concluded my Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis (cf. n. 94).
Dear brothers and sisters, the Eucharist is an extraordinary gift of love that God continually renews to nourish our journey of faith, to strengthen our hope and to inflame our charity, to make us more and more like him.

church of St Therese Mount Merrion Dublin
Candles for B all over the world

So, with each pilgrimage I make comes a blessing, some understanding, more trust, and a general love for life.   In simple gesture that has often been used by countless Catholics through the ages I light a candle.  It’s my own way to honor and remember the memory of my daughter.    I present my prayers and offering’s for everyone I am praying for.  I take with me all my friends and family who are struggling, in pain, sick, and those who feel blessed.  I bring everything.  I then leave it at some would say the foot of the cross.

Blessings from Travel

It’s in these moments I find the greatest peace.   I struggle to stay still or in place after Brianna so it is these moments in prayer I feel at peace.  I find purpose.  These are the moments that define my life now.  Every parent who loses a child by suicide is different I can only say this is my journey.  My path is towards blessings that remain in my life and my desire to travel is part of those blessings.   My desire is to fill my world with prayer at the sights that pilgrims have visited for centuries.

photo of brown and gray buildings
Siena, Italy

I was able to visit the Basilica of St. Dominic which houses the sacred head of St. Catherine.  Which has been at the Basilica since 1373 brought by Blessed Raymond of Capua.  The Basilica contains many other treasures of St. Catherine including a portrait of her by Andre Vanni restored and 12 codices.   For the Catholic Pilgrim these are complete gifts and treasures from our faith.  There are so many rich blessings that come from just seeing these sites that I have trouble placing it into my own words.

The Head of St. Catherine


Visiting Siena is to witness a beautiful city filled with medieval  wonders and countless treasures.  It is an amazing city  and you could easily spend a week there.  Most travel to Siena for a couple of days and make it one stop on their journey through Italy.    It’s easy to get to by rail.  I would recommend flying into Florence or Rome and taking a train.

ancient architecture basilica of san domenico building
Basilica of St. Dominic

Staying in Siena there are so many options.  Hotel Athena has a great location, its just inside the city walls and a short walk to the Piazza.    Hotel Duomo again centrally located, walk to everywhere and fantastic views.  Palazzio Ravizza within the walls of Siena, walking distance to sites,  views from the 3rd floor rooms are beautiful.

There are so many things to do and see in Siena it is truly one of my favorite cities.  You can stay a few days and make it your base.  You can then go out and perhaps spend an afternoon doing a wine tour, skip the line on your visit to the Duomo, and even catch a few day trips if you don’t want to leave your hotel in the region.

restaurant love romantic dinner
Discover Siena’s culinary treasures
grapes on vineyard during daytime
Visit the wine regions of Siena

So whether you choose to visit Siena for the beautiful rich history, it’s gorgeous scenery, the amazing region, or on a pilgrimage you will not be dissapointed.   All of the links if you use them go to help support my blog.  I would love to help you plan your trip to Siena or a pilgrimage.  Please contact me with any questions you might have.


Blessings in Travel




Miraculous Medal Pilgrimage Paris France

Miraculous Medal 2
Our Blessed Mother

As a Catholic if you are at all familiar with your faith of 2000 years you will understand we have many devotions.  Perhaps one day someone will do a study as to why each of us chooses a special devotion.  I have a few of my own that are close to my heart.  One of them is the Miraculous Medal of St Catherine of Labour.  It remains always one of my go to prayers.  When presented with a chance to go to Paris and visit this was the one place I desired to see.  For me it was even before the Eiffel tower,  Louvre, Norte Damn this was the place I desired to see the most.

MM Medal
The Miraculous Medal

Located in the heart of the city is the Shrine.  It’s on what appears like a side street.  Your would not even know it’s there unless you really look.   We missed it several times walking by.  Completely unassuming and definitely not like any of the close by Catholic sites like Notre Dame or Sacre Coure which have a majesty all there own.

Miraculous Medal 4
The Church of the Miraculous Medal

The Shrine contains both St. Catherine of Laboure and St Louise incorruptible bodies which is unique in itself.  Two incorruptible’s in one shrine is not the normal.   On the right you will find St. Catherine of Laboure with a chair beside here where the Blessed Mother is said to have appeared to her.  To the left is St Louise founder of the Daughters of Charity.

Saint Louise

The Shrine and the Church offer masses and visits throughout the day.

St Catherine’s story is as follows

On the night of July 18, 1830. Catherine, a young novice at the Daughters of Charity Convent in Paris was sleeping when a young boy, clothed in white, cried out, “Sister! Sister! Sister Catherine! Come with me to the chapel; the Blessed Virgin awaits you”. When she entered the chapel, Catherine heard “the rustling of a silk dress”. As she looked up, she saw the Blessed Virgin Mary seated in a chair by the altar steps, with her hands resting on her lap. The little boy, later revealed as Catherine’s guardian angel, led her to the Mother of God. Catherine knelt before her. She revealed to Catherine that God had chosen her for a very special mission. Although she would first have much to suffer, she would have the grace from God to rise above it.

During her second apparition, November 27, 1830, Our Lady stood on a globe, with her feet crushing a serpent. In her hands she held a small golden globe. Rays of light came from her hands and lit up the globe on which she was standing. As a circle in the shape of a medal formed around the vision, the letters were written, “O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.”

At the same time Catherine heard a voice say, “Have a medal struck after this model. All who wear it will receive great graces; they should wear it around the neck. Graces will abound for those who wear it with confidence.” As the medal turned, Catherine saw the other side. The initial M was surmounted by a cross, with the Sacred Heart of Jesus crowned with thorns and the Immaculate Heart of Mary pierced with a sword underneath. Twelve stars encircled the picture.

Within a short time after the medals were made and distributed, many miracles, conversions, and healings took place. The “Miraculous Medal,” the name later attached to it, has earned the reputation of converting the hardest of hearts.

“Even though a person be the worst sort, if only he agrees to wear the medal, give it to him…and then pray for him, and at the proper moment strive to bring him closer to his Immaculate Mother, so that he have recourse to her in all difficulties and temptations.” St. Maximilian Kolbe

So I made my way to the church and I spent the afternoon there, among the Saints and the sinners.  When I went into the chapel it was filled with local residents and visitors like us all spending a moment of time in prayer.  I took a moment for myself and placed all the intentions I brought with me along my journey.  I placed my prayers for my daughter whom I had lost to suicide 1 year and a half earlier upon the alter in the church.  I always carry her with me in my heart and mind and I light a candle for her wherever I am and offer prayers.

candles for B
Candles for B all over the world her little skunk travels with us everywhere

It is a working convent so there will be nuns milling about sharing the gift and story of the Miraculous Medal. There is a little gift shop to purchase books on Catherine and the Miraculous Medal itself. You can also find other Catholic books and gifts there also.

I can’t tell you why I have this special devotion to the Miraculous Medal or do I really understand the reason it appeals to me.   Perhaps it was because of my own conversion story and myself being one of the hardest hearts. Perhaps it’s the name itself “Miraculous” and the Hope it represents for us in that Christ hears our prayers.  I only know that as I continue on my faith journey it will forever stay with me.

If you find yourself heading to Paris this little chapel is not to be missed.  If you need help please let me know.  I would love to help you plan your entire trip to Paris.

If you just need an idea of things to do and see.  Follow my link below and it will take you to all activities in Paris.  I get credit if you book through me but it has to be done within 7 days of hitting my link.  So no  going back and forth and then later booking.  🙂

Book your adventures in Paris here.

If you have any questions please let me know

As always blessings,


Marian Shrines of France, Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, no copyright