When we go on vacation, most of us want to relax, try some new things, and forget about our routines. Usually these are good things, but sometimes there are those of us who like to keep our “home connections” fresh, achieving a certain sense of balance and comfort when doing that. Specifically, two areas come to mind—church and support groups.
Obviously, not everyone in our reading audience belongs to a formal church, or goes to one on a regular basis, and we are certainly not encouraging that in this post. However, for those of you that do, there are some advantages to finding and possibly attending a church of your faith while on a vacation. Because we are of the Catholic faith, we are supposed to attend Mass every weekend if it is at all possible to do so, and here are some of the non-spiritual encounters that we experienced because of this:
- Coffee and donuts after Mass in Phoenix, AZ: Great tips on things to see in the area, restaurants, etc.
- Pancake breakfast in Ft.Lauderdale, Fl.: A cheap and satisfying meal, as well as some good conversation.
- Greeting people at Mass in Las Vegas , NV: We found out that the people in the pew behind us were from a neighboring community where our pastor had recently served. Since he had left that church for our parish, they were concerned about his health and worried that he might have had a recurrence of cancer. They were so glad when we reassured them that he was doing great!
- A totally welcoming atmosphere in almost every church that we visited: “Please come back later in the week for our festival, cards, spaghetti dinner, whatever!”
Many travelers rely heavily on support groups of various kinds when they are home, and may be delighted to find that these frequently exist everywhere. Travel itself can be stressful for anyone, and usually the Yellow Pages offer information regarding support group meetings. Many cruise ships offer AA meetings, as well as Gay/Lesbian group get-togethers.
A church connection during a vacation can be important should a sudden crisis occur. Hopefully serious illness or injury will not happen, but if they do, a priest, minister or rabbi would provide welcome comfort. Sometimes even monetary help would be appropriate. Our priest, Father James O’Leary of St. Ambrose in Parchment, MI. has an amusing story regarding a traveler that he once knew.
It seems that this young man had run away from home, eager to escape his family and various responsibilities. In a short time, he ran out of funds, but did not want to return home and own up to his folly. So he paid a visit to the Catholic Church in the small town where he happened to end up and asked the priest there for help. The priest took him in, gave him some money to tide him over, and he continued on his way.
The young man continued to do this in various towns, taking full advantage of whatever generosities the priests offered him. Many years later, Father O’Leary asked him why he always went to Catholic Churches for help, since he was not even Catholic. The young man answered, “Well, all those Protestant ministers have kids that they need to put through college—the Catholic priests, don’t!”
This example is a bit extreme, and we’re certainly not advocating that you stop at Catholic rectories all over the country and beg for money to finance your next timeshare purchase! What we are saying is that sometimes those church and support group connections can be valuable assets, sometimes even lifelines, when you travel.
Catholic churches and Mass times can be found easily using the Yellow Pages, your GPS, and/or your computer. Sometimes just driving around will help you locate a church. This website (masstimes.org) lists churches and mass times all over the world. A good website for locating Protestant churches is flockfinder.com. If you know of any tools for locating other church denominations please let us know, and we will publish them.
Support groups are also listed in the phone book and online. You need only type in Alcoholics Anonymous or Al-Anon to find meetings near your location.
Traveling, in itself, can be a rich and rewarding experience—and yes, even spiritual! Make the most of your timeshare vacations by connecting with community for an even more enriched experience.