The Southern part of the United States is typically thought of as the Bible Belt and not always Catholic-Friendly. However, the South is well-known for its hospitality and cuisine, and there are a fair number of wonderful Catholic shrines tucked away in many of these cities. You, as a Catholic Senior, just might want to explore each of these wonderful locations.
I recommend these cities as perfect weekend getaways:
St. Augustine, Florida
This may be my very favorite city in all of Florida, and it is the oldest city in all of the United States. St. Augustine is composed of Spanish colonial architecture and you will feel like you are in Europe when you are there, as you can walk everywhere in this town. It was founded September 8, 1565 by the Spanish many years before Jamestown was ever settled. Pedro Melendez first saw land on August 28, 1565 the feast day of St. Augustine of Hippo, a great theologian and doctor of the Catholic Church. The Spanish colonized this city and named the mission the Nombre de Dios or the Holy Name of God
Tucked away in this city is the Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche built in a small chapel by the Spanish who had a great devotion to Our Blessed Mother. This is the oldest shrine to Our Lady in the United States. Gaze upon the tiny Our Lady of La Leche statue which shows Our Lady smiling, watching, protecting, and nourishing the Baby Jesus. This is something she does for all her children, including every one of us. Light a candle, say a hail mary or part of the Rosary at this shrine, and perhaps ask God for a miracle.
Take a horse and buggy ride and visit the oldest schoolhouse in the United States. Also for history buffs, you may enjoy the Castillo de San Marcos, an old 17th century Spanish fort. You can sample Spanish empanadas at the Spanish Bakery near St. George Street. Stay in one of the town’s many charming B&Bs or feast at one of the city’s many fine restaurants. Visit the historic Flagler College built in 1888. Attend daily or Sunday mass at the fine historic
Dallas is a sprawling modern city, but one with many fine sites as well and friendly folk. Dallas abounds in restaurants so you can dine well. In the Dallas Arts District, see the Dallas Museum of Art which includes a free permanent exhibition. In this area, you can also visit the Dallas Farmer’s Market. Check out the site where President John F. Kennedy’s motorcade traveled by visiting the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza. Rumor has it that because of Rose’s continuous rosaries for President Kennedy, he went to confession and heard a small private mass in the morning shortly before he was assassinated.
Don’t forget to attend mass or make a visit to the exquisite Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin Guadalupe in downtown Dallas. This Victorian Gothic Cathedral was built in 1902.
If you want to hear great country music, catch a country music concert at Billy Bob’s out in Ft. Worth. There is southern cooking, bull riding, and country line dancing as well.
Seniors, if you are feeling adventurous and are looking for an affordable place to stay, I recommend the Wild, Wild West Youth Hostel located in Irving, just outside of Dallas. The hostel is incredibly clean and affordable and includes a full breakfast buffet. Guests are travelers from all over the world and from all different age groups and the manager is a Catholic. Antiques abound in the lovely home and Jose’s Cantina is a short walk away for wonderful Tex-Mex breakfast food and American cuisine. Take time to visit the Irving Veterans Memorial Park, which honors veterans from each of the past wars.
New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans is a great city but I don’t recommend visiting during Mardi Gras when it’s most crowded. Instead, I recommend that you visit in the off-season, perhaps in December or at another time of the year. The city is very beautiful at Christmas time when the antique shops and the streets are decorated in holiday fare.
The French Quarter is my favorite part of the city. You can go to mass at St. Louis Cathedral and listen to the street musicians playing live jazz in Jackson Square. You can wander around the city and stop for coffee and beignets at one of the many fine cafes. Admire the artists and their work around Jackson Square. Perhaps try some gumbo or jambalaya and hear live music at the same time. The Prince Conti Hotel is an affordable hotel with period furniture, a nice ambiance, and within walking distance to the French Quarter.
If you love to cook, why not take cooking classes at the New Orleans School of Cooking while you are there?
The old Ursuline Convent in New Orleans is well worth a visit and once housed the Ursuline nuns. The Ursuline nuns run the Shrine of Our Lady of Prompt Succor in New Orleans. Why not make a visit to this shrine as well. New Orleans is also home to the Shrine of Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos, a young German priest on the path to sainthood in our Church. He was a compassionate and kind priest who lived in New Orleans and did much for yellow fever victims during his lifetime. His feast day is October 12th.