Grindstone Lake, Ontario

Catholic Canada: St. Kilian’s in Ardoch, North Frontenac, Ontario

Grindstone Lake, Ontario
Grindstone Lake, Ontario

After spending a little less than 24 hours in Midland, Ontario at the Canadian Martyrs Shrine, the next leg of our trek was out east near the little village of Plevna in North Frontenac.

This was our main base of relaxation operations for the next couple of weeks. While we called cottage life on the lake our home, Sundays found us at St. Kilian’s in Ardoch, Ontario, a mission church of the Diocese of Kingston. There’s something special about going to mass on vacation, isn’t there? St. Kilian’s is a good 25-35 km from the next nearest Catholic church and the inside is simple and reverent, made of sturdy and golden pine. This was one of my favorite things about the Martyrs Shrine, as well – the beautiful interior ceiling of native pine. That one was even shaped to look like an inverted canoe, as a very appropriate nod to the Huron culture, as well as one of the Jesuits’ main modes of travel.

Catholic Canada: Canadian Martyrs Shrine

Last summer, on our way back from New England, we made an all-too-quick stop in Auriesville, New York to visit the U.S. Shrine of St. Kateri Tekakwitha and the North American Martyrs at the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs.

I already knew that I would be heading with our toddler to spend some cottage time in Eastern Ontario (Matt was producing and hosting The Son Rise Morning Show back at home, but don’t worry, he had his own adventure, too) with my parents, so a plot was hatched to drive north of Toronto into Muskoka to the Canadian Martyrs Shrine in Midland, before heading on the rest of our 1,798 mile adventure.

On July 9th, my mom flew into Dayton, and then we got on the road in earnest and awash in road snacks by 4:30 AM on the 11th. Besides managing to leave my diaper bag in the Michigan Welcome Center (it was heroically rescued by friends who just happened to be passing right by it that very afternoon!), the drive up through Detroit and around Toronto was fine. We arrived in Midland and checked into our hotel that afternoon. Not really having a grip on the lay of the land there previous to booking the night’s stay, I went with the Super 8 close to downtown Midland, also serving the extremely well-mannered participants in a local motorcycle rally, which served our needs nicely, however, if I was to visit the Martyrs Shrine again, I’d probably try to book the Midland Inn and Suites, as it’s closer to the Shrine, or maybe even stay at the Shrine itself in its guest house. After getting our bearings at the hotel, we headed out to the Midland’s harbor area, located right on the beautiful Georgian Bay and got some dinner.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


As dazzling as views on the Bay can be, it is clear, even during prime cottager season, that Midland is ripe for some revitalization. Downtown is also the scene of the nastiest public girl fight I’ve ever seen, but I digress.

The next morning, we headed out early to get as much time as possible at the Shrine before we had to head east.

We spent most of the morning exploring the various ethnic shrines erected by the many Catholic pilgrim groups (a large amount of whom visit from Toronto), as well as the altar area where John Paul II celebrated mass at the Shrine.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Afterwards, we visited the gift shop, where I got Matt a Martyrs comic book and spied a copy of Dr. Matthew Bunson’s book on St. Kateri.

It was around the corner from the gift shop where we found a real gem – the Shrine’s museum. Curated by Steve Catlin, we had the pleasure of not only experiencing the wonderfully arranged and archived museum pieces, but also got to check out his library and office, which were individual museums in and of themselves. He has a truly amazing and engaged wealth of knowledge on all things Canadian Martyrs (know as North American Martyrs in the U.S. and Martyrs of New France in Quebec) and St. Kateri, and we were able to examine a variety of historical texts, as well as the flesh remains of St. Jean de Brebeuf.

(Some of my favorite pictures of the trip are from the museum and our visit with Mr. Catlin, but, unfortunately, iPhoto and WordPress aren’t cooperating together today – they’re all showing errors. In the immortal words of Reading Rainbow, you’ll just have to take my word for it!)

This museum aspect of the Shrine is only available during the summer months when Canadian students are out of school, but if I had to do my trip to the Shrine over again, I would try to schedule my time in the museum close to the beginning of the day, so as to have a deeper appreciation of everything I got to witness later on.

Finally and most importantly, we had the opportunity to observe and pray next to the Martyrs’ relics in the Shrine Church – there are masses scheduled all throughout the day, as well as individual masses for the various Catholic pilgrimage groups. The day that we were there the Shrine was hosting hundreds of pilgrims from Chinese Catholic churches from the Toronto area, as well as Indian and Pakistani pilgrims who were starting to arrive as we were leaving. There are different pilgrim groups scheduled for practically every day throughout the summer season. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to visit Sainte-Marie among the Hurons across the way, but hopefully on another visit. I’d also now like to go back to visit Auriesville and reread John O’Brien’s Saints of the American Wilderness.

In all, the Martyrs Shrine was well worth the detour and drive!

“I can, with one eye squinted, take it all as a blessing.”

This quote from Flannery O’Connor’s Habit of Being, a collection of her personal letters, is an excerpt from a larger paragraph in which she illuminates how she had been coping with lupus, the disease that eventually ended her young life. I’ve read Habit of Being before, in fact, I keep it on a bookshelf at the school where I teach, but I didn’t recognize this particular snippet until I was confronted by it and was curious as to its origins.

About three weeks ago, Matt had the honor of MCing the Cross the Bridge for Life walk  from Newport, KY into Cincinnati via the Purple People Bridge. Despite the inevitable heat, it is a wonderful yearly event, and an opportunity to see many of our favorite people from all over the region in one central location, and of course in promotion of the cause of Life. I was distracted by an over-sweaty and tired  toddler at the time, but I had the chance to run into a friend, the mom of some former students who are now full-fledged grown-ups in their own right, who paints amazing signs for the home. I really encourage you to check out her website Signs and Sentiments, as I personally have several around my house and they are beautifully done. I’ve also had some personalized ones made, such as for friends who were getting married, with monograms and wedding Bible verses.

It turns out that she had heard Matt on the  Son Rise Morning Show talking about how much we appreciate the life and work of Flannery O’Connor, and she felt moved to make us this sign for us:

Flannery Conner quote sign from
Flannery O’Connor quote sign from

Little did she know that I’d been diagnosed with auto-immune disease (a lesser, discoid – skin – form of lupus that is non-life threatening) about a year and a half ago, having actually probably had it for almost half my life already, and I’m still attempting to shed Prednisone chub (I grimace to see pictures of my swollen face from last spring and summer), as well as, under medical guidance and my own non-scientific experimentation, figuring out the best ways to stay healthy for both the immediate future and the long-term. Although I look  totally normal at the moment, except for all the essentially quirky attributes I tend to have anyway, I’ve done my share of feeling sorry for myself. Somewhat like Flannery O’Connor herself, this sign is a sort of unexpected cock-eyed blessing, and I’m looking forward to hanging it up today.

Catholic Family Camping Retreat Resource: Editable/Printable Itinerary



It’s been quite a while, what with the end of the school year and all its busyness, as well as a variety of big transitions for our toddler – moving to a bed from a crib, toilet learning, and saying goodbye to the booster seat and tray in favor of a chair. That explains my general reprieve from blogging for the last several weeks, but we also have had other fun things in the works, such as putting together a family camping retreat for our Teams of Our Lady group (Perhaps you remember the Camping with a Toddler Packing List that I posted a while back?).

As my husband can attest from going on vacation with me for the past decade, I can be a rather meticulous planner regarding trips (although I do enjoy a little spontaneity, too!), and this retreat, since we have taken a leadership role this past school year, has been my brainchild for the last several months. I thought, since I had spent so much time crafting and tweaking the schedule for the weekend, that I might share a more generic version that can be personalized to meet other groups’ needs. To put our group in perspective, we will be about thirty people (10 adults, 20 kids) and the kids range from infancy to middle school age. Ideally, it would also include confession on Saturday, as well as another mass that morning, but those were not available options on this trip. I hope you can find it of some use in planning your own outdoor-based retreat!


Theology on Tap Cincinnati Series Starting Soon


Mark your  calendars for every Thursday at 7PM,  between May 1st and June 5th, 2014.

Theology on Tap Cincinnati is coming back to Norwood’s own Cancun Mexican Restaurant. This year, we are in the same venue, but are endowed with a much larger, even more centralized space, not to mention an exciting line-up! As always, be sure to tip the wait staff well!

May 1 – Rozann Carter of Fr. Robert Barron’s Word on Fire Ministries

May 8 – Fr. David Endres of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary

May 15 – Dr. Matthew Bunson of Our Sunday Visitor

May 22 – Fr. James Kubicki, National Director of the Apostleship of Prayer

May 29 – Jason Williams, Cincinnati seminarian

June 5 – Fr. Kyle Schnippel, our venerable chaplain

Easter Basket Ideas for the Very Young Catholic Child

Inedible vegetables in an Easter basket - There are only so many years we can get away with this!
Inedible vegetables tucked into an Easter basket? There are only so many years we can hope to get away with this!

While we’re not a no-sugar household, we don’t do much candy. So, as I slowly accumulate some items for a certain two year old’s Easter basket (in order to avoid an aimless and mad rush to CVS on Holy Saturday), I’ve been looking for creative ideas that are beautiful or inject some catechesis into a basket celebrating our greatest of liturgical feasts. Don’t worry, there will be some Jelly Belly Beans in the mix, too, if only to satisfy my own buttered popcorn-flavored craving! Plus, I picked up some classic German and Belgian Easter chocolates, Matt found some fun, child-friendly snacks from the local Asian market, and we even collaborated on a block of cheese in the shape of a zebra from the infamous Jungle Jim’s (it is as awesome as it sounds).

Here are some of my non-edible favorites, which either made an appearance last Easter or will be this coming Easter for our 2 year old:

- Maite Roche’s My First Pictures of Easter board book  – We bought this book last year, and have been reading it during this Lent, since it covers Jesus’ triumphant entrance into Jerusalem, betrayal, and crucifixion in a very simple style and type of language, without watering the story down too much (unlike many of the baby and toddler Bible adaptations one is likely to encounter). I am a big fan of Roche’s work – it is a joy to experience for parent(s) and child(ten) alike.

- I Am a Bunny, by Ole Risom and illustrated by Richard Scarry – This has nothing to do with Jesus’ dying and then rising three days later in victory over our sins, but oh my is it sweet. I have this book memorized from my own childhood, and just know my toddler will also appreciate it. This falls into the solidly beautiful category.

- Wee Believers’ Easter Faith Mat – This may sound a bit strange, but we are slowly acquiring/making a collection of catechetical placemats for use during Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter (so far, we only have Advent), and then, during ordinary time, we do general educational ones I pick up at a local teacher supply store. While I really like the look and quality of this Easter one, I do wish it wasn’t made in China.

- Wee Believers’ The Story of Easter Magnet Book – $13.99 – Also made in China, this portable scene with movable characters would be good for early childhood catechesis at home or mass.

- Maite Roche’s My First Bedtime Prayers – Yes, I am admittedly a Maite Roche super-fan! This is yet another of her delightful little board books. My toddler already spied it, pulled it down, and requested I read it, but he’ll have to wait until Lent is over, as will I….

- Ikea’s Duktig 14-piece vegetables set – We have a mini-kitchen from the 1970s, made by the iconic Creative Playthings company, which we picked up via Craigslist. Up until recently, it has been stationed in our library, mainly holding cars in the cabinets and stuffed toys in the sink, but I recently moved it into the kitchen and invested in some miniaturized cooking utensils and pans. These will look so cute in the Easter basket, inject a little dose of irony, and our son will enjoy them, no doubt.

In addition, here are my Lent and Easter Pinterest Boards.

I’d love some more inspiration. Got any great ideas?



"Marriage is a duel to the death, which no man of honour should decline." – G.K. Chesterton's 'Manalive'


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 6,417 other followers