‘Holy Rover’ finds value in spiritual pilgrimage, near and far away

With the new year comes motivation to begin anew, perhaps with hope for significant change that starts with a public resolution or private vow. Maybe the path seems clear and easy to measure: Stop smoking. Lose weight. Exercise more. Eat better. But sometimes we feel compelled to address a restlessness, discontent, ambition, anxiety or sadness(…)

Shopping within Wisconsin’s Amish landscapes

Friends near Cazenovia (Richland County) always invite us to their farm during this time of year, and it is a joy to simply follow the quiet, twisty backroads to their home on a hill with an unobstructed, panoramic view of farmland, wildlife and cloud formations. About one dozen of us gather for a potluck and,(…)

Wisconsin’s Holyland: rural roots with German heritage

With the arrival of spring comes the promise of renewal, revival and – especially for Christians – rebirth and resurrection as Easter approaches. It was that way for German farm immigrants in the mid 1800s, too, and hundreds brought to the Midwest their prospects for prosperity and the faith to be at peace with whatever(…)

Dells Bells: Low-cost weddings inside Vegas-style chapel

Between the Showboat Saloon and Old River Mini Golf, downtown in Wisconsin Dells, Katie Chandler and Evert Reeve officially began a new chapter of life this month. “There is no institution more sacred than the home you are about to make,” Scott Joles observed, inside the cheerful yellow sanctuary that is Dells Bells Wedding Chapel.(…)

Sacred spaces to retreat, seek peace of mind

December is a month for reflection, even during an ordinary year, but I think 2012 nudges us more than most. The massacre of innocents in Connecticut hits the heart hundreds of miles away, regardless of our ethnicity, politics, education or income bracket. Add the stress of family dynamics during the holidays, and the uncertainty that(…)

Bible stories as tourism in Israel

This week’s column, an introduction to Christian tourist sites in Israel, can be found here.

Walking the ‘Way of Grief’ in Jerusalem’s Old City

This week’s column, about seeing Jerusalem’s Old City for the first time, can be found here.

Sacred sites produce something to savor

Most authors who choose food as a research topic head to restaurants, markets, factories or farms. Madison native Madeline Scherb opted for convents and monasteries. Her result – “A Taste of Heaven: A Guide to Food and Drink Made by Monks and Nuns” (Tarcher/Penguin, $15.95) – is one part cookbook, one part spiritual pilgrimage and(…)

NYC’s Leo House: safe haven for travelers

Hundreds of police and firefighters in need of respite during 9/11 rescue and recovery work found their way to The Leo House, three miles north of New York City’s World Trade Center. The simply furnished Catholic guesthouse has Wisconsin roots and a 122-year history of providing a safe haven to travelers, especially those who minister(…)

Chambers Island: open for quiet exploration

Mysterious Chambers Island is a 45-minute boat ride from Door County’s Fish Creek, but most of us only see it from a distance and hear incidental references from excursion leaders or hiking guides. Now the historically private island, seven miles northwest of the mainland shore, has become more accessible for quiet exploration. The partnership of(…)

Dandelion Fest: enemy weed to edible green

What does it take to turn your enemy into a friend? A May 7 visit to Wisconsin’s Holyland – the German-Catholic towns that dominate parts of Calumet and Fond du Lac counties – will help sort things out, if the subject is dandelions. Activities at the state’s only known Dandelion Festival aim to elevate respect(…)

Fairfield, Iowa: Full of influences from India

I dunk a wedge of focaccia into the day’s soup – Bogota Potato, spiced with a mild curry – at Revelations Cafe and Bookstore, while assessing the pulse of this unusual community, sandwiched within the many cornfields of southeast Iowa. People behind me are talking about energy fields. Another table debates academic freedom vs. accreditation.(…)

Faith, hope energize Our Lady of Guadalupe

The pavement zigzags gently but assuredly uphill, past spindly trees, rustling branches and the occasional chirping bird. The din of car traffic fades with each twist of trail, although the distance walked is only one-half mile. The first thing I do, after opening a tall and polished brass door, is look up. The ceiling is(…)

Christine Center: a simple, stunning retreat

My reward, at the end of a 200-mile drive, is hearing the rhythmic click of hoofs and watching the sinking sun brighten a clump of clouds with splashes of orange, sherbet-like in color. I am following County G, between Marshfield and Eau Claire, where an enclave of Amish families seems to reside without fanfare or(…)

Iowa abbeys offer caskets, caramels, hotel

When you hit the road for a fall colors tour this year, consider heading to the other side of the Mississippi River, for a slice of heaven as well as leaves of warm hues. How do you define heaven? The drive, especially along the Great River Road, may be enough on its own. The route(…)

Church architecture: studies of love, promise

This month ends with the promise of spring and new beginnings, as Easter celebrations fill restaurants as well as churches. You don’t have to be a person of faith to appreciate the sense of community, commitment and comfort that a place of worship represents. To me, the denomination doesn’t matter. Quick visits to churches that(…)

A good retreat uplifts spirit, connects friends

My heart is enriched and eased because of a recent retreat for women in Lake Geneva. It was one of the rare quiet times for the otherwise bustling tourist area. The retreat site was Covenant Harbor, a nondenominational setting with accommodations for large and small groups. Our group of three dozen took over a two-story(…)

Choose a personal retreat to relax, inspire

One event that I’m looking forward to this fall is a women’s retreat that my church is organizing in Green Lake. I know it will be a great way to get to know myself, and other people whom I already respect, just a little bit better. Maybe you also need a place to hide or(…)