Terra Patris – A New Pilgrimage Site

Terra Patris – A new pilgrimage site in Virginia

Pilgrims first learn about the walk

Pilgrims first learn about the walk

A young pilgrim participates in walk by reading out loud the meditation for the station to the group while the rest silently read from their books.

A young pilgrim participates in walk by reading out loud the meditation for the station to the group while the rest silently read from their books.

I was very honored to be invited to attend the inauguration of a new prayer path and holy site in Virginia.  On August 3, 2014 a group of Catholics walked and prayed the first Stations of Creation with the launch of a new book to accompany this new contemplative path.  Because these are the first such stations, this marks a historical event in the Church.  The stations are located in the mountains in Goshen, Virginia, near Lexington.  The attendees were mostly from Virginia and some from other parts of the country.  The group gathered for a proposed new Feast Day to honor God the Father, and used the occasion to pray the newly established stations. The Stations of Creation consist of prayer stops dedicated to God the Creator along a path overlooking beautiful scenes of His creation.  The path starts upon a large hill, travels past a field, a river, through a park and passes several unique landscapes, until it returns to where it started.  Twenty-one Stations of Creation line this contemplative prayer path. Similar to the way Catholics pray the Stations of the Cross, worshipers stand in front of each Station of Creation and recite meditations.  However, the prayers honor God the Father through His wondrous creation and are recited out in God’s great outdoors. I was incredibly moved by the wonderful prayers that accompany the path that are very Franciscan in their attention to Care for Creation and the Gospel way of life. The whole goal is to reflect and meditate upon some of the more common creations of our God in a natural, contemplative way, as did the Church through many centuries, until the rise of large cities took people out of the countryside. This is an ancient and very traditional way of praying and is described by saints in many spiritual books, but has been all but forgotten by most in more modern times. To pray in a natural contemplative way, a person spends time viewing, thinking and reflecting upon or contemplating about what one sees, just like one reflects upon each Station of the Cross.  However, the reflections note the depth of God the Father’s creations that most people overlook, or fail to see, because of the distractions of modern living.  This method of praying imitates some of the saints, like St. Francis or some of the better known Carmelite saints. Meditations reflect on such gifts from God as trees, flowers, grass, farm fields, water, a cedar forest and other specific creations of our God that are found along the path at each Station. As worshipers enjoy the walk, they stop at each station and read one of the meditations.  The result is, hopefully, a spiritual experience and a greater appreciation of God’s gifts to each of us. The end result is a growth in a person’s basic belief of faith that there is a God and that he loves us.  The whole concept or approach was inspired last year as the Church celebrated the Year of Faith. The experience helps those who pray the path to grow in appreciation of God the Father and his creations or gifts to us.

A NEW Proposed Feast Day — God the Father Feast Day

The first pilgrims to walk the path with the new meditations read together.

The first pilgrims to walk the path with the new meditations read together.

Over forty people prayed the path on August 3. They came to the site of the Stations as part of an annual gathering held to celebrate a proposed feast day being nourished in the Church by some Catholics around the world. It is a feast day that is proposed for God the Father on the first Sunday in August.  It was originally proposed by Sister Eugene Elisabetta Ravasio, an Italian nun.  Some of the group in attendance at this year’s proposed God the Father feast day have known each other for over 20 years and at least a few of them have been meeting annually on the first Sunday in August for the last 14 years.  More about this proposed feast day at:  http://www.fatherspeaks.net/pdf/the_father_speaks_english_v-2005-02.pdf The beautiful property where the first Stations of Creation have been built is owned by a Dr. Paul Faucher and is called Terra Patris (Land of the Father).  Dr. Faucher attends St. Patrick’s Church in Lexington Virginia, and is a physician at Stonewall Jackson Hospital.  Fr. Joe D’Aurora, the pastor of St. Patrick’s, came to lead a prayer service for the proposed God the Father Feast Day, and gives his enthusiastic endorsement of Stations of Creation and the proposed new feast day.  It is interesting to point out in reflecting on the Holy Trinity, that there are feast days for both Jesus and the Holy Spirit, but not God the Father.

Fr. Joe D'Aurora & Dr. Paul Faucher

Fr. Joe D’Aurora & Dr. Paul Faucher

Peter Christopher Gruters is a friend of Dr. Paul Faucher, who devoted six months to clearing and constructing this inspiring new contemplative prayer path with a wonderful written guide to accompany the pilgrims who come to experience this slice of heaven in Western Virginia. Mr. Gruters is proposing that Stations of Creation be built-in each diocese around the world, within driving distance of schools and churches, so Catholics can visit God’s great outdoors and pray in God’s creation by reading similar meditations and contemplating God’s infinite gifts to each of us.  In this way Catholics can reconnect to an ancient tradition in the Church.

Author and Stations of Creation path builder Peter Christopher Gruters

Author and Stations of Creation path builder Peter Christopher Gruters

Although the path was used August 3, it still needs lots of work.  New concrete benches with a different station name placed on each of them have been ordered and will soon be installed.  This is causing Dr. Faucher to not reopen the path until at least mid-October, 2014.  At that time the hope is that other devoted Catholics will visit to pray the path and experience what those who visited on August 3, did. Dr. Faucher’s email address is tpatris@ntelos.net for those interested in visiting Terra Patris to get directions and suggestions to enjoy your pilgrimage. On this 200 acre farm there is a park on the property offering a beautiful picnic and swimming area along the Calfpasture River.  This is healthy stream that is accesible for the whole family and offers fishing, swimming, canoeing, rock skipping, and nature watching.

NEW Book for those visiting Terra Patris

The new path guidebook

The new path guidebook

A new book is about to be released called How To Pray In A Natural Contemplative Way:  A Guide for Young and Old , and I was able to read an advanced copy given to all the people who visited on August 3rd.  This is a MUST read before and during your pilgrimage to Terra Patris.  The first two chapters are about contemplative prayer in a “natural” way, and help detail this beautiful form of prayer in quoting examples from the saints and The Bible.  The book emphasizes a great devotion to God the Father.  The book has the meditations for the path at Terra Patris and also makes clear to the reader why living a proposed lifestyle in a natural and loving way is essential to Christians.  The book is not preaching that one should move to the country because it is safer there, or more secure, but because it is what is best from a healthy spiritual standpoint.   It is a truth that has been hidden or forgotten by many in recent times. The Bible is full of stories of how God’s children were called out of the cities, but few realize why God wills people to live out in the country.  It is so they can have a healthy spiritual life as well as good health, physically and mentally.  This book also reveals how parents can teach small children who can’t even read yet about God. Most parents don’t take advantage of using God’s creation to explain about God and that He made everything for our care, provision and enjoyment and because he loves us. The third chapter is about the 21 Stations of Creation and offer reflections and prayers to be read at each station with an accompanying photograph.  This book can be used on its own with the photographs, but is much more meaningful in a natural setting and integrates perfectly with the Stations of Creation contemplative path.  After hiking this entire path, and listening to the readings with a group-prayer experience, I truly believe that author Peter Christopher Gruters was guided by the Holy Spirit in writing this incredible book. This book is truly a treasure for all visitors to Terra Patris and the meditations can also be read anywhere in God’s creation where appropriate or even while viewing pictures or films of God’s creation..  I highly recommend individuals and church groups to come experience Terra Patris and Mr. Gruters book for an inspiration of a lifetime.   Note:  Details about where you can get the book will be available soon, and also a supporting website for Terra Patris, the Stations of Creation, and How To Pray In A Natural Contemplative Way:  A Guide for Young and Old to be online soon.  I will be updating this blog with details, and you are also welcome to e-mail me and I will let you know more as soon as it is available at jclem@catholicws.com

 

LINKS

A New Way to Pray a Traditional Way (by John Clem in The Catholic Virginian September 1st, 2014)  weblink to article

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  • Mike Huether, OFS

    A “must see and experience” for myself and all those who are seasoned at contemplative prayer as well as those who need to learn more.

  • http://guygruters.net Guy

    I really enjoyed the book by Peter, especially the way of praying it so clearly lays out!

  • marvin d anderson

    I participated in the walk and prayed the meditations. I found that the opportunity to follow along in the new book enhanced my ability to appreciate the words and take them to heart. I lament that every Catholic has not —up to now—been able to engage in this exercise that affords so much spiritual enrichment. Marvin D. Anderson, M.D.

  • http://www.EATFoodforLife.ca Tim

    We were blessed to receive an advanced copy of Peter’s book and look forward to having a Stations of Creation here in western Canada soon!

  • Dan S.

    My family and I are blessed to live at Terra Patris and the contemplative prayer path that Peter Gruters built is truly a natural wonder! His accompanying guidebook is full of beautiful meditations along that path that lead to natural contemplative prayer and beyond…Those who make a pilgrimage to this site will be richly rewarded for their efforts to honor and love God the Father and Creator of all!

  • Terry

    Thank You our Dear Heavenly Father for creating us and sustaining us and loving us with Your infinite love! Thank You for being our Father and a special thank You for inspiring the Stations of Creation at Terra Patris and the book, How To Pray in a Natural Contemplative Way. Praying these Stations of Creation at Terra Patris in Virgina and praying them with the pictures in the book will help everyong who prays them to know, love and honor You, more and more. May the Stations of Creation spread throughout the world and be prayed and embraced by all of Your children! Our Father Who art in Heaven, Hallowed be Thy Name; Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. Amen

  • Justin Soutar

    I was blessed to be among those who walked this beautiful nature trail and prayed these inspiring Stations of Creation for the first time. It was a unique and wholesome experience both spiritually and recreationally. I look forward to doing it again, and I would recommend it to any Catholic, Christian, or other person of goodwill of any age in the U.S.A. and beyond!

  • Paul Faucher

    I also was with the first group to “pray the path” and we were provided a beautiful day to do it. I was wondering whether all those kids would “hold still” for the duration. They didn’t, of course. But they were happy to quietly (believe it or not!) explore the fringes as the group moved from one natural scene to the next. Nature proved to be a wonderful baby-sitter. I soon came to realize what a wonderful family activity this was. The group picture at the end says it all. Y’all come!

  • Garnett Stock

    It was an honor to be included in the first group of pilgrims to walk and pray the paths of The Stations Of Creation. My husband and I received one of the advance copies of the book “How To Pray In A Natural Contemplative Way”, which introduces The Stations Of Creation. After reading this book we were both very excited to make the trip from Alabama to Terra Patris in Virgina to experience this in person.
    It was a beautiful day spent in God’s creation. What a pleasure to hear the sounds of the running water splashing against the rock bed and the birds singing instead of local traffic passing by or beeping horns!
    I would highly recommend this book along with a trip to Terra Patris to help everyone appreciate first hand the love of God for his people through his creation.

  • Lorraine B.

    I have been blessed to receive an advanced copy of this new book and have really enjoyed it because it enlightened me what it takes to pray in a natural comtemplative way, as well as the benefits one receives from doing such. The book also covers many other spiritual topics that I learned much about. As I read this book it gave me joy and peace, and also much to reflect and think about. It also inspired me to have Stations of Creation in Canada (Western) and I pray this will occur throughout the world. I would like to thank the author for writing this wonderful book but most of all I thank God our Father for His great love and gifts He gives to me and for everyone through His great creation. I recommend that all Catholics read this book.

  • Nancy Smith

    I did not have the opportunity to be at the site,but have read the book. It is calming time to spent with Gods creation. Nancy Smith

  • Bruce Wright

    Wow. Talk about a timely book! These days all of us can certainly benefit from feeling closer to God. And in recent times we have gotten away from one place in particular where His tremendous love for us, however in a still, small voice, comes through loudly and clearly: out in the beauty of nature He has created for us to enjoy. Peter Gruter’s book serves as a simple yet profound guide to help us re-connect with our Creator – to talk with Him and, in reply, to hear Him say: “Had you forgotten that I love you?” Bruce Wright

  • John

    I have read an advance copy of the book and
    discovered to my delight that even a person who already has great faith and love
    of God can benefit from praying in a natural, contemplative way. I highly
    recommend this book to anyone because it will make you understand that praying
    in a natural, contemplative way helps all persons draw closer to God regardless
    of what level their faith is at on their spiritual journey.

  • http://www.EATFoodforLife.ca Tim

    We were blessed to receive an advanced copy of Peter’s book. What a wonderful gift. We are surrounded by rolling hills filled with wildlife, pastures, forests and waterways and know firsthand the beauty available in God’s creation. However, this gift provides us with a resource to go from beauty to blessings through the grace-filled experience of praying in a natural contemplative way. Thank you Peter. We would encourage all to make this a treasured addition to their personal library and we look forward to having a Stations of Creation here in western Canada soon!

  • Guest

    great

  • Annette

    The weather was wonderful! It was a great day for a-walk in God’s creation. I had 8 of my children with me and we had a very nice time. It was very different because of the stops, and readings. By the time it was over every one felt much closer to God. I guess you could call it a prayer experience or just a faith experience. The meditations helped all of us to realize just how many gifts God has given us. I wish I could do it again every week. It was truly a relaxing way to pray outdoors in God’s creation.

  • Michael

    I have walked the path many times but was unable to attend the first ever station of creations walk. I was busy taking care of my 10th and youngest child at Terra Patris. I have read the book and it reminded me of the facts that are present in each of the stations of creations. That is, that God exists and that He loves us. I plan to return as part of our vacation with my family to make this walk yearly. By then my smallest child will be able to join with the rest of the family.

  • joachim

    I had a nice time, nice walk and lots of good words to read. It was fun and I want to do it again soon.

  • Isaac

    What a nice thing to do! Take a walk in the woods and say some prayers. I liked some stations better than others, but they all were very nice. The readings made me think about things much differently. I don’t think I will see a tree or water with out thinking about God and how He created them. It was different but I had a nice time.

  • Sophia

    My job was to read one of the station of creation meditation’s. I did it and loved to be with others. The weather was great and so were the people. Everyone was so happy and friendly. I learned a lot about God’s gifts for us.

  • Luke

    I like the woods, I like the water. I like to pray sometime’s. Praying outside was fun, and I had a great time.

  • Michaela

    I got to read one of the meditations to the entire group. I think I did ok! Perhaps I could of done better. The words are really good, I think I understood all of them. I now know God made everything.

  • Sarah

    My favorite station was the rose bush garden, but there was no roses. The river was pretty so were the trees. I love God and I thank him for everything

  • Rita

    I truly enjoyed the prayer walk. It was such a pleasure to be with all of the devoted people. The walk reminded me of other times I have been in the woods. But with the readings it meant much more. The truth was pronounced that God loves us abundantly. With his endless gift of creations and all was so very nice. I would make this walk anytime. Even if I had to ride in the wheelchair because of my old age. What Heaven must be like.

  • Jill T. Anderson

    I really enjoyed reading and meditating on one of the Stations of Creation during my daily prayer time. I write down several salient points and post them on the refrigerator so I can refer back to them all day. Following this practice makes me a more calm, peaceful, joyful, and thankful Catholic Christian.