Terra Patris – A new pilgrimage site in Virginia
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
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.
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.
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 email@example.com 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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
A New Way to Pray a Traditional Way (by John Clem in The Catholic Virginian September 1st, 2014) weblink to article