Thursday, June 28, 2012

Expedition (aka Pilgrimage) to America's First Cathedral

( When doing the research to publish this blog post, I learned that the more accurate definition for a journey to a place of spiritual significance is called a "pilgrimage", rather than an expedition.  So perhaps, I should start another blog entitled "Pilgrimages by Patricia", but for the time being, I am sticking with the current title that uses the expedition word!) This photo shows the front of the Baltimore Basilica, also known as America's First Cathedral.  The Baltimore Basilica is also ranked #2 out of the top eight National Shrines of the United States Catholic Church.  In addition, it holds the rank of Minor Basilica, a Marian Shrine, and a National Historic Landmark.
 The Basilica is the design of architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe, who was America's first professionally trained architect.  He was also the architect Thomas Jefferson used to design the U.S. Capitol.  The construction was done under the direction of America's first Catholic Bishop, John Carroll.
 The front has a classical Greek portico with ionic columns.  The tops of the columns are covered in spikes to keep birds from nesting there.
 However, there are no spikes on the portico, and this visitor had taken refuge under it, to get out of the rain that was falling on the morning of my visit. 
 The Basicilica is located in the Mt. Vernon district of Baltimore, which might be considered a cultural "mecca" in downtown Baltimore because of the numerous museums, public library, and statuary found there.  To learn more about the Mt. Vernon district, as well as the many other neighborhoods of Baltimore, log on to  for detailed information. 
 Visitors to the church may take a guided tour with a docent, or a self-guided walking tour.  Of course, when Mass is being held, or other events such as weddings, baptisms, etc., visitation is restricted.  You can check their website at to get details of hours of operation, location, and parking.
 I was told the red and yellow structure is called the "Papal Umbrella" .   ( In fact, Pope John Paul II visited the Baltimore Basilica twice.  The pontiff, who came to Baltimore in 1995 to complete his formal visitation of a pope to a basilica, had also been there in 1976.  At that time, he was known as Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, and he came with 17 other Polish bishops. )  The Papal Umbrella originated in Italy for the simple purpose of providing shade for the Pope, when he was outside.  These days it is more a symbol of ecclesiastical heraldry, and is the insigne of a basilica, usually displayed to the right of the main altar. 
 In my research, I learned that a shrine is a sacred place devoted to a specific saint, martyr, or ancestor, at which they are venerated.  A shrine at which votive candle offerings are made is called an altar. 
 The beauty of the interior is most conducive to a spiritual experience where one can meditate in silence or join with others in worshipping God.
 When the beautiful pipe organ shown in this photo is playing, it is probably an audio example of the verse in the Bible that says "Come, let's shout praises to GOD, raise the roof for the Rock who saved us!  Let's march into his presence singing praises, lifting the rafters with our hymns!"  (Psalm 95:1, The Message)
 Another famous person that visited this Basilica was Mother Teresa of Calcutta.  Her visit was in 1996, and this photo depicts a remembrance of her.
 Outside the basilica is a gift shop, that stocks a myriad of faith-based gift items and inspirational writings.  Some of these are described on their website, and can be ordered without actually making a visit to the basilica gift shop in person. 
 Adjacent to the Baltimore Basilica, is the Pope John Paul II Prayer Garden that opened in 2008. 
 This is one of the simplest, yet most meaningful, garden gates I have ever photographed.
 The centerpiece of the garden is a statue of the Holy Father with two children, that was based on a photo taken during his 1995 Papal visit to Baltimore. 
 The garden provides pilgrims and visitors with an outdoor spiritual retreat within the city, while paying homage to Pope John Paul II, who has been described as one of the 20th century's true visionaries. 
 The large wall mural of flowers is poignant with meaning as they represent the flowers associated with Mary.    The rose (on the right) symbolizes the Virgin herself (early Rosary beads were made from compressed rose petals).  Next to the rose, the marigold was called "Mary's Gold",  by early Christians who placed the flowers around statues of Mary, because they had no coins to leave as offerings.  Next to the marigold is the lily, which is a symbol of the annunciation, and Mary's purity.  Above the large lily, is the flower "lily of the valley", which is also called "Our lady's tears" (it was said to have grown where Mary wept).
 The iron fence that surrounds the prayer garden, is described as a modern interpretation of the one that surrounds the basilica.  I especially liked the design of the cross in it.  I read that an overhead view of the garden reveals that it is in the shape of a fish, reflecting the image often associated with Jesus throughout the Bible.
 The banner near the front of the basilica was proclaiming the "Fortnight for Freedom", currently in progress.  One aspect of that celebration calls for Christian churches across America (not just those that are Catholic) to ring their bells at high noon on the Fourth of July.  The purpose of this is an audible reminder to all within earshot of the important role that the churches of the United States of America have played in securing and maintaining the many freedoms that we as Americans enjoy.  So Americans----ring your bells at noon on Wednesday, July 4, and as Martin Luther King, Jr.,  proclaimed "Thank God Almighty" for our freedom!!  Thank God for the freedom you have to travel, and experience miles of smiles across the U.S.A.!   Tricia
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Sunday, June 24, 2012

Bicentennial Expeditions !

To plan your expedition to one of the hundreds of events scheduled over the next three years, go to   .  That is the official website of the War of 1812 Bicentennial Commemoration for the U.S. Navy and its partners.  This site provides a wide range of information about the bicentennial of the war, including up-to-date information about the Navy's Bicentennial events from 2012 to 2015, plus historical and educational resources and links to important sites.  In addition you can check out their page on Facebook at and/or Twitter handle:!/Navy1812    (note to self:  The book of Proverbs is the "Twitter" of Biblical times---terse and to the point!)  When your ship is loaded with all the information on these websites, you will be ready to "set sail" for expeditions around the country!  BON VOYAGE and MILES OF SMILES!  Tricia 
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Friday, June 22, 2012


t To commemorate the War of 1812, the United Kingdom's First Sea Lord/Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope (on the right) and the U.S. Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan W. Greenert (on the left)  hosted a media event and reception onboard the United Kingdom's Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) Argus, this past week in the Baltimore, Maryland, Harbor.
 During the event, Stanhope and Greenert spoke on lessons learned during the War of 1812, and the changes seen within the countries' navies over the past 200 years. 
 As a preliminary to the "Enemies to Allies" ceremony held later in the week at Fort McHenry in Baltimore, the two admirables chatted "admirably" as media personnel filmed this historic occasion!  It is as if they were demonstrating what the Bible says in Matthew 5:24 when it says "First go and be reconciled to your brother...."
 The two navies that these men now lead, fought on the Chesapeake Bay at Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore in 1814.  It was that battle that inspired the national anthem. 
 In this photo, Admiral Greenert is shown pointing toward Fort McHenry (site of the original "Star Spangled Banner"), which could be seen a short distance from where the Argus was moored.  Go to  or to learn about all the Baltimore-area activities planned to celebrate the 200 year anniversary of the writing of the Star Spangled Banner Anthem in 2014. 
 Admiral Greenert is quoted as saying the War of 1812 "really signified our rebirth as a Navy and a nation."  The message in the press release from the U.S. Navy was, that studying the history of the War of 1812 will help us come away with a greater appreciation of how the U.S. Navy has been keeping the sea free for more than 200 years.  You can keep up with our Admiral on Facebook under the title "Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert" .
 Admiral Stanhope quipped that one of the major differences he can see between this historic meeting of the two navies, versus the one that occurred in the war of 1812, was that "this time we were INVITED into the Baltimore Harbor!"  :)   A video and transcript of parts of this interview can be seen at 
 When the interview was over, the sailor who had been on his knees holding the microphones throughout the interview took a while to get straightened back up, as did I, who had also been sitting on the floor amongst the tripods, for the entire interview!
 Marine dealers (and even furniture stores)  advertise a design called "The Captain's Chair", but the seat located on the bridge of the Argus could be called "The Admiral's Chair" on this particular evening!
 After the dignitaries had left the bridge, I persuaded one of the sailors to take a photo of my sister and I, to prove that we had actually witnessed this historic "meeting of the Admirals"!
 The top of the Argus had a commanding view of much of Baltimore Harbor.  You can see videos of events held in the Baltimore Harbor for Sailabration at    That site will also give you the cities where similar activities will be held during the next three years.  The Commemoration will continue with events marking the Battles of Lake Erie and Lake Champlain, and the Battle of New Orleans.  Local civic committees in each city are organizing events in which the Navy and its partners will participate.  Get details at   
 This flight deck is set up for the reception that was held after the media event.  Although we did not attend the reception, there are photos of the "Ceremonial Beating Retreat" on Admiral Greenert's Facebook page.  
 With more than two thirds of the Argus length taken up by the flight deck, she has the ability to accommodate most helicopters, and to operate several at once. 
 The media used a VERY STEEP gangplank to get to the bridge of the ship where the interview was held.  However, didnitaries used the special steps set up within the scaffolding, covered by the British naval flag.
 Although no one told me this, I surmised that these were the vehicles and drivers for the very top distinguished guests attending the reception. 
 RFA stands for Royal Fleet Auxiliary.  It is a civilian manned fleet, owned by the Ministry of Defence.  Its main task is to supply warships of the Royal Navy at sea with fuel, food, stores and ammunition, which they need to remain operational while away from base. 
 There were security checks similar to airport security, for those going on board the RFA Argus.
 The RFA Argus (which is the big gray hull behind the USS Donald Cook in the foreground), carries a hospital facility.  I am thankful none of the media had to use the hospital facilities, especially considering we had to SPRINT up 10 flights of stairs in a very narrow stairwell, in order to make the scheduled interview!
 Although Sailabration 2012 is over in Baltimore, it is not too late for YOU to see a great gathering of all kinds of navy vessels at other locations around the United States.  Operation Sail, Inc., 2012, still has two more cities to visit.  They are Boston, MA from June 30 - July 5, and New London, CT, from July 6 - July 9.   Go to to start planning your own version of "Anchors Away!" and miles of smiles!   Tricia
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Saturday, June 9, 2012

Tablerock Dam Visitor Center

 There is a new attraction in Branson, and you do not have to pay an admission fee to enjoy it!!  It is the beautifully-designed visitor center at Table Rock Dam that was just opened this spring. 
 The visitor center is adjacent to a well-maintained shore line along Tablerock Lake that is very inviting for  swimming, short strolls, or longer hikes----for those who would like to follow the paths to their connection point with trails throughout the area of Tablerock State Park.
 Just like the former center, the name is "Dewey Short Visitor Center", with the old visitor center being converted into offices.  In 2010, the US Army Corps of Engineers received federal funding to build a new Class A visitor center at Table Rock Lake.  A partnership was established with Ozarks Rivers Heritage Foundation to operate the new Dewey Short Regional Visitor Center. 
 This is also the location where one can make arrangements to tour the dam and powerhouse, and this former San Francisco Cable Car is the vehicle that will deliver you to the dam entrance.  You can find out the details of touring the dam at   
 Cantilevered steel beams extend out of the top floor of the visitor center to give spectators a birds eye view of the dam and Chateau on the Lake property on the north end of the dam.
 That upper deck also gave a great view of the underwater rock ledge that is along the shoreline in front of the visitor center.  That ledge in indelibly printed in my mind, because back in the seventies, it was the location of a night dive that I took to meet the requirements of scuba certification.  Although scuba diving was permissible at that location back in those days, the site is now off-limits to scuba.  I am thankful I was able to scuba dive there before the rules changed!
 When one is on the balcony of the visitor center, there is a great view of the map of Tablerock Lake that has been artistically designed into the concrete floor. 
 There is a classroom/conference center adjacent to the exhibit space, where lots of educational activities take place.   Many of these activities are planned to be therapy for "nature deficit disorder", which is so prevalent in the younger generation these days.  I saw announcements for classes about "how to fish", how to recognize birds and plants of the region, and how to be a good steward of the environment.
 This exhibit let people try cranking the handlebars as fast and as long as they were able, to see how much energy their work would create.
 In addition to the exhibits, there are areas in the center where one can just relax in a comfortable chair and enjoy the view!
 This very familiar bird was carefully (and legally!) preserved by a taxidermist, and "flew" above the gift shop, along with a golden eage of the same size.  All purchases at the gift shop (which has dozens of wonderful gifts representative of nature and the Ozarks, in particular) help provide support for the foundation.  You can find out about the Ozark-made gift items available  by emailing    
 One of the exhibits told about the native Americans that inhabited this area in the distant past.
 This was an eye-catching, and ear-catching, exhibit to me, because I have had the experience of going through a flood with my family, back in the sixties.  There was a replay of a real television news story from the last century, telling about a flood that devastated the town of Hollister, Missouri, before the dam was built. 
 I liked the simplicity of this exhibit, because it helped me see the relationship of the location of the turbines deep inside the dam.  The downward flow of the water make the "wheels" of the turbine spin, with the ultimate result being electricity to run this computer I am using at this very moment!
 Another thing I like about this building is that it is LEED certified, in its design and construction.  To be LEED certified, a building must meet strict criteria in the areas of energy and water conservation, recycling, indoor air quality, and sustainable building materials.  For example, in Arkansas, the recently built world headquarters of Heifer, International, is LEED certified, as well as the Clinton Presidential Library.
 On the bottom floor of the center, a life-side diorama of an Ozarks plateau has been recreated, complete with appropriate animal species represented through taxidermy.
 Can you guess what this native Ozark  feline is called, based on the short nature of its tail?
 Although there is not an actual big aquarium, a space has been designed to show fish of the Ozark lakes and rivers.  This is one critter I have never encountered in my years of swimming and scuba diving in the Ozarks, and it is probably just as well!  I would probably be scared to see it face to face, or should I say "snout to snout"?!
 I have seen plenty of these gar on the lake, and I have learned to have a healthy respect for their teeth!
 The exhibits are designed to be "hands on", with the hope of teaching visitors, especially youngsters, about where their electrical power comes from.  Likewise, I am learning each day I live,  the source of the power that enables me to endure in this world. It is described in Ephesians 3:16 --- "I pray that out of his glorious riches, he may strengthen you with POWER through his Spirit, in your inner being..."   That is the kind of power that I want to have so that I can continue to explore God's beautiful creation with "miles of smiles"! ( To plan your trip to see this new attraction, go to or   )Tricia
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