A little more than two years ago, I wrote an In Focus for the Newsweekly called “Top 10 Catholic Cities, USA,” a piece that highlighted 10 places in the United States that embodied Catholic history, culture, physical landscape and spirituality.
As a refresher, here’s the list the Newsweekly staff came up with after much thinking, sorting and rearranging: New Orleans; Emmitsburg, Maryland; Bethlehem, Connecticut; St. Louis; Denver; San Antonio; Chicago; Pittsburgh; St. Augustine, Florida; and Los Angeles. We tried to cultivate a unique list that represented places both large and small, and offered plenty of opportunities for Catholic pilgrimage should one decide to spend a day or two in that area. We wrote it, we designed it, we published it. And then the Internet exploded.
It turns out, probably not to the surprise of anyone who has spent much time surfing the Web, that people’s opinions on the “top” anything are strong. And Catholic cities, at least for Catholic readers, has proved to be no exception.
Since its publication, “Top 10 Catholic Cities, USA” consistently has registered as one of the most highly viewed articles on OSV.com and has generated a plethora of comments, most of them indicating, er, definitively, the many ways in which we absolutely were wrong.
But a recent visit to St. Augustine, Florida, reminded me of at least one way in which we were very, very right.
St. Augustine, down to its very name, is a little haven of Catholicism. I stood at the site where Spanish explorers celebrated the first Mass on American soil. I visited the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine no fewer than four times, including for Eucharistic adoration and to attend the first in a series on the life and teachings of St. Augustine of Hippo. (While there, we had the opportunity to venerate a first-class relic of the city’s patron — the first time a major relic of the saint has traveled to American soil.)
I walked around the gorgeous outdoor Mission Nombre de Dios and prayed inside the tiny but beautiful shrine of Our Lady of La Leche. This little haven was my favorite Catholic site in the city — a quiet, peaceful place where it simply feels like Jesus and his mother love each other and love each visitor who stops by to say hello. It was beautiful.
So, as people continue to seek out Catholic locations in the United States, I imagine we will keep receiving alternative suggestions to our 10 picks. And that’s wonderful — we welcome the feedback. At least as long as we agree to leave St. Augustine perfectly alone.
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I want to quickly to thank all who have communicated concern and prayers for my friend who was diagnosed with cancer. It means the world to me. I am so grateful, and I know they are, too.
Thoughts? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.