By Tim Von Dohlen

Witnessing to the Beauty of Catholic History

August 3, 2018

Continuing to share the pearls of wisdom from the Pilgrimage In The Footsteps of St. Dominic, as Catholic business men and women each of us has an obligation to witness (experience, reflect and share) to others about our Catholic faith.

The first place our group stayed was in the walled town of Avila. In addition to the lovely Cathedral near our hotel, we visited the Church at the site of St. Teresa of Avila’s birthplace. The art displayed the 4 gifts of Wisdom, Humility, Religion and Devotion and 4 of the earliest Orders of Priests were shown: Dominican, Franciscan, Carmelite and Benedictine.

Also displayed was the Pelican as a Christian Symbol. The Pelican was believed to pierce its own breast with its beak and feed its young of its blood. It became a symbol of Christ sacrificing himself for man – and as such is frequently represented in Christian art.

We visited St. Teresa’s Monastery for Nuns where St. John of the Cross was confessor.

In Segovia, Mass was celebrated in the cave of St. Dominic. It was a very spiritually moving location. There we learned of St. Dominic’s 9 ways of prayer – taught by St. Dominic and made by way of example more than by what he said (long before the printing press):

  1. Bowing deeply;
  2. Lying prostate on the floor;
  3. Discipline for his sins or the sins of others;
  4. Genuflection;
  5. Standing upright before the altar – hands together before his eyes, or hands out, open (like an open book);
  6. Hands and arms out like a cross;
  7. Stretching his whole body up towards heaven, like an arrow shot straight from a bow;
  8. Settling himself down to read or pray and fixing himself in the presence of God;
  9. Praying as he walked aside from any companion.

In Segovia, we also saw the Roman Aqueduct built at the time of the Roman Emperor Trajan who was emperor from 98 to 117 AD. The Aqueduct still stands strong after 1900 years and the incredible aspect of this is that the Romans did not use mortar between the rocks. In the Alcazar (Queen and Kings Castle) in Segovia when the king or queen was meeting with people they used a 20-minute hour glass to time their appointments which is what they did with Christopher Columbus.

In Caleruega, where St. Dominic was born, Father Michael gave his homily during the Mass about Joy. He said, “Joy is a state of mind not an emotion. Because God is in our heart, nothing can separate us from joy if we have God with us. Water is joy and the source of life and is simple joyfulness. The number one sign of the Dominicans is the changing of water to wine. Wine is the sign of the spirit – contact with the risen Lord”.

In Montserrat we had Mass in the chapel behind the Black Madonna. Our Lady of Montserrat was established in 1300 and the story developed that the Madonna blackened due to the soot from candles. Father Michael in his homily used a metaphor likening the soot from the candles that our lives are blackened and we must be cleansed by the body and blood of Christ. Jesus to St. Paul, “My strength will come alive in your weakness”.

It was in Barcelona where we had two particular remembrances. We saw where St. Ramon was buried in the Barcelona Cathedral. St. Ramon lived in the 12 century and was the finest lawyer of his time. He became a Dominican and the Pope had him write a compilation of all church cases over the life of the Church up to that time. It took 20 years to write. It was the law of the Church for 700 years. Then Ramon left Rome and went back to Barcelona where after a one-year sabbatical he was charged with writing the life of a Dominican and setting out the Administration of the Order. He set two years as the length of the time the head of Dominicans could serve and then must resign. He established order and led the Dominican Order.

Then we went to the Gaudi Basilica of Barcelona. No way to describe it but magnificent. Under construction for more than 200 years hoping to be completed in 2023. When complete there will be 14 towers representing the 12 apostles, the Virgin Mary and Jesus. There are 52 types of stone in the structure. The architect Gaudi knew others would have to find engineering techniques to accomplish his dreams. The methods of showing nature, beams like trees, use of light and color is fascinating.

The Pilgrimage was physically challenging. The challenge reminded us of the daily challenges we face as Catholics in modern American society to be “in the world” but not “of the world”. Bob Gass in the Word for Today captured in a story the essence of problems, endurances and strength required to meet challenges.

“Michael Phelps captured the gold for America in the Beijing 2008 Olympics and brought home a record eight best-time gold medals. But it won’t just be the number of medals we’ll remember, but his invincible spirit when things turned drastically against him in the 200 meter butterfly. As he touched the wall, winning the race, nobody knew what he’d undergone to accomplish it. As Michael pulled off his goggles and the world watched, incredulous, water poured out of them. He had swum 200 meters almost blind, an experience swimmers dread. Counting strokes, looking desperately for any marks on the pool floor, he finally touched the finish wall, an Olympic conqueror in every sense.

How often are we blinded – by desire for money, power, and fame – but when we place our faith in Jesus Christ we can meet any challenge with hope, endurance and joy.


Timothy Von Dohlen writes from Austin, Texas, where he founded the St. John Paul II Life Center and Vitae Clinic, a remarkable and highly effective operation that lends itself to effective duplication elsewhere. He may be reached at or through (put “for Timothy Von Dohlen” in the subject)

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