“Monuments, Marvels and Miracles: A Traveler’s Guide to Catholic America” by Marion Amberg. Our Sunday Visitor (Huntington, Indiana, 2021). 475 pp., $27.95.
There are well over 500 Catholic holy sites in the United States, and you can learn about them from this new book.
Author Marion Amberg did an enormous amount of research locating and learning about each one. She organized the 50 states into seven regions — Northeast, mid-Atlantic, Southeast, Midwest, Mountain West, Southwest and Pacific West — and then wrote a brief description of holy sites in each state, including addresses, websites and phone numbers that travelers can use to plan a visit to each site.
For example, writing about northern Vermont, Amberg included an account of the origins of a “tiny stone chapel” built by Werner von Trapp — a son of Georg and Maria von Trapp — close by the Trapp Family Lodge, near Stowe.
Each state’s section of the book opens with a colorful map of the state with each highway and road identified by its official number and with each sacred site identified with the number of its section of the book.
Without a doubt, there are Catholic shrines, museums, churches, monasteries and other sites that didn’t make it into this book. In fact, this reviewer identified two of them in his own region.
The fact is that there are so many Catholic sacred locales that it would be nearly impossible to include them all. Still, you’re not likely to find a more complete resource than this one if you want to include Catholic holy places in your vacation plans this year or for years to come.
Each of the sites Amberg writes about includes wonderful informative stories. One example: “Santo Niño de Atocha Chapel in Chimayo (New Mexico) has an endearing tradition: the practice of offering baby shoes to Santo Niño (the Christ Child). According to lore, Santo Niño wanders the countryside at night healing the sick, wearing out his shoes along the way. In both petition and gratitude, the faithful keep Santo Niño shod. Severiano Medina built the quaint 1857 adobe in thanksgiving for healing received.”
Finally, you don’t need to actually pack up a vehicle and drive for hundreds of miles to benefit from this book. On the contrary, armchair travelers will find it an ideal resource for enjoying Catholic holy places without ever leaving home.
“Monuments, Marvels and Miracles: A Traveler’s Guide to Catholic America” may well be the best book of its kind ever written, and it will make a delightful gift for both lifelong Catholics and those new to Catholicism.
Thank you, Marion Amberg!
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Finley is the author of more than 30 books of popular Catholic theology, including “The Rosary Handbook” and “What Faith is Not.”