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Top 5 Catholic Bucket List Destinations

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As Catholics, we know the world offers a variety of historically religious landmarks from the River Jordan to the birthplace of Christ, our Savior. So, after scrimping and saving you're ready to go out and explore religiously-relevant locations across the globe...but where do you start?

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LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - I have traveled across the globe in search of the many wonders God created. If there is anything I learned through my travels, it is that God always intervenes. 

There have been times I was all packed up and ready to head to my next destination only to be stopped by unsafe 

weather conditions, flight delays or a mixed-up schedule but you know what? Each and every time things didn't go my way, God revealed Himself to me. 

Whether He revealed Himself in the form of an opportunity to help others or by helping me to open my heart to things I didn't previously understand, God definitely greeted me and encouraged me to share my experiences.

I have compiled a list of locations I think every practicing Catholic should add to their bucket list. Each location listed here was originally listed by Joanna Bogle, who inspired me to visit them.

St. Declan's Well, Ardmore

St. Declan was a monk who traveled the world on a pilgrimage and when he was on a ship to Ireland he left his bell in Britain. As legend has it, he prayed for the bell's return and it washed up on the shores of Ardmore, which means "high hill." 

The arrival of the bell was so miraculous and St. Declan so happy at its return that he built a chapel, whose ruins remain today. The remaining tower is said to house St. Declan's remains; however, nothing has been proven.

Saint Declan's Well is believed to be an area he enjoyed to commune with God. Near the well are the remains of a church and a capstone on the well has been marked by other travelers. 

When I sat near the well, I could understand why St. Declan - and so many after him - felt closer to God. As I sat I could feel the cold wind whipping my hair across my face and could see the sea glittering in the sunlight. When I closed my eyes I felt that God was near, waiting to touch me in a way only the Almighty can and I was able to spend time in silent prayer uninterrupted.

Visiting St. Declan's well led me into Ardmore as well of course, and the citizens there were well versed on their city's history. If you ever have the change, visit Ardmore, Ireland and take a moment to thank God for his blessings.

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Santiago de Compostela, Spain

If you like historic sites, you definitely need to visit Compostela, Spain. It was once believed to be the edge of the world and was a great pilgrimage center. There are several ways to reach Compostela and most choose to walk the whole way. Their journeys take weeks but there are several hostels along each route.

People who choose to walk receive a "credencial," which they can buy for only a few euros from a Spanish tourist agency or a parish house. The credencial serves as a sort of passport that each refugio (hostel) can stamp with an official St. James stamp so you can look back at your journey. It is also evidence you can provide once you reach Compostela in exchange for a certificate of completion.

When I went there were tourists mixed in with modern pilgrims and the conversations were really enlightening. I had an opportunity to talk about my beliefs and relate to others along the journey. Unfortunately, I was not able 

to walk the entire route due to a health problem but I was able to visit Compostela and learn about the journey from others, most of whom were proud to have made the journey.

Once you arrive, you should go straight to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, a historic cathedral said to house St. James' remains. It is beautifully crafted and holds a vast history. There is even a popular statue of Saint James that people hug upon arrival. If you are ever in Spain, buy a pair of walking shoes and head over to Compostela!

Montserrat, Spain

Speaking of Spain, Montserrat is a beautiful mountain top monastery that is a really popular tourist attraction. 

Not only is the monastery gorgeous, but its history grabs you by the collar and pulls you in!
It is here that young shepherd children heard angelic voices accompanied by music and beautiful shafts of light 

flowing from heaven. They told their parents, who joined the audience and saw visions from heaven. The phenomenon continued until a local priest experienced it for himself and he discovered a statue of Mary in a cave.

The statue was one of the black Madonnas Europe boasts. The statue's name, "la Moreneta," means "little dark-skinned one" and is believed to have been carved in Jerusalem in the late 12th century. It is said that the Benedictine monks were unable to move her so they built a monastery around her. 

The locals stay close to the origins of heavenly music and visions by promoting music to glorify God. Each day a boys choir sings in the basilica and people participate in the Gregorian chant. It is a popular location not only for the religious, but also for romantics. 

During my visit, a couple was holding a wedding outside the city with the monastery as a gorgeous backdrop. I got to soak up God's goodness by witnessing a portion of the blessed event as well as paying a visit to the monastery.

Salzburg, Austria

Let me tell you now, I have never been anywhere so saturated with Christian culture in my life. The city was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997 and boasts palaces, churches, is known to be the birthplace of Wolfgang Mozart, was a setting for The Sound of Music and, perhaps most importantly, features a host of religious connotations and historical facts.

As Bogle wrote, "Visit the beautiful Cathedral with its great lantern-like ceiling that gives a feeling of space and freedom. The baroque interior seems clean and new-that's because it was all rebuilt following wartime bombing. We are looking at a baroque church as it is meant to be-bright and fresh, not with the dust of years."

The sound of church bells can be heard, the sweeping mountaintops astound and the sound of music can be heard each day. If you choose to do so, I really suggest you visit the local breweries, not to imbibe in alcohol - though it certainly isn't frowned upon - but to enjoy some delicious local cuisine! I promise you, Salzburg potato dumplings will not disappoint!

Krakow and Czestochowa, Poland

If you've never been to Poland, I suggest you pay it a visit. Definitely add it to your bucket list! Visit the Wawel castle and cathedral, brush up on Polish history and pay your respects to the place Pope John Paul II was ordained. The artwork and architecture will take your breath away and Bogle agrees:

"Enjoy Krakow's other churches and choose from among its pleasant cafés and restaurants. Then travel on to Czestochowa, the shrine of Jasna Gora, the Bright Mountain, where Mary has been venerated for centuries. The serene face of the Virgin on this sacred icon looks out with untroubled gaze, solemn and absorbent, taking in the message entrusted to her. This is a woman who knew-and knows-about human sorrow, and also about the redemption won for us all by the death and resurrection of her Son.

"Go to confession in one of the innumerable places where this is available. Take your turn at waiting for a chance to view the icon at the heart of the shrine, but visit various chapels, too, and see the many gifts left there by pilgrims over the years. Take your sorrows to the Virgin: She understands. This is a corner of Europe that knows its history. Auschwitz is only a short distance away."

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Though a visit to Auschwitz isn't on my bucket list, I still suggest you go if you have the opportunity. One of the most exciting reasons to travel is to witness different places around the world history took place. God was in Auschwitz, whether people are willing to admit it or not, and helped people as they struggled to survive -or took those who didn't to a better place, but that story is for another article.

Save your money, pray for divine intervention and research where you would like to travel. Each of these places should be on your bucket list of Catholic-related locations to visit. 

Where have you gone? What do you think of my list? Do you have any suggestions for my next destination? Please leave your comments below!


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