Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto of the Southwest

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I was in Madrid, Spain, this summer for three weeks, and while walking the streets of that magical city I came across a sign at a Beauty Shop that read: “Peluquería, Estilisimo, Belleza, Espacio de Relax.”

We’re all looking for a space to relax, and San Antonio, Texas, has an Espacio de Relax that won’t cost you a penny to visit: Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto of the Southwest.

I discovered the grotto back in the mid-’80s while on a retreat at the Oblate Renewal Center. I’ve always had an interest in Our Lady of Lourdes because my mother, who’s also named Denise, said that she almost named me Bernadette for the 14-year-old girl who was visited by Mary, the mother of Jesus, 18 times. (Pop culture sidebar: American singer/actress/author/entrepreneur Madonna named her daughter Lourdes.)

San Antonio’s Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto is the perfect space to take a deep breath away from life’s hustle and bustle. Plus, it’s a two-for-one grotto. In addition to the Lourdes grotto, an exact replica of the shrine in France, you may also visit the Our Lady of Guadalupe Tepeyac de San Antonio place of prayer and devotion located on top of the Lourdes grotto.

Masses at the grotto are Saturdays at 6 p.m.; Sundays at 9 a.m. in English and 11:30 a.m. in Spanish; Mondays through Saturdays at 7 a.m. in English; Mondays through Fridays at 12 noon in Spanish; and a Charismatic Mass at 7 p.m. on Thursdays. The rosary is said at 7:30 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays.

The lovely Oblate grounds are filled with walking paths, shade trees and benches. You may also visit the outdoor Stations of the Cross while there. Here is a Prayer for Healing found in the grotto’s brochure:

“Our Lady of Lourdes, I entrust myself to your loving care. You know my afflictions and tribulations. Intercede for me, before your Son, Jesus, so I may receive healing of mind and body and that my loved ones may also know God’s healing in their life. O Loving Mother, help us share the immense joy of the pilgrims of Lourdes who have experienced healing when they placed their trust in your kindness and compassion.”

For those interested in spiritual renewal, Bridges to Contemplative Living and Reflections on Contemplative Living, a small group experience based on the works of Thomas Merton, will be offered on Wednesday and Thursday afternoons from September 4 and 5 to October 23 and 24, 2013, as well as January 8 and 9 through February 26 and 27, 2014.  A Silent Guided Retreat, Exploring our deepest self in connection with the Divine Presence, will also be offered from September 23 through September 25, 2013. Call (210) 341-1366, extension 212, for more information on both.

The Oblate Renewal Center also offers spiritual direction for those feeling distant from God, facing an important decision, serving in a ministry, or desiring a deeper relationship with God. To make an appointment for a session that typically lasts from 45 minutes to one hour, call (210) 349-4173. The center does not charge for spiritual direction, but donations are appreciated.

A large gift shop, filled with reasonably priced books, holy medals (50 cents each!), holy cards and rosaries, is located near the grotto and is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The entrance to the grotto is located at 5712 Blanco Road, between Oblate Drive and Parade Drive, across from the Korean United Methodist Church. Parking is free. For more information, call (210) 342-9864.

Visual archive of the San Antonio Tourist blog

Drawing of a birthday cake.

Happy birthday to you! ¡Feliz cumpleaños a tí! Happy birthday, dear San Antonio Tourist! Happy birthday to you!

San Antonio Tourist, a blog for visitors to and natives of the Alamo City, is three! Please enjoy this visual archive of all my blog posts since June 2010. Thanks for reading. ¡Viva San Antonio!

Holy Redeemer Catholic Church

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Those who think you can only find gospel music at Baptist churches haven’t been to Holy Redeemer, a Catholic church located at 1819 Nevada Street on San Antonio’s East Side.

I started going to Holy Redeemer back in the 1980s whenever I needed a spirit boost. The choir, backed by an amazing band and organist, would process into the church singing “Hosanna, blessed be the rock of my salvation,” and you could feel the energy. When a woman by the name of Mrs. Ferguson (since deceased) sang, goosebumps would spring up over my entire body. I once brought a friend who grew up in Sweden to Mass at Holy Redeemer, and she turned to me and thanked me halfway through the service. Pow-er-ful.

Mrs. Ferguson may be gone, but Holy Redeemer is in good hands. An all-girls choir performed at the 9 a.m. Sunday Mass I attended, directed by Richard Castillo, a piano performance major at the University of the Incarnate Word. I didn’t see Richard from where I was sitting, but I assumed he was Black. I was wrong. He just plays like he’s Black. The guy knows gospel, and he rules the piano.

Holy Redeemer just celebrated its 100th anniversary, and my most recent visit was the first time I’d been in their new sanctuary. That’s sad because it opened in April 2006. The old church now serves as the narthex for the new sanctuary, and the parish is going to undertake a capital campaign this year to preserve the antique structure. Fr. Kevin P. Fausz, the pastor, welcomes all donations.

In fact, you are cordially invited to Holy Redeemer’s Annual Juneteenth Reunion Picnic at Comanche Park #2 on Saturday, June 15, from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. Bar-B-Q plates with all the trimmings will only set you back $6, and the church will receive $4 for every ticket sold. Contact Michael Jackson, event chairman, at (210) 254-2853 for more information.

Fausz, a gifted speaker, is very hands-on. He ventured off of the altar and into the parishioners to deliver his sermon. My favorite quote: “It is important to know who we are. It is more important to know whose we are. Everything we do should be shaped by love.”

After Mass, parishioners and visitors were invited to the Parish Hall to enjoy birthday cake and coffee. Fr. Fausz wasn’t pleased that the cake decorator had misspelled the name of the church. Instead of Holy Redeemer, it read Hole Redeemer. I think the decorator just forgot to add the accent mark over the e. It should have read Holé Redeemer. After all, it’s not every day that you turn 100. ¡Olé!

Masses at Holy Redeemer are 9 a.m., Tuesdays through Fridays; Saturdays at 5 p.m.; and Sundays at 9 a.m. and noon.

TriPoint YMCA

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Earth Day is every day in the Alamo City!

I’m always sad when April comes to a close because it’s the month we honor and celebrate the Earth. No need to despair, though! Here are 10 ways for you to be green and $ave green all year long in San Antonio, Texas:

1. Pop some tags! Shop at thrift stores.
Blue jeans at a department store: $50. Blue jeans at a thrift store: $6 (adults) or $3 (kids).
Boysville Auxiliary Thrift Shop
Goodwill Stores and Donation Stations
Half Price Books
Off My Rocker
Otra Vez Couture Consignments
2. Eat less meat. Join the Meatless Mondays movement.
One pound of beans costs $1.34, one pound of boneless chicken breast costs $3.32, one pound of lean ground beef costs $3.50, and one pound of sirloin steak costs $6.
Green Vegetarian Cuisine
3. Collect rainwater and AC condensate to water your native plants, garden and lawn.
Rainwater and AC condensate: free. One gallon of SAWS water: 16 cents per gallon.
San Antonio Botanical Garden
4. Plant your own veggies and herbs.
Plant tomato seeds ($3.49 per packet) to enjoy tomatoes all summer or spend 78 cents to $1.48 for one pound of tomatoes to enjoy once.
Pearl Farmers Market
5. Drive less. Walk, ride a bike, carpool or take the bus.
The average American drives 1,200 miles per year. If gas costs $3.50 per gallon at 22.5 miles per gallon, that’s more than $1,800 a year spent on gas. Plus, the average yearly operating cost for a car is $8,220.
Brackenridge Park
Crownridge Canyon Natural Area
Government Canyon State Natural Area
Mission Reach Hike and Bike Trail
Phil Hardberger Park (East)
Phil Hardberger Park (West)
Salado Creek Greenway (Loop 410 to Lady Bird Johnson Park)
Salado Creek Greenway (McAllister Park to Lady Bird Johnson Park)
Salado Creek Greenway (Robert L.B. Tobin Park to Oakwell Trailhead)
San Antonio B-cycle: Mission Reach
Sunken Gardens
VIA’s #7 Sightseer Special
6. Don’t idle in parking lots or use drive-thru lanes.

By not idling, you’ll improve our air quality and save up to $70-650 a year, depending on fuel prices and your vehicle type.
7. Stop buying bottled water and soft drinks. Fill reusable bottles or glasses with tap water.
If a 16-ounce bottle of water or soft drink costs $1, that’s equal to $8 per gallon.
8. Set your thermostat to 68 degrees in the winter and 78 degrees in the summer.
Each degree you raise the thermostat on your air conditioner or lower the thermostat on your heater will save 2 percent on your electric bill. Five degrees equals a 10 percent savings!
9. Unplug electric devices when not in use.
Each standby device (cordless phone, TV, DVD player, computer monitor, cell phone charger, etc.) consumes about 5 percent to 10 percent of your monthly bill.
10. Only use rechargeable batteries.
A four-pack alkaline AA batteries cost $10.50. A four-pack of rechargeable batteries that are capable of being used more than 500 times cost $14.99.

San Antonio B-cycle: Mission Reach

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I know that pride is one of the seven deadly sins, but I just can’t help myself. I’m so darn proud of the Mission Reach and Museum Reach additions to the San Antonio River Walk that I might burst.

My husband and I lived in Austin for six years while I was in graduate school, and the thing we missed most when we moved back to San Antonio was abundant, user-friendly green space. We lived in Married Student Housing on Town Lake, now Lady Bird Lake, and the location was/is pretty hard to beat. However, the addition of these new segments to the original River Walk, not to mention the Howard Peak Greenway Trail System, means that San Antonio is now in the same league (or even better) than Austin. (Pride again. Please forgive me.)

I wrote about the Mission Reach in an earlier post, but my husband and I tweaked our route this past weekend when a friend, once a long-time resident of San Antonio, came for a visit. Here’s how to ride B-cycles from the Blue Star Arts Complex to Mission San Jose, approximately 4.5 miles, in just over an hour and a half, while enjoying birds, bluebonnets and blue skies along the way:

1. Park at Blue Star, 1414 S. Alamo.
2. Check out a bike from the San Antonio B-cycle station. We have an annual membership, but a one-day (24-hour) rental fee is $10. Bring your credit card and a bike helmet. We also packed a picnic. Each bike has a roomy basket. Bring along a pair of binoculars, a.k.a. birdnoculars, too. Birds sighted included blue-winged teals, green herons, red-shouldered hawks, yellow-crowned night herons, and Egyptian geese that must have escaped from someone’s aviary. (They’re native to Africa.)
3. Head south along the river. It’s pretty much downhill going this direction.
4. So that you aren’t charged any additional fees, check your B-cycles in and back out at Roosevelt Park, Concepción Park, Mission Road, VFW Boulevard, and Mission San Jose*, which is currently the southernmost docking station. You have to dock your B-cycle every 30 minutes. Watch B-cycle’s demo video to familiarize yourself with this process.
5. Picnic at San Jose under the shade of an oak tree. Enjoy Blessed Virgin Mary, quinceañera and spiny lizard sightings on the grounds of Mission San Jose.
6. Check out San Jose’s renovated chapel before jumping on VIA Bus #42, headed north. Ask the driver to please let you off at Brackenridge High School. Walk north along the River Walk back to Blue Star.
7. Enjoy a cold brew at the Blue Star Brewing Company and celebrate San Antonio’s added fabulousness.

*Keep your eyes on the mission’s bell tower from the river. This part of the ride was a little tricky. The first sign pointing to San Jose led us to an unfinished piece of the trail. We rode farther down the river to Padre Park and then up Pyron to the mission.

You may follow San Antonio B-cycle on Twitter and on Facebook. You may also download a B-cycle app to help you locate docking stations.

Las Colchas

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If you want to lower your blood pressure and recharge your creative batteries, Las Colchas is the place for you. Even if you’ve never handled a needle and thread in your life, you’ll be welcomed and inspired by this quaint quilt shop tucked away in downtown San Antonio.

Francine and Toni opened Las Colchas, which means quilts in Spanish, more than 30 years ago after meeting as students at Our Lady of the Lake University. I can’t remember how I found their shop, but I’m glad I did. It’s always a joy just to walk in to see what’s on display. Plus, they always have coffee and treats set out for their guests. What’s not to like about that?!

Las Colchas has fabric to suit every taste: traditional (Civil War era), Tex Mex (Dia de Los Muertos), modern (Kaffee Fasset), international (Japanese) and more. Plus, they have ready-made kits for those who don’t have a clue how to get started.

I’ve taken three classes at Las Colchas: crazy quilt with Maria, vintage embroidery with Carol, and punched embroidery with Francine. In Maria’s class, I learned how to assemble a crazy quilt and embellish it with embroidery, including a Victorian spider’s web. She also taught us how to do silk embroidery, where I made a tiny hummingbird sipping nectar from a rose. In Carol’s class, we assembled vintage handkerchiefs, sheets and hand towels into a pillow top, and in Francine’s class, I learned how to do punched embroidery, the kissing cousin of hooked rugs but on a much smaller scale. I bought a kit for the heart displayed in the slideshow above to make for my mother-in-law whose birthday is near Valentine’s Day. Punched embroidery is MUCH easier than cross stitch, especially for anyone who has trouble seeing the teeny-tiny squares. The watermelon is another kit they sell.

This store is one of a dozen shops participating in the 15th annual Bluebonnet Shop Hop from April 11-14, 2013. If you visit all 12 shops during this 4-day period, you’ll be entered to win a Grand Prize or one of 12 prizes, all worth a total of more than $17,000.

Las Colchas, located at 110 Ogden Street in between McCullough and Main not far off of Interstate 35, is opened Tuesdays through Saturdays from 9:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Treat yourself and go in. Better yet, sign up for a class! You’ll make something lasting to share with generations to come.

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