by P. A. Meredith, February 6, 2022
I apologize for being a few weeks behind, but on my faith travels, I truly do not know where I, or we, may end up. My friend and I started our four-night journey to Gamble Rogers Memorial State Park in Flagler Beach, Florida. We’ve had reservations for nearly a year, and being return visitors to the Palm Coast area, we thought we would explore the many parks in the area. Checking the weather, we realized rain and colder temperatures would influence our explorations, but it would not dissuade us from enjoying all the beauty of the surrounding area.
Our campsite was on the intracoastal side of the Atlantic Ocean, and after setting up our tent and dining area, we took a quick trip to the local grocery store for supplies, including firewood. By nightfall, with temperatures dropping quickly, we had a roaring fire to take away from some of the chill. We decided to keep dinner plans simple for our first night, with a can of baked beans and hot dogs. If you’ve never roasted hot dogs on an open fire, then you’re missing a gooood dog.
We heated the beans in the can and used our stainless-steel marshmallow telescoping sticks to cook the all-beef hot dogs. After dinner, we settled in our screened dining tent to play Yahtzee. Temperatures dropping, we headed to the camp showers and turned in early. Our heated blankets made the cold weather bearable. Laying there, we could hear the waves crashing along the ocean shoreline. The rain started with a light drizzle and continued into the next morning.
We woke up to dark clouds and a rain mist. After having our morning coffee with homemade banana bread, we decided to explore the surrounding areas, first beginning with the bird trail along A1A. Before I forget, we travel with a Keurig coffee maker and tea kettle, and a backup coffee maker, the Presto MyJo. I love a good cup of coffee in the morning, don’t you?
We decided we could drive-by five or six parks in the area, beginning with Tomoka State Park. With that being said we packed up the cooler and ventured out Gamble Rogers. We took A1A south along the birding trail to begin with Tomoka State Park, which was beautiful. Unfortunately, the outpost was closed. We learned that most businesses in the area, including some of the parks were closed on Monday and Tuesday. The rain mist was light at first; however, by late afternoon, it turned to a steady stream. We had visited Tomoka, then Addison Blockhouse Historic State Park. The GPS took us to the intended location, but we never saw any signs designating the Addison Blockhouse Park. We moved onto the next park, Bulow Plantation Ruins Historic State Park, where we stopped, made sandwiches, and had lunch. The rain increased and we headed out to Bulow Creek State Park only to another disappointed closure. We decided to find a store for other supplies and pick something up for an early dinner. With the rain, there was no chance of a campfire. We passed over I-95 and continued on Old Dixie Highway heading toward Bunnell, Florida.
We were both surprised to see a large sign on the side of the road announcing Saint Josephs Carmelite Monastery. A mile or two further was Saint Mary Mother of God Church. We picked up our supplies and headed back to Saint Mary’s where we were disappointed to find, both the hundred-year-old church and modern church doors locked. We left and drove back along Old Dixie Highway to the Carmelite Monastery, located at 141 Carmelite Drive, Bunnell, Florida. The gates leading to the monastery were open, so we ventured along the drive, pass the chapel, and around to the stone gated pathway entrance to the stations of the cross.
These stations of the cross are one of the few in the country accessible by car. The rain held to a mist and we decided to park and walk the path.
Just as we passed the entrance gateway, to the right, we saw the meditative rosary gardens. I, personally am captivated with the rosary and the blessed mother, stemming from something less than a miracle and more a warning that happened many years prior. But I’ll save that story for another time. Let us return to the moment. We followed the Mysteries in the Meditative Garden which took us to the end of the stations. It was here, we found a beautiful rendition of the Lord’s tomb. Everything on the Monastery grounds was open and accessible.
Across the way, high on a hill, was the replica of the crucifixion. For me, I was teary-eyed. Just imagine being tortured and slain while holding steadfast in your faith. I honestly don’t know if I could. Here it is, depicting the Lord’s love for ALL of us, so much so, he is willing to die for us. How soon we forget his love. The Carmelite Friars Monastery grounds are adorned with beautiful statues and gardens. Although this wasn’t a planned trip, it was for us the best day to renew our faith. It was getting late and we decided we would return on our way home and visit the chapel. The weather worsened. Needless to say, we didn’t stay the four nights. The rain got the better of us and actually forced us to leave the campsite and check into a hotel. The next morning the weather held long enough for us to return to our campsite, where we hurriedly packed and prepared for our trip home.
We did return to Saint Joseph’s Carmelite Monastery chapel on the way home. We missed morning mass, since we were busy packing up camp, but we took the time to light some candles and give thanks for keeping us safe on this journey. By the time we left the chapel, the rain poured.
I know I’ve said I was baptized into the Catholic faith; however, I am what some might refer to as a "lapsed"Catholic, or as I would call myself a “Lhasa-apse” Catholic. I don’t believe you have to be Catholic to say the rosary. These are beautiful prayers and worth the meditative reflection of our savior. I pray for our country, ALL of our heavenly father’s children, and all who are lost, suffering, or in need of his divine mercy. I am reminded that if we look at the bigger picture, we will be given the opportunity to look beyond our plans and perhaps come to see our heavenly father’s plans for us. Keep the road open and more importantly, keep the faith.