On this fifth stage of the Wisconsin pilgrimage, we set out in the Farm Section. Still, reaching our final destination of the day, Holy Resurrection Monastery, we see the terrain becoming hillier. Tomorrow we enter the Forest Section. Call in advance to secure your night stay at the monastery, one of the Wisconsin Way’s holy hotspots, on this Wisconsin Catholic pilgrimage. Are you looking for the beginning of the Wisconsin Way? Start here.
START: St Michael the Archangel Catholic Church, Whitelaw | END: Holy Resurrection Monastery, St. Nazianz
14.6 mi/ 23.5 km | 4h 47m | Farm Section | Most services available at Valders
DAY FIVE of the Wisconsin Pilgrimage in Pictures
I started the day with a thought-provoking Mass at St. Michael’s Church in Whitelaw. Just across the street from the church is Cravings, a bakery and coffee shop that opens at 6 am. You could take breakfast before or after Mass. Another blessing of the day is a lunch stop in Valders, a midsized town with a grocery store and pharmacy. I was excited to try the historic Schuh Factory Bar & Grill in Valders for lunch, but the food was disappointing. Stop in for a beer and a slice of the local culture, but Subway down the block would have been preferable to the greasy bar food.
The Wisconsin pilgrimage route overlaps the Ice Age Trail
The Wisconsin pilgrimage route overlaps some of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail at Valders. The 1000-mile trail connects unique landscape features left by glaciers throughout Wisconsin. I realized that I was on an Ice Age connector trail when I saw a fast-paced backpacker striding towards me. From a distance, he looked like a hunter with a rifle slung over his back.
“Are you walking the Ice Age Trail?” the bearded man asked. By this time, I could see that the “rifle” was actually an umbrella stuffed in a side pocket of his backpack.
“I’m walking the Wisconsin Way,” I explained. “It’s a pilgrimage route that connects shrines and other holy hot spots here in northwestern Wisconsin.” I added that I was supposed to be in France right now, walking the Vézelay Camino Route.
Wisconsin Way is an alternative to el Camino de Santiago
“I intended to be on the Camino de Santiago now, too,” he smiled. He planned to walk the Camino with his wife after she put the kibosh on him hiking the Continental Divide Trail this year. He’d walked the AT and then the PCT the two previous years, and she missed him. Consequently, they planned to walk the Camino de Santiago together until COVID kept US travelers at bay. His fallback was the Ice Age Trail, and he’d already walked 900 miles of it by the time we met. My contingency was the Wisconsin Way, and after my divine appointment with Pace—the through-hiker’s trail name—I was starting to feel like I should have planned to do all 400-plus miles of it.
Pace was fast—doing 30-miles per day—but had run out of water. I was happy to share what was left of mine since, according to my calculations, I had only one hour of walking left until I reached the town of St. Nazianz and my home for the night, Holy Resurrection Monastery.
Pace seemed surprised to learn that there was a Wisconsin Catholic pilgrimage route loosely based on Camino de Santiago.
St Nazianz, a long history of Wisconsin Catholic pilgrimages
When you walk up the hill along 3rd Street through St Nazianz, you feel like you’re in a European village. In a sense, you are, as Germans, who established a utopian commune here in 1854, built this town. The utopians owned and worked the land in common under the guidance of Father Ambrose Oschwald. They built St. Gregory’s Church and later a Franciscan monastery with architecture that reflects the Old World design of Baden, Germany. Their journey from their homeland to Wisconsin can be viewed as a sort of pilgrimage.
The town gets its name from one of the great Eastern saints, St. Gregory the Theologian, known as St. Gregory Nazianzen in the West.
Holy Resurrection Monastery
And so, it is fitting that a community of Eastern (Byzantine) Catholic monks now live in the monastery. The fathers run a guesthouse that is open to all. Also, visitors are welcome to join in the prayer services that are scheduled throughout the day. After I settled into my cell, I sat in silence on the chapel balcony and listened to liturgical prayer chants. The monks chanted Vespers in a singsong I’d not heard before, but it reminded me somewhat of melodic, Middle Eastern intonations. After Vespers, I joined the monks as we ate in silence while one of the holy men read to the group.
The food at Holy Resurrection Monastery is outstanding since Father Moses, the chief baker is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America. Dinner and breakfast are included with your stay, and a donation of $60 is recommended. I wasn’t quite ready to leave after a full breakfast of French omelet, toast, homemade jams and café con leche. I wrote in my journal later, “I’d like to stay for three days to empty myself and get into the rhythm of the life there. It would be a fine getaway of meditation.”
NOTE: The Wisconsin Way is open to all. I walked it as a Protestant, although it seems like a Wisconsin Catholic pilgrimage. And of course, it is that, too!
For Meditation: The Jesus Prayer
For DAY FIVE meditations, try to be still. Silence the inner voice inside your head by repeating the Jesus Prayer silently: “Lord Jesus Christ Son of God, have mercy on me the sinner.”
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