Month: November 2019



“The aesthetic value of creation cannot be overlooked. Our very contact with nature has a deep restorative power; contemplation of its magnificence imparts peace and serenity” (Saint John Paul II)

If you were to ask someone in Michigan – especially a kid or teenager – what their favorite place in Ohio is it is highly likely that the answer will be Cedar Point (the amusement park located on a peninsula of Lake Erie in Sandusky). How many times have I been to Cedar Point! But in this post I would like to bring to your attention another amazing place to visit in Ohio, namely, Hocking Hills, which is located about an hour’s drive southeast of Columbus. Frankly, it’s hard to believe (until very recently) that I had never heard of this incredible place!

“The Hocking Hills is a deeply dissected area of the Allegheny Plateau in Ohio, primarily in Hocking County, that features cliffs, gorges, rock shelters, and waterfalls. The relatively extreme topography in this area is due to the Blackhand Sandstone (so named because of Native American graphics on the formation near Newark, Ohio), a particular formation that is thick, hard and weather-resistant, and so forms high cliffs and narrow, deep gorges” (Wikipedia).

So, feeling a sort of urgency to visit Hocking Hills, I recruited my nephew, Brendan, to drive with me for an overnight camping trip to Hocking Hills State Park. We left early on the morning of October 14, packing extra blankets for the cold night ahead, along with our normal camping gear. After crossing into Ohio from Michigan on I-75 south, we passed by Toledo and made our way to Findlay, Ohio where we  exited the freeway and hopped on US-23 towards Carey, Ohio, where we briefly stopped to visit  the National Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation, where a famous statue of Mary is located to the right of the main altar. US-23 took us into Columbus, Ohio’s Capital, and from there US-33 took us into Hocking Hills.

At Hocking Hills State Park we put up our tent and then walked over to nearby Rose Lake. Here is a photograph I took of this beautiful, seemingly pristine lake (which is actually man-made), preceded by a picture of Brendan standing in front of our tent.

Now here is the main point I want to bring to your attention about Hocking Hills – that there is no lack of adventure in this wonderland of gorges, rock shelters and waterfalls! But be careful, for there are hazards in traversing and hiking these marvelous venues. The seven main attractions at Hocking Hills, which include a combination of cliffs, gorges, waterfalls and caves (and trails for hiking) are:








On the first day of our trip we drove to nearby Cedar Falls, and from there we hiked a decent distance on the Upper Gorge Trail over to Old Man’s Cave. Here is a professional photograph of Cedar Falls taken by Thomas Ramsey in July of 2008 (full attribution below). There wasn’t nearly as much water during our visit there in October.

And here’s a picture I took of Old Man’s Cave (be sure to stay on the designated pathway or you could be seriously injured).

The next morning we ate a hearty breakfast, packed up our tent, and then proceeded to visit Ash Cave, Conkles Hollow, and the Rock House. We wanted to visit Cantwell Cliffs but we ran out of time. Immediately below is a professional photo of Ash Cave followed by a picture of Brendan at the entrance to Conkles Hollow, which is purported to have the “highest cliffs in the area,” with beautiful scenic views along the lower and upper trails.

Our final destination in Hocking Hills was the Rock House – which was pretty amazing!  It is “a tunnel-like corridor situated midway up a 150-foot cliff of Blackhand sandstone.” Here is a picture I took of the inside of the Rock House, although there are some stunning views on the outside as well as you follow the designated trail (the first picture below is Brendan at the entrance way to the trail).

If you are looking for a camping trip with plenty of adventure, Hocking Hills State Park is highly recommended. If you love the outdoors, and contact with the beauty and majesty of God’s creation, you are in for a wonderful time. But once again, be safe!

Tom Mulcahy

Photo Attributions: The photo of Cedar Falls taken by Thomas Ramsey in July of 2008 is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. The photo of Ash Cave is in the Public Domain per Wikipedia.

P.S. You can obtain an excellent map of the Hocking Hills area, along with trail maps on the back, at the camp office.

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“The dangers were great, but not desperate; the difficulties were many, but not invincible… their ends were good and honorable… and therefore they might expect the blessing of God.” (William Bradford)

The Pilgrims had left England in order to freely practice their faith in the Netherlands. But then they decided to make their way to the “New World,” where they felt they would have a better opportunity to preserve their religious identity and customs. From England they left on two ships, the Mayflower and the Speedwell. Approximately three hundred miles out the Speedwell began to leak, so both ships turned back and docked in Plymouth, England! Some of the ships’ passengers, apparently exasperated, decided to call it quits and stayed in England. Everyone else boarded the Mayflower on one of the most historic journeys ever taken, arriving in Cape Cod Bay in 1620! It was these Pilgrims who celebrated the first “Thanksgiving” in November of 1621 with the Wampanoag Indians in gratitude for the harvest.

The Pilgrims’ difficult journey to America teaches us a deep spiritual lesson. We are all travelers here on earth journeying to the eternal shores of Heaven. Whatever obstacles we may encounter, however difficult they may be, we cannot let them prevent us from “advancing towards our destination” – Heaven.  “All the masters of the spiritual life agree in this maxim, that not to advance is to fall back” (Father Lallemant). Thus, we must continue to move forward, like a traveler, not stopping until we have reached the end of our journey and are “safely home” in the Father’s house.

Father Garrigou-Lagrange adds this observation regarding our growth in charity:  “…the Christian on earth is a traveler, viator, who is advancing spiritually toward God. His spiritual advancement is made by more and more perfect acts of love, “steps of love,” as St. Gregory says. We must conclude from this that charity on earth can and should always increase, otherwise the Christian would cease in a sense to be a viator; he would stop before reaching the end of his journey.” “I press on toward the goal to win the prize of God’s heavenly calling in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14).


The Pilgrims journeyed to America yearning for religious freedom. These Pilgrims endured tremendous hardships and significant risks in order to freely practice their faith. They teach us an incredibly important lesson about the importance of religious liberty, and our concurrent obligations to protect such a treasured right.

In 1791, just over a 150 years after the Pilgrims made their journey, and about three years after the ratification of the United States Constitution, the Bill of Rights was enshrined in that same Constitution. Of the ten amendments constituting the original Bill of Rights, the 1st Amendment guarantees the “free exercise” of religion, and prevents the government from establishing any sort of religion. The right to freely practice one’s religion is therefore a hallmark right of American democracy.

The Pilgrims, who journeyed to America in search of religious freedom, remind us that the right to practice our Catholic faith cannot simply be taken for granted. Many Christians in the United States have experienced an erosion of their religious liberties in recent years, this as emerging secular ideologies gain momentum in the culture and seek to impose their version of rightness on Christians. Many Christians have essentially lost their right – in the public square – to express their faith beliefs on important moral issues for fear of reprisal, ridicule and even losing their jobs. We have seen, as well, various attempts to force Christians to do things that fundamentally violate their religious beliefs. Finally, there is a growing concern about censorship of conservative viewpoints – including Christian ones – on social media.

As we celebrate Thanksgiving this year let us say a prayer of gratitude for our religious liberties. Let us learn from the Pilgrims that we may have to face hardships in order to protect our precious Catholic faith and our Constitutional rights. May God give us the courage and perseverance to do so as we advance the Kingdom of God.


A pressing and related issue is whether American Democracy can survive in a post-Christian era? In a recent article in The Catholic Thing, entitled “Post-Christian America?”, Gunnar Gundersen offers this assessment:

“We tend to discuss the religious state of America the same way we do social fads. Like powdered wigs or VHS, we will just kind of move on – society will just forget. America will experience Christianity fatigue.

But Christianity is not a theory – it is an encounter with a Person – the Alpha and the Omega. Christ is the end of all things. It is not possible to just move on once you have accepted Him.

As Pope Benedict XVI points out in Spe Salvi, a society that rejects Christ does not simply move on. Rather, this kind of society, echoing Kant, must be in opposition to Christ. So instead of post-Christian, a society that has rejected Christianity, must necessarily become anti-Christian: ‘There is no doubt, therefore, that a ‘Kingdom of God’ accomplished without God – a kingdom therefore of man alone – inevitably ends up as the ‘perverse end’ of all things as described by Kant [reign of the Anti-Christ]: we have seen it, and we see it over and over again’ (quoting Spe Salvi).”

These are important insights to ponder and reflect upon. The question that arises is what happens to a nation, once blessed by the Gospel, when it then chooses to reject it?

Tom Mulcahy, J.D.

References: The historical facts regarding the Pilgrims are from various internet sources.

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