After yet another late night, we all slept in until 8:30. That is totally unheard of at home (at home, if you can get littles to sleep until 7:00, you’ve done something!). I ran another three loads of laundry while the kids had breakfast and everyone worked to close up the camper and prepare to move out. We left the campground a little after 11:00 and went into town for gas and caffeine for the adults. By the time we pulled out of town, it was almost noon and the kids were already talking of lunch!
We took a scenic drive by the eastern shore of Flathead Lake. On the way we spotted a new Catholic church named Pope John Paul II. Further down the road, I was reading aloud to the kids when all of a sudden, Charlie took a quick turn. I stopped reading to find out what was going on. He had spotted a sign about the St. Ignatius mission church. We were in the town of St. Ignatius, Montana. He pulled in front of a beautiful, red brick church. I got out to investigate and found that it was open. We all got out of the van to see what we would find.
There was a sign indicating the history of the church, and that Mass was still being said there on a weekly basis. We saw a gentleman doing some odd jobs around there, and he told us that we were welcome to go in. As soon as I stepped into the church, my eyes filled with tears. It was so beautiful! It was just as beautiful as any of the cathedrals I have ever been in, and I would go so far as to say that I felt that it was just as beautiful as the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC. The kids old enough to appreciate such beauty were instantly awed. What a magnificent church built and decorated to give glory to our Lord!
We learned that this was another mission church established by the Jesuits for the area Salish and Kootenai tribes. However, not only was a church built here (the current church was actually church number 3), but pretty much a whole self-sustaining village. They had a hospital, a school, a home for the priests, a home for the Ursuline sisters who came here to work, a flour mill, a water tower, a garden, a cemetery. Most of the buildings have burned, but the priests’ and sisters’ residences still survive as well as the mill building. They have quite the museum of pictures of the priests and sisters working with the Native Americans. There was a very moving picture of a tribal chief in his full regalia sitting outside on a log with a priest having a discussion. In the church, there were gorgeous paintings of Our Lady and baby Jesus depicted as a Native Americans as well as another of Christ depicted as a Native American. I picked up a booklet explaining more of the history and look forward to reading it soon. What a treasure for the people of that area and for all who encounter it. I had no idea there was such a rich Catholic history in this part of the country (Of course, we have been doing so much side reading in our American history this year that we haven’t quite made it up to the Civil War timeframe, and this mission was established not long before that – so I may have been more educated if I had made it to this point in time with our study of history. I guess we will keep working on that next year.)
After we said goodbye to St. Ignatius Mission, Charlie mentioned that he had seen on a map there that there was a National Bison Preserve just down the road. So, we drove down the road just a minute or two when we saw a lookout for the Bison Preserve. We pulled in there too and were able to see some bison grazing in the distance. There were signs explaining that agreements between the state of Montana and the Kootenai and Salish tribes about building the highway we were on had been established so that the highway would not bisect the grazing lands all around it. Therefore, there are lots of underpasses around this highway so that animals can move back and forth from one side to the other and to hopefully lessen the probability of animals being killed by vehicles while trying to cross the road. It was nice to see evidence of something positive coming out of agreements between the state government and the Native Americans. While at Glacier, I had read so many stories of misunderstandings in agreements between the US government and the Native Americans. The Native Americans have been so taken advantage of that I have felt truly ashamed.
We finally got moving again and headed for another WalMart farther down the road. What a wonderful day! God is good all the time (even when I’m having a bad day), and all the time, God is good (a saying we learned from the movie “God’s Not Dead” – if you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend it. It’s on Netfilx now.)