Sacred Places: Reader Responses

A sampling of e-mails in response to our call for locales spiritually meaningful to our readers.

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Larry Ackerman
Westport, Conn.  

Dec. 3:

Your coverage of sacred places around the world missed one of the most significant in the Western U.S.—Mt. Shasta in Northern California. The majestic, snow-covered volcano has been considered sacred for many hundreds, if not thousands, of years by the indigenous people of that region. Today, it is a magnet for practioners of many esoteric spiritual paths because of its reputed energies. It's worth a story by itself.

Michael Sullivan
Sierra Vista, Ariz.

The enlightening article titled "Sacred Places" prompted me to share a spiritually enriching event. In the beautiful golf resort town  in  Pinehurst, N.C., there is a special small chapel in Sacred Heart Church. In this chapel the blessed sacrament (sacred host) is displayed for veneration 24  hours of each day and night. Parishoners volunteer for one hour in adoration in complete silence and peace. I pray as well as read my Bible and devotional materials that enable me to meditate peacefully on God, the sacraments and saints. This time brings inspiration and comfort for my daily life. I am grateful for this blessing of a sacred place.


Mary F.  Byrne
Pinehurst, N.C.  

Nov. 30:

I nominate the High Water Mark on the battlefield at Gettysburg, Pa., as a sacred place in U.S. history. Stand there on a sunny, hot summer afternoon, looking out toward the Confederate lines, and you can easily imagine the rows of Confederate soldiers making their way across the fields and up the hill toward the High Water Mark. Think how the history of not only the United States but also the world would have been changed had that attack succeeded in splitting the Union lines and driving the Union army from the field. From the standpoint of history, there is not a more sacred place in these United States.

Jospeh F. Albert
Cinnaminson, N.J.

In 40 years of travel , I have always sought out sacred places and religious sites (not always the same thing) out of deep curiosity. Though I am an agnostic, I am fascinated by the cultural aspects and edifices of sacred places.

You should include the "Mother Temple" of Besakih on the magical island of Bali in Indonesia on your extended list of sacred places. ... I was very lucky when I was in Bali , in April 1999. Every year during the 10th lunar month ( March and April) the Balinese celebrate the founding of Besakih in a ceremonial time called Bhatara Turun Kabeh, when all the Hindu deities are supposed to descend to Earth at once. Classic Balinese temples have roof coombs that are like stairsteps just for this reason.

But every tenth year, as was the case in 1999, there is a grander purification ceremony overlaid on the same lunar month as well, the Panca Wali Krama, in which all Balinese people are required to make a pilgrimage to Besakih. ... On the day that I was at Besakih, I witnessed over 100,000 Balinese on pilgrimage, ascending the many tiers of stone steps up the mountainside carrying their offerings of fruits and a forest of flowers. The Balinese women, in their sarongs, had chiffon yellow silk parasols; the men were in cleft hats or scarves and short pants  flew long banners from walking poles.
Hindu priests accepted the offerings and blessed the pilgrims in mass ceremonies at each of the 23 nested temples, and "acolytes" had to shovel the heaps of flowers from the temples to make ready for the next wave. So there it was, all day long, the planet's most beautiful people in their best diaphonous white-and-gold brocaded clothes carrying flowers up the mountainside amid parasols and banners under a looming green volcano, all in good spirits. At the top of the temple complex was a giant stone dragon, looking out over all and beyond to the distant ocean.

Dewey Vanderhoff
Cody, Wyo.

In addition to the Holy Land and my own parish church, I look upon a timbered  area of the farm where I grew up in eastern Iowa as sacred.  Here one could sit under a hillside tree and listen to the quiet.  You could see peace.  Our own horses and cows would gather with deer, squirrels and other animals at a small clearing near a stream.  All shared the water and took turns at the salt lick my dad had placed there.  You could feel God.