Discover the wonders of Catholic France on the Vine & Cloister pilgrimage

Tucked away in the province of Burgundy, wine, Romanesque architecture, and the monastic life all reached their highpoint in the Middle Ages. In his book, Cluny: In Search of God’s Lost Empire (BlueBridge, 2006), Edwin Mullins describes how the monastery of Cluny, in particular, arose from a hunting lodge donated to it in the year 910 to the largest church in Christendom, soon boasting a network of at least 1,500 dependent monasteries throughout Europe. But, as the title of his book implies, this empire was lost, crumbling under the pressure of stagnation, religious wars, and the French Revolution. Cluny’s enormous church has been mostly destroyed, sold piecemeal for building material, and the nearby Clairvaux, St. Bernard’s great Cistercian abbey, was transformed by revolutionaries into a maximum-security prison.

And, yet, there is still much left to see, bearing witness to the greatness of this lost realm of monks. The most splendid Romanesque churches, the former Clunianc abbey of Vézelay and the cathedral of Autun, continue to reflect the glory of medieval Christendom. Even if St. Bernard’s abbey has been turned to secular use, his foundation at Fontenay continues to point beautifully, though starkly, to the Cistercian vision of prayer, with its pristine condition giving rise to its distinction as a UNESCO heritage site. The labora (work) that accompanied the ora (prayer) of these Cistercian monks can still be found at the Clos du Vougeot vineyard that preserves the monks’ original cellars, representing the largest grand cru vineyard in testimony to great care the monks took to perfect winemaking.

I will be setting off, like Mullins, in search of Cluny and the great legacy of Catholic culture in central and southern France for The Vine & the Cloister pilgrimage that I am leading this September 18-28 ( I’ve been teaching Catholic history and culture for over 10 years and have found that there is nothing that compares to a direct experience of this history and culture. On pilgrimage, we do not simply visit as tourists and take pictures (even if we do snap a few); we enter into the vision and spirit of the communities and events that built these incredible sights. We follow the trail of the saints and join them in prayer, seeking to imitate not only their footsteps on their original soil, but in pointing us to our true homeland.

From Burgundy, that great capital of vines and cloisters, we will move south to Provence, to sip the popes’ wine at Avignon, not far from their remarkable 14th century palace; will honor St. Anne, Our Lady’s mother, at her miracle-working shrine in Apt; and will climb to St. Mary Magdalene’s cave at Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte Baume, where we’ll stay at a medieval monastery turned hotel. From there, we’ll set sail to the ancient monastic island of Lérins, once home to St. Patrick, where the Trappist monks continue to make wine within the Riviera. Continuing back along the coast, we’ll stop at the Roman ruins of Nîmes on the way to Carcassonne, the best-preserved medieval city. Our last stop will be Toulouse, with its beautiful churches, including the oldest of the Dominican Order, the church of the Jacobins, where we’ll venerate the relics of the Angelic Doctor, St. Thomas Aquinas.

Overall, the trip aims to provide an integrated experience of the treasures of Catholic culture that will lead us into spiritual transformation. To offer a taste of the trip, I will be leading two information sessions that will include a wine tasting (of a Chablis, red Burgundy, and a rosé from Provence) along with cheese pairings, accompanied by a talk on the churches, art, and culture that will experience on the trip. The events will be at the Archdiocese of Denver on Feb. 25 at 8 p.m. at Bonfils Hall (1305 S. Monroe St.) and on March 12 at 6:30 p.m. in room 125 of the John Paul II Center (1300 S. Steele St.). Anyone interested in learning more about the Catholic culture of France is welcome to attend. There is no fee to attend the talk, but the cost for the wine and cheese is $10. Please RSVP to

Like the remains of Cluny, the legacy of Catholic culture points to a lost time that can arise again. “What Cluny bequeathed to European civilization,” Mullins contends, “stands before us in the form of some of the greatest church architecture and carving we have, from Vézelay and Autun to Chartres and Canterbury, and that what it achieved in its heyday is well worthy of the description awarded it by Pope Urban II in the 11th century: ‘Cluny shines as another sun over the earth’” (235). We’ll bask in what remains of this sun and bring it with us back to Colorado.

COMING UP: Colorado Catholic Conference 2021 Legislative Recap

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On June 8, the First Regular Session of the 73rd General Assembly adjourned. Over 600 bills were introduced this session. Policy primarily focused on transportation, agriculture, healthcare, fiscal policy, and the state budget. However, the legislature also considered and passed many bills that could impact the Catholic Church in Colorado.  

Some bills that were passed will uphold Catholic social teaching and protect the poor and vulnerable of our society while others pose potentially harmful consequences to the Catholic Church, its affiliated organizations, and Colorado citizens who wish to practice their well-founded convictions. There were also many bills that were considered by the legislature that did not pass, including two bills that would have upheld the sanctity of life and two that would have expanded education opportunity for K-12 students.  

The Colorado Catholic Conference (CCC), as the united voice of the four Colorado bishops, advocated for Catholic values at the Capitol and ensured that the Church’s voice was heard in the shaping of policy.  

Below is a recap of the CCC’s 19 priority bills from the 2021 legislative session. For a full list of the legislation the Conference worked on, please visit:  

For regular updates and other information, please sign-up for the CCC legislative network here.  

Six bills the CCC supported that were either passed or enacted

Note: Passed means the bill was approved by both chambers of the legislature and is pending the governor’s signature as of June 9, 2021. Enacted means the bill was signed by the governor and became law.  

HB 21-1011 Multilingual Ballot Access for Voters – Passed  
If enacted, counties where either 2,000 adults or 2.5% of the adult population primarily speak a language other than English will be required to provide a ballot in that language. 

HB 21-1075 Replace The Term Illegal Alien – Enacted 
With the enactment of HB 1075, the term “illegal alien” was replaced with the term “worker without authorization” as it relates to public contracts for services.  

SB 21-027 Emergency Supplies for Colorado Babies and Families – Passed  
If enacted, the state government will allocate much-needed funding for nonprofit organizations to provide diapers and other childcare necessities to families in need, including Catholic Charities.  

SB 21-077 Remove Lawful Presence Verification Credentialing – Enacted    
With the enactment of SB 77, verification of lawful presence will no longer be required for any applicant for a license, certificate, or registration, particularly in the job fields of education and childcare.  

SB 21-146 Improve Prison Release Outcomes – Passed  
If enacted, SB 146 will establish practices that ease the transition back into society for formerly incarcerated persons.  

SB 21-158 Increase Medical Providers for Senior Citizens – Passed  
If enacted, SB 158 will allocate more funding for senior citizen care, which is currently understaffed and underfunded.  

Eight bills the CCC opposed that were passed 

HB 21-1072 Equal Access Services For Out-of-home Placements – Enacted 
With the enactment of HB 1072, Colorado law now prohibits organizations that receive state funding for placing children with adoptive or foster parents from discriminating on, among other things, the basis of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or marital status. This new law will likely to be impacted by the imminent Fulton v. City of Philadelphia U.S. Supreme Court decision. 

HB 21-1108 Gender Identity Expression Anti-Discrimination – Enacted 
With the enactment of HB 1108, “sexual orientation,” “gender identity,” and “gender expression” are now recognized as protected classes in Colorado nondiscrimination code. This may have serious religious liberty implications for individuals and organizations that wish to practice their well-founded convictions on marriage and human sexuality. 

SB21-006 Human Remains Natural Reduction Soil – Enacted 
With the enactment of SB 006, human remains can now be converted to soil using a container that accelerates the process of biological decomposition, also known as “natural reduction.” 

SB 21-009 Reproductive Health Care Program – Passed 
If enacted, SB 009 will create a taxpayer funded state program to increase access to contraceptives.  

SB 21-016 Protecting Preventive Health Care Coverage – Passed 
If enacted, the definition of “family planning services” and “family planning-related services” will not be clearly defined in law and could potentially include abortion. Furthermore, SB 16 removes the requirement that a provider obtain parental consent before providing family planning services to a minor.  

SB 21-025 Family Planning Services for Eligible Individuals– Passed 
If enacted, SB 025 low-income women to be given state-funded contraception, “preventing, delaying, or planning pregnancy” services, which includes cessation services and sterilization services.  

SB 21-142 Health Care Access in Cases of Rape or Incest– Enacted  
The enactment of SB 142 removes the requirement that, if public funds are being used, a physician must perform an abortion at a hospital, and instead allows for abortions to be performed by any “licensed provider.”   

SB21-193 Protection of Pregnant People in Perinatal Period– Passed 
If enacted, SB 193 will eliminate an important protection in Colorado law for a preborn and viable baby when a woman is on life support.  

Five bills the CCC supported that failed  

HB21-1017 Protect Human Life at Conception – Failed 
HB 1017 would have prohibited terminating the life of an unborn child and made it a violation a class 1 felony.  

HB 21-1080 Nonpublic Education and COVID-19 Relief Act – Failed 
HB 1080 would have established a private school and home-based education income tax credit for families who either enroll their child in private school or educate their child at home, thereby expanding education opportunities for families during and after the pandemic.  

HB 21-1183 Induced Termination of Pregnancy State Registrar – Failed 
HB 1183 would have required health-care providers that perform abortions to report specified information concerning the women who obtain the procedure to the state registrar of vital statistics, thereby increasing transparency in the abortion industry.   

HB 21-1191 Prohibit Discrimination COVID-19 Vaccine Status– Failed  
HB 1191 would have prevented individuals from being coerced to take the COVID-19 vaccine by either the state or by employers.  

HB 21-1210 Modifications to Qualified State Tuition Programs – Failed 
HB 1210 would have allowed families to use some of their private 529 savings account funds for private K-12 school tuition for their children, including at Catholic schools.   

One bill the CCC opposed that failed 

SB 21-031 Limits on Governmental Responses to Protests– Failed 
SB 031 would have made it more difficult for law enforcement to protect innocent lives when protests turn violent.  

Two bills the CCC was in an “Amend” position that passed  

SB 21-073 Civil Action Statute of Limitations Sexual Assault – Enacted  
With the enactment of SB 073, the statute of limitations on bringing a civil claim based on sexual misconduct will be removed as of January 1, 2022. Under this law, victims of sexual abuse can pursue a civil cause of action if the statute of limitations has not expired, the abuse happened in Colorado, and the abuse could be considered a felony or Class 1 misdemeanor if it was a criminal case. 

SB 21-088 Child Sexual Abuse Accountability Act– Passed  
If enacted, SB 88 will allow victims of childhood sexual abuse to sue public and private institutions for abuse that occurred between 1960-2022. Victims would have three years to bring a historical claim, starting from January 1, 2022. Claims brought during this window would be capped at $387,000 for public institutions and at $500,000 for private institutions, with the ability of a judge to double the damages depending on how the private institution handled the situation. Despite unanswered constitutional concerns regarding SB 88, the Colorado Catholic dioceses will also continue to offer opportunities for survivors of childhood sexual abuse to receive support in a non-litigious setting.   

While the legislature has adjourned the 2021 legislative session, there is still the possibility that they will reconvene later this year. To stay up-to-date on Colorado legislative issues and their impact on the Catholic Church in Colorado, be sure to sign up for the CCC legislative network HERE.