Going 360 - a 'bubble pilgrimage' during the Year of Mercy

Old Cathedral

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Shrine of the Miraculous Medal - Perryville

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New Cathedral

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In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, we are invited to make a pilgrimage as a sign of fostering our faith and deepening our understanding of Christ's mercy.

But what if that pilgrimage were inside a bubble? Review photographer Lisa Johnston and reporter Jennifer Brinker visited the nine pilgrimage sites designated in the Archdiocese of St. Louis and created virtual 360-degree spherical images — called bubbles — to show you the insides of these pilgrimage sites.

We used the mobile app Bubbli, which allowed us to paint the entire scene around us — the insides of the chapels of contemplative religious communities, the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal in Perryville, the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis and the Old Cathedral.

Even more enjoyable than creating the images was seeing the reactions of the women religious who viewed bubble images of their chapels for the first time. Holding a mobile phone in the air, they twirled, arched and danced around — sometimes bumping into chairs and walls — as they took a glimpse inside a virtual world.

On our pilgrimage, women religious from contemplative communities shared what mercy means to them:

Sister Mary Amatrix, local superior, Holy Spirit Adoration Sisters (Pink Sisters)

"Our life is centered around the Blessed Sacrament, and the Eucharist itself is a sacrament of mercy. It is Jesus' Passion, Death and Resurrection that was the greatest sign of God's mercy — because He died for everybody. Like St. Paul said, He died for us while we were still his enemies, while we were still sinners.

"In our own community life and in our prayer, and our intentions, mercy is (understood in) many varied ways. It doesn't have to be something tangible, like forgiving each other. That's almost like a given. Every night we have our examination of conscience, and the first thing you think about is how did I love my sister? How did I not love my sister?

"Pope Francis stresses compassion and the love of God. That's exactly what mercy is. We were just listening to a CD — 66 times in the Bible in the Old Testament, God has referred to 'hesed.' Hesed is a Hebrew word that means compassion, mercy and love. God is love and God is also mercy."

Sister Elizabeth Garciano, local superior, Contemplative Sisters of the Good Shepherd:

"We decided to come here (to the sisters' new convent in Normandy) there already was the chaos in Ferguson. For me, it was an affirmation of our mission here ... Here we are, trying to start our mission to pray for peace. For me, that is part of the mercy I would say!

"Our mission is mission of Reconciliation. Our presence here to open the door, a holy door of the Year of Mercy, for me is a grace, a gift and a blessing that we were able to have this opportunity to welcome whoever comes to pray. The door is open for everybody. God accepts everybody — mercy is inclusion and also the care of creation."

Mother Mary Veronica, local superior, Passionist Nuns:

"We live in a community, so there are always a gazillion opportunities to practice mercy. There are plenty of opportunities in the daily interactions of practicing mercy toward that other person. But there's that mercy that has to exist within you, toward yourself, in dealing with others. The most obvious ones are when you're dealing with difficulties. how to be merciful with people on the phone, at the door, the other sisters in the community, even with yourself.

"Mercy is not looking toward yourself. It's going toward God and the other person. As He said, what you do unto others you do to Me."

Sister Mary Elizabeth, novice mistress, Passionist Nuns:

"What our vocation boils down to is love. Mercy equals love on the grand scale of things. There's no greater love than laying down your lives, and that's what we're doing — laying down our lives. It's about the good of souls and the salvation of the world."

Sister Jan Marie Klein, local superior, Redemptoristine Nuns:

"Just that I'm here shows God's mercy toward me. For any of us, we're here because of God's mercy — He let us be here.

"In a contemplative house, the prayer reaches the whole world. I'm not here in a vacuum. He takes our prayer and our daily intentions and does something with them. but it's His doing. It's his kindness and blessing to us that the power of prayer goes out of here."

Sister Eleanor Wilkinson:

"Our very name, the Order of the Most Holy Redeemer, it's all tied in with the Redemption. And for me, the redemption is His overwhelming mercy to the whole world. We have the Lord's Crucifix in the sanctuary and also the Eucharist. On the Crucifix He gives his total mercy. But the big thing is he's in the Eucharist every day. It's this constant connection. That's why He continues to take care of us — He gives us our daily bread. It's like we're at the wedding feast now." 

We invite you — our parishes and schools — to be a part of documenting the Archdiocese of St. Louis. The free iOS app for making 360° photographs is called Bubbli. We want your images to be included in a database for the Archdiocese of St. Louis so we may all be able to visit one other from our desktops and mobile devices. See bubb.li for how to download. Share your images — tweet us at @archstl or @StLouis_Review or Send us your bubbles:
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