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New Harmony: Christian shrines to see on my 'Becket list'

Published: Saturday, Dec. 7 2013 5:00 a.m. MST

This Thursday May 2, 2013 photo shows Notre Dame cathedral in Paris. The famous cathedral's pipe organ was refurbished for the 850th anniversary this year.

Christophe Ena, Associated Press

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On Dec. 3, I turned 65. It’s one of those ages that call for reflection.

What have I done? What haven’t I? What will I do if I can?

I’ve never put together a “bucket list” of things to do. But I do have something of a “Becket list.”

It’s a list of Christian shrines I’d like to see.

Thomas Becket was murdered in the Canterbury Cathedral in England. That’s the reason Chaucer’s tale-telling pilgrims went there each year.

It's why I hope to visit it, too, before I, well … kick the Becket.

There are three or four other sites on my list as well.

I’ve already crossed several off.

Thanks to my brother and sister-in-law, my wife and I got to see St. Peter’s in Rome and the stunning Sistine Chapel.

And I’ve been to the famous Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City several times.

I even made it to the Sagrada Familia cathedral in Barcelona, the one with spires that look like candles covered in melted wax.

But I still have a couple more shrines to go.

For one, I’d like to spend a day at Chartres in France. And maybe a second day at Notre Dame.

Next spring, with luck, I’ll see the Trappist monastery in Gethsemani, Ky., where Thomas Merton, one of my literary idols, spent his life writing and thinking.

But the biggest wish on the list is getting to the Holy Land.

So many sites and shrines around Jerusalem are based on speculation, however, that I’d like to visit a place that is rock solid real.

In his book “The Innocents Abroad,” Mark Twain writes of visiting the Holy Land and has raised eyebrows when it comes to some of the holy places.

Twain says a new convert would come away from the Holy Land believing Jesus not only was born in a church but was also crucified in one.

While there, he writes, a helpful guide sneaked him away to see where Adam was buried.

He says seeing Adam’s grave brought tears to his eyes.

Here he was, he writes, a stranger in a strange land and, out of nowhere, he comes across the grave of a relative.

Twain says he knows Adam was buried there because, for hundreds of years, no one had been able to prove otherwise.

Twain, the humorist, of course, always trumped Twain the pilgrim.

Still, he has a point.

You need to take some things with a grain of salt.

That’s why, in Jerusalem, I think the place that would interest me most would be the Wailing Wall, the original wall of the biblical temple.

That seems something solid where a guy could actually touch history.

At the temple wall, a soul just might be able to take the pulse of the universe.

I don’t know, of course, since I’ve never been there.

But if I can hang on as long as Mark Twain did, I’d like to think the time is coming when I can scratch the Wailing Wall off my Becket list.

Email: jerjohn@desnews.com

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