ABOVE: A view from atop Sunset Point in Bryce Canyon National Park March 20. The spot is roughly 8,000 feet above sea level. (Jeff Grant/CATHOLIC SUN)
KANAB, Utah — At the outset of our trip, we were told there would be variety and opportunity to experience God’s presence in different settings. One of the themes of this pilgrimage has been allowing the Lord to speak to us through His creation.
We saw and felt the wonders of natural beauty on a rare snow-covered morning at Zion National Park two days earlier. But on this, the fourth day, we may have witnessed the most unique display of His handiwork on our five-day pilgrimage.
— Jeff Grant (@JeffGrant835) March 20, 2018
The day provided a marked contrast to the previous 24 hours. Where we had hopscotched through three religious and cultural experiences in a mostly urban setting of Salt Lake City, we were now in the unspoiled pine forests and mountains of southern Utah, eagerly anticipating the scenes of another of the state’s five National Parks. Unlike the previous day, this one would include the park as its only stop: a two-hour opportunity to connect with God through a rare natural display.
Bryce Canyon, which sits between 8,000-9,000 feet above sea level, is really not a single canyon at all, but a series of massive rock “amphitheaters” and valleys punctuated by thousands of geological formations formed by frost weathering and stream erosion of sedimentary rock. These “hoodoos” marked by layers of red, orange and white rock, seem to be marching through the amphitheaters like a giant army.
Though our schedule permitted us to visit only a slice of the nearly 36,000-acre park, we felt God’s presence as we gazed into the panorama below us.
Set in stone: God’s beauty, majesty on display in the rocks of Bryce
“I had no idea it was so magnificent; the beauty, the splendor. This is truly a beautiful sight,” said Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted, his eyes lighting up as he described God’s creation.
“When you see God’s nature, you don’t know how people can say, ‘I don’t believe in God,’ when we see all we see. It was just wonderful,” said St. Luke parishioner Patricia Cinalli.
At one point, I broke away from the group to capture images at and around Sunset Point, a spot on the Rim Trail, which runs along the top of the plateau. Only the gentle whispering of the wind accompanied me as I scanned the scenery and clicked away. I later thought of Psalm 150:1: “Praise God in His sanctuary; Praise Him in His mighty expanse.”
The only animals the pilgrims got a close-up view of were at the restaurant outside the park on the way in. (Jeff Grant/CATHOLIC SUN)Our visit at Bryce concluded, we boarded our bus and headed for Kanab, a few miles from our home state. We would be back in Arizona on the final day of our pilgrimage; our hearts and minds refreshed after witnessing God’s wonders.
Fr. Jesus Ty, pastor of Our Lady of Joy Parish in Carefree, recalled our prayers during the bus ride from Salt Lake to Bryce as he delivered the homily during the evening Mass at St. Christopher Parish.
“What I heard is praising God and thanking God for His beauty of His creation,” Fr. Ty told the congregation. “We prayed, ‘Let the mountains praise the Lord, and all creation praise the Lord.’ We (saw) that firsthand.”