Visit No. 11: Our Lady of the Blue Ridge

Visit No. 11: Our Lady of the Blue Ridge

Back out on I-66 West, this time veering south on Route 29 towards Charlottesville, a most familiar route. New to us on this trip, was a stay at the 18th century mansion, Inn at Meander near Culpepper, where we enjoyed the sunset over the Blue Ridge and a hearty colonial meal, then off to Our Lady of the Blue Ridge Catholic Church the next morning, after which we enjoyed a quiet morning by the fire in our quarters.

Visit date: Friday, December 1, 2023

Mass: 8:30 am Saturday

Address: 200 Collins Avenue, Luray, VA 22835

Website: Our Lady of the Blue Ridge Catholic Church (Facebook)

Friday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time, Lectionary: 507

Jesus told his disciples a parable.
“Consider the fig tree and all the other trees.
When their buds burst open,
you see for yourselves and know that summer is now near;
in the same way, when you see these things happening,
know that the Kingdom of God is near.
Amen, I say to you, this generation will not pass away
until all these things have taken place.
Heaven and earth will pass away,
but my words will not pass away.”


by Michael

With overnight stays for our final four Mary-named church visits, we brought the dogs along, which was great fun, especially for our stay at the Inn at Meander and its 80 acres of grounds and fields. We stayed in a small cottage which had served as the servants quarters, and is a rarity because it is made of brick, which means it was both more livable and unto today survives. And it has a working fireplace, which we happily used after church on a chilly Friday morning.

Inn at Meander, Culpeper, VA

We arrived late afternoon in time to catch the sunset over the Blue Ridge, which, Terry tells me, is actually blue — I’m colored blind, so I’m always guessing. We were the only guests that night, so we had the full attention of the very kindly manager, Wayne, who made sure we had everything we needed, including to help us refrigerate the food we brought for a dinner we were hosting the next night at Fredericksburg. Wayne worried that the chef wouldn’t like to see our quart of ice cream in his freezer, but took a chance, and it all worked out, including a lesson for me the next day from the chefs on how to make a proper Bearnaise sauce — and, please forgive me, dear chefs, which I butchered the next night, and so it wasn’t worthy of the rather excellent filet mignons that were perfect thanks to your advice to braise on a frying pan on high heat then bake at 400 until perfect, i.e, toasty on the outside and sweet and smooth in the middle.

This is what greeted us as we drove up to the Inn at Meander:

We met the current owner, Chris, the next day, and he gave us a tour of the mansion and another cottage, which used to be the kitchen. Amazingly, Chris travels frequently to Liberia on a conservation project for USAID. Terry and I have helped build a small school there, so we traded stories, as well as to learn about wonderful work of his sister and her husband in Kenya.

I was thrilled to see that the mansion was built by the Henry Fry, son of Col. Joshua Fry, an associate of Peter Jefferson, father of Thomas, who together drew the first official map of Virginia, the Fry-Jefferson Map (1751) that I mentioned in Visit no. 9 to Our Lady of the Valley. Col. Fry and Peter Jefferson were commissioned by the colony to survey Lord Fairfax’s lands in the Piedmont, as well as the boundary between Virginia and North Carolina. As we have seen with anyone involved with managing Lord Fairfax’s lands, both Fry and Jefferson ended up with a good amount of it themselves. Col. Fry built “Viewmont” along the wonderfully named Hardware River to the south in Albemarle County.

Henry inherited the property at Meander, which he named for the flow of the nearby Robinson River. George Washington, who replaced Col. Fry as commander of the Virginia Regiment on his death at the onset of the French-Indian War, spent time at Meander, as did Thomas Jefferson, Henry’s childhood friend, including to stay there on his way to Washington to become President1. That was very cool to hear, as I have long admired Jefferson’s remarkable three-day trip from Monticello to Washington.2 To get an idea about travel in those days, Jefferson wrote to Fry in 1804 that he was unable to stop at Meander because it “was so rainy.” (I’m posting an excerpt of the letter below, along with my commentary on its discussion of the English Unitarian, Joseph Priestly.3)

Any self-respecting 1700s Virginia plantation has a grand view, and the Inn at Meander nails it for both sunset and sunrise. Wayne kindly gave me a worthy glass, which I sipped while we watched God’s evening spectacle. Again, I’m not much on colors, but Terry assures me it was a gorgeous pink, yellow and red sky. The next morning I took the dogs out before Mass, and the sunrise was just as lovely– but not, Terry said, red — so no rain that day; and so it was.

Chris very kindly granted us a late checkout, so after church we had a lovely stay in our cottage room by a fire that I kept burning all morning, which made the dogs exceedingly happy.

Saint Mary of the Blue Ridge

We slept well through a cold night and got moving early to make the 8:00 am Mass at Our Lady of the Blue Ridge. The link to Our Lady of the Blue Ridge on the A Jubilee Journey with Mary ( page goes to, which is fine, but curious, as there is no parish website. I did find the parish Facebook page, which gave me a little trouble, since I don’t do social media. After closing out the FB “sign in” popups, I was able to confirm the 8am Mass time and address, etc. I put it in my GPS app, and promptly went the wrong way out of the plantation. No matter, as it led us on a windy, backroad that we thoroughly enjoyed, and which gave us a good view of the Culpeper residential community.

Arriving some ten or fifteen minutes before Mass time, Terry went in while I wandered, as usual, to look around outside. There were two cars when we got there, but by the time I went in a little before 8, there were at least half a dozen or more. I found Terry near the front, and got myself into Mass-mode, although likely bugging Terry first with a comment about something that interrupted her own Mass-mode.

I had followed into the church a mother and young son and an old man who greeted the boy enthusiastically and sat in the same row. Although moving about as a young child ought, the boy did quite well throughout mass. It reminded me, though, of the value of the Magnifikid missals we bought for our own parish that we love to see after Mass all marked up and with the puzzles solved. After Mass the old man turned to the boy, called him by name, and warmly wished him goodbye. Very sweet.

Father came in from the back, greeted us, and started the Mass. The lector did a nice job with that perplexing, scary — well, for King Belshazzar — passage on the four beasts: a winged lion (plucked – ouch!), a bear, a leopard with four heads and wings, and the ten-horned monster of iron and bronze with one horn with human eyes. Would that Daniel had known who was the “son of man,” he might have slept better that night. The Babylonian king probably did, but his peaceful nights wouldn’t last long. The rest of Mass was straightforward and unremarkable, including my kneeling for the Host, which the carpet helped with considerably. Father’s demeanor and voice are both reserved, almost muffled. Nevertheless, his words were intelligible, if not forceful, which just seems to match the church itself.

A brick structure with steeple, portico with three arched windows facing the front, Our Lady of the Blue Ridge is a classic country church that fits its location perfectly:

Street view shots show how the church fits nicely into its location just off Rte 29, “N. Seminole Trail.”

The church is just off the highway, and, indeed, with a view of the Blue Ridge:

From inside, Terry noticed that there is a single Rose Window above the altar, and the rest are clear glass, which spills a lot of light into the church — and which was welcome on this cloudy morning.

When we walk up and in to a church, we learn a lot about the parish. Outside Our Lady of the Blue Ridge, a couple things spoke clearly to me. Firstly, is the lovely, painted Mary statue. I haven’t any before that are painted — seems thoughtful and loving. Next, that tree (see above), probably a Japanese Maple, is purposeful and cared for. And the picnic tables out back (see above) speak to a strong community: when it’s decoration or an afterthought, there’s one or two picnic tables; they have seven! (I’m guessing the bbq grill has been put away for the season.) The up-to-date missal in each pew tells me the parish cares about worship. Finally, the presents by the tree in the narthex look real, and I’m guessing they are intended for neighbors in need…

… as, from an article about the parish, Our Lady of the Blue Ridge, Madison – Arlington Catholic Herald,

Our parish is oriented toward service to the poor. Our outreach program helps dozens of families, especially at Christmas time, and all year long. Hundreds of bags of clothes donated to the church are picked up by clients from social services. We provide shoes and clothing for children and adults, and the clients choose what they need or want. We also do monthly food drives. Because we’re so small, to get as many volunteers as we do is really great. We try to get the youths involved whenever they can in community projects. Our volunteers step in wherever they can and help families in need. For being so small, we have a really good group of volunteers.

I’d say so! And I’d also affirm what the article says about Father Bruse and that he is a “people person” who “loves socializing with parishioners and visiting their homes.”

After Mass, I wandered around long enough to catch Father Bruse and a parishioner as they exited the building. They were joking about a medical appointment Father was rushing off to, and how the parishioner would “stand in for him” if needed. Father Bruse clearly enjoyed the ribbing. He then kindly turned to greet me, whereupon we discussed our pilgrimage visits and his favorite Mary churches. When Terry came out, he kindly posed for a photo with her, apologizing for being “out of uniform,” but he was on the way to doctors appointment and a bit worried about his diabetes. Worth a prayer for him.

Father Bruse is a truly pleasant person, and we appreciate his kindliness and welcome.

Here for our remaining photos

  1. Following the “Revolution of 1800,” the contested election, so-called for marking the first peaceful transition of power between political opponents. ↩︎
  2. Here for his various itineraries from Monticello to Washington, but not that particular trip ↩︎
  3. Letter: From Thomas Jefferson Papers, 1606 to 1827, Henry Fry, | Library of Congress (

    Fry was a Reverend, so he and Jefferson certainly spoke religion, such as in this letter from Jefferson to Fry of May 21, 1804:

    When I had the pleasure of seeing you at your own house you expressed a wish to see Priestly’s corruptions of Christianity, finding them in a book store here on my return. I was happy in the opportunity of gratifying your wish. I meant on my late journey to have had the pleasure of asking personally your acceptance of them, but the morning I passed you was so rainy, and the necessity so urgent for my being here the days day, that meeting with Mr. Maury in the road I was glad to leave them with him to be presented to you in my behalf.

    The lower case “corruptions” is the title of Priestly’s 1782 book, “An History of the Corruptions of Christianity,” Both Jefferson and Joseph Priestly were deists, Priestly founder of Unitarianism in England and Jefferson a quasi-unitarian, which means they did not believe in the Triune God. They sadly tried to re-work Scripture to fit their modern views, such as we see from Jefferson’s explanation to Fry that Preistly’s “just finished work… was a comparative view of the morality of Jesus & [sic] of the ancient philosophers”.

    It took a awhile, but such Enlightenment “reasoning” has thoroughly infected the modern world, and not just in the academy, whereby everything, Scripture, included, is “comparative,” “relative” and “deconstructed.”

    The entire Enlightenment project was designed to supposedly align truth with scientific observation and reason. It is understood to have started with the 1680 publication of Isaac Newton’s “Philosophiæ Naturalis Principio Mathematica,” in which he presented his Laws of Motion. Newton himself attempted to “rationalize” Scripture, a process started by Wycliff, Ockham and Luther, called “sola scripture” (i.e., the text of the Bible only, taken more extremely as nuda scriptura — Latin terms, btw, that owe their use purely to the Church tradition of Latin, which I pray to the Lord that the Church maintain…).

    Luther’s textual prescription wasn’t enough to accommodate his theology, so he axed several inconvenient Old Testament books, denigrated a couple Epistles (James, especially), and messed around with translations when the literal Greek didn’t fit his needs (such as we see in Bach’s magnificent Christmas Oratorio, which uses Lutheran text, where by Luke 2:14‘s “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests” is translated as to “Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth and goodwill towards men” so as to negate the original Greek possessive, or genitive, case, thus making it man’s goodwill and not God’s — amazing, and frightening!). Newton’s own theological project fizzled into occultism, alchemy (search for the so-called “philosopher’s stone”) and Arianism (denial of the Hypostatic union of Christ as God and man), which Priestly subsequently turned into Unitarianism.

    It’d be ironic were it not so dangerous for so many souls, but current science, which the Enlightenment hoped would negate it, aligns more and more with Scripture. Of course not all great Enlightenment thinkers were deists — there’s Pascal, for example, whose wager I pray Jefferson ultimately took, but they collectively ran into the limits of reason, which Aquinas had long before demonstrated is incomplete and incapable of fuller truth. As modern physics, biology, and other hard sciences find the deeper view into fundamental and universal levels, the role of a supreme, thinking Creator becomes more clear. In the least, for thoughtful scientists, at least, science cannot negate the existence of a Creator. They’re just missing the other wing, without which true enlightenment cannot fly, faith. ↩︎






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