“We’re a people of buttons and barrels.” A chance overheard comment from a sales clerk as she punched in numbers at a checkout counter brought me to thinking about all the “buttons and barrels” in our lives.

There are definitely lots of buttons — in addition to the imaginary ones, e.g., “You’re pushing my buttons.”

In the kitchen, you can push a button to start the microwave, dishwasher, garbage disposal and almost any appliance. Lights go on and off with the flick of a button. We may set our clocks, alarms and watches with a button’s touch. Buttons are pretty much a positive element.

What about barrels? We see the orange warning signs on so many roads year round. They’re a negative alert, warning us to “stay away from this area,” “under construction,” “slow down,” “be on the lookout for workers.”

When we look at our spiritual lives, do we see more “buttons” or “barrels”?

If life is full of orange barrels, push some buttons for positive change. Ask if you’re headed in the right direction. This can be done in many ways. For a change of pace or in addition to an annual retreat, a visit to one or more of the Marian shrines in the area may re-awaken a silent spiritual renewal. At last count, there are 48 approved Marian shrines in the United States, several within driving distance of southeastern Wisconsin.

Any time is the right time for a pilgrimage but in the fall, the changing colors and crisp sunny days can cheer our spirits while we refresh our inner being. Many people will travel to Fatima or Lourdes, but we have wonderful places for spiritual renewal within minutes or hours. In the Milwaukee area, there’s the Marian shrine on South 68th Street ( where one can find pilgrims saying the rosary at any hour of the day or night. Mary Help of Christians shrine at Holy Hill ( is a short ride for those in southeastern Wisconsin. For a longer — almost 400 miles – trek, there’s Our Lady of the Snows ( in Belleville, Illinois.

Recently, a local group of us visited the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse ( with the opportunity to also enjoy a beautiful fall Wisconsin day.

It was an occasion to visit the shrine that had been calling us for several years. We have passed through the area several times a year on trips to visit relatives in Minnesota, but in a hurry to reach our destination had never found time to stop. It is doable in a day if one plans to be there by 11 a.m. and stay until the 4 p.m. closing.

Following its designation as a national shrine, a new sign is seen Sept. 30 at the entrance of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Champion, in the Green Bay Diocese. (CNS photo/Sam Lucero, The Compass)

Following its designation as a national shrine, a new sign is seen Sept. 30 at the entrance of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Champion, in the Green Bay Diocese. (CNS photo/Sam Lucero, The Compass)

Another pilgrimage destination is Our Lady of Good Help ( near Green Bay. Even the four-hour round trip leaves enough time to enjoy a leisurely lunch and beautiful scenery.

Moving out of our safe environment to find a new direction may involve thought and planning. While any time of year may be great for inner searching, fall is especially so. We are entering a period of somewhat lower outdoor activity, thus having more time for reflection after the journey to plan a spiritual schedule for the year ahead.

Journeying into the wide-open countryside can also enlarge our life perspective. If you’re moved by the change of seasons, take some pictures along the way and at the shrine to use for later reflection. Look through magazines for inspiring nature photos and make a “meditation manual.”

Be sure to include reflection sayings and a special prayer or two. Better yet, make a second folio to give to a friend or relative who is homebound or in a nursing home. Start now on next year’s shrine destination project by taking seasonal photos of favorite landmarks or events to serve as vibrant memories or find memorable postcards in the gift shop.

How often do we say or hear someone else remark, “I wish I had a picture of the time we spent at….”     Include some of the roadways dotted with orange barrels, possibly “before and after” pictures, when there is a major makeover.

All lives need refreshing. Find these for yourself and include a way to keep the memories and to share them with others.

(King, a member of St. Teresa of Calcutta Parish, North Lake, is married to Thomas. They have seven children, 17 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.)