Saturday, July 21, 2012

Black Madonna Shrine - Eureka, MO

"Welcome to the Black Madonna Shrine and Grottos. A shining example of what one man with faith can achieve."

Our Lady of Perpetual Help Grotto

Our Lady of Sorrows Grotto, Mother's Sanctuary, Nativity Grotto,
Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto

Friday, July 20, 2012

When Lighting a Votive Light

National Shrine of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Give the Man His Credit

"O LORD, you mete out peace to us, for it is you who have accomplished all we have done."

Ah Ha! This is why my world is not in a constant state of peace. Ya know, it is so easy for me to get caught up in accomplishments. It is easy for me to forget that ALL the Glory goes to Him.

My kids are complimented for their behavior and I smile and pat myself on the back for being such a good parent. People stop me and comment on what a great bookstore St. Mary's is and I thank them and think how much my hard work has paid off. Someone takes the time to tell me how much they like my books and I tell them stories about the next book coming or how well one of them has worked out. Give Me A Break! I ask God every morning to hold my children in His hands and to send the store customers and to allow my writing, His Words, to touch one person each day. I bang my head against the wall about situations and yet, He'd be glad to measure out the peace if I'd just give the Man His credit. They are His children, the store is all about Him and the ideas sit confused unless He has something to say so why in the world do I forget that it's just not about me?

Lord, "it is you who have accomplished all we have done." You give us the strength, You give us the wisdom, You give us one another and when we acknowledge all that, You give us peace.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Images of Mary

I had a customer in the store yesterday (thank God for that, the summer is really slow) and she commented, "You must have all sorts of pictures around your house from the store." And I do have all sorts of pictures and statues and plaques because oftentimes when items get damaged, I take them and repair them and just put them in my home. I told her about this image of Mary with Baby Jesus that is my favorite. It was propped at the top of a staircase and with one nudge descended and broke into 6 large pieces. It is terra cotta, thick and heavy, as you can only imagine, and I love the simplicity. Many tubes of super glue has held this piece together for probably over 20 years. At 24" x 18" it takes up a good amount of space in our entry hall.

This morning as I sat in the Chapel with this image of Mary in my mind, I began to think about the significance of having her in my home, in my life. As often as I pass her each day, as often as I have thought about her handling her life with Jesus and me handling mine with my children, I have never really thought about how often I cling to her with all the scattered pieces of my life. I am all over the place. As a wife, as a mother, as a writer, as a daughter, as a co-worker, I approach life somewhat scattered in pieces. I struggle with keeping it all together. I struggle with trying to do all I do well. I am often frustrated putting the pieces together, running out of the glue so to speak or simply getting myself stuck. I believe the message for me this morning, as I contemplate the image of Mary, is that she is with me regardless. She knows I come to her in pieces. She knows I am all over the place. She knows I am often tired and frustrated and I may only show up when it's all about me. She just does not mind. All she cares about is that I come to her, to her Son. He will make the pieces come together. He will make it all make sense. He will get me unstuck and He will put me back together when it seems most impossible. Today, I hear Mary say to me, just keep showing up, no matter how small a fragment you have to offer. Together we will make all the pieces fit. Together we will find time. Together we will make a difference. Just keep showing up.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Creve Couer, MO

Looking outside the city of St.Louis for a hotel, we settled on a Marriott Courtyard in Creve Couer. It actually worked out well considering all of the places we could easily get to around the city. I loved the fact that as we get off the interstate, the pillars are marked with a heart with what looks like a crown of thorns through the center. Of course, couer means heart so I expected something but the simplicity and beauty of the mark caught us coming and going. The couple of days we spent there, in St.Louis, were wonderful. We spent quite some time at Our Lady of the Snows Shrine in Belleville, IL. The downtown area of St.Louis was having their annual fair with concerts under the arch and beer and food everywhere. As my husband and kids went to go through the arch, I wandered off to the "Old Cathedral" (the holder of my husbands' pocket knife he could not take in the arch). Bottom line though is the heat was crazy. The Cathedral was locked. The arch would have taken close to 2 hours because of the crowds. And, I hung out with some Jesus freaks as I waited, making it clear that I did not need their booklets and buttons, that I loved the Lord and had no problem telling the world. They liked me. Met back up with the family and headed to the Cathedral Basilica of St.Louis where we lucked into first Friday adoration then to Ted Drewes for custard and "yes" it was awesome.

Saturday morning I was up in plenty of time to jump over to 8:00 Mass at St. Monica's Church one block from our hotel. Ya see, I'm thinking about writing something on Our Lady and I thought after all the places we'd visited, I should go to Mass and contemplate what she has in mind. The Blessed Sacrament is still exposed and the Rosary is being prayed as I enter and as I open my Magnificat I see that it is the Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Hmmm. Mass begins and I hear some rustling behind me and I have to turn and peek. It's Bernadette McCarver Snyder for cryin' out loud. She's as shocked to see me as I am to see her. A regular writer for Ligouri, we have had her sign in the bookstore many times. She's from Nashville. After Mass she calls over another friend from Nashville. Graduated from St. Bernard's just like Bernadette. They invite me to breakfast but I explain about the kids and the husband waiting for my return. I give her my newest book, Jesus at my Side, along with a copy of the Illustrated Book of Mary and mention the possibility of a new venture. She simply says, "I believe she wants you to do it." The entire trip was just like this moment. Signs and messages and moments I need to wrap my heart and my head around. Wonderful trip. Fun trip. Full of God-instances.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Shrines and Grottos

The venture starts with the brilliant idea to trek across the highways from I-65 to land in the small town of Perryville, MO. As we arrived at Our Lady of the Barrens Church, the parking lot was empty. I immediately thought, "Oh great, what have I dragged my husband and kids through the soy fields and corn fields of Missouri to witness?" As we entered the gift shop, the very kind woman behind the counter led us to a brochure for a self tour. We went to the church and found ourselves surrounded by paintings within mini Chapels of the lives of Vincentian Saints. But the main area in the Church was dedicated to Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal. The entire space told the story of St.Catherine Laboure and the medal she was asked to have made in honor of Our Lady. We stayed for quite some time and then ventured down to the Grotto of Our Lady where my youngest was stung by a wasp or a bee or something. She hung in with us, checking out the work that had been done on building this huge Grotto and reading about the other small Grottos along the walkway. We visited the gift shop and then headed north for another Shrine we had heard of from a salesman, The Black Madonna Shrine in Eureka.

The GPS (an amazing little contraption) took us through more cornfields and this time through tiny twists and turns up slight hills until we arrived at a small road with No Trespassing signs everywhere we turned. As we came upon the sign for the Shrine (I'll post pics later), we turned in and drove up the hill. We were greeted by a trailer, a large open area with pews and a field of Grottos. The sign on the gift shop read, "Sorry. Closed." There was a tin box that had a self tour map and so we began. In front of the pews was an altar with votive stands on either side and behind the altar was a huge mosaic area with a large picture of Our Lady of Czestochowa. It was striking. We then followed the path through the field and admired the work of this one Polish Franciscan Monk who dedicated his life to honor Our Lady and her Son. The man died right there in front of one of the Grottos. The time and work obviously put into each area cannot be described. We pointed out different glass and miniature animals and concrete designs made into the Grottos. My favorite was a small pathway up above which led back to an area called the Mother's Sanctuary where water trickled down from around Our Lady of Sorrows into a small pond. After we walked the stations and filled our bottle with holy water, we drove down to where there was once an Infirmary (quite large) and in front was the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes. Worse for wear it was one of the most beautiful places in my mind. My kids ventured through the cut stone around the back where obviously water was once hooked up to run through the Grotto. I could only imagine what it once was and loved, once again, all the work of the small details. The Monastery around the back was still in use and the sheet mentioned not to go back there so we were headed on our way.

More treks through the hills and back onto the interstate to St. Louis where we easily found our hotel, cleaned up and moved on to "The Hill" for dinner at Guidos. As we dined on amazing Italian pastas and tapas and paninis, I asked which place the kids liked the most and much to my surprise they talked and talked about the amazing dedication and work put into each Grotto. When I mentioned that I would love to know just why these people felt so inclined to dedicate their lives to these projects, literally dying as they tried to finish, my 12 year old got kind of quiet and said, "Mom, you know why." "No, I really don't. It's part of my journey. It's what I wish I could ask these people to their faces." There was a slight blush and a grin and a whisper, "For the Glory of God." For the Glory of God. And that's what we had journeyed to witness.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Ave Maria Grotto

My two younger daughters and I went to Ave Maria Grotto in Cullman, AL last Thursday on a short Pilgrimage. The place was fascinating. The Grotto of the Blessed Mother is surrounded by 125 miniature reproductions of famous buildings from around the world as well as other shrines and biblical scenes. Created by the Benedictine monk, Brother Joseph Zoettl, the buildings are made from literally any material that people donated from glass, shells, tile, stone and marble, to a bird cage, ink bottles, jars, cement and much more. We spent time admiring the castles and the abbeys and the churches, the Colosseum, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, St. Peter's Basilica, Scenes from the Holy Land and from the Bible, and the Shrines of St. Theresa, Our Lady of Fatima, Our Lady of Lourdes and Our Lady of Guadalupe. We enjoyed every small detail. Tucked down in a wooded area, the heat was tolerable, thank goodness. After the time at the Grotto, we slipped over to the Church and made a little visit. The Benedictine Crucifix suspended above the altar was moving.
Now it wasn't until I got home that I found out this connection...
Sharing with my mother about the trip, I explained that displayed in the gift shop were several miniature grottos that at one time must have been something Brother Joseph sold, maybe to help with finances for St. Bernard Monastery. My mom reminded me of the shrine she has that is made from concrete with the colored stone and pieces of glass embedded throughout. It is on her balcony. Come to find out, my grandfather did some work for the monastery "back in the day" and this small replica was his payment for the work. Pretty neat to have that connection to circle back around and complete our short Pilgrimage.