Thursday, November 7, 2013

Our Lady of the Snows - Belleville, Illinois

One minute we're in Missouri and the next, a little jaunt across the bridge, we're in Illinois. Seriously, if you visit St. Louis, which I know many do because it is a wonderful city, think about crossing over the bridge and visit the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows. Truly a beautiful place, there are many different places of devotion in one large area.
Inside the Church    

Main Shrine Amphitheatre  

Millennium Spire and Candelarium

Mary Chapel
Christ the King Chapel

Rosary Courts

Annunciation Garden/Mother's Prayer Walk

Sacred Heart

Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto

Our Lady of Guadalupe

There is also a beautiful walk with life-size Stations of the Cross.

What cannot be captured fully with the lens are the many messages and prayers and needs left by pilgrims at the base of the statues or by means of a lighted candle and a hanging rosary or medal. Pilgrims who come to ask for healing for themselves or others. Pilgrims who come searching for comfort. Pilgrims who seek peace. Pilgrims who need rest. We found a place for ourselves in the Chapel beneath the Outdoor Altar and Main Shrine I refer to as the Heart of the Shrine. Christ in the Tabernacle waits for those who come in need and in thanksgiving. He waits for those who have come to visit. There is perfect silence and as we kneel we can feel the strength He has to give, the peace He has to offer, the love and the gift of grace He sends. In this place, this Heart of the Shrine, there is warmth and welcome. 

There are many touching places at the Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows. There are as many places as there are needs and each seems to touch different Pilgrims in different ways. The plaques marked with the family names are a testament to what others have considered special. The visit makes a difference. The stop is noted and the prayers are heard. We are fortunate to have a deep faith with many devotions that touch different people in different ways for each of our needs. We have come and we have been blessed. Again. Straight to the Heart.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Black Madonna Shrine, Eureka, Missouri

Often we search with great expectations because of information we have been given in the past or pictures we have seen, only to discover that time changes things. Things, but not love. Things, but not the feeling one gets from standing amongst the Holy. Things, but not the story.
 As we come upon the sign for the Black Madonna Shrine, we are leery about where our salesmen (who sell to both our bookstore and this Shrine) are leading us. We know many of the stories from the past. We know there is a trailer, we know the original Chapel was burned, we know about the story of Our Lady of Czestochowa but we are filled with much more as we wander and as we read and as we visit Mary, alone, just our family. Not another car in the gravel lot, not a person to be seen, the trailer is closed tight with sheets hung over the windows, just us. It is also probably 100 degrees outside so those who may have been around most likely think there will be no visitors. But there is cold water. There are lit candles. She has been visited early and she waits. For us.
Here we are. Here we stand on a concrete slab with pews facing an altar adorned with the image of Our Lady, candles burning.

Here we are given the grace as a family to continue the journey to visit Our Lady in her many Shrines in the United States. Here we are given answers to questions. We are taught about love and sacrifice.

Here we spend time despite the blazing heat and we are given what we need to persevere.

Here we are shown the Way ...

And we find rest.

And so much more...

 I am excited to share our journeys and our stories. This Shrine made the cover of a new book coming in April, 2014. As the date draws closer, I will be sharing many of the pictures from our travels and a little about the visits to Our Lady in hopes that all will want to know more about Her and Her beautiful Shrines throughout the U.S.

Friday, October 18, 2013

St. Luke - Patron Saint of Artists

On this Feast Day of St. Luke, my mother's patron, I thought it would be nice to post some Jean Dortch originals.

Light into Dark

Before Sunset

Raw Beauty

Fall at Radnor

Creek Runs Through

Call to Prayer
Halls of Higher Learning

One talented mama! What a gift!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Charity of Heart

Probably would have been better had I posted this Tuesday when I heard the reading and homily but I am just behind right now. Too much on my plate but enjoying every bite.

"But as to what is within, give alms, and behold, everything will be clean for you." Luke 11:41

Pretty sure the Pharisees did not understand everything Jesus' was telling them anymore than I usually do, but I'm trying to listen and sometimes, just showing up helps immensely. After the Gospel reading, Fr. spoke about "Charity of Heart". He told a little about the movie "On Golden Pond" and finished with this from Ethel Thayer,

"Sometimes you have to look hard at a person, and realize he's doing the best he can."

Now that's something I can use at home, at work and at school and something I hope others can use when they work with me. Charity of Heart.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Working in the Midst of the Holy

"Hey! Can you help me with candles?" "Sure." "Ya see I've got this little room with my mom's religious things in it and I'd like to light some candles like she used to do. You may have known her. Margaret Booker?" "Known her? I didn't know." "She passed away in 2011. I'm just moving back and trying to get myself together." "She came in here all the time." "I know that's why I'm here."

The man was looking for all the people who connected him to his mom. I, in my usual busy way, did not even realize it had been that long since she had been in. Was she sick? She never seemed sick. She was rather passive most days, just wanting to get her candles and move along. She always asked for me. She was sweet, asking occasionally how she could get the best deal. I got it. I understood. Or did I? Why the hurry? Why did we never chat like I do with other customers? Why did I not realize she hadn't been by the store?

She was just one of those souls who wander the earth, flying low under the radar, making a difference to those who may never remember or realize and yet, to many who will never forget. "Ya know, my mom used to go by the Church and get the flowers they were ready to replace and take them home. I would go in and she would have flowers all over the place, taking out the wilted and replacing them with fresh. She took them to the nursing homes for people who did not have visitors. When she ran out of flowers, she just sat and talked." "What a wonderful woman your mother was!" "She wasn't even sick. She just died one day." "I'm so sorry."

Today after Mass, I had a little sidewalk talk with a long time friend about the meaning of ASK - Ask, Seek, Knock. We agree that God wants us to Ask. He knows what we need. He knows, but He wants us to ASK. He wants us to seek...answers, needs, people, Him, goodness, love and on and on. Look for Him. Look for the good. Look for the needs of others. And, put it into action. Knock on the door, go to Him, let Him open up a whole new world. Be aware of one another. Bang on it if you must but move. Don't sit around waiting for someone or something to come to you.

I am fortunate to work in the midst of so many holy people who I really barely touch the surface of knowing. I am fortunate to have a God who knows me and loves me anyway. To have a God who despite my busy-ness allows me to witness something so much more. I am fortunate that when I don't remember to ASK or am too busy to SEEK, that He pursues me and He knocks. And sometimes, YES, He knocks me over... with His love and His goodness and His mercy.

To Mrs. Booker, my holy friend, and to all who work quietly in our midst, who go unnoticed by our busy lives, I am grateful that you were truly His hands and His feet and His heart. I am grateful for all who do the will of God and ask and seek and knock and make a difference. I am grateful for the son who shared and who wants to take the hand-me-down and pass it on. This is how we learn. This is why the holy are working in our midst.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Retreat at Bethany - Choosing the Better Part

I was fortunate to spend a weekend at the Bethany Retreat Center in Dickson, run by the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia, given by Fr. Kevin from Aquinas College. Along with other mothers from St. Cecilia Academy and Overbrook, I learned about Lectio Divina, about living in this world and not of it, about the importance of praying the Rosary and about myself, who I am called to be. There was absolutely no "new" material given at this retreat and yet I came away with a whole new way of praying and of seeing and of living. Now don't get me wrong, OH THE MILES I HAVE TO GO! But during this weekend (that I was not going to attend until a sweet young Sister happened in the store and reminded me to leave the decision up to the Holy Spirit) I allowed the Sisters at Bethany to "be Martha" and I "Mary" and I sat and I listened. In this weekend, I found SOMETHING MORE, which is just what I need...more.
The place is amazing!
My Quiet Time Spot
Fr. Kevin gave a beautiful talk and shared an example of praying Lectio Divina using the Call of Matthew. As he went through the passage, word by word or a phrase at a time, he contemplated out loud. This was a huge help for me not just with this passage but in praying the Scriptures in general. But, in this passage, he made one particular comment that hit me. He said aloud, "he saw a man named Matthew, he saw a man, he saw Matthew, he saw the potential of what Matthew could be, of what He created him to be, he saw St. Matthew." Fr. Kevin took each couple of words or so this way and after 30 minutes, we had prayed Matthew 9:9-13. That's all! Just 5 verses. And in that one space, I understood that this is what Jesus is asking me to do with my children. I am called to see them not in the moment, not in who they are in front of me as I try to help my youngest study for a test, but who they are to become, what their potential is, who they are called by God to be, the Saints they are to become. And, IT IS NOT EASY. I have been home almost 2 weeks and I think about this passage, this "way", every day. And, IT IS NOT EASY. As I ask what tests my youngest has the following day and as she responds "spelling, but I don't have the words", I'd like to wring her small "potential to be a Saint" neck. She makes me pause. She makes me realize that God has an amazing sense of humor and that from this we will both develop great character. (Oh please tell me it's true).

I have come to understand, as I am reading Scripture, as I am praying Scripture, that the messages are truly beautiful and intense when prayed in this manner. I have come to understand too that the Rosary, which has always been one of my favorite prayers anyway, is truly even more beautiful when contemplated on in this manner. I have come to understand and hope that I can further develop the idea that all of Scripture is meant for this moment. This makes me even more happy that I have taken just the words of Christ and meditated on them in "Jesus at My Side" as I have. And, now, not just His words but every word. This is where we find answers. This is where we find life. Life with Christ. Life in Christ. Life the way He wants it to be, the way He meant it to be. And, it's nothing we haven't all heard before; nothing we don't already know. In His words may we find the help we need to live in this world and not of it. In His words, may we find peace. We sure do need it.

I thank God for sending in the young Sister who reminded me to listen to the Holy Spirit. With me, it takes a village but I continue to try to take all that is Handed Down and pass it on.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

National Shrine of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal

When Our Lady visited Catherine Laboure and asked her to have the Miraculous Medal made and to spread it all over the world, asking people to wear Her medal, she promised, "all who wear them will receive great graces." Now that's a gift I can use. And, the greater the better.

One thing I have learned by traveling the past few years to the different Shrines around the U.S. is that Mary's requests are not difficult and Her promises in return are awesome. Wear a medal, a scapular. Pray the Hail Mary, the Our Father, the Rosary.  Go to Confession, fast, build, visit, trust, honor, etc.

As we journeyed to the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, we knew a little about the story of St. Catherine Laboure. We knew a little about the Miraculous Medal. But once visited, we know a whole lot more and yet still probably minimal compared to the whole picture. Ya see, there's a whole lot more to the visits from Our Lady once we begin to follow some of Her requests. I know that seems like putting the cart before the horse. We should read and learn and delve deep first and the rest will come naturally but I'm tellin' ya, simply obeying and trusting and doing because Our Mother has asked us to can change our lives. Okay, enough said. Let's get to the visit.

We love this church, St. Mary of the Barrens. It is filled with the history of St. Vincent and modeled after the Vincentian Motherhouse Chapel in Rome.

St. Mary's of the Barrens

St. Vincent de Paul

The Miraculous Medal Shrine was added to the Church in 1929-1930. "Come to the foot of this Altar. Here Graces will be showered on all."

Miraculous Medal Shrine
Sacristy to the original log Church
Grotto of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal
Flowers left for Our Lady and Our Lord
Heart left here speaks volumes of those who have visited Our Lady
The National Shrine of the Miraculous Medal is not just a place of beauty inside and out but a place where graces are showered, where gifts are given and gifts are received. Everything from the Church to the Grotto to the Gift shop scream devotion to Our Lady and she in turn leads us to Her Son. We sit at the Tabernacle. We are welcomed at the Table. He is present and as we visit Our Lady, we visit Her Son. Grace is given. Great Grace.

"Visiting Mary: Her U.S. Shrines and their Graces" April, 2014

Monday, September 16, 2013

Ave Maria Grotto - Cullman, AL

The Ave Maria Grotto is quite a testament to the work of the Benedictine Monk, Brother Joseph Zoettl. He came to the U.S. from Bavaria and spent almost 70 years at St. Bernard Abbey in prayer and working in the powerhouse, shoveling coal. When he had spare time, he began making small grottoes and miniature buildings out of stone and concrete and donated materials such as costume jewelry and seashells and marbles. As he created, he placed them in the gardens for visitors to see and as the number of visitors grew, his creations were moved to the former stone quarry. Brother Joseph was a small guy and seemingly quite lonely and humble. He spent his time reading history and Scripture and creating these monuments from what he read or from photographs he'd seen. Oh how he loved the Church and Our Mother and her Son!

We really have no clue what to expect when we wander off the interstate and into the beautiful St. Bernard Abbey property. We follow the signs and land in a nice gift shop which of course makes us pause and look around for any goodies we may want to take home. But we make ourselves wait until after the tour. We are directed to a room to hear the history of the Grotto and then given a "self-guided tour" paper and led out the back door of the gift shop.

It is extremely hot but the Grotto is heavily treed, keeping us cool and allowing us to enjoy each and every small aspect of the work Brother Joseph has laid out for us. Here is a small sampling.

Wayside Shrine

St. Peter's Basilica and more

Ave Maria Grotto
Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe
St. Bernard Abbey Chapel

How many times we have passed the Ave Maria Grotto sign while cruising down interstate 65 South! How happy we were to stop this day and witness the work of one man dedicated to Our Lady and the history of the Church! We enjoyed finding all the different donations Brother Joseph used to create his Grottoes and we took time talking about what the buildings were and where they are in our world. If you ever have the time as you're headed south or coming up north, take a moment and visit. You'll be glad you did!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Feast Day of the Holy Name of Mary

“Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure,
packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured
into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in
return be measured out to you."  Luke 6:38

I watched on TV as a guy showed the world that mint Menthos candies dropped down into a two-liter bottle of Diet Coke caused the Coke to foam and to shoot out of the bottle high into the air. He explained that other sodas and other flavored Menthos had been tried but did not have the same explosive effect.  Some would foam.  Some would even flow over slightly but none shot high and overflowed like the proper ingredients.

On this Feast of the Holy Name of Mary, I can not help but believe that when we give time to Our Lady, visit her, pray her rosary, that she gives us special gifts in return. Our Mother loves for us to come to her in our need, in our gratefulness. She waits to shake things up in our lives and pour out an endless flow of gifts. Mary has just the right ingredients to make our lives better, to bring us peace, to help us to love one another unconditionally. She gives us the grace we need not just to survive but to live. To really live. Go to her. Spend time. Pray. The gifts will overflow.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Our Lady of the New Millennium

As we get to the Crucifixion Scene at the Shrine of Christ's Passion in St. John, IN, my husband and I just keep climbing to the top of the hill to St. John's Church. 

The Church is not open and we are sorry to miss the chance to visit but we do get to see the amazing statue of Our Lady of the New Millennium. Little do we realize that almost a year later we will see the work of this artist again, actually the Mary that prompted the work of this statue, Our Lady of Peace in Santa Clara, CA.

My husband standing with Our Lady of the New Millennium.

Carl Demma commissioned the making of Our Lady, fulfilling a lifetime dream. The statue is 33 feet tall made of stainless steel and Mr. Demma traveled with her to different churches in the Archdiocese of Chicago. 

In 2000, Mr. Demma joined 30,000 Catholics at Soldier Field with Our Lady at the "Field of Faith" Millennium Celebration.  The next day, Carl Demma died. Imagine, the very next day, on the Feast of Corpus Christi, this man who sold his business and dedicated his life to spreading devotion to Our Lady, died. He left a huge legacy.

His wife, understanding her husband's mission, continued to carry Our Lady around to the Churches until she made several visits to The Shrine of Christ's Passion and decided that Our Lady should have this wonderful site as her home. She has found a place and has been moved to the front of the Shrine since my husband and I have visited. 

Mr. Carl Demma carried a small picture of Our Lady with him most of his life and was a huge advocate of praying the rosary. At the Shrine, she has found a home and been moved down front. May we all learn to honor Our Lady in devotion and prayer. May we find a home for her in our hearts and may we always find a place for her front and center in our lives.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Shrine of Christ's Passion - St. John, IN

My husband and I are driving to Chicago to an annual Catalog meeting for St. Mary's Bookstore. We have had a visit at the store from the founder and manager of The Shrine of Christ's Passion and they have invited us to stop by anytime and see the Shrine. This time seems logical.

We venture directly into the gift shop and tell the ladies behind the counter where we're from and suddenly a man approaches dressed in yard maintenance clothes and re-introduces himself as Frank Schilling. Says he's been working in the fields but he stops everything he's been doing and spends time with us. He shows us all around the beautiful gift shop and we talk at length about what's selling and displays. He has gone to many different shops around the country and gotten ideas about how to display. They have done a wonderful job.

He then takes us outside and starting in the front with the Shrine of Our Lady of Grace, the original statue that his grandfather brought over from Italy, he fills us with stories of faith and love. He explains the building up of the land and the moving in of the dirt and the rock and the discovery of the artist. He explains the words and the voice and the intention of the layout and the connection of the Passion of Christ walk from Our Lady up to St. John Church.

We join Jesus at the Last Supper
Sit with the sleeping Apostles as Jesus prays at Gethsemane
Hear Pilate sentence Jesus
Walk with Christ
To the Crucifixion
We took quite some time just to get to this point. We see the sweat on Jesus' face in the Agony of the garden. We see Pilot wash his hands, pleading innocence. We walk and we listen to the recordings at each Station. We witness those who are with him along the way. We see Jesus fall. We share the sorrow we see on His Mother's face. We see Simon help Jesus carry the cross and Veronica wipe His Face, the image left in her cloth. He speaks to the women of Jerusalem and He is stripped of His cloths by the soldiers. Then, we hear the pounding of the hammer as he is nailed to the cross He has dragged up this hill. He is Crucified. But, it is not the end of the story. We witness...

He is taken down from the Cross and placed in His Mother's arms.
He is laid in the Tomb
He is Risen
He meets Mary Magdalene
He Ascends to Heaven
The challenge of the Shrine is to "come and journey" and to take Jesus with us as Disciples, to spread the Good News and to change the world.

Today, with all that is happening in our world, may the peace of the Risen Christ guide us and guard us. May we share the love of the One who gave His life so that we can be saved.