Two of my daughters and one of their friends and I spent Easter week with my parents in Naples, FL and had the time of our lives. Truly awesome. My oldest daughter met us for the weekend and then one of my sisters came down for the week. Friday, the three girls and I left paradise and ventured across the state and drove up the east coast of Florida, settling in St. Augustine for Friday night and most of Saturday. Well, little did we know that it would be the Rhythm and Ribs Fest weekend as well as the Ponce de Leon Celebration. In other words, No Room in the Inn! But, we found a room on our second try, the last room left, 2 queens, a mile from the old downtown area...perfect. (no doubt Who had a hand in that) We went to the festival Friday night and ate ribs and walked around listening to the music. The next day we walked around downtown.
I love this city and all the history and all the cool stuff to do. We have to go back because we could not possibly get it all done. I think the highlight for the girls was climbing to the top of the lighthouse. The highlight for me was the Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche. The whole idea that we were standing where the first Mass was prayed really moved me. We walked to the Great Cross and the statue of Fr. Lopez. We walked around the Sorrows of Mary outdoor stations and saw the Bell Tower and the graves of the Sisters of St. Joseph. We visited the gift shop and prayed in the Chapel of Our Lady of La Leche. Then, we headed out and toured the town. On the way past the Castle, I suggested we try to walk along the bay back to the Shrine where we had parked. We were led through a neighborhood which came up to the Shrine from the back way. Immediately as we entered the property, we came upon the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Having a special devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe, I felt the gift. As we walked to the car, I told the girls that I'd like to go to the Church. We went to the Museum first and found out that the Church was closed on the weekends except for Sunday Mass. As I began talking to the woman there, I found out much more about all we had seen. As we talked, she revealed that she was a Sister of St. Joseph. Sr. Bernard Joseph was very enthusiastic about the history of St. Augustine and especially about Our Lady of La Leche. It was like she was jumping out of her skin wanting me to know more and to love the people and the places as she loves them. It was quite a moving experience to listen to her and to watch her witness to all she has seen and heard. I asked her if there were any recent stories about Our Lady and she said there are many. Once she was going out of the Museum and a girl was sitting outside with her twins and asked her if she worked at the Shrine. When Sister said she did, the girl proceeded to explain that she was back after 5 years to thank Our Lady. She was told she could not have children so she had come to the Shrine to pray for help from Our Lady who blessed her twofold. Sister said there are many stories like that from women who return in thanksgiving and, as she said, "those are just the ones we hear. There is no telling how many stories we never hear." We talked about everything from history to the blessings from a Mother who loves us beyond measure to the importance of raising children in the Faith and bringing them to places such as this to witness to the Faith of others. Sister is obviously filled with the Holy Spirit and in her words and in her actions always ready and willing to be a witness to the "things" of Christ.