Thursday, June 27, 2013

Our Lady of Victory

“Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock."

Never before would you ever hear me say, "I'd like to drive to Niagara Falls."  But, I did drive to Niagara Falls this past weekend because my project directed me to Lackawanna, NY and Lewiston, NY and between those 2 places is ... yep, Niagara Falls.

          We also visited the incredible Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Lewiston

                       and Our Lady of the Martyrs Shrine in Auriesville.

But, I'd like to tell you a little about Our Lady of Victory Basilica in Lackawanna because the words in the Gospel reading remind me of this one man, Fr. Nelson Baker, who made this place possible, who acted upon the words of Christ day in and day out, tirelessly, and built foundations that have touched the lives of so many. Fr. Baker was a businessman who listened to the call to become a priest and emptied his own pockets to save an orphanage and a protectory. He then worked to get enough benefactors to build an addition to St. John's Protectory and later added trade schools, an orphan home for abandoned babies and a hospital and nursing home. Finally, in 1921 he decided to honor the Blessed Mother. Thousands of people sent in donations and by Christmas of 1925 Fr. Baker was able to celebrate his first Mass in Our Lady of Victory Church. The Church was completely paid for upon it's completion. Today, the Basilica stands as a true testament to what one person can do with the help of prayer and an unshakable Faith. Fr. Baker gave all the credit to Our Lady. He was a wise man and this place is truly built on rock.

    So, if you're ever in the neighborhood, I highly recommend visiting Our Lady.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

San Antonio

Being the Feast Day of St. Anthony, I believe it is appropriate to share a little about my travels this past weekend to San Antonio, TX. What timing! My oldest daughter and I stayed in the historic St. Anthony Hotel downtown, winning an incredible dinner for two at the restaurant and enjoying easy access to the Riverwalk, La Villita and of course, the Alamo. I was there basically working on my next book, traveling down to San Juan for a couple of days to the amazing Shrine to Our Lady. (More about that later)
And, while in San Antonio, visiting the Mission Concepcion
and after speaking with a local merchant, visiting the San Jose Mission,
both of which are working Churches. Squeezing into San Jose with five minutes to spare, the kind Texas Ranger told us to take our time. Everything was beautiful from the inside of the Church to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe outside the Franciscan Rectory where a very kind brother allowed us to visit in the Chapel.
That morning, while writing in my journal, a piece of paper fell to the floor. I picked it up and noticed it was a list of the Shrines from one certain place on the internet. On the list was the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes in San Antonio.
Since I have been to the Shrine in Emmitsburg, MD, I had crossed this one off my list. When I mentioned it to Beth, she said, "Let's go." The Shrine was beautiful and built up the side was a concrete stairway that led to a beautiful Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe and Juan Diego.
We ventured into the small building directly below and "happened" upon Eucharistic Adoration. Mary, always leading us to her Son. As we left, Beth simply said, "Divine Providence".
As I have reflected on our trip during this morning with St. Anthony, I realize just how wonderful it was that he was a part of leading us through San Antonio. Two lost girls from Tennessee finding so many treasures of Faith that city has to offer. I have posted this prayer before here after receiving it from the Church in Portugal where I visited the birthplace of St. Anthony. It's worth a re-post for today.

                                                      Five Minutes with St. Anthony
How long I was waiting for you, devoted soul, as I know very well the favors you need and want me to ask God.
I feel like doing everything for you, but, tell me one by one all your needs, as I wish to be the intermediary between your soul and God, to pour balm into your wounds. I feel the anguish of your heart and I want to join your sorrows.
Do you wish my help in business? Do you want protection to restore peace in your family? Do you want to get a job? Do you want to help poor people? Any necessitous person? Do you wish any tribulation to stop? Do you want your health or of someone you love very much? Courage, as you will obtain everything.
...I want you to be more devoted to our Mother, the Holy Mary...
How many, with earnest faith, have come to me with the bread of the poor in his hands and have been heard. They invoke me to be successful in business, to find a lost object, to obtain the conversion of someone distant from God; and I, for poor's love, whose misery is in my hands, obtain from God everything one asks and even much more. Now, go back to your work and don't forget what I have recommended you. Come always to me, because I'm waiting for you. Your visits will be pleasant to me, because you will never find a friend so affectionate as me.
I leave you in the Holy Heart of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Sister, Sister, Sister

"Take this picture of the Blessed Mother and give
 it a place of honor in your home. Then your home
 will become a little shrine in which the picture of
 grace will mediate many graces, create a holy family 
atmosphere, and form holy family members."
- Father Joseph Kentenich  Founder of Schoenstatt
My daughter Sarah and I drove slowly down the drive wondering where exactly Our Lady had led us in this place named Waukesha. We had been at the Religious Book Trade Exhibit in St. Charles, Illinois and ventured up to Wisconsin to do a little Shrine hoppin. On the way we visited Marytown and now arrived at Schoenstatt. Near the end of the property, we found a small chapel beside which two sisters were planting flowers. Another sister was driving around in a golf cart with a family in tow. We slowly approached, not knowing what to expect and asked if we could enter the chapel. "Oh yes. Please." Short and to the point. I liked it. We entered and found kneelers, a small altar with a Tabernacle, a crucifix and candles and a picture of Our Lady holding Baby Jesus. We wandered down the property to the Stations of the Cross and the Cemetery. It was beautiful. Every plant, every rock in place. We walked back up to the Chapel and entered for a few more minutes then took a few moments to talk to the gardeners. As I mentioned the project I am working on, the sister in the back, Puerto Rican, jumped to her feet and wielding a butcher knife said, "You go to the retreat house and ask for Sr. Maria.  She will tell you the story." I couldn't help myself. "Sister, with you pointing that butcher knife at my that way, I feel inclined to go." Both Sisters laughed and said, "Yes. Go."
The sister at the door to the retreat house said that Sr. Maria was busy but invited us in after hearing of our project and told us the entire story of Schoenstatt. She offered us the gift of her time. She told us the story of a young girl entering the Chapel and immediately recognizing it as the Chapel of her hometown. Sister said that one of the special gifts is that every Chapel is identical, giving the visitor the feeling of being at home, being in a familiar place. She could not have been nicer and she did make us feel at home and started our trek of Shrines through Wisconsin on the right foot. She called it Divine Providence that we were there, the butcher knife sister said the same and today as I read the little booklet Sister gave to  us, Fr. Kentenich said the same thing. Divine Providence. No doubt.