Tuesday, July 30, 2013

On Pilgrimage - Tennessee to California - Driving

I had quite some time to think about and beat myself up about my mistake. I was selfish, no doubt, thinking that I should push myself and visit every place possible without even checking into the area. I should have let us relax and enjoy a few big moments together, but no, I just had to trudge on and now, we just want to can the entire trip. We are over-tired and under-stimulated. I have made it too difficult. So, Sunday and Monday, we chilled. And, a good time was had by all.

We had an awesome visit to Our Lady of Peace Shrine in Santa Clara. We met the Mother Superior of the sisters there and talked with a few of the people. The atmosphere was truly one of peace and joy and excitement for Jesus and the Saints and Our Lady. There were children everywhere and they were singing and playing and learning to make rosaries on this last day of a week long mission.

We moved on to San Francisco trying to get to the downtown Ferry area and get on a tour of the city. We were so excited but as minutes of driving turned into hours of waiting in downtown traffic, we lost our will to push on. (It didn't help that a team of men went by on bikes, completely naked. My girls were yelling to each other, "Just don't look! Just don't look!") We went round and round looking for parking and the correct pier and people were all over the place. We felt smothered and just had to venture on our own. We went to Alamo Park where the Full House intro shot was filmed and looked for the "Pretty Ladies" but couldn't figure out what was what. As we drove up the steep hills and rollercoastered back down, we could see all over the city from a different perspective. The houses were beautiful with all the intricate work on the outside framing and all the bright colors. We shared the excitement of going over the Golden Gate Bridge and back again. Then we made our exit, pointing and catching little glimpses of excitement along the way.

I decided to head on down to Carmel. I had heard it was amazing and wanted to check out Our Lady of Bethlehem at the Mission San Carlos Borromeo. We ooo-ed and aahhh-ed all the way, driving along the Pacific Ocean and arriving at the beautiful little hamlet. The doors to the Church were being locked and a large group was walking to their bus. We got out and walked around the courtyard but decided to get a hotel room and some dinner and come back the next day. Hahaha! We had no idea. As we drove around and found the area of hotels and shops and restaurants and the hundreds of people who obviously had made plans months in advance, we realized just what we had ventured in to. Wow! We looked around and around and around in every close by town and there were no rooms available. So, we ventured on toward L.A. I was really sorry to miss visiting Our Lady but I worked through the whole "not meant to be" as I drove and drove and drove through vineyards and more vineyards.

We started looking for a hotel before it turned dark but had no luck. Stop after stop the answer was always the same, "Sorry, no rooms." We were suddenly scared. What would we do? We were in Los Angeles with no place to stay. I was responsible for my two girls' safety. They had napped on the drive and were pretty much awake around midnight. They started looking on the smart phone for things to see and we ventured down Hollywood Blvd, Beverly Hills Blvd, etc. The place was hoppin' as the hours turned to early morning. We went back to Burbank and talked with a wonderful young man at a hotel who booked us a room for Sunday night and suggested we come early and try to check in. I parked for a little while at the hotel and looked up churches in the area and read while the girls slept. At 5:30 am I went to Church. The first Mass was at 7 but there were already some parishioners around as I parked. I grabbed my bag from the back and "freshened up" and then woke the girls around 6:30 and they did the same.  The Church was great and so were the people. Fr. started his homily by telling of his upcoming Pilgrimage following the Way of St. James to Santiago in Spain. He tied it to the Gospel in which Jesus teaches us to pray the Our Father. "It is really not about the Pilgrimage. It is not about me taking a journey through the mountains on foot. It is about walking with Jesus. It is about prayer and spending time with Him on our journey through this life." As he spoke I felt as though he was speaking directly to me. He was right. This pilgrimage that we are on, this journey to visit His Mother is just not about the journey at all. It is about walking together. It is about taking time with one another, enjoying the moment, relaxing in the simple things. It is not about the places at all. It's about the grace, the joy, the prayer. We were brought to this Church to hear this message and to receive Christ for our journey. We are so aware. We are so fortunate.

We left the Church and ventured directly into the best day of the entire trip. With a new found attitude and a new understanding of our journey together and a hotel room, we were refreshed and renewed. God is good!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Santuario de Guadalupe

Yesterday my girls and I visited the oldest Church in the U.S. dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe. 
Santa Fe, NM

I had to duck my head and lift my feet one at a time to get in the old wooden door.

My eyes were immediately drawn toward the front of the Church.

My youngest took time to light a candle.

And to pray.

Just as others come here to do. The round dots contain the words "Hail Mary" as they circle around Our Lady and come up to the Crucifix near the bench. She constantly leads us to her Son.

St. Juan Diego, Pray For Us!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Into the Desert - Me and Moses

I find it slightly more than just a coincidence that all day yesterday I led the children of Cragon through the desert areas of Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico to arrive last night in Santa Fe. There was not a lot of grumbling until the warning alarm went off that we were almost out of gas and there were no stations in sight. Actually, nothing in sight. No places for food or water or gas were on any sign we came across mile after mile. I was on edge, as I am sure Moses was, as I was constantly reminded that we had just left a perfectly good place where we could have had everything we needed. Where was my plan? What were we to do? Like the children of Israel, the children of Cragon did not like what I had dragged them in to.  The promises of a good time and an adventure were turning to fear. Then I heard one say, "You're praying again aren't you?" "Yes." And again, over the horizon, prayers were answered and Philip 66 appeared to save the day and he just happened to be partnered with DQ, the Queen. Tension was relieved, smiles and laughter returned and we journeyed on toward the beautiful land of Santa Fe. And, we're fillin' up at a 1/4th of a tank from now on. (Have Faith but don't be stupid.)

Today I reflect on the times in my life when I have felt completely alone, starving for something or someone to rescue me from what basically I find to be my own self pity. I have crawled to a place where I am dry. I have moved away from the very One who can make it all right. I have lost Trust. Faith. And still, He returns time after time to pull me up by the boot straps and shake me into reality. I am human. I will have days in the desert. I will experience fear and loneliness and sorrow. But, the manna and the quail will rain down. I just have to Trust and to have Faith and to ASK. Again and again and again with the reminder of the Power of Prayer.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Power of Prayer

You may or may not know that I am headed West in my wagon (Ford Flex) with two of my six children to visit Mary. I am at the end of writing a book on Marian Shrines and am going to Santa Fe to visit the Chapel of Loretto and to Santa Clara to visit Our Lady of Peace Shrine. I'll share pics!

I include this in my hand-me-downs because many, many years ago I made this trip out west with my parents and my 5 brothers and 2 sisters and my grandmother in a station wagon pulling a pop-up camper. Oh the stories that still go 'round about that trip! Of course the wagon back then required no seat belts and the back seat faced backwards and there was a tiny sliver between the way back and back seat that I could ride in and not be "touched" by any of the others. My wagon is a little different but the sense of adventure is just as exciting.When my dad asked me Sunday if I was gonna drive the entire trip with no help, I simply asked, "Did you drive the entire trip when we went to California as a family?" "Yes." "Then...yes, sir."

As we drove through Arkansas yesterday, a horrible hail storm started that truly scared us. Cars were pulling off and it sounded like the front windshield was going to bust. My daughter checked and said, "Mom, it recommends we pull off so we don't hurt the car." Seemed too late for that with the size hail that was pelting us but I pulled over and crept down the side of the road with the others. Suddenly, I started praying the Hail Mary out loud. One daughter turned to the other and said, "I could hear you too. I was doing the same thing." I moved back on the street despite the abuse of the ice and continued the automatic prayer to Our Lady. By the third Hail Mary, the sky was "clear as a bell" and we were moving on toward New Mexico. We all commented on how quickly the prayers worked and how quickly we went to Jesus and Our Lady for help. We feared the shape of the exterior but when we stopped for gas and checked, there was not a scratch or a dent to be seen. "Even the roof looks fine."

Thank you to my parents for passing on the Power of Prayer and the sense of adventure!

Monday, July 22, 2013

“Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?”

In today's Gospel, Jesus asks us two simple questions and I don't know about you but there are many days that I'd just have to answer, "I have no idea why I'm crying, I just am. And, along those same lines, I do not know who or what I'm looking for, I'm just searching."
Life gets busy! We tend to work ourselves into such a stew that we do not know whether we are coming or going nor why. Oftentimes, it's just time for a good cry. We're tired and spent. We've worked 8 hours, spread time and attention between spouse and children and friends and family, cooked, cleaned and done countless loads of wash. We love all we do and would not trade our lives for anything but we still wear down. We still weep. We still question. What do we want? What or who are we looking for?
Today, we hear Jesus tell us that it is all good. It is okay to cry. It is okay to question. It is okay to search. He is here with us on the road. When we feel like we have lost our best friend, when we have no where to turn, when we are at the top of our game or in the pits, He is here for us, unconditionally. Jesus loves us. He does not want us to be sad or confused but He knows what it's like to be human and He wants us to know that He's not leaving us. We cry. We search. We question. And through it all, He's here. Today and tomorrow and forever. Look for Him. He is right beside us. In the faces. In the situations. In the journey.

Painting - Jean Dortch (my mom)

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Feast Day of St. Kateri Tekakwitha

Our Lady of the Martyrs - Auriesville, NY

Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine, LaCrosse, WI - The Path to the Shrine

Saturday, July 13, 2013

St. Henry

Well, lo and behold today is the Feast of St. Henry. Ya see, St. Henry is the name of our Church and our School and this Saint, who was a German King and Roman Emperor known to settle feuds and handle disturbances and win battles. He built Churches and strengthened the Faith. I'm sure he's been watching over our Parish all these years through thick and thin and I am grateful for his Patronage.
I grew up in St. Henry Parish and when my husband and I started having kids, we moved right back to this Parish that I loved as a child. I never really thought of St. Henry as a person, but as a community, as a family, as a group of people that I have grown up with and that continue to support and to love, to comfort and to teach.
I love my Parish. To all those past and present parishioners and to all my awesome alumnae friends, Happy Feast Day!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

4 W's

I am trying my best to practice the 4 W's for the month of July hoping that it will magically turn from struggle to habit. It's not that I do not do some of the W's some of the time, but I am not consistent. I need consistency to accomplish goals. Don't we all? For my mind, my body, my soul and my spirit, I'm trying to water, to walk, to work and to write. That's it! Things my mom and my sister have been examples of for years. Natural Hand Me Downs. Simple, right? Water, Walk, Work, Write. Well, ya'd think but for me...I have to try. The writing is going quite well because I have a deadline for this next book and I am all over it. The work is automatic. But, the water and the walking tends to be put on the back burner because, because, because... I must confess that when I do walk and water, I feel that my mind is much clearer for writing and working. I feel I have more energy. Well, duh. But ya know how it is. Your parents or siblings can tell you something year after year, day after day and until it becomes your own idea, it's nothing. Just words. Of course, one of my daughters suggested I add wine to the list. I asked if it was W-H-I-N-E because that's what I tend to do when I'm drinking water instead of diet coke and when I have to leave watching TV to go walk. This morning I thought about adding the word wake because I've been getting up 15 minutes earlier to make the coffee and read the email so I can get to my writing and have a complete 2 hours before getting ready for work. But, for now, I will stick with these 4 disciplines: Water, Walk, Work, Write.