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.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Marian Shrines

Files of Shrines as we traveled

After two years of traveling around this beautiful country, I finally turned in my manuscript on Marian Shrines in the U.S. When we get an exact title, I will let the whole world know. As the Shrines are handed down to us from different Religious Communities or individuals with amazing story devotions to Our Lady, I feel they are the perfect topic for a while here at "Hand-Me-Down Heaven."

Let me begin by saying that there are so, so many wonderful Shrines to Our Lady throughout the U.S. I could never get to all of them in two years and maintain a job and have a family life outside of traveling. I merely tried to get to the ones that were within my reach naturally until I turned in all the possibilities and my outline and the publishing company asked for something out West. Then, I had to make some plans and work a little harder. But, the adventures and the wonders were worth every trip. We had some great times traveling and just being together. I also tried not to repeat "visions" or devotions to Our Lady. Although, I could not help myself a couple of times.

Mary, intercedes for us to her Son. It is with this in mind that we approached each Shrine. We traveled with the soul purpose of "visiting Mary" and allowing her to give us the grace for each day. We sat, many times, wondering why we were led to certain areas. We questioned where "Emma," our GPS, was leading us almost every single trip. But, in the end, she led us and we were amazed.

As I share our experiences, I hope you will share your visits with Our Lady. And, if you travel, take the time to see if there is a Shrine you can visit while in the area. You will be glad you did.