“Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.”
Today as we contemplate Our Lady of Sorrows, I remember my visits to the many beautiful Marian Shrines throughout the United States. With each visit came different gifts of grace and peace. My visit to the Basilica of Our Lady of Sorrows in Chicago offered a sense of peace that I had no idea I really needed. Amazing how she knows our true needs as mothers and sisters and fathers and brothers. Funny how things put together 100’s of years ago can serve a direct purpose today, how God’s plan unfolds and all we really need to do is show up, be attentive, be open, believe and receive. I happen to be alone on my visit to Our Lady of Sorrows. I spend time wandering to the different beautiful altars dedicated to Our Lady. It is a peaceful visit. I wander to a back chapel which was once the Baptistry and I find a rather large marble replica of Michelangelo’s Pieta. As described in Visiting Mary: Her U.S. Shrines and their Graces, I am so close that I can see how young this mother is who holds her Son’s body across her lap. But I also notice that her lap is greatly oversized compared to the rest of her body and the body of her Son. I realize at this moment that she is inviting me to find comfort for my own sorrows. Her lap, which is filled with her deepest sorrow, the death of her only Son, has room for all I have closed in my own heart. I can do nothing but allow her to take it all, the lose of children and brothers and grandparents and nephew and cousin and uncles and close friends, along with fears and anxieties and worries. I am drained but there is a huge relief of sort. It’s difficult to relate the experience. It’s a pure gift of grace.
On this Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrow, as Jesus gives His Mother to John, He offers her to all of us. We would do well to take her into our homes. We would do well to allow her to take our needs and our cares and our concerns, our children and our parents and our friends. We would do well to visit her one on one, to pray her rosary and to trust her with our lives. She has been through it all and in her lap rests the answer to all we need.
Funny how things happen. I fully intended on using this picture of the display in St. Mary’s for a blog about my book, Visiting Mary, because quite frankly the summer is a great time to take the opportunity while on vacation to visit the many Shrines and Grottoes that we have in the U.S. But I became immediately distracted with the idea that the picture I took was just too busy looking, too distracting. Which, coupled with the Gospel readings this week, prompted me to realize how easily we are distracted by the busy background of our lives. If you’re like me, you may take the readings from Scripture and try to focus on sharing God’s message throughout your day, whether to your family or your friends or your co-workers or complete strangers. We try to take what we believe His message is for the day and live it out, shine the light, not leaving it “under a bushel basket”. We try to live the Commandments and the Beatitudes. We may leave our morning prayer time or morning Mass and think, “I’ve got this. I can do this all day long. I am focused and today I will simply be kind to everyone I meet. I will love God and my neighbor.” Then, bam. Life causes distractions. Our focus is blurred by the busy background. We can no longer see what’s really important. The next morning we start all over again. And the next morning, again. And little by little we realize that life is just busy. The times when we cannot see Jesus or His Mother against all the background “stuff” is the time when we probably need them the most. The times when we cannot hear Jesus or His Mother against all the noise is the time when they probably should be heard the loudest. If we stay focused, we can see light. If we listen, we can speak truth. If we keep Him in our hearts all day, we can truly love. The ways of this world keep us hopping from one “thing” to the next. The ways of God keep us centered on what’s important.
P.S.The OT reading today was Elijah trying to find God in the wind and the earthquakes but only finding Him in a whisper. At some point today, or maybe all day, may we quiet ourselves enough to hear His message in the whispers. And the message before the Gospel reading,
” Alleluia, alleluia. Shine like lights on the world, as you hold on to the word of life. Alleluia, alleluia.” AMEN.
“In the mountains of Emmitsburg, MD, about five hundred yards from Mount St. Mary’s College and Seminary, Mary waits at the Grotto for those seeking peace, seeking a place for quiet prayer and reflection, seeking comfort. Drawn by “a light in the mountain,” Father John Dubois, a priest from France, founded the natural grotto formed from the water flowing off the mountain through the base of a huge oak tree.” “St. Elizabeth Ann Seton came to the mountain in 1809 and often taught and ate meals at the grotto. Today, as children wander around the stone walls, we can envision Mother Seton and her sisters who would “ramble for a time around the grotto” and “amuse themselves until time for Vespers and Benediction.” excerpt from “Visiting Mary: Her U.S. Shrines and Their Graces”
If you have ever visited this or any other Shrines, please share your experience so others will gain interest in visiting some of the beautiful Shrines we have in honor of Jesus and Mary and the Saints.
There are many Sacramentals which include Our Lady such as the Rosary, Novenas, the Miraculous Medal, Scapulars and the many different beautiful images, just to mention a few. But today I believe Our Mother would be pleased if we all spent a tiny bit of time in Visitation to her in one of her many Shrines or Grottoes throughout the world. After all, it is her birthday. Maybe we could make a short pilgrimage to a nearby Shrine or Basilica in honor of her special day.
“A pilgrimage is typically a journey to a holy place, such as a shrine or a basilica or an area of significance to the faith. Our journey through life is a pilgrimage. We walk with others, increasing in faith and spirituality, trying to obtain the final destination” Amazing Graces: The Blessings of Sacramentals
Visiting Our Lady does not have to be an elaborate journey. She is happy even when we visit her while in our own homes. But if you get the chance, make the journey. It’s well worth the grace. And if you need some ideas of Shrines or Basilicas or Grottoes close by, you can read more about them in Visiting Mary: Her U.S. Shrines and their Graces. She is always here for us. Take time. Visit your Mother.
After visiting in Detroit a couple of weekends ago, my husband and I stop in Dayton, OH and visit Our Lady at the Lourdes Grotto at Mount St. John (Bergamo Center).
What a beautiful place to spend time, say the rosary or walk the Stations of the Cross!
Our Lady is perched above, waiting, watching, listening.
Bernadette is draped with a rosary. So often visitors leave behind a sign of their gratefulness to prayers answered or a symbol of their sadness or pain. Mary can handle it all for us. She wants us to visit so she can comfort and ultimately lead us to her Son.
As always, I love when Our Lady seems to give me a sign that she is glad we have visited. This particular day is Good Shepherd Sunday. As we leave, Emma (the GPS) leads us out of Dayton a different way and we pass a large field with a llama and a flock of sheep. Immediately I think, she has once again led me to think of her Son, His direction for my life, His guidance and His love.
In preparation for the month of May, Mary’s month, I thought we could travel around the U.S. and “visit” some of the beautiful shrines dedicated to Our Lady. Our first visit is to Attleboro, Massachusetts to the National Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette.
The Rosary Pond
The Garden of Appartion
“On September 19, 1846, on the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, Our Lady appeared in the small village of La Salette in France. Mary’s message was one of repentance. She did not want people working on Sunday and using God’s name in vain. She told the children that she has prayed constantly for her people but that it is time for us to respond to her love with love. She asked them to pray day and night, even if only a Hail Mary and an Our Father, but whenever they could to pray more. She stressed that all were to go to Mass.” from Visiting Mary
The Holy Stairs
The Stations of the Cross
previous spot of the entrance to the La Salette Seminary
“Mary, you love us. Help us to return that love. Help us to put aside all the excuses and go to Mass, pray, and reconcile with your Son. Our world today needs these urgent messages. Help us to step out of our homes and go out into the world with your words of hope. Give us the courage and the strength we need.” from Visiting Mary: Her U.S. Shrines and their Graces
Mary, Lady of the Rosary, as we meditate on your life, may we imitate your love. You never hesitate to reach out to the poor, to the less fortunate, and to the children. You serve all in their individual needs. Help us to work to restore those who have left the Church. Teach us ways to strengthen faith in our families so that we can reach out to others. Help us to bring your children back, our families back, our world back under your loving care.
Many times when we think we “got nothing,” we may just have it all. When we let things settle, answers come. When we rest, our vision is clear. When we pray, good things happen.
from Visiting Mary: Her U.S. Shrines and their Graces
I love this display my sister and my mom put together for “Visiting Mary: Her U.S. Shrines and their Graces”. I love the little grotto that was given to my grandfather many years ago in exchange for work he had done at the Ave Maria Grotto in Cullman, AL. I love the pink car to drive me around to the different grottoes and Marian shrines around the U.S. this summer. (Convertible?) I love all the brochures that the different Shrines sent to the store for us to hand out so customers might go and visit some of the beautiful shrines themselves, and the small overnight tote/hat box. How creative! I came home to this after being at the Religious Book Trade Exhibit in St. Charles, IL this past week. What a whirlwind that was but it was great to see familiar faces in the bookstore industry and to share ideas and to talk about and sign my book. I am grateful to the wonderful people at Franciscan Media/Servant Books for a great couple of days.
This weeks pictures are from the Basilica and National Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation in Carey, OH. Not only is the history behind this shrine amazing but the continual stories of conversion and healing are something to be seen for oneself. We noticed the recent dates on “things” that people “left behind”. Everything from leg braces to whiskey bottles to letters and pictures are left at the church after pilgrims have been blessed by Our Lady in some way. Our Lady of Consolation is a “dressed” figure and many of those who have had a healing in some way make a dress for her in gratitude for answered prayers.