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 His Grandmother's House - Header

By Tonia Long

 

One rainy afternoon in July, my son Joshua pulled up in a rental car, loaded my bags, pointed the car north and we left the familiar town of Geneva, New York. We were on our way to Quebec, Canada and our mission was to deliver 11,739 prayer intentions from friends of America Needs Fatima to the miraculous Shrine of Saint Anne de Beaupre’. This was my first visit to a place I had heard wonderful things about and I was very excited.

Adirondack MountainsBefore too long, we were driving through the Adirondack Mountains, God’s Green Cathedral in upstate New York. The pines pointed heavenward, making a jagged silhouette against a serene summer sky. The road wound in a serpentine fashion up hill and down; Joshua enjoyed putting the Dodge Charger he had rented through its paces. At one point we crossed over the magnificent Hudson River. I could not help but think that the Black Robe missionaries who first traveled here to bring Christ to the Native Americans did not have it so easy.

We crossed the Canadian border at dusk and soon all that there was to see were the exit signs. Even those proved uplifting. This area of Canada was settled by French Catholics, so almost every town is named after a saint. Simply by reading the exit signs felt much like praying a litany of the saints: Saint Julie, Saint David, Saint John, Saint Pierre (Peter), Saint Charles (this was a river), Saint Jeanne d’Arc, Saint Edmond…pray for us.

 

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A Candlelight Procession

The next morning, Joshua decided he wanted to get some photographs of the shrine on a day that wasn’t too busy. Since the candlelight procession would begin at 8:15 that evening, we left the hotel room late in the afternoon and headed toward the shrine. As we pulled off the expressway we noticed right away the glistening white spires of the shrine looming large against a sapphire blue sky. A cluster of modest homes opened to the spacious courtyard graced with a statue of Saint Anne. She presided over all her grandchildren atop a beautiful fountain, with the cathedral behind her.

St Anne's Shrine in Quebec

While the cathedral itself is large and splendid in its grand proportions, the aura within was one of gentleness and patience. I immediately felt welcome, just as I did as a child entering my own grandmother’s home. Standing in the middle of this holy place, my thoughts were whisked back to my childhood visits with my Grandma Mary. She was always happy to see me, but never encouraged any foolishness; she kept a clean and orderly house! The devout and the curious milled about, respectful and quiet. Even the many children were less than rambunctious.

People in wheelchairs at the candlelight processionAs the 8 o'clock hour drew near, the Blessed Sacrament was processed out for Adoration. All the lights went out, as candles were lit one by one throughout the entire house of God. As the procession began, a song that I was not familiar with was sung, its verses alternating between French and English.

We left the shelter of the church and walked out into the chilly Canadian air and I noticed that those in wheelchairs were being lovingly tucked under blankets by their caregivers. I was given the grace of watching a young boy with jet-black hair wrap his Native American grandmother in a red and black checked blanket. Their eyes met in silence and they smiled at one another. I could just imagine a tender moment like this passing between Jesus and Saint Anne.

As the procession drew to a close, we gathered in the courtyard to pray a litany and adore the Blessed Sacrament raised above the crowd in blessing. All those in wheelchairs, and there were many, lined up in front to receive a special prayer for healing.

As a final farewell to Saint Anne, those who held a candle raised it high as her statue was brought back into the cathedral. Everyone slowly dispersed, drinking in the graces of the night spent with Grandma Anne.

 

The Feast Day of Saint Anne

Early the next day we returned to the shrine. Had the building not been the same and we had not heard the GPS declare, “you have reached your destination” we would have questioned whether we were truly in the same place as we had been the night before. Busses were pouring in, belching out a steady stream of visitors. There was a great hustle and bustle and the calm of the previous evening had all but evaporated. I found myself thankful for my son’s foresight to take his photographs the day before. Our only objective on this day was our greatest—to finally deliver into the hands of Saint Anne on her feast day the prayer petitions sent to America Needs Fatima from our friends and supporters across the country.

Pillars of Crutches

As we made our way into the shrine, I was again impressed by the two pillars near the entrance that were covered in old canes, crutches, and other medical paraphernalia that had been left by those who no longer required their assistance. These devout pilgrims had entered the shrine crippled and had left whole. These crutches, et cetera, of course only represented physical healings. Who knows how many visitors went home with hearts and souls made whole through Saint Anne’s intercession.

Arm of St AnneWith this thought in mind, I walked to the left, in the direction of a side altar we had observed the night before. On it was reposed an amazing relic of Saint Anne’s arm bone. Imagine, the very arm that held the Blessed Mother as Saint Anne went about her daily chores. Years later, this same arm would reach down to take the Hand of the Divine Savior, the very Hand that would one day be pierced by my sins. This was indeed the best place to carry out our last duty.

Many others kneeled at the foot of this holy place and it was filed with bouquets of flowers that had not been there fourteen hours earlier. To the left of the relic I saw a small golden statue which had long ago been donated by Saint Francois de Laval, the first bishop of Quebec. Against the base of this statue I laid the envelope containing 11,739 heartfelt prayers and petitions. Kneeling beside my fellow pilgrims, I made a final prayer to Grandma Anne asking her to take these to the throne of her Divine Grandson. For who can deny a request made by their grandmother?

Intentions delivered to the Shrine of St Anne

Relieved that the serious obligation of delivering the petitions safely to their destination had been fulfilled, I looked one last time at the crowds around me. I saw young and old alike, of various skin color and social class. So many eager faces. So many looking for help; help from their grandmother and mine. I left the Shrine of Saint Anne de Beaupre’ that day confident that their prayers and mine would be answered.

 


 

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Quote of the day

DAILY QUOTE for July 16, 2020

Today God invites you to do good; do it therefore today. Tom...

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July 16

 

Today God invites you to do good;
do it therefore today.
Tomorrow you may not have time, or
God may no longer call you to do it.

St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori


My Mother, I will stand with you on OCTOBER 10, 2020

Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Elias saw the cloud as a symbol of the Virgin mentioned in t...

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Our Lady of Mount Carmel

The title of Our Lady of Mount Carmel can be traced back to the hermits living on Mount Carmel in Israel during the Old Testament. This ancient community prayed for the advent of the Virgin-Mother through whom salvation was promised to mankind. In Hebrew, “Carmel” means “garden”. In ancient times this mountain was celebrated for its lush, verdant, and flowery beauty.

It was also on Mount Carmel that the Prophet Elijah prayed to God for rain during a terrible drought afflicting Israel for its sins and idolatry of Baal. The first sign that his prayer was answered was a tiny cloud that appeared in the sky out over the Mediterranean, the precursor of a great rainfall.

Elias saw the cloud as a symbol of the Virgin mentioned in the prophecies of Isaiah (7:14). The hermits took after his example and prayed likewise for the advent of the much-awaited Virgin who would become the mother of the Messiah. Praying thus became their spiritual mission.

Theologians see in that little cloud a figure of Mary, bringing salvation in the seventh age of the world. As the clouds arise out of the sea without the weight and the salinity of the waters, so has Mary arisen out of the human race without its stains.

In the twelfth century, St. Berthold, a Frenchman, pilgrim or crusader, came to Mount Carmel seeking to visit Elijah’s cave, and ended by founding a community imbued with the Marian spirit of the holy prophet and the hermits of old.

St. Brocard, successor of St. Berthold, set their way of life to a Rule, which was approved by Pope Innocent IV in 1247. From the time of St. Brocard, these monks were known as the “Brothers of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.”

Our Lady of Mount Carmel cannot be mentioned without also mentioning her brown scapular. On July 16, 1251, Our Lady appeared to St. Simon Stock, an English Carmelite monk, and then General of the Carmelite Order. On one arm she held the Child Jesus and on the other a brown garment called a scapular, to be draped over the front and back of a person. As she showed him this garment she said, “This shall be the privilege for you and for all the Carmelites, that anyone dying in this habit shall be saved.”

This privilege is extended to lay persons who, wishing to participate in this promise, choose to be enrolled in a small version of the scapular by an officiating priest or deacon.

This practice must not be understood superstitiously or “magically”, but in light of Catholic teaching that perseverance in the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity are required for salvation.

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

John shared with me the story of his conversion from Protest...

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Walk to Conversion

In September, I brought the statue of Our Lady of Fatima to the home of Mr. John Black and his family in Kings City, California.  John shared with me the story of his conversion from Protestantism: about thirteen years ago he was visiting one of the 21 Spanish missions in California (though these are holy sites, they also serve as tourist attractions.)

“Who is this Junipero Serra anyways?”  he asked, as the tour guide shared the history of the mission. “Well,” the guide responded, “you are standing on his grave!”  Surprised, John looked down and read inscription on the stone. Sure enough, Blessed Father Junipero Serra was buried right there. “I became electrified,” John told me, “I had to learn more about this man and about the missions.”  The more he studied Blessed Serra, the founder of the first nine missions, the more impressed he became, and he decided to travel on-foot to all 21 missions. 

With the blessing of his wife, now left at home with their two infant sons, John left for his solo expedition, taking with him a single backpack, the bible and little money.  He told me that every mission he visited he felt the presence of someone receiving him, even if the mission was empty. He felt this ambiance in the missions so serene and uplifting, and began to realize it was the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament that made him feel so at home.

At one point, John collapsed from exhaustion near a mission run by Franciscans, who kindly hosted him for the night. Before he left the next day, one of the friars gave him a first-class relic of Blessed Serra. Since he was Protestant, John did not know what a relic was, but not wanting to appear rude, he accepted it. Not long after he left the Franciscans, John became lost in the wilderness in the middle of the night. Through his exhaustion and fear he heard a voice say, “Let’s help John.” He had the distinct feeling that Blessed Serra was guiding him, and gathered the strength and courage to continue. About six hours later, he stumbled upon the next mission. “It was kind of a miracle,” he said, “I was really lost!”

During his journey, John slowly came to a realization. “I know what you want from me, God,” he thought to himself one day, “you what me to became a Catholic. That is what this is all about!” However, he still had many questions about aspects of Catholicism that have been rejected by his Protestant faith – mainly about the Blessed Mother. Yet, from that point on he received answers to all of his questions, especially his reservations about devotion to Mary: he believed that it was once again Blessed Serra answering him.

With the help of Blessed Serra, one problem after another was resolved in the solitude of his travels. By the time John reached the final mission, he wholly decided to become a Catholic. “I realized that by having devotion to Mary, you love Our Lord even more,” he told me.

John returned home, filled with zeal and enthusiasm for his newfound faith. He shared his astonishing experiences with his wife, and she too converted. “I feel at home in the Catholic church,” John said, “and I have never loved Our Lord Jesus Christ more than I do now.”

by Joseph Ferrara

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John shared with me the story of his conversion from Protestantism: about fourteen years ago he was visiting one of the 21 Spanish missions in California 

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