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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.

 

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.

 


 

 

 

Quote of the day

DAILY QUOTE for November 24, 2020

The devotions we practice in honor of the glorious Virgin Ma...

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November 24

 

The devotions we practice in honor of the glorious Virgin Mary,
however trifling they may be,
are very pleasing to Her Divine Son, and
He rewards them with eternal glory.

St. Teresa of Avila


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Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Andrew Dung-Lac and the Martyrs of Vietnam

Vietnamese Christians were ordered to trample on a crucifix...

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St. Andrew Dung-Lac and the Martyrs of Vietnam

Born in 1795 in the Tonkinese town of Bac-Nihh in North Vietnam, Tran An Dung was the son of pagan parents. In search of work for themselves in 1807, his parents moved to the ancient citadel of Hanoi. Here their twelve-year-old son was taken care of by a catechist and for three years was instructed in the Catholic faith. Baptized in Vinh-Tri, he received the Christian name Andrew (Anrê) in baptism and went on to learn both Chinese and Latin and himself became a catechist. He was selected for further studies in theology and was ordained to the priesthood on March 15, 1823.

An exemplary pastor, Andrew was ardent and indefatigable in his preaching, often fasted, and drew many to the Faith by his simple and moral life. As a testament of the love which his congregation had for him, in 1835, when he was imprisoned during the persecution of the Annamite emperor Minh-Mang, his freedom was purchased exclusively by donations from his parishioners.

The Vietnamese Christians suffered unspeakably during this time. Beginning in 1832 Minh-Mang expelled all foreign missionaries and commanded all Vietnamese Christians to demonstrate their renunciation of the Catholic Faith by trampling on a crucifix. Churches were destroyed; religious instruction was forbidden. Christians were branded on the face with the words ta dao (false religion) and Christian families and villages were obliterated. Many endured extreme privations and hardship; many more were put to death for their fidelity to the Faith.

To avoid further persecution by the authorities, Andrew Dung changed his name to Lac and relocated to a different region. While visiting a fellow priest, in order to confess himself, Dung-Lac was arrested with Father Peter Thi on November 10, 1839. In exchange for a monetary ransom paid to their captors, the two priests were liberated, but their freedom was short-lived. Re-arrested not long afterwards, they were taken to Hanoi and severely tortured. They were beheaded shortly before Christmas Day on December 21, 1839.

The priests, Andrew Dung-Lac and Peter Thi, were beatified on May 27, 1900 by Pope Leo XIII and formed part of a group of Vietnamese martyrs beatified together on that day. Another group, Dominicans all, was beatified on May 20, 1906 and a third on May 2, 1909 both by Pope St. Pius X. A fourth group, which included two Spanish bishops, was beatified on April 29, 1951 by Pope Pius XII. All 117 martyrs were canonized in Rome on June 19, 1988 by Pope John Paul II.

These 117 martyrs met their deaths during several persecutions of Christians that swept through the Vietnamese peninsula between the years 1625 and 1886. Approximately 130,000 gave their lives for the Catholic Faith and further beatifications may be expected from amongst their glorious ranks. Among the 117 that have been canonized were 96 Vietnamese and 21 foreign missionaries. Of the Vietnamese group 37 were priests and 59 were lay people, among whom were catechists and tertiaries. One of them was a woman, mother of six children. Of the missionaries 11 were Spaniards: 6 bishops and 5 priests, all Dominicans; and 10 were French: 2 bishops and 8 priests from the Société des Missions Etrangères in Paris.

The tortures these martyrs endured were among the worst in the history of Christian martyrdom. The means included cutting off limbs joint by joint, ripping living bodies with red hot tongs, and the use of drugs to enslave the minds of the victims. Among the 117 Martyrs of Vietnam, 76 were beheaded, 21 were suffocated, 6 burnt alive, 5 mutilated and 9 died in prison as a result of torture.

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

In the midst of this splendor, the Virgin Mary appeared stan...

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The Conversion of Alphonse Ratisbonne

Born in 1814, Alphonse Ratisbonne was from a family of wealthy, well-known Jewish bankers in Strasbourg, France. In 1827, Alphonse’s older brother, Thèodore, converted to Catholicism and entered the priesthood, thus breaking with his anti-Catholic family whose hopes now lay in the young Alphonse. At 27, Alphonse was intelligent and well mannered. He had already finished his law degree, and decided to travel to Italy before marrying and assuming his responsibilities in the family business. However, God had other plans for him.

While in Rome, Alphonse visited works of art, and strictly out of cultural curiosity, a few Catholic churches. These visits hardened his anti-Catholic stance, and nourished his profound hatred for the Church. He also called on an old schoolmate and close friend, Gustave de Bussières.

Gustave was a Protestant and several times had tried, in vain, to win Alphonse over to his religious convictions. Alphonse was introduced to Gustave’s brother, Baron de Bussières, who had recently converted to Catholicism and become a close friend of Father Thèodore Ratisbonne. Because of the Baron’s Catholicism and closeness with his turncoat brother, Alphonse greatly disliked him.

On the eve of his departure, Alphonse reluctantly fulfilled his social obligation to leave his calling card at the Baron’s house as a farewell gesture.

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Hoping to avoid a meeting, Alphonse intended to leave his card discreetly and depart straight away, but was instead shown into the house. The Baron greeted the young Jew warmly, and before long, had persuaded him to remain a few more days in Rome. Inspired by grace, the Baron insisted Alphonse accept a Miraculous Medal and copy down a beautiful prayer: the Memorare. Alphonse could hardly contain his anger at his host’s boldness of proposing these things to him, but decided to take everything good-heartedly, planning to later describe the Baron as an eccentric.

During Alphonse’s stay, the Baron’s close friend, Count de La Ferronays, former French ambassador to the Holy See and a man of great virtue and piety, died quite suddenly. On the eve of his death, the Baron had asked the Count to pray the Memorare one hundred times for Alphonse’s conversion. It is possible that he offered his life to God for the conversion of the young Jewish banker.

A few days later, the Baron went to the church of Sant’Andrea delle Fratte to arrange for his friend’s funeral. Alphonse reluctantly went with him, all the while making violent criticisms of the Church and mocking Catholic practices. When they arrived, the Baron entered the sacristy to arrange the funeral while Alphonse remained in the church.

When the Baron returned just a few minutes later, the young man was gone. He searched the church, and soon discovered his young friend kneeling close to an altar, weeping.  Alphonse himself tells us what happened in those few minutes he waited for the Baron: “I had only been in the church a short while when, all of a sudden, I felt totally uneasy for no apparent reason. I raised my eyes and saw that the whole building had disappeared. Only one side chapel had, so to say, gathered all the light. In the midst of this splendor, the Virgin Mary appeared standing on the altar. She was grandiose, brilliant, full of majesty and sweetness, just as she is in the Miraculous Medal. An irresistible force attracted me to her. The Virgin made a gesture with her hand indicating I was to kneel.”

When de Bussières talked to Alphonse, he no longer found a Jew, but a convert who ardently desired baptism. The news of such an unexpected conversion immediately spread and caused a great commotion throughout Europe, and Pope Gregory XVI received the young convert, paternally. He ordered a detailed investigation with the rigor required by canon law, and concluded that the occurrence was a truly authentic miracle. 

Alphonse took the name Maria Alphonse at baptism, and, wishing to become a priest, was ordained a Jesuit in 1847. After some time, and at the suggestion of Pope Pius IX, he left the Jesuits and joined his brother Thèodore in founding the Congregation of Our Lady of Sion, dedicated to the conversion of the Jews. Father Theodore spread his congregation throughout France and England, while Father Maria Alphonse went to the Holy Land. In Jerusalem, he established a house of the congregation on the plot of land where the praetorium of Pilate had formerly stood.

The two brothers died in 1884, both famed and well-loved for their exceptional virtues.  

By Armando Santos  

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In the midst of this splendor, the Virgin Mary appeared standing on the altar"

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