Archive for September, 2011

Czestochowa or Bust…

So here I am, back in front of a functioning computer with functioning internet, able, at long last, to fill you all in on the wonder that was pilgrimage. I was going to do another installment, but chances are I won’t get around to it. Instead, I’ll just give a rundown of the second day and the beautiful graces received. And then it’ll be off my chest and I’ll maybe think about writing something else. Who knows? Not me, that’s for darn sure.

When I left off it was just starting to drizzle. The clouds were impressive and dark, but we all decided, based on nothing more than blind optimism, that it would come to nothing. One of the friars even started a chaplet of divine mercy with the intention of mercy for us poor pilgrims from the rain.  We were all flagging at this point, but we prayed valiantly. However, just as we arrived at the farm we realized God had different ideas. The rain began in earnest and we scurried to find our luggage and tents.  The luggage was easily found, as was the bin with our tent. The rain was heavier now but the Hart/Cubbedge girls would emerge victorious and relatively dry! The tent went up, Sarah turned to get the rain fly and realized to her horror, that it wasn’t there.

It was true. We had a mesh-roofed tent and no rain fly, and it was pouring. Fortunately, we are chock full of ingenuity in my family. We tied ponchos to the roof and then frantically ran around to get extra rope, a hammer and to find a tarp. Sarah, my beautiful, brainy little sister, found one of the nice Polish girls in charge of us gringos who clandestinely handed her a black market tarp. Meanwhile, we had a couple of seminarians in the tent next to us and they, unbeknownst to us, had set out to find tarp-like things as well. They returned with some heavy rubber sheeting. So, all in all, we ended up with a real roof. It was tied together with rope, hot pink duct tape, and hope. The floor was soaked, so we broke out our clean towels to mop everything up, stowed the luggage and stood there, in the rain, soaked to the skin and wondering what to do next.

That didn’t last long. The people in charge, blessings be upon them, had set up great vessels of instant cappucino and herb tea. I struggled through the damp line and emerged clutching beautifully hot drinks. And so, the girls and I sat in our tent, looking like God only knows what, shivering, and getting a case of the giggles.

Giggling saved us from killing people at that point. You had to choose. You could either shout “Best day EVER!” and take stupid pictures, or you could grumble about the cold, the wet, the ghetto fabulous tent, and the grouchy middle aged people in the food line. It was the loving choice to laugh. Another way pilgrimage has of showing you how simple it all is: life is full of hardships and silliness. You can’t do anything about them, but you can decide to embrace them lovingly. And then, somehow, they don’t feel as terrible. Sure, the pain is still there, but it takes on a deeper meaning that has joy at the root.

Anyway, that night it stopped raining long enough to relax with our new seminarian friends outside our tent. Cookies were shared, jokes were told. one of the guys told me that his friendship with my sisters was based entirely in silliness. Three years ago they had met  and burst into a stirring rendition of Nacho Libre’s epic lovesong, Encarnacion. They’ve been boon companions ever since. I met a friar from Glasgow, people from Albaquergue, Poland, New York and Ohio. There was a dance party that night. All the musical instruments were brought out and everyone danced-I had no idea it would be possible, considering how much our feet and legs hurt, but the dancing actually helped. Sometimes, the only answer is dancing.

The night was dark and stormy, but the ghetto tent stayed up. The morning dawned cold and rainy and our group was the first one out. We downed coffee and bread and cheese, and set out the five miles or so to the lunch spot. Another beautiful, if wet, hike, through the woods next to a lake, with beautiful people, listening to the story of St. Maximilian Kolbe, whose feast day it was. one of the things Sister Clare said about St. Maximilian was that he died for married life. As soon as I heard that I started crying. I don’t really know why. There’s just something special when religious really get  marriage and sacrifice for it.After the saint talk a lady by the name of Teresa Martinez gave her testimony. She is twice post-abortive and infertile because of botched abortions. She had gone to Rachel’s Vineyard and been healed in her heart. She named the babies, Paul and Monica, and she asked that if anyone needed to talk to her about anything, to see her when we stopped. I just knew i needed to talk to her about my miscarried babies and infertility. Anyway, we arrived at a beautiful part of the lake where were to stop for lunch for a couple of hours. And that’s when the miracles started.

It was still raining but I didn’t care anymore. I was so wet more rain wouldn’t make a bit of difference. I grabbed more coffee (so caffeinated by this point) and found Teresa Martinez. She was so kind and listened to my story. She asked the name of my babies in heaven and I told her they were Francis and Innocent, and told me she would ask her Paul and Monica to team up with them to pray for my family. I mentioned my daughter and she nearly flipped out when I said her name was Philomena.

“You know St. Philomena did a miracle last night, right?” she asked.

I didn’t know. Teresa told me that one of the brothers had brought some St. Philomena holy oil and he’d tell me all about it. Turns out, he was standing right next to me.  What had happened was this. Last night one of the girls from the Bronx had ended up in the medical tent with a badly swollen and blistered foot. She couldn’t walk on it at all and she was crying. All she wanted to do was walk to the shrine and finish barefoot. The brother had heard about it and toddled over to the tent, where he prayed and anointed her foot with the oil. He told her to hang in there and went on his way. Fifteen minutes later one of the girl’s friends had run up to him telling him to come back to the tent. When he got there the girl was walking and dancing. Her foot was completely healed.

Teresa said I should to be anointed, pointing out that Brother wasn’t a priest so all he could do was anoint and pray, not officially bless.  I said, absolutely! I wasn’t planning on mentioning my infertility and hormonal problems but he very suddenly asked me if i was sick. I said, yes and briefly explained. He anointed me and prayed for healing, and I felt very, very hot in my abdomen. He said he’d be praying for me at teh Shrine, and we chatted a while. I don’t know exactly what happened, but I do know that I’ve had a much easier time with some of my symptoms since then, and my heart has changed.

I can’t explain that, either. I went on pilgrimage asking for healing not just from infertility, but for my interior life to not be so numb about babies. For a long time I haven’t felt a real desire for more children, and I haven’t felt a lack of desire, either. It’s been just numb. I’m not numb anymore and I feel freedom when I think of babies. Whatever happens, babies or not, I feel love and excitement at the idea of having them, and true resignation if it’s God’s will that they don’t come. That is a real healing.

This has gone on far too long. I’d better wrap up.

We made it! In the pouring rain, we saw the Shrine and arrived at the statue of our Lady. We knelt and receieved a blessing, and got wetter with holy water. We sang Salve Regine in thanksgiving. We  walked up the hill to the statue of John Paul II and knelt. I ran over and placed my rock at the base of the statue and gave thanks for his help and intercession. Around me people were finising the pilgrimage on their knees and kissing the ground. People had come out to meet us and cheered and clapped as we sang, walking up the church. There we waited for the Polish group, singing and smiling on the stairs. When they arrived they were singing loudly. Hundreds of people singing a song to Jesus is a surefire way to get me to tear up. They carried a banner that said, in Polish, Jesus, King of Poland. It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.

The mass was beautiful. We were so very wet, and tired, and hurting. It was glorious.

In the crypt of the Shrine I went around the icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa on my knees. It hurt so badly, but she was there in a special way. I left my intentions and the intentions people sent with me, including my secret blog prayer buddy, at the altar. You all were with me.

That was my pilgrimage.



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