• January 27, 2015

A pilgrimage around the globe:
five Marian Shrines and two Heart’s Homes!

Kelsey at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Lourdes, France

by Kelsey B., in-training vol­un­teer

“During a season of mir­a­cles, I was blessed with my own mir­acle: a sig­nif­i­cant research grant to travel the world exploring the image of Mary in dif­ferent cul­tures by vis­iting Marian appari­tion sites. I encoun­tered phe­nom­enal grace on my trip, and, as I med­i­tated before the statue of Our Lady that wept 101 times in Akita, Japan, prayed on Apparition Hill in Medjugorje, wept for joy before our Lady of the Miraculous Medal in Paris, bathed in the baths and knelt in the grotto at Lourdes, cel­e­brated mass before the Tilma with the mirac­u­lous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, and drank the healing water of Our Lady of Ocotlán in Tlaxcala, Mexico, I couldn’t help but wonder if Mary would reveal some grand mes­sage to me on my journey. However, once I finally qui­eted my loud mind, I real­ized that Mary’s mes­sage for me was much gentler, con­veyed in her beau­ti­fully quiet and humble way. Mary showed me the immense love she and Christ have for all of us, and, because we can never merit this love, that we must undergo a daily con­ver­sion to Christ. No great pil­grimage would rid me of my sinful nature; no graces, how­ever grand and pure, could deliver me from the need of daily con­ver­sion. We must choose Him daily!

As we recommit our­selves to Christ daily, Mary tells us that we are not alone! Mary, in her eternal fiat, avails her­self to us daily as she leads us ever closer to Christ. It was this role of Mary that I was abso­lutely struck by in the chapel at Rue du Bac in Paris where Mary appeared to St. Catherine Labouré (whose body lies incor­rupt in the chapel!) with the image of the Miraculous Medal. The immense grace I felt upon walking into that chapel is inde­scrib­able. Such rays of grace are depicted on the Miraculous Medal and on the beau­tiful statue of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal sit­u­ated on the altar. I was struck by the glo­rious way the rays pouring out of Mary’s hands point directly to Our Lord in the taber­nacle sit­u­ated beneath the statue. In this beau­tiful arrange­ment, I found con­fir­ma­tion of the promise that had been in my heart for the dura­tion of the trip, Mary’s promise to lead us to Christ. Indeed, it was this promise that I clung to in Medjugorje, Bosnia as I renewed my con­se­cra­tion to Our Lady on the Feast of Mary Mother of God, praying for her grace to sur­render myself to Christ.

In addi­tion to leading me Home to Christ in a spir­i­tual way, Mary led me to a lit­eral home twice on the trip as I was graced with the oppor­tu­nity to visit two Heart’s Homes! Incredibly, I was able to spend one of only two days in Japan at Heart’s Home Sendai, being warmly wel­comed by the mis­sionary family there and encoun­tering beau­tiful neigh­bors. To borrow from Mary’s January 2nd appari­tion in Medjugorje, it was a “piece of heaven on Earth” to be so loved and accepted with such expe­di­ency and without merit. Leaving the beau­tiful home, my heart took on the joy of the Sendai mis­sion­aries as I real­ized that I had become a member of the inter­na­tional Heart’s Home family. It was with this joy that I trav­eled from Japan to Medjugorje, Bosnia, and then to Paris, France where I found my next oasis of com­fort and love in Heart’s Home Paris. For a wea­ried trav­eler in a large city, a cup of tea with a fellow sister in Christ was just the thing I needed. My Paris Heart’s Home visit helped me con­tinue to realize that simple encoun­ters rich with God’s love mark the mis­sion of Heart’s Home. What a beau­tiful truth to carry with me as I com­pleted my journey around the world in Mexico City! Mary’s over­whelming love and peace flooded my heart anew in Mexico as I cel­e­brated the Mass in Spanish before Our Lady of Guadalupe with thou­sands of pil­grims, and con­sid­ered the two years that Spanish would become my lan­guage of love while on mis­sion in Buenos Aires begin­ning this summer. In the mean­time, when con­sid­ering the abso­lutely grace-filled trip that the Lord blessed me with and the incred­ible love that Mary pos­sesses for us, all I can think to do is “ponder these things in my heart.””

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