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.””