How do I describe yesterday??
Inspired. Challenging. Joy-filled. Hopeful. Sacred. Humbling. Filled with awe and wonder. Tiring…
Chris and I left the La Crosse area very early in the morning. With map books in hand, we left the “talking box” (as I’ve grown to lovingly call the GPS) off and drove east along a probable course for the pilgrimage next year.
As we considered potential routes, road conditions and rendezvous points, there seemed to be an absolute joy and peace in our hearts. There was (and still is) a sense of certainty in what we are to do.
We stopped at one parish along the route (still in the Diocese of La Crosse) to take a break and make a quick visit to Our Lord in the tabernacle. As we considered the location of this parish, we knew right away that it will be one of the rendezvous points. Reverend Monsignor was not in the office, but we left a message for him and were surprised by the response of his staff. There was immediate interest in the mission of the pilgrimage and a joy that seemed to rise up again in all our hearts. One woman’s eyes just shined as she excitedly asked if she could bike with us.
When I introduced Chris, one of the women smiled in sudden recognition and said, “You’re the Chris from Relevant Radio, aren’t you!? From ‘Bike to Mary?'” Seeming a bit bashful, Chris smiled and said that he was.
Chris really is an inspiration. Praise God!
We mapped a good portion of the course, stopping just west of Green Bay and driving in to stop at the Chancery of the Diocese for a moment.
From there, we drove to the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help.
What I hadn’t realized until we approached that humble place along a quiet, country road yesterday was that Chris had never before visited the Shrine.
As we arrived, there was a sense of the presence of Our Blessed Mother such that I’d never felt (to that degree) before. I looked back at Chris and the look on his face spoke more than I can put into words. He smiled and asked if I could feel it too… Absolutely!
After tending to some business at the Shrine office, Chris and I made our way over to the Chapel.
On the way, we met the chaplain and he gave us a blessing.
Okay… I need to stop here and share a grace that (again) I may have trouble putting into words.
Remember that I am a “re-convert” to the faith. Although it happened almost 12 years ago now, I still remember what it felt like when the priest who heard my first confession after so many years placed his hand upon my head and gave me absolution. I “knew” it was the hand of the priest, but I have to say this very clearly… That was the hand of Jesus Christ. I could not see it (as my head was bowed in prayer), but I could feel it and I have never forgotten it.
Yesterday, I felt the same Hand. This time, His hand was upon my shoulder as we received that blessing. Later – in the car on the way home – Chris shared his sense of having felt it as well.
After sitting in the stillness with Our Lord for a time (in the chapel), we walked downstairs to the crypt.
While we’d brought other prayer intentions as well, one particular request was placed at the feet of Our Lady…
If it is God’s will, we will return to the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help next year. We will have been faithful – to whatever degree we may be called – and will return to Her.
Hopefully, our journey will have touched many lives with beauty and truth.
It has already begun.
God’s will be done.