We've returned home from our quick trip to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Unfortunately, the next few days will be hectic as I prepare meals for our local Vocations Camp and that may leave me with little time to share about our trip. Of course, I'm assuming you'd want to hear about it. I think it will have to be shared in installments, so please bear with me.
The trip was SO WORTH IT! And even that, is an understatement my friends. I was hoping for a bit of a spiritual renewal and this pilgrimage delivered that and so much more. The whole trip was really a lot of fun and had so many great aspects about it that were just perfect(okay, maybe the longer-than-expected drive had it's ups and downs). With that said, I must say that there was one thing that happened that was a unique and rare moment that was the highlight of the trip for all of us. Well, maybe not so much for Lily and Jonah since they didn't grasp how blessed of an opportunity it truly was. I tell this story all for the greater glory of God and as witness to His marvelous deeds.
We arrived at the Shrine shortly after it opened on Friday morning and stayed just about until closing time in the late afternoon. I will share more of what we did, but for now I will just jump ahead to the late afternoon shortly before we departed. We were doing some shopping in their gift shop (you know, we had to fulfill our Catholic duty and ring up enough purchases to put a pretty good dent on our Discover card) and my mom was busy having a conversation with one of the ladies (Patricia) working in the shop. Shortly after, my mom came to notify me that the Shrine had obtained a Second-Class relic of St. Gianna's, a pair of her gloves. These are kept in a special safe in a reliquary at the Shrine, but only one man knows how to get into it and he was out of town. She also informed me that another lady worker was on the phone trying to get in touch with him to see if he would allow them to bring the gloves out and walk her through getting the safe unlocked. They were getting the gloves out for ME!
My mom had shared with the ladies 'our story' and our struggle to conceive again and bear more children and that I have a devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Gianna. She told them how we had even debated about changing the date of our visit and postpone two weeks in order to be present at the Shrine's First Anniversary celebration where Gianna's son will speak and be present. Upon hearing that we drove some distance and would not be returning in two weeks, these dear ladies were willing to move Heaven and earth so that I could in some way be in contact with St. Gianna!
We patiently waited and while we did, Patricia encouraged us to gather up items that we would like to lay on Gianna's gloves in order that they become Third-Class Relics. I asked for a St. Gianna medal, but unfortunately they had not yet arrived since they were scheduled to be available at the anniversary celebration. She then led me to a medal that had been specifically created for the Shrine, the Medal of Motherhood. It is a 4-way cross and in the center is Our Lady of Guadalupe, the top is St. Gianna, the right side is Guardian Angel (since a child is given one at the moment of conception), the left side is St. Gerard and the bottom of the cross is St. Anne. My eyes filled with tears and Reed agreed that it would be perfect. We were informed that we would be allowed to go in a back room to sit and pray while in the presence of Gianna's gloves. Patricia reminded us that if it is God's holy will that we be blessed again with children, Gianna would intercede on our behalf and it would happen very quickly. She has had so many miracles that have already been attributed to her and many a 'Gianna baby' that has been brought into this world through her intercession.
Minutes later, the relic had been obtained and we were led to the quiet room. The ladies gathered chairs around the reliquary and we were given instructions. They allowed us as much time as we needed and asked us to just let them know when we were finished. Take all the time we wanted. We were told that we could touch the gloves and lay our articles on them and lift the glass cover open to do so, but we couldn't take them out or put them on. I must say that at that time I was so utterly speechless and in awe that I was just honored enough to be touching them and could scarcely believe that I was allowed to do that much!
I cannot completely remember all that followed. I don't know how long we were in that simple solitude. I do know that we prayed from the depths of our hearts, mostly in silence and I recall the sweet peace and serenity that filled my mind and body. It may just have been one of the most blessed moments of my life and definitely one of the most surrendered ones during this long journey through subfertility. I lay my hands upon those gloves and prayed intently for a speedy answer to our heartfelt prayers, if that is the will of God. And I prayed a prayer for each of you who follow me or read here on this blog, that your prayers would also be answered.
I am still unable to grasp the opportunity that we were given that day. It wasn't a small piece of clothing of St. Gianna's that we touched, but two WHOLE pieces of her clothing. A simple pair of gloves that any of us would wear. White, precious gloves. I may never get the chance to lay my eyes upon such holy relics again. I cannot begin to relay to you the sweetness in the very air I breathed as I touched those gloves. I now wear the medal I received there and I will treasure it and the significance it has to me. It was in that moment that my hopeful heart was again renewed and brought back to life. A simple instant that will be a treasured memory.
And if it is God's will that our prayers be answered, St. Gianna will be there running to our aid to fulfill it. And if that happens, we will gladly be returning to that blessed Shrine with our 'Gianna baby' next year.
O Holy St. Gianna, Pray For Us!
The reliquary with my items placed on the gloves:
(Sorry for the clarity issue, this is my best photo due to the low-light in the room and no flash allowed. This one turned out better than the ones with the glass cover open)