Today was a slice of Paradise. Throughout the stillness of the night I had listened to the serene lapping of rippling water on Lake Michigan. My patio door was open, and the Moon shone brightly over Whitefish Bay, as the stars reflected on the gently moving water.
For most of our week of vacation, the water was like glass. In the nine years we’ve been traveling to this particular spot, the water has never been this smooth, nor the lake so warm and inviting. Our week here has been glorious; a true gift from God. The kids waded out into the bay, and I splashed with them in the gentle flow of the usually tempestuous Lake. We built castles in the balmy sand, and shared the joy of relaxing amid one of the most picturesque vistas I know. This morning, a pink and orange hue melted into a brilliant golden orb reflecting on the sparkling lake. I flopped out of bed, grasped my rosary and Divine Office, and began my day on the patio. The morning sun warmed my physical being, as I thanked Our Lord for the magnificent week He had given me and mine.
The rhythm of the day rapidly changed as we busied ourselves with packing the van, and hitting the road. Yet even so, this joy and peace of this morning’s prayer remained with me. We had tried to find a morning Mass, but the only Monday Mass in our area was at 5:15 p.m., and we needed to hit the road by 11 a.m. I hate missing daily Mass, but today I had no choice. I stopped to purchase a bouquet of roses to leave at the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help as is our tradition, and who should I meet in the parking lot of the grocery store, but the Franciscan Friar who is pastor of the nearby church. We chatted and he blessed our van, after a few jokes about our mode of travel. Eight kids sandwiched amid suitcases and beach toys in a large van with two huge luggage turtles strapped on top, sporting a variety of Catholic and Pro-Life bumper stickers, is enough to draw chuckles from the occasional passersby. I’ve got to admit we definitely do not add to the ambience of the local vista.
Later we stopped to pray at two of my favorite spiritual fountains of grace. First we visited the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help, in Champion Wisconsin. This is the only approved Marian apparition site in the United States. I love visiting the simple little shrine, where in 1859, Our Blessed Mother demonstrated the depth of her maternal love, by visiting a humble immigrant woman, Sr. Adele Brise, and charged her with the mission to catechize the children of this then wild frontier. Countless blessings and miracles have flowed from this site, the most memorable of which occurred the night of the Peshtigo Fire, when with Our Lady’s intervention all those who sought shelter on the five acre chapel site were spared the ravages of the most devastating fire in U.S. history. Knowing Our Lady still cares for her children, and attentively listens to their prayers, my family and I adored Our Lord, in His Mother’s home – the Chapel of Our Lady of Good Help, and again requested her intercession for our temporal and spiritual needs.
From there we traveled a short distance to visit the Carmelite Monastery in Denmark, Wisconsin. This peaceful convent is home to a community of cloistered Discalced Carmelite Sisters. My family loves visiting this beautiful chapel for a few moments of prayerful solitude.
Today, as we knelt in prayer before Our Lord’s Tabernacle, my heart was full of gratitude and joy. As I turned to walk to the door, I stopped to pray a “Hail Mary” before the ornate statue of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Above this exquisite statue are three stained glass windows depicting: St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, St. Teresa of Avila, and St. Therese of the Holy Face of Jesus. Our Lady is in there in the midst of these great Carmelite saints. She stands in the alcove, half way between them and the Tabernacle of Our Lord. It occurred to me that in a real way she stands likewise for each of us- she is there with each of us near the door, beckoning us to come closer to her Divine Son Jesus. Like the great Carmelite saints whose images are rendered here in stained glass, with Our Lady’s help, one day we too may join the celestial court in eternal rejoicing. Then our moment of Paradise will last for all eternity.
As we focus on the hope of Eternal joy, please pray the fourth day of the novena to Our Lady of Mount Carmel with me.
When you gave us, Gracious Lady, the Scapular as our Habit, you called us to be not only servants, but also your own children.
We ask you to gain for us from your Son the grace to live as your children in joy, peace and love. (pause and mention petitions)
Say: Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be
Our Lady of Mount Carmel, pray for us.
Ad Jesum per Mariam,