Happy Anniversary Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians at Holy Hill!

Adore the Lord in His holy court. Let all the earth be moved at his presence (Psalm 95: 6, 9). © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012 KJ photo

“Them I will bring to my holy mountain, and make joyful in my house of prayer; their holocausts and sacrifices will be acceptable on my altar, for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples (Isaiah 56:7).”

The Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Help of Christians is one of my most cherished places. Years ago I stated that if God were to bestow a kiss on the people of Southeastern Wisconsin, it would look like Holy Hill.

Sanctuary of the Upper Church, Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians at Holy Hill © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012.

Among my earliest memories, Holy Hill features prominently. I recall journeying with my family from our home in Michigan to visit this National Shrine of Mary, at Holy Hill. I was about 3 years old at the time and had never seen such a glorious church! The beauty and magnitude of this magnificent structure dedicated to the Mother of God, impressed me deeply. I recall climbing (and climbing) what seemed like a gazillion steps, from the lower parking lot to the upper church, and later that day climbing all 173 steps to the top of the tower. My father did not like heights, and part way up the tower, he turned around and headed down to the landing. Grasping my mother’s hand, I headed up the narrow winding stairs, to the top of the tower. I remember peering out the round window near the summit of the climb. I felt like I was on top of the world and could see forever! (Little did I know that three decades later, both the neighborhood in which I would raise my children and the cemetery where my parents’ mortal remains rest could be seen from that very window.)

173 steps to the top © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012.

In the 1980’s, I would visit Holy Hill with my fiancé and my parents. About a half hour before Mass, my betrothed and I decided to climb to 173 steps up to the tower. Mom and Dad opted to wait for us in the main church, while we quickly buzzed up the stairs. As I confidently sprinted up the first few flights, I remarked to my husband-to-be: “I can’t imagine why this bothered Dad, it’s just a bunch of stairs.” Well, pride goes before the fall, or in my case the sudden fear of falling. As soon as those words of hubris were out of my mouth, I looked down the center of the stairwell, and gasped. In an instant, I discovered a fear of heights I never knew I possessed. Like my Dad, I turned around and headed down the stairs. Now, twenty-plus years later, I still haven’t managed to make it to the top of the tower I had climbed in my youth.

Under the scaffold during the renovations © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012.

Yet those towers feature prominently in so many memories- my children have literally grown up in the shadow of the Holy Hill towers. We have been blessed to attend near-daily Mass at Holy Hill for years. My sons enjoy the privilege of serving Mass frequently, and my older children sing in the choir. We have developed deep and lasting friendships with the wonderful Carmelite friars who dedicate their lives to the care of the Shrine and its pilgrims.

The Discalced Carmelite Friars are Stewards of this Sacred Site © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012.

It is impossible to express with mere words what this sacred space means to my family and I. Through the years, Holy Hill has captured a cherished place in our hearts. The tapestry of memories includes threads of joy, laughter, tears, and friendship. First Communions, First Reconciliations, graduations, May Crownings, Corpus Christi Processions, and the funerals of dear friends – our family has celebrated sacraments and milestones within these hallowed walls. Mom and Dad’s wakes were celebrated in the Old Monastery Inn. Truly, from my parent’s gravesite the view of Holy Hill is magnificent. I could never have imagined in 1968 that our bond to this sacred site would be so great.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan at the April 28, 2012 Mass of Thanksgiving © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

Today, Holy Hill celebrates a milestone of its own. On July 16, 2006, the Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, then Archbishop Timothy Dolan announced that Pope Benedict XVI had approved the elevation of Holy Hill to the status of a minor Basilica. The occasion of the announcement was not only the Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, but also the 100 anniversary of the arrival of the Discalced Carmelite Order. Four months later, on November 19, 2006, Archbishop Dolan celebrated the Mass officially dedicating The National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians as a minor Basilica. Today, we celebrate the sixth anniversary of this dedication.

Cardinal Dolan’s Mass of Thanksgiving, April 28, 2012 © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

Holy Hill is a treasure. On April 28 of this year, Cardinal Dolan returned to this beloved Shrine to offer a Mass of Thanksgiving following his elevation to Cardinal. Over the years I have often heard Cardinal Dolan describe Holy Hill as “Mary’s House.” Perhaps this is why Holy Hill bears such significance for many of us. Our lives unfold here, and we sense that the Blessed Mother is truly a heart-beat away. Through Holy Hill, we are linked to Our Lady and her Beloved Son.

Mary Help of Christian, Pray for Us! (Shrine Chapel) © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012 EA photo

During this Year of Faith, Archbishop Jerome Listecki, in accord with the Apostolic Penitentiary, has declared that the Christian faithful of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee who, having fulfilled the required conditions of Sacramental Confession, Eucharistic Communion, prayers for the Supreme Pontiff’s intentions, “and in a spirit of total detachment from any inclination to sin may benefit from a Plenary Indulgence” by visiting the National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians in the form of a Pilgrimage. “Pilgrims must participate in a liturgy, or at least pause for an appropriate time in prayer and meditation, concluding with the recitation of the Our Father, the Profession of Faith in any legitimate form, Invocations of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and where appropriate of the Holy Apostles or patron saints.” The full text of the official decree can be found at: http://www.archmil.org/Year-of-Faith/Plenary-Indulgence.htm.

“Blessed are they who dwell in Your House, O Lord.” © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012 EA Photo

The Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary at Holy Hill is a uniquely cherished site. Please join me in praying for continued blessings to flow from this sacred Shrine. Please pray for the pilgrims who visit and for the dedicated Carmelite Friars who are stewards of Mary’s House. All for the Greatest Honor and Glory of God!

Happy Anniversary! © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012 EA photo

Happy Anniversary Holy Hill!

Ad Jesum per Mariam,

M.A. J.M.J.


Where Then is a House You Could Build for Me?

Heaven is My Throne and Earth is My Footstool…. © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

“Heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool. Where then is a house you could build for Me? And where is a place that I may rest (Isaiah 66:1)?”

There is something about stately, old, Catholic churches that captures my heart. Like our faith itself, they have weathered the test of time. The romantic in me loves to ponder how our founding fathers (and mothers) labored with love to build and furnish these beautiful houses of worship. I stand in awe when I contemplate their daily struggle on the farm, in the shop, and on the homestead – absent the modern conveniences of running water, electricity, and telecommunication, and how in spite of the daily chores they still managed to create these timeless treasures.

The Catholics who established these early parishes are my heroes! Their lives were difficult, but armed with pure faith they sought to build churches that gave God glory, and raised the hearts and minds of their progeny to contemplate His Divine Majesty. They didn’t rely on liturgical design experts or capital campaign managers; no consensus building committees were required here. Rather, they prayed hard, and relied upon their own God-given talents to render from wood and stone a house of worship for their Divine Creator. From the expensive stained glass to the pristine construction, these buildings were fashioned to demonstrate tremendous gratitude to God for His Divine Providence.

Timeless Treasures © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

The early faithful were willing to forgo necessities – a pair of winter boots, a little more coal, a second work dress, a winter jacket without holes, in order to provide suitable places for the celebration of the greatest miracle on earth- the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. As such their lives revolved around the rhythm of the liturgical year and its celebrations- the daily Mass, rosary, solemnity and feast day celebrations, Eucharistic Adoration, and processions brought the community together to bond in Christ while experiencing His eternal love in Word and Sacrament. The earthly remains of these Catholic pioneers often rest in consecrated land amid the shadows of the churches the labored to construct.

Today, my family and I had the opportunity to stop and pray for a moment in one of these gems. We were traveling, and had been praying the Morning Divine Office for today’s Feast of the Guardian Angels. I had just finished praying the line in the intercessions:

“Send St. Michael, the prince of the heavenly host to aid your people, may he defend them against Satan and his angels on the day of battle.”

Pristine and Pure Against the Autum Sky © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

As I looked out the window, we were passing St. Michael’s Catholic Church, and the front door was open! I had attended Mass in this lovely old church many years ago, but lately it has not been open as frequently. My husband interpreted my squeal of joy appropriately and made a sharp turn into the parking lot. All ten of us piled out, and sheepishly entered the old white wooden church. As we knelt in prayer by the steps of the sanctuary, gazing up at the tabernacle, flanked by a statue of the Sacred Heart and St. Michael on one side and Our Lady of Mount Carmel on the other, I thanked God for beauty of the moment.

“How Beautiful are the Feet of He Who Preached the Gospel of Peace. ..” © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012 EA Photo

The reality of St. Michael’s Church exceeded the romantic notion of my distant memory. Two ladies were cleaning the church with the same affection and attention to detail that had motived the early settlers. One confided to me that each week while cleaning, she lovingly dusted the feet of Jesus on the Sacred Heart Statue. She quipped that it would be a shame to arrive at the pearly gates and receive a less than warm welcome for neglecting her duty to clean well Our Lord’s feet.

Lasting Beauty © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012 EA Photographer

As we chatted for a moment with the caretakers, we learned that St. Michael’s was built 126 years ago. The lovely prayer lines worn in the wood of the pews touched my heart. The church is now closed during the winter months as it is costly to heat and there are so few visitors to this peninsula during those months. However, the Diocese of Green Bay recognizes the beauty of this sacred space and maintains it lovingly for less frequent worship. What a joy for my family to have the opportunity to pray where generations have prayed before. The doctrine of the Communion of Saints truly becomes palpable when one visualizes the labor of love rendered by the hands of those faithful children of God who sat in these pews 126 years ago, and whose mortal remains are buried in the adjacent cemetery.

Zeal For Your House Fills Me O Lord! © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012 EA Photographer

As we knelt once again in prayer before we continued on our journey, I thanked my guardian angel and St. Michael for leading us to the sanctuary of this lovely old church, and I thanked God for preserving it for my children to experience with gratitude and joy.

Happy Feast of the Guardian Angels! May they protect us with devotion, and may God reward them for their loyal diligence.

Labor of Love © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012 EA Photographer


Ad Jesum per Mariam,


Veni, Sancte Spiritus- Feast of Pentecost, Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help 2012

This statue has been carried in procession for generations, and is believed to have been a favorite of Sr. Adele’s © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011-2012

Today we celebrate the birthday of the Church- the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, Who empowers us with the same faithful, dynamic Spirit of Love as He did St. Peter and the Apostles two millennia ago. I had the privilege of celebrating this Feast at one of my favorite places on Earth: the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help, in Champion, Wisconsin. (http://www.shrineofourladyofgoodhelp.com/index.html).

Statue of Our Lady carried in procession © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

Those of you who are frequent visitors to Salve Sancta Mater Dei, may recall from my previous posts (such as https://salvematerdei.com/2011/11/08/pilgrims-progress/), that the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help is the only approved Marian apparition site in the United States. It was here in 1859, that the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to a young Belgian immigrant woman, named Adele Brise, and commissioned her to “gather the children of this wild country, . . . and teach them what they need to know for salvation.” Here, on this very spot, the Queen of Heaven condescended from Her Heavenly throne to attend to the catechetical needs of Her children on the wild frontier of the young United States. Over the years, my family has had the honor of spending quite a bit of time at this miraculous location.

© SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

My son K.J. has blogged extensively regarding this spiritual haven on his site at http://GodAloneSufficeth.com; last year penning a 10 –part series on the history of the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help.

Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

It is tradition that each year on the last Sunday of May, Holy Mass is celebrated outdoors, to accommodate the crowd. Often the Bishop of Green Bay presides, concelebrating with the Shrine Rector and local priests. Hundreds – often thousands of voices glorifying God, and singing sweet songs of gratitude to Our Lady for Her intercession. Each year, there is a procession around the grounds that were miraculously spared the ravages of the Pestigo Fire, which killed over 2,000 neighboring settlers in 1871. In addition to Holy Mass and the Rosary procession, we worship our Lord during Benediction as the Blessed Sacrament is exposed and carried in procession.

Fr. Peter Stryker, CPM and Fr. Jewel Aytona, CPM © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

Again this year, my family had the honor of participating in this grace-filled event: my boys served, and my girls helped to carry the banner of Our Lady during the procession. It was a blessing that this year’s May celebration should fall on Pentecost Sunday. Holy Mass was concelebrated by Fr. Peter Stryker CPM, Shrine Rector, and Fr. Jewel Aytona, CPM. The spiritual welfare of tens of thousands of pilgrims who visit the shrine annually is entrusted to these capable Father’s of Mercy.

Knights of Columbus provide a Magnificent Honor Guard for Our Lady © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

Fr. Stryker graciously shared a written copy of his stirring homily from today’s Mass to post here, as a guest blogger. The photos that are interspersed throughout his homily and this post are from our visit today:

Pentecost Sunday, Year B, 2012- Homily- Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help

Homily by Fr. Peter Stryker, CPM 5/27/2012 © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

More than a century ago – a great sailing ship was stranded off the coast of South America! Week after week the ship lay there in the still waters – without a hint of a breeze. The captain was desperate – because the crew was dying of thirst!

And then, on the far horizon, a steamship appeared – headed directly toward them. And as the steamship drew closer – the captain called out: “We need water! Give us water!” From the steamship came this reply: “Lower your buckets where you are!”

Well, the captain was furious with such an indifferent response – yet he called out again: “Please, give us water!” From the steamship – came the same reply: “Lower your buckets where you are!” And with that – they sailed away. The captain was beside himself – with anger and despair. Exasperated – he went below deck.

Yet a little while later – when no one was looking – one of the young sailors lowered a bucket into the sea. He tasted what he brought up – and it was perfectly sweet, fresh water! All that time – the ship was just out of sight – of the mouth of the Amazon River! All that time – they had been sitting right on top – of all the fresh water they could ever desire! Sounds incredible! Yet that situation can happen anytime and anyplace – when it comes to the fresh spiritual water superabundantly available – through the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit!

Christ be Our Life . . . . © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

How many Christians feel just kind of out of it – just kind of totally drained – when it comes to supernatural direction and inspiration? We all need people in our lives – who can direct us and inspire us on a natural level – so as to help us along in ordinary ways. It’s a fact – that we definitely need one another! Yet it is all the more necessary – that we have a divine person in our life – a God-person – who will direct us and inspire us on a supernatural level. The Holy Spirit is that God-person – the God-person whose mission it is – to fill us with the life and love of Jesus! Thus God the Holy Spirit is that God-person who is – as Jesus tells us in John 16 – “the Spirit of truth”!

How many false and lying spirits are there – in our modern world? False and lying spirits – when it comes to love! False and lying spirits – when it comes to life! False and lying spirits – when it comes to marriage and family! In John 16, Jesus is speaking to his disciples – the first bishops of the Church. And Jesus is speaking especially to Peter – the first pope of the Church!

Eucharistic Procession, Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

Jesus guarantees his disciples – a charism. And of course – a charism is a special Holy Spirit gift – for the building up of the common good of the Church! And this particular charism is the ability to teach – without any mistakes – about God, Jesus, and his Church – and about how we are to live our lives! There’s no question about it! The disciples – especially Peter – were blessed with an extraordinary grace! To preach God-given truth – with God-given certainty – through the power of the Holy Spirit!

What happens when people – ignore Church teaching? What happens when people – just do what they want to do? Well, it may happen that their lives – their families – their relationships – will resemble what’s described in Galatians 5. St. Paul says this:

“Now the works of the flesh are obvious: immorality, impurity, lust, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like.”

Does that sound beautiful? Does that sound truly desirable? No! Yet we know – that with our fallen human nature – any of us are capable of “works of the flesh.” And such “works of the flesh” cause us – to be trouble-making slaves of sin!

Sr. Adele’s Grave, May She Rest in Peace. © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

Given that life is short – given that few of us, if any of us – will be here on earth a 100 years from now – it makes sense to want to get it together! It makes sense to say, “The Bible is right! God is right! We cannot get it together – on our own power. This is not a job for Congress – and not a job for the United Nations. We need God the Holy Spirit – as our Advocate!”

This annual celebration of Pentecost – is an excellent time to acknowledge – how much more we could be living – a life of truth! God-given truth! Church-given truth! Truth supercharged – by the power of the Holy Spirit!

Spouse of the Holy Spirit, Pray for Us! . © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

Such a life is described in Galatians 5. St. Paul says this:

“[The] fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”

Beautiful life-giving qualities! And such fruits of the Holy Spirit – flow from the gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, piety, fortitude, and fear of the Lord.

How are we to welcome the Holy Spirit – into our hearts and lives? With fidelity to Sunday Mass – and frequent sacramental confession! With daily prayer – and especially the Holy Rosary! And with works of mercy! Yet isn’t there one simple way – to grow and develop in the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit?

Yes there is! And from the fifth century – we hear about that one simple way – from St. Augustine. He says this:

“Accordingly, we too receive the Holy Spirit if we love the Church, if we are bound together by love, and if we rejoice in the Catholic name and faith. Let us believe it, brothers and sisters: we will have the Holy Spirit in the same measure that we love the Church of Christ. Moreover, we love the Church when we stand fast in her membership and love.”

Eucharistic Rosary Procession © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

And to that – we can all say: “Amen! Alleluia!” This is the day we celebrate the fullness of the peace of Christ Jesus – the peace we share as members of the Body of Christ! Our Lord Jesus is the rock solid present-moment offer of grace to us – by the Father – and in the Spirit of God! Jesus says to us today, “Peace be with you” – and, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Let us eagerly receive the Holy Spirit – so that through us the world may encounter – the Christian mystery of forgiveness and mercy!

Our Lady of Good Help – we long to receive your spouse, the Holy Spirit – and to enjoy free and superabundant access – to fresh spiritual water!

Rev. Peter Stryker, CPM- homily delivered at Pentecost Sunday Mass, May 27, 2012, Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help.

Happy Solemnity of Pentecost. May the Holy Spirit fill you with abundance of His many gifts.


Ad Jesum per Mariam,

M.A. J.M.J.

Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

Hail Full of Grace (Kεχαριτωμένη)!

—Hail Full of Grace! © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011. photo from St. Mary's Maternity of the Blessed Virgin, Richfield, WI, EA photographer

—Hail Full of Grace! © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011. photo from St. Mary's Maternity of the Blessed Virgin, Richfield, WI, EA photographer

The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception is among my favorites. Today we celebrate the singular grace and privilege that was bestowed upon Our Heavenly Mother: namely that she was conceived without the stain of Original Sin. The Blessed Mother was to provide a pure Tabernacle of human flesh within which Our Divine was to rest and grow for nine months. In anticipation of Mary’s fiat, Our Lord prevented the disfigurement of Original Sin from ever touching her Immaculate Soul- His gift of grace to Our Lady who existed absolutely and totally replete with grace from the first moment of her being.

Indeed, the Angel Gabriel greets the Blessed Mother not with the words “Hail Mary,” but rather “Hail Full of Grace.” The Greek word, kechatitomene (Kεχαριτωμένη)  is used exclusively to name the Blessed Mother, and it means full (overflowing) with grace. The connotation of this word is that Our Lady, was so brimming with the gift of God’s grace that there was not even an iota of room for anything opposed to that grace. My Koine Greek is pretty rusty, but what I remember is that kechatitomene  is in the aorist tense – a past perfect tense denoting an action that was begun in the past, but continued into the present. Mary was conceived sinless, and that state continued into present.

When God uses a word in place of a person’s name or renames an individual, it bears deep significance as it reflects the very being and mission of the individual. Recall for example that:  Abram (exalted father) was renamed Abraham (father of many nations), Jacob wrestled with an angel and was given the name Israel (contended with God), Simon the fisherman was renamed Peter- the Rock,  and the Pharisee Saul was transformed into the Christian Paul.  Thus, when the Angel of the Annunciation refers to the Blessed Mother, not by her given name of Mary, but rather as “kechatitomene,” it reflects the past of her sinless conception, the present of the moment of the Annunciation, and the future of her mission as the Immaculate Conception – a mission which continues to this very day.

Throughout history we have been given glimpses of this glorious mission of hers. In 1858, Our Lady appeared to14 year-old Bernadette Soubirous in a series of eighteen apparitions in Lourdes, France. On March 25, Our Lady revealed to Bernadette her singular and unique role with the words: “I am the Immaculate Conception.” Since then we have seen a superabundance of grace pour through this place through Our Lady’s Immaculate intercession. The apparitions at Lourdes clearly demonstrate that Our Lady had been sent by God to Earth to give heavenly ascent to the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception which had been infallibly proclaimed only four years earlier by Pope Pius IX. It never ceases to amaze me how Our Lord transcends space and time, and communicates His plan to us in every generation.

Our Lady of Good Help © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011 EA photographer

Our Lady of Good Help © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011 EA photographer

One year ago today, on December 8, 2010, my family and I were given the tremendous blessing of being present at the Shine of Our Lady of Good Help, as Bishop David L. Ricken officially proclaimed the Marian apparitions which occurred there in 1859 to be worthy of belief and gave the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help the full approbation of the Church. I will remember that Holy Mass as long as I live!

After years of visiting this holy site, finally seeing it officially recognized by the Holy Mother Church was beyond words. I sat there with tears of joy streaming down my face as Bishop Ricken read his proclamation and explained the extensive process of investigation which had led to the decree. I was simultaneously numb and exuberant. All those years longing for Our Lady’s message to receive the attention it deserves had finally come to fruition. The emotion was overwhelming! I could not help but be aware of the uniqueness of that moment in history, and I was so grateful to witness it.  As if it were not enough to merely be present, my son Kenny had the privilege of serving as the Bishop Ricken’s Miter and Crosier bearer for Holy Mass. This mother’s heart swelled with gratitude as I prayed for the aspired vocation of my son, and experienced an incredible outpouring of grace.

This year we will celebrate the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, at Holy Hill Basilica, National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians, another place that is dear to my heart.  I love these exquisite Holy Masses con-celebrated by the entire Carmelite Community. Our Lady, as the Immaculate Conception, continues to send God’s grace upon this community, and they respond to it with such beauty and devotion.

Mother of God Pray for Us! © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011 EA photographer

Mother of God Pray for Us! © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011 EA photographer

This year the children and I are adding The Holy Hour of Grace to our celebration of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Drew Mariani of Relevant Radio spotlighted the Holy Hour of Grace a few days ago, and complete information can be found on the Mother of All Peoples website. This  bimonthly on-line magazine is compiled by the renowned mariologist, Dr. Mark Miravalle, and the address is:  http://www.motherofallpeoples.com/Articles/Marian_Private_Revelation/the-hour-of-grace.html

 Evidently, in the Spring of 1947, Our Lady appeared as Mary the Mother of God to a young nurse, Pierina Gilli, in a hospital chapel in the small Northern Italian town of Montichiari. Our Lady was very sad, and her heart was pierced with three swords. The first sword represented the unworthy celebration of Holy Mass and Holy Communion unworthily received. The second sword represented being unfaithful to and relinquishing one’s vocation as a priest or religious; while the last sword stood for the betrayal of the True Faith. In response, Our Lady requested prayer, sacrifice and penance. Our Lady continued to appear to Pierina eleven times, including an apparition at the Basilica of Montichiari on December 8, 1947, where thousands of people were present.

On that day, Our Lady appeared to Pierina in the following manner and stated:

“ Our Lady appeared on a large white staircase, decorated with a white, red and yellow rose over her heart. She said with a smile: “I am the Immaculate Conception.” And descending several steps with great majesty She continued: “I am Mary, full of grace, Mother of My Divine Son Jesus Christ.” Descending even more, She said:

Through my coming to Montichiari, I wish to be known as the Rosa Mystica. It is my wish that every year, on 8th December, at noon, the Hour of Grace for the World be celebrated. Many divine and bodily graces will be received through this devotion.

Our Lord, my Divine Son Jesus, will send His overflowing mercy if good people will pray continuously for their sinful brother.

One should very soon notify the Holy Father of the Church, Pope Pius XII, that it is my wish that the Hour of Grace for the World be made known and spread throughout the world. If anyone is unable to visit his church, yet will pray at noon at home, he will also receive graces through me. Whoever prays on these tiles and weeps tears of penance, will find a secure heavenly ladder and receive protection and grace through my motherly heart (Mother of All Peoples Jonathan Baker, 12/2/11) .”

Our Lady specified that this world-wide Hour of Grace was to be celebrated in the following manner. It is to begin at noon and end at 1pm on December 8th. One must begin by reading Psalm 51 three times with arms extended in prayer. The remainder of the hour can be spent as in prayer as one chooses, (rosary, personal prayer, meditation, etc). However, additional care to resist distractions is requested, and we are to intercede in penance and reparation for not only ourselves, but all those in our lives. One does not need to be in a church to participate in the Holy Hour of Grace.

Regarding this devotion, Our Lady stated:

“This Hour of Grace will produce great and numerous conversions. Hardened and cold hearts resembling this marble will be touched by divine Grace, and they will become faithful to Our Lord in loyal love heart (Mother of All Peoples Jonathan Baker, 12/2/11) .”

 While not yet officially approved, the Bishop of Giulo Sanguineti  has publicly expressed his openness to the apparitions and has encouraged pilgrimages there.

I am not certain how much undistracted prayer I will be able to offer with my brood of eight in tow at the Basilica of Holy Hill today, but we are going to try. Please consider joining me where ever you may be in this world-wide Hour of Grace in honor of Our Lady, the Immaculate Conception.


Ad Jesum per Mariam


New Beginnings….

Mother Thrice Admirable Please Pray for Us! © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011.

Mother Thrice Admirable Please Pray for Us! © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011.

Happy New Year! Today we begin a new liturgical year- the Year of Faith. We are all present at a unique moment in history – as Advent 2011 dawned, we inaugurated the use of the third edition of the Roman Missal. This sublime rendition of the Roman Missal reflects a more accurate translation of the Latin. The phrases we (and our priest celebrant) now pray are more direct translations from scripture and the ancient Mass. This third edition of the Roman Missal is truly beautiful- and affords us the opportunity to enhance our worship of God, by participating in a rich and vibrant liturgy.

A year ago today, my family and I had the privilege of being present at another new beginning- arguably the most beautiful, unique wedding we had ever attended. We were guests of the bride’s family- acquaintances for many years. The church was packed to standing room only – indeed some of the crowd stood in the vestibule. The flowers were lovely; the choir angelic. The nervous parents, and family of the bride shone with delight as the guests entered the chapel.

 The bride was our friend Rachel. We were acquainted with her family through homeschooling, attending the same parish, and together frequenting the Holy Hill Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians. From a distance, I had watched over the years as this bubbly carrot-topped girl matured in wisdom and grace into a lovely young woman. She and her equally awesome sister, Gabe, were baby-sitters for our young children.  As the guests entered the chapel, I remembered that Rachel had recently graduated from Thomas Aquinas College. I recalled the year prior, lending  Rachel the many volumes of  Copplestone’s History of Philosophy for a course she was taking at TAC, and being impressed at her intelligence and philosophical maturity.

Well here I sat, sincerely praying for this lovely couple- for this formidable young woman and the enormous step in life she was about to take. The music began, the bride glowing in her elegant white wedding dress emerged – wisps of her lovely red hair peeking through the veil. The jubilance of the congregation- full of family and friends – was palpable, as the radiant bride slowly walked up the aisle. There couldn’t have been a dry eye in the chapel.  She nervously smiled at her sister Brides of Christ as she approached her seat. Yes – remember I said this was unlike any wedding I had ever attended- our dear friend Rachel was about to become Sr. Maria Faustina.

Congratulations Sr. Maria Faustina! © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011. Photo by Mr. Joseph Mentink, used with permission of the Yank Family

Congratulations Sr. Maria Faustina! © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011. Photo by Mr. Joseph Mentink, used with permission of the Yank Family

As the ceremony progressed, Rachel, clad in an elegant white gown, was escorted out to exchange her secular wedding clothes for the raiment appropriate to her chosen vocation. She returned wearing her new wedding dress, the lovely blue habit of the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary. She professed her promises as a novice, and the celebration of the Holy Mass continued. I remember praying intently for this beautiful young woman, and her fellow novices- four of whom sat supportively nearby. Sr. Faustina is part of a novice class of eight young Brides of Christ. On another part of the globe, two of her fellow novices were being received simultaneously in similar ceremonies in their homeland of Puerto Rico. They would soon return to Wisconsin to resume prayer and study with their novice class.

Blessings! © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011. Photo by Mr. Joseph Mentink, used with permission of the Yank Family

Blessings! © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011. Photo by Mr. Joseph Mentink, used with permission of the Yank Family

After the ceremony, the Sr. Faustina with her family and Community of Sisters walked across the drive to the tiny Schoenstatt Chapel, where Our Lord is always present for Adoration. Here they were able to give thanks for the tremendous graces of this sunny November day. Like any nuptial celebration there were hugs and kisses, smiles and photographs – all mingled with a few joyful tears.

Like any wedding, the reception was an exuberant celebration- the culmination of hours of preparation and labor. At the Schoenstatt Retreat center, the tables were lovely- set with china, candles and flowers. Sr. Faustina’s Mom and Dad (Judy & Joe) greeted guests, beaming with genuine pride and satisfaction as their daughter mingled with visitors and accepted the heartfelt congratulations of so many well-wishers. Her sister Gabe, and brother Tom, shone with approval as well. After the Blessing, there was delicious food, prayer, songs, and much laughter. The celebration lasted for hours.

Forever Family! © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011. Photo by Ms. Jacinta Stephens, used with permission of the Yank Family

Forever Family! © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011. Photo by Ms. Jacinta Stephens, used with permission of the Yank Family

In the year that has followed, Sr. Faustina and her seven fellow novices have grown close to their Groom through intense prayer, study, and work. I love chatting with Sr. Faustina’s parents after Mass, hoping for a word on how she is doing. Throughout the year,  while on weekend retreats at the Schoenstatt Shrine, three of my daughters and I have often seen Sr. Faustina attending to her daily duties. Each time we see her, she is full with joy, just as on the day of her reception. Whether she is working in the kitchen, fielding calls on the switchboard, or in silent prayer in the chapel, there is a sense of peace that envelopes Sr. Maria Faustina.

Each day, she and the sisters of her community give a perpetual fiat– an everlasting “yes” to Christ, just as the Mother Thrice Admirable- Our Blessed Mother did with every day of her earthly life. Their witness is a profound reflection of the love of Christ alive and well in today’s world. Thank you Sr. Maria Faustina and fellow Schoenstatt Sisters for your yes! Thank you Joe and Judy for raising such a incredible daughter! Thank you Jesus and Mother Thrice Admirable for the graces you have given us all through these children of yours!

Happy Anniversary!

M.A.   JMJ