Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A Pilgrimage to Our Lady of Czestochowa

Liam and I jumped in the car and went on a road trip last week!

We went to visit Liam's great aunt (my dear Aunt Maryann) and together the three of us made a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa.  Maryann hadn't been there in years, and I hadn't been there since 2010.

The pilgrimage, though, was a spontaneous add-on.  The night before, Michael had mentioned Our Lady of Czestochowa somewhat randomly.  And this got me to thinking.  Then Google confirmed that the shrine was only minutes away from Aunt Maryann's house.  Would she want to go with me, I wondered?  She seemed delighted to!

What a great way to spend a Monday afternoon.  I realize that this blissful time of maternity is only temporary, and so I am trying to savor every moment and do every meaningful thing that I can with Liam.  (This era sure feels like the very best time of my life!)

My aunt had a wonderful lunch prepared for us, and my cousin Kathy surprised us with a visit and joined us at the table.  We all loved chatting and could have kept at it until sundown, if it weren't for the fact that Kathy needed to get home to greet her kids after their school day!

Before we departed for the shrine, my very Irish aunt bestowed upon Liam a very Irish bib!  He giggled and squealed when she handed it to him, and it matched his shamrock outfit perfectly.  Thanks, Maryann!

Maryann got us to the shrine using back roads; I drove, and Liam snoozed in the back seat.  The hallowed grounds and church looked just as beautiful as I had remembered it nearly three years ago.

A large, beautiful, crowned statue of Our Lady greets you at the entrance.

And a joyful statue of Blessed Pope John Paul II welcomes you as you get closer.

We went inside and enjoyed some quiet time with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.  Little Liam is getting quite used to this!  :)

I was sure to thank Holy Mother Mary, while standing in front of her image as Our Lady of Guadalupe, for Liam's precious life.  Seeing her image reminded me of how Michael and I invoked her help at the little side chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe in the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC.  We asked her to intercede for us that we might have a child some day, since Our Lady of Guadalupe is a special patron of the unborn.  Thank you, Mary, for watching over us!

Here's our smiling boy, giving thanks:

Then we visited an outdoor area dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes.  I remembered this vividly from three years ago, but there was something new about it this time:  People had written their prayer intentions on little pieces of paper and had placed them between the stones of the grotto.  I knew I needed to take my most precious prayer request and do the same.

I looked carefully for a special spot for my prayer intention.  And then I found it, right underneath the statue of Our Lady.

At the gift shop, Maryann bought a lovely book for little Liam, which we've carried with us to daily mass ever since.  Its sturdy cardboard pages keep him entertained...and learning.

I picked up a small triangular medal that had the image of Our Lady of Czestochowa and the Baby Jesus on it!

I'm not sure what this is, but several little envelopes like this were available for free to take home.  Are any of you familiar with this?  I will give it to the next person I encounter who is not well.

On the ride back from the shrine, we stopped in the parking lot of St. Maria Goretti Church, where we hoped to find my cousin Matthew, waiting for his kids (Eleyna and Charlie) to get out of their catechism class.  We found him, and when the kids came out of the school, they were delighted to find us in the parking lot!  They were so excited to see Liam! 

And Liam was happy to see them, although his giant smiles were oddly interspersed with recurring cries.  He was toggling back and forth between being delightfully happy and downright sad.  Could he not make up his mind?

Finally, I realized that he was trying to tell me something:  he was glad to see his second cousins, but his diaper had simultaneously exploded up his back, and he needed an immediate change of clothes!  Thank God I was prepared, and the problem was quickly remedied.  :)

What a wonderful day.  Liam and I can't wait to do it again!