As I turned my car onto the grounds of The National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa, I stopped to take this picture. I was drawn to it. I had to look at it and admire the beautiful sky behind it; and I thought – I need to share it. I also thought, I’m late – and I should post this picture on Facebook so that I could say, “I’m here! I made it!”.
I drove further until I could see the Church and other buildings. I parked and gathered my belongings (a book of prayer intentions and my tripod). I started walking and saw a beautiful garden with a statue of Mary, framed by two flower bushes. I thought:
let me do a Facebook Live video here, and let the viewers know what I had discovered by my reading and prep work and what my plan was for the next few hours. After all, I did say I would go “Live” at 11:30 . . . and it was almost noon.
As I got closer to the statue I was choosing as a backdrop for my first “Facebook Live” video of the day; I noticed this was an image of Mary I was not familiar with in stone; but definitely one I am familiar with in my heart.
As I reflect on that day, I can see that this was the first lesson or directive Mary, Queen of Heaven, was relaying to me. The lessons I will outline here are in the order in which I encountered them.
Lesson #1: Pray for Peace, begin by praying for peace in the womb.
There is a quote, often attributed to the soon Saint Teresa of Calcutta that states:
What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family
As I thought about Our Lady of Czestochowa, and her role as Queen of Peace – this image was placed right in front of me. The grounds of this shrine are so vast – it is without a doubt the largest campus I have visited this summer. At one point I moved my car to see the other parts. This statue stands alone on a hill, and it was the first image I encountered up close. We must pray for expectant mothers. Me must pray for the unborn and ask Our Lady to continue to pray for them. I can’t help but recall the hymn so often sang at Mass . . . “Whatsoever You Do” to the least of my people, that you do unto me.
Lesson #2: Welcome others and be grateful when others welcome you.
Walking around these buildings, I could hear people speaking Polish. Well, I am guessing they were speaking Polish. I should say, they were speaking a language I did not understand. I had to rely on people in the office and outside to tell me where to go and who I could speak with to ask questions. Thankfully, I met some friendly, kind people. One person I met was a priest that was visiting the shrine with some of his parishioners. He allowed me to “crash” their tour, and even invited me to eat with them. I didn’t take him up on the offer, but I loved receiving it. And knowing that most people there were very friendly helped me shake off the old woman by the book shop that yelled at me as I walked into the store, “What is that? What is it??” Make sure you read that in a “mad old woman voice”. She was asking about my tripod; maybe she thought it was dangerous. I don’t know. It’s funny when I look back on it now though 🙂
Lesson #3: Love your homeland.
This one caught me off guard. As I sat and listened to the Pauline priest point out the amazing stained glass windows inside of the church; he explained that one entire wall of windows, which are more than impressive in size and detail, is an illustrated timeline of Polish history. The adjacent wall was an illustrated timeline of American history. It was so cool. I often separate my love of my country from my identity as a Catholic. But I was reminded, the land we live in is the home given to us by Our Lord. It is good to love it, care for it and pray for it.
Lesson #4: Seek God’s Mercy.
From walking into the dedicated Holy Doors of Mercy and hearing the priest explain the symbolism, to seeing the image of the Lord’s Divine Mercy prominently placed on the alter, I was reminded to go to Our Lord and receive His loving Mercy. I also saw many signs that made visitors aware that Rachel’s Vineyard holds retreats there. These retreats are a time and place where many women (and men) “reconcile painful post-abortive emotions to begin the process of restoration, renewal and healing.”
Lesson #5: Spend Time in Silence and Prayer
I was excited to go to the downstairs church. It is there that the altar at the original shrine holding the Image of Our Lady of Czestochowa (in Poland) is replicated. As I walked into the shrine, I was met with a sign:
As always, Mary leads us to her Son. Reminds us to love Him, spend time with Him and talk to Him. I stayed and spent time in prayer. I prayed for my own intentions and those who asked me to pray for special intentions this summer. I also thanked God the adoration chapel was air conditioned.
Lesson #6: Always, always, always go to Jesus.
As I left the main church building, I found myself debating – should I walk and see how far away the Rosary Garden, Retreat house and other buildings are . . .or should I drive. Before I decided, I saw this statue and had to get a closer look. Beneath it, in stone, the words of Matthew 11: 28
Come to Me, all you who labor and are burdened and I will give you rest.
Lesson #7: Reflect upon the Gospels and Pray the Rosary.
I then decided to drive up to another parking lot and check out the Rosary Garden. At this point it was really hot out, and there was little to no shade in the garden . . . but, I couldn’t help but keep walking. There is a statue every few yards representing a Mystery of the Rosary, and I found myself wanting to see how the sculptor portrayed each Gospel story. At first, I was just taking pictures. Eventually, I was praying a Rosary. I would love to go back on a cooler day with some friends. I had never seen or been to a “Rosary Garden” before, so this was a very neat experience.
*If you have trouble praying the Rosary daily, perhaps get a Rosary bracelet from Christian Bling! I LOVE this bracelet – it’s gorgeous and it is a full Rosary. I talked to Nicole the consultant I work with, and she gave all prayerwinechocolate readers a coupon code for the”Gracious Words” Rosary Bracelet. Use coupon code GW520 at check out!
Lesson #8: Enjoy the View.
God’s creation and what man has done with his talents are both incredibly gorgeous. Enjoy it. For God created everything for man. The beautiful skies, the green hills and everything in between is here for us to enjoy. Notice it, admire it and enjoy it.
Lesson #9: Return.
I definitely want to come back to this place. The next time will be for the Polish Festival next month which I know my son and husband will truly enjoy. But I also want to return with friends and hopefully for a retreat. But I also feel that Our Lady is not only telling me to return to this place, but to return to her in prayer and to trust her with my heart.
Lesson #10: Ask others for guidance.
I often had to ask where something was or how to get one place or another. We are here for one another. I am wondering, what has the Queen of Heaven taught you?