Tom & Sue in France

Bon Soir from France:
 
Well, another bad night for the Internet and E-Mail last night … but I’m  getting ahead of myself. 
 

No one has an explanation of what we saw.
No one has an explanation of what we saw.

I did want to tell you about one of the photos I sent you with the last e-mail. The sun had come out when we got out of the car for the second  time at Paray-Le Monial near the Chapel of the Apparitions.  While we were walking to the Chapel, for some reason I looked up at the Sun and saw a  Rainbow Ring around the Sun in a perfect circle.  The inner part of the  ring just didn’t look natural to me.  I immediately pointed it out to Susan  and she saw the same thing and said … get photos!  I was able to stare at  the Sun and Rainbow Ring for a couple of seconds and I saw what I thought looked like a Cross. I immediately snapped a few pictures. I found out,  just today from a friend, that this phenomena was on the French News the next  dayThey can’t explain the occurrence but said that it is something very  rare.  (Just thought I would share with you)

Okay … to get back on track.  We made our way to Noiretable, France and “The Queen GPS” brought us directly to the main Church in the center  of town. Unfortunately, (which is not rare), it was the wrong  Church.  Susan went over to the Office of Tourism and got a map from  them. 

Unfortunately, the girl did not speak English so she could not help  us but gave us some literature in English.  We walked back over to the  main Church and entered.  Only a few people were in there, apparently  planning some sort of Mass.  I walked up to them to try to get some  information while Susan sat in a pew looking at the literature she had just  received.  As I was trying to communicate via “universal language” to find  the location of the Marian Shrine, Susan found it on her map and said … “Ask  them … “L’Ermitage”!.  Immediately one of the girls knew what we  were asking and motioned for us to come outside so that she could point us in  the right direction.   We thanked her and headed back out.
 
I hadn’t driven 100 yards down the street when we saw a sign for Notre Dame L’Ermitage.  We made the turn and from that point on, the driving path was well marked.  We drove up, up and away … heading further up the mountain.  I loved those “S Turns” … (I now call them the “Susan-Turns” because she claws her fingernails into the leather of the “Beamer”.)  We  got to the very, very top of the end of the mountain and there was the Monastery  of Notre Dame L’Ermitage (another Shrine maintained by the LaSalette  Religious.
 
We were trying to make the 11:30 A.M. Mass that we had hoped to  attend.  Time was getting very short.  We parked the car and headed  quickly toward the Religious Store nearby to try to find out where Mass might be  taking place, since it appeared the Shrine was not open at the time.  The  Sister inside tried to point us in the right direction (in French) … something  about going around and around.  We thanked her (pretending like we knew we understood) and purchased some small mementos for our “At Home Shrine).
 
We walked to an area we thought Sister had described and saw a door that  appeared to be to a Monastery Residence.  Feeling brave, we opened the door  and walked into a lobby-type area.  I began to walk up a few stairs thinking that might be the Church when a Sister came out a side door at the foot  of the staircase.  We are not sure if she scared us or we scared her.   The three of us just stared at each other for a few brief seconds and Susan said  “Mesa????”.  She was quiet for a moment and repeated … “MESA????” and we shook our heads yes.  She motioned for us to follow her and opened a door and motioned for us to walk in.  It was a very small Chapel with only about  8 Religious Sisters sitting on various chairs and a Priest quietly seated in a  chair behind the Altar.
 
It was so quiet in this small Chapel and we thought Mass was about to begin when Father stood up to begin the Prayers of the Faithful … We had
missed the  Readings and Gospel Acclamation.  OOPS!  (Not to mention that we were the only non-Religious in this small Chapel!).  We quickly realized that we were in the Sisters’ Private Chapel for their Daily Mass with the Monastery  Priest!
 
We followed along with the remainder of the Mass as if we knew exactly what we were doing.  At the time of Communion, we followed the lead of the Sister who had welcomed us into their Chapel. When Susan approached Father to receive Communion, there was a delay as he retrieved the Host from his Ciboria.  After Susan had received and began to walk away, she realized  that Father had placed FOUR HOSTS in her hand for consumption … perhaps he  knew how many days we had not received the Eucharist since our departure from home?  It was a Blessing for her.
 
As Communion was concluding, we were both Praying and began to look around the small and intimate Chapel.  All of a sudden we both saw it … The Original Statue of Our Lady of Notre Dame L’Hermitage … she was right there on  the right side of the Altar.  In plain sight and looking over all of us in  the Chapel.  It was a serene moment for the two of us.
 
After the Final Blessing and as Father departed the Chapel, the Sisters  began a Litany of Prayers while addressing the Statue of Our Lady.  They  followed the Prayers with another Litany they SANG AS IF ANGELS to Our Lady …it was beautiful and surreal.
 
We were ready to leave after Mass when Father came out of the Sacristy and  directly towards us (he must have seen that “T” (“Tourist”) on our  foreheads.  He wanted to know where we were from.  He had a broad  smile and said he was Italian, French and from Madagascar (quite a  combination).  As he was speaking with Susan, one of the Sisters … the  one who had met us in the hallway and brought us into the Chapel, came up and,  through “universal language”, invited us to share lunch with all of them.   Shocked, we graciously accepted (never say “no” to a Sister who is staring  directly at you).  We were able to understand that we had about 20 minutes  to explore before dining with them.  Father guided us to the door, gave us  the European double cheek kiss, let us out and locked the door behind us.
 
There was a beautiful “monument type” structure outside the Monastery with a Cross high atop.  We walked up to the very top and, as we were taking  photos, we heard whistles and turned to see Sister and Father on a balcony of the Monastery beckoning us that lunch was ready.  We waved and began to  descend.  We made our way back to the door Father had locked behind us …and it was still locked!  We tried to knock lightly … then harder …  then with our fists … knowing that the Sisters and Fathers were waiting to eat their lunch but there was no answer.  We tried to tap on the windows too, on what we thought was their dining room … no luck.
 
Finally, we decided that it was time to give us and we began to head back to our car. All of a sudden, Sister appeared from another completely different area of the grounds, did her whistle again and beckoned us to follow her to the complete opposite end of the grounds (duh … we didn’t quite get that interpretation!) 
 
Sister gestured for us to be seated at one of two tables with Father, two 
other guests, Sister and another Sister while the other Nuns were at the
next  table.  We feasted on a delicious carrot salad followed by an incredible stewed pork dish in a sauce, potatoes and breads … followed by a selection of  cheeses, fruits and desserts.  Oh, yeah … and carafes of regional red  wine which kept being refilled.
 
The room was filled with laughter as they all attempted to communicate with us in English … each trying to “out-do” the other with “What Is Your Name?”  … “Sank You” … “Have A Good Day” … “Where Are You From” … “Do You Have  Children”.  As we answered, they had no clue what we were saying.  The  laughter that filled the room was beautiful.
 
We did manage to learn that the Sister who had become our “Angel of the  Day” was “Sister Marie Paul” … because of her love for Saint John Paul Deux… we renamed her to Sister Marie Paul Deux and she loved it!  I sat next to a young and vivacious Nun … who we learned was from Madagascar … Sister  Susiac which she said means “Sister Flower”!  She was a riot and we learned  that she was the “Chef” at the Monastery.  I quickly informed her that I do  all the cooking in our home.  Susan shook her head and put up her hands as  if to say … “he always has to do that to me!”.  The room filled with laughter.
 
With this great meal and time spent nearing an end, it was almost 2:00 P.M.  It was time for the Sisters to open the Shrine and get back to work  … (Father probably had time for a quick nap after such a great lunch),   We bid our farewells with a lot of hugs and kisses, requests from the Sisters for our Prayers for them (and theirs for us), a beautiful Blessing from Father Jean for our journey and this great experience was at its end.
 
Having had our fill of meat, when we got back to the car, I let the  “chicken out” (LOL) … (for those of you who actually read our e-mails).
 
We then wanted to walk to the original spot of the Apparitions and the “Source of Water” where there is said to be a Fountain and “Ex-Votos”, but the sign indicated that it was a 1-1/2 hour walk to the Source each way.  It  was bitterly cold and windy and I figured that if we took on the task, the  Sisters just might find us frozen to death along the path in a few days … so  we decided to depart.
 
We made our way to the next hotel in Clermont-Ferrand and checked in.   I decided that we should go into the city to find the Basilica of Our Lady of  the Port where many miracles have taken place.  So we turned on “The Queen GPS” and muddled our way through the busy city.  Not being able to Find Notre Dame Du Port with “The Queen”, we had her guide us to the Cathedrale of  Clermont-Fermond and we found a parking lot and began our walk,

We found the Cathedrale of Our Lady of the Assumption which was quite spectacular even from the outside with its twin spires. But I really wanted to get to Notre Dame de Port which was our goal so we headed out on our  quest.  We had entered the Sacristy of the Cathedrale (Ed … see photos of  the Sacristy … just for you!) … We spoke to either the Sacristan or the Priest to ask for directions.  The “universal hand signals” began and we  didn’t want to look like dummies so we acted as if we understood and hoped wecould figure out the hand signals once outside.

Walking and walking and walking, we could not find N-D De Port so we went back to our car in the parking lot.  Still determined, I drove around and
around Clermont-Ferrand with determination but no luck. I finally saw a religious tower amid the buildings, so we parked the car once again and began another walk-a-thon.  It was getting bitterly cold and windy but I was going to find this Shrine.  Between the two of us, we approached at least a dozen people to try to get directions.  Most had no clue what we were  asking and the others were trying to give us directions back to the  Cathedrale.  With great frustration, we gave up … called it quits and  drove back to our hotel.

Disappointed, we returned to the hotel knowing that we were tired but still wanting to get the Trip Report done … re-pack and figure out clothes for tomorrow, etc., etc. … That is when the fun started (or not so fun!).

The Internet Wi-Fi at the hotel would not allow both of us to be on our separate AOL E-Mail Accounts … for some reason, the hotel was trying to block  AOL and re-direct us to their local site (spam and spyware being updated now  very often).

So, exhausted, I climbed in to bed and get to sleep … oh … my  mistake!  I was already in bed dictating this e-mail for Susan to type …  LOL!

Au Revoir … tomorrow’s report is an exhilarating day with two Cathedral friends that we met up with in France and shared 5 glorious hours at a Shrine and spending time together.

God Bless Each And Every One Of You.

On an ending note, today we received two very sad emails at our final destination.  A dear friend from our Cathedral, Rick Dolan, has passed away after a tough struggle with cancer.  A long time Priest friend from  St. Anselm in London, England, Father Damien, passed away and we just learned of  his death.  We met Father Damien while in LaSalette, France many years ago  and have stayed in touch over the years … hoping that one day our paths would  cross again … Rest in peace, Rick and Father Damien.

Love and cherish those you have while they are with you.  God  Bless.

May  God bless all of you … Always!
OUR LADY OF THE HERMITAGE … LASALETTE  SHRINE

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Tom & Sue in Paray-Le-Monial (St. Margaret Mary Alacoque)

Bon Jour:
Today is going to be one of our favorites….a visit to Paray-Le-Monial and the apparitions of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque.

I had a glorious shower in the morning and coffee was ready when we ventured out of our bedroom.  And breakfast was on the table thanks to our hostess.  We were offered eggs but we weren’t that hungry.  We did, however, nosh on their homemade breads, cheeses, jams and juices.  We returned to our room and packed up and left before the other B&B guests arrived for breakfast because we wanted to take the drive and arrive in Paray-le-Monial before their scheduled 11:15 A.M. Mass which we had planned to attend.
 
The ride through the French countryside was beautiful once again.  We did hit some heavy traffic in a couple of spots along the way … so we missed the 11:15 Mass at Paray Le Monial…..unfortunately!  We are yearning for our Daily Masses.
 

Paray Le Monial:  The road is clearly marked....but still can be a bit tricky to get close to the Shrine
Paray Le Monial: The road is clearly marked….but still can be a bit tricky to get close to the Shrine

At Paray-le-Monial, we followed the “tourist arrows” and parked in the tourist parking lot which was about 1 mile from where we thought we parked many years ago.  So, we decided to be “pilgrims” and “rough it”.  I decided to try to get a closer parking space and couldn’t because there was road construction.  About half way as we walked to the Shrine, a huge mass of storm clouds started rolling in … and it was very, very cold and windy!  We realized we had forgotten our umbrellas which probably would have been useless anyway … so I told Susan that we should head back to the car to get out of the apparent bad weather and find a better parking place.
 

The magnificent Basilica at Paray Le Monial
The magnificent Basilica at Paray Le Monial

I remembered that we had parked much closer to the Shrine when we were here 7 years ago.  Determined, I headed out and we made our way (with GPS), through the streets and found a parking lot that was much closer.  Actually, it was about 200 feet from the Chapel of the Apparitions!  We had a little time to spare because everything is closed from Noon until 2:00 P.M. and it was only 12:30 P.M. 
 

The grounds here at Paray Le Monial offer a peaceful place of prayer
The grounds here at Paray Le Monial offer a peaceful place of prayer

Our plan was, at that time, to visit the Gardens, the Main Basilica … and to spend time, once again, in the Adoration Chapel where we Prayed our Rosary for your Special Intentions for those in need … We were alone there, except for one women who was intent in the front pew before we got there and still there when we left after Praying.  Some tour groups came through quickly and, unfortunately, a quick trip in to Adoration, speaking and out the door.  We think it makes Jesus very sad.
 

The Chapel of the Appariitions at Paray Le Monial
The Chapel of the Appariitions at Paray Le Monial

We made it back to the Chapel of the Apparitions at about 5 minutes until 2:00 P.M. and found the doors to be unlocked. We sat and Prayed in the Chapelle for the Special Intentions which we carry with us … especially and in particularly for Susan’s brother, John, who is very ill … and for Wilton’s long list of Special Intentions that he gave to us before we departed Florida. 

There was not an Intention Book to write in in the Chapel of Apparitions, but there was an Intention Basket in front of the Incorrupt Body of St. Margaret Mary that you can place your Intentions in.  So we went back to our car and Susan took one of her several copies of Wilton’s Intention Lists and added other names specific to this Shrine and the need for Prayers.  The “list” was 4 pages!  We did this first and foremost for Susan’s oldest brother, John, who is and has been suffering from many issues and is facing lifetime issues.  This day is his Birthday and Susan wanted to offer her day for her oldest brother.
 
For Wilton, we did this because we couldn’t think of a better place than at the Sacred Heart of Jesus Shrine which he has tremendous devotion to and promotes unselfishly, humbly and continually.  The Poor Clares who accept Petitions and Pray for them looked at me with a weary eye as we dropped 4 pages in the Intention Basket in front of Saint Margaret Mary’s Incorrupt Body.  We can’t attach this “story” tonight, because the hotel we are in this evening will not give us access to our normal AOL Account where we store everything (Internet problems in Europe thus far).
 
We left Paray and headed to our next Bed & Breakfast just outside of Paray.  We stopped, first, for our supplies and “meatless” dinner because we don’t eat meat on Wednesdays or Saturdays because of our additional dedication to our Brown Scapular Devotion.  So, we knew that we could not have arranged dinner at our B&B.  They did, however, have some chickens roaming around the farm that I thought would make a tasty meal tomorrow (LOL).
 
The accommodations were fantastic.  I thought we had a first floor this time … ended up climbing a set of stairs to our room … oh well!  We had our “Meager Meal” which was actually really good (including the grilled sardines in a can).  And Susan managed to get out our Trip Report from the day before while I jumped in to bed around 7:30 P.M. … unfortunately, I think I have caught a cold.  I fell asleep in about 5 minutes.  It was sleeping peacefully until Susan kept waking me up because she couldn’t hear me breathing and wanted to make sure I was alive!
 
As you can tell, we have had to write this to you the day after.  I slept for 12 hours straight and feel I needed it.  I don’t know what time Susan came to her “Bernadette Bed”, but she needed that “girl time”.  I can’t imagine it was much later than me with the schedule we have been running.
 
So here you have it.  Yesterday’s report today (on our time).  We will catch up when we can.  That’s it for now so that we can get this out to you.
 
Au Revoire and Love and Prayers … May the Sacred Heart of Jesus shine His love and mercy upon all of you and keep you safe.  

Click here too learn more about Margaret Mary Alacoque and Paray-le-Monial

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Tom & Sue on the Road Again…Tuesday May 19

Bon Soir, (good evening) … we are a day late with Tuesday’s  Report …
we were informed they did not have Internet after we checked in to  our B&B. 

Will send today’s report out to you tomorrow.   Sorry!

 
As I lie on my bed after a truly, truly exhilarating day, Susan  is typing
this as we re-live it … how good is that?
 
After 10 glorious hours of sleep (wasn’t enough but that’s okay),  we do feel rejuvenated.  The swelling in our legs, hands and feet have  gone down from traveling.  But we our legs still feel like we are on an  airplane!
 
We came down from our room this morning to turn on the coffee,  but it was
already brewed and breakfast was on the table. Just love Bed & Breakfasts. Our hostess was wonderful. We nominated her  for the Angel of the Day.
 
We re-loaded the luggage in to the car which was  organized this time
(thanks to Susan), and it all fit into the trunk.  I  would definitely have hated
that Volkswagon. 
 
It was colder this morning … in the low 40 degrees.  Big  change from
South Florida.  So we layered-up and headed out.   

Our first stop was about two hours away and we truly enjoyed a relaxing and peaceful drive up and down the hills of the French Countryside on  wonderful back roads.  We made a pit-stop in a small town on the way to  our first Shrine.  We had our first Cafe Oulette (coffee with steamed  milk) and, of course, a toiletten.  Getting out of that small village was  a problem.  There was construction.  And as much as I now love “The 

Our "escort" out of town
Our “escort” out of town

Queen”( the auto GPS), she kept running us around in circles.  So, I  followed a police van and, when he stopped, I politely asked him for help to  get out of the village.  He and his female partner didn’t speak English,  but they understood and they “escorted” us out of town (see  photos).
 
We arrived at our first Shrine about an hour later … a  beautiful Marian Shrine just off the mountain road (see photos).  We went  in the wrong way on a one-way road into the Shrine because we saw another car  do that!  We came to find out that HE WAS THE PRIEST OF THE PARISH!   But, he was very gracious and let us into the Shrine where we parked. He even  opened up the toileten for me … too much French Coffee and  Water!
 
We entered this spectacular and small Shrine to Our Lady of The  Oak (yes, another to Our Lady of the Oak … please read the story!).  As  pretty much always happens to us, we were all alone in this small Shrine …  except for Jesus in the Tabernacle and Our Blessed Mother.  We know that  She was there, because, as we sat and Prayed for all of you and your Special  Intentions, there was such a great peace that came over both of us … it is  difficult to explain.
 
We spent a lot of time in this Shrine … not just Praying …  but conversing with Our Blessed Mother about each of you and about your Special Intentions for those you love.  We finally got up, lit our  candles on your behalf, and Susan placed our Intentions and yours in the  Intention Prayer Book in the Shrine.  We then tried to go to the  Religious Store and  it was locked.  I rang the bell and, lo and  behold, our Priest-friend who had allowed us access to the Shrine, opened the  door.
 
We learned that Father was from Madagascar and that he has been  in France for 5 years.  He is a Priest from the Marian Shrine at  LaSalette, France, were he have been blessed to visit 3 times.  (Since we  can’t remember Father’s name right now, we are going to name him Father  Madagascar).  He took us into the Religious Shop where we purchased a  memento for our “Pilgrimage Curio” at home.  Susan asked him to Bless our  purchase.  We don’t know what he said, but it was very  beautiful.
 
Before we left this Shrine, we walked the grounds and made one  last stop
to Our Lady in the Chapel.  We sat once again and talked with  her a little
more (had a little more to ask from her for a few more things on  your
behalf.).
 

We then headed on to our next Shrine … The Grotto Sanctuary of  Remonot (Cave Chapel) which was about an hour’s drive away … AND INTO THE MOUNTAINS!  I must say that for me, as always, it was a spectacular  drive.  And I must say that for Susan, as is not the norm … SHE WASN’T  AFRAID (well, maybe once or twice but not bad!).
 
It was a majestic and peaceful drive.  At one point, we  drove “through the clouds” that we had been looking at from a distance.   There was no fear because, along the way, there were numerous statues of Our Blessed Mother, facing the road, as if She was watching over all of the  travelers along the roadside.  It was amazing.
 

Entrance to Remonot Cave
Entrance to Remonot Cave

We arrived at Remonot Cave/Chapel and parked right in  front.  This Shrine is in a cave in a mountain!  Again, please take  time to read this story of the Shrine. We entered this Sacred Shrine and we were immediately filled with peace and awe as we explored this small and  sacred Cave/Chapel. 
(Please see photos).
 
Remonot-Cave-ChapelAs happens often, we were all alone the entire time we were  there.  So we
sat and Prayed our Rosary aloud to Our Blessed  Mother.  We lit candles for your Special Intentions and placed those  Intentions in their Prayer Book.  One candle, we placed in front of a  statue of an unknown source of God Our Father Holding His Slain Son In His  Arms. The beauty of this statue was the Pain depicted in the Eyes of God,  Our Father with his dead Son in his arms.  It helped us  to somewhat understand the love that God has had for us to give us  his Only Begotten Son, God Himself, to save us all.
 
The other candle was lit and offered in front of the statue of  Our Lady Depicting the Pieta.  We gathered Holy Water from this Sacred  Site which flows from an unexplained cave fountain.  We rubbed our eyes (and I rubbed that leg that didn’t fit in my seat on the plane … LOL).   For this Holy Water has been known to cure the blind, those with eye problems,  the lame and the paralyzed as well as many other Miracles.  We filled  their Intention Book with your Intentions.  It had been so quiet and we  had been so alone. As we prepared to depart, about 10 people came through the  small door of the Chapel/Cave. 
 
The first thing that Susan and I said to each other after was  exactly the same … “How peaceful it was as we Prayed our Rosary together …  it was almost like we were lost in time”.  It truly was not like at home  and in our daily lives when you try to Pray peacefully but so much is on your  mind.  Nothing mattered there today at this Shrine … except Praying our  Rosary! 
It was awesome.

As we left the Remonot Cave/Chapel, we stopped on a curve on the side of the road and ate the wonderful sandwich that I had made from our left- overs last night. It was just after 3 and we prayed Divine Mercy  first.
 
We then headed out to our next Bed & Breakfast which was  about an hour
away from Remonot.  It was a beautiful drive and “The  Queen” brought us right to our destination.  Our Hostess at the B&B  did not speak a word of English … except she was mortified when we asked for  the Wi-Fi Code … it was broken.  We learned tonight that she was very upset we could not get this Trip Report out to you and we told her not to  worry.
 
As we took over the Main Salon of our B&B as we did last  night … and thinking that we were the only guests, couples began arriving  back at their B&B to change for dinner in the Dining Room.  We had  completely forgotten about ordering dinner as our new found B&B friends  dined on the homemade foods of our hostess and we chomped down on our  store-bought cheese pizza.  I am already checking on our upcoming  B&B’s to remember if dinner is offer…….because tonight’s dinner  looked awesome and we missed out.
 
One of the guests this evening spoke a little English. We called  him Santa
Claus and he liked this.  During the course of this evening, as  everyone conversed in French, he tried to speak to us in English.  He  tried to explain to everyone else what we had answered to him.  He  understood and we could tell that the other guests could not believe our  endeavors. He asked what magazine we worked for……he was truly  amazed we did this on our own and for so many others.   As we were  standing outside during our “dirty smoking deed”, we could hear him  aggressively explaining our pilgrimage and spiritual endeavors which they,  apparently, had so many questions about.  It was quite fascinating.   Near the end of the evening, he said to us … “thank you for having met me  … I had many questions.”  In short, we felt he was telling us that we  helped him to understand American Citizens much more and that we are not what  “news” makes of us.  He gave us his email address so that we can send him  our Trip Reports and he will translate from French to English and send them to  the others.  We will all be sharing breakfast in the A.M. … knowing  that we are certain we have helped in repairing French/American Relationships  … ha-ha!
 
Well, it is 10:30 P.M. here …  so it is 4:30 P.M. your  time … enjoy your evening and know that as soon as we finalize this, we are  off to never-never land and our individual beds.

PRAYER TO OUR LADY OF THE OAK
 
Our Lady of the Oak, you chose to manifest Your  presence in this place at
a particularly difficult time, in order to remind us  of your maternal
protection.  Look kindly upon our needs and concerns,  those of our family and
friends, of the world and of the Church.  Your  power and goodness are
infinitely greater than all of our needs.  We  confidently await this day, our
Loving Mother, Your help, light and  protection.  In Your kindness, hear and
answer us.   Amen.

Lights out … see you tomorrow when we arrive at our  next hotel and get
this out to you.
 
 God Bless You All.  Love, Hugs &  Prayers,
 
Tom & Susan

 

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Tom & Sue’s pilgrimage Day #1 May 17th

Good afternoon,
 
We made it to Charlotte and depart for Paris in a couple hours.  I  wanted to e-mail to thank you for the 100+ responses we got for  Julia.

A lot of research has gone into our pilgrimage.
A lot of research has gone into our pilgrimage.

Susan and I had all we could do not let loose and start yelling at  each other.  I was cool because when she sees the mountains we are going  thru she is not  going to be happy.  This is not to mention the  candid camera shots of her doing last minute cleaning.  Mum’s the  word.
 

Finally airborne....nothing to do but relax now.
Finally airborne….nothing to do but relax now.

We got on the plane this morning and after a cocktail I went into the deepest sleep I have had in weeks. Our schedule before leaving was  maniacial, to say the least, and the final 2 hours this morning were touch and  go. 

Tomorrow we travel about 3 hours to our hotel with a stop in  Bar-Sur-Siene, 2 hours from the airport.  It is an important shrine of Our  Lady of the Oak which I will explain tomorrow.  This is if we get in,  because Monday is the only day they are pretty much closed.  We have had  a few of those before.

Because I have nothing to report and on days that there is not much  information to send I have decided that I was going to enclose excerpts  from a very special book that I recommend to everyone. “THE MYSTICAL CITY OF  GOD”, which is the about the life of our Blessed Mother as  God commissioned Mary of Agreda to write.  The condensed version is  800 pages and the full version is 2800 pages and both are available on Amazon  books for around $2.
 
Don’t miss this book.  It has opened my eyes to the mysteries of our  faith
and helped clarify many questions that plagued me for years.

Blessings, Tom & Sue

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The best testimony I have read in a long time…probably ever!

We received this from Tom and Sue, just before their departure to France, Spain, Andorra and Poland.  We invite you to follow along.

Bon Jour, Everyone (Just  practicing):
 
I wanted to share this with you since the power  of Jesus and Our Blessed
Mother were at work this week before are departure, and  we were part of a
beautiful “small gift/miracle” that happened at our  Cathedral on Friday and
Saturday … a wonderful send off for our “personal  pilgrimage”, as we
depart for Paris tomorrow  morning.
 
About 3 months ago, we began to notice a 50 to  60 year old woman with a knapsack on her back that appeared to be homeless  and was attending the 10:30 Sunday Masses.  As we sat around our  Sunday table on the Cathedral Patio, having already gone to Mass (which we  always do with many of our church family members and good friends), we began to  take more notice of her. 

Finally, one Sunday, Sam got up and went over to  talk to her.  I keep forgetting to ask him what he said, because 2 minutes  later, he was buying her a Rosary at our Cathedral Religious Store.   Smiling, she disappeared into Church.

Every Sunday as she went to  Mass, she would wave to Sam and Sam would encourage her to Pray the  Rosary.
 
A few weeks later, she had arrived early  and one of us bought her a doughnut and coffee, which she happily devoured at a  table by herself.  This became the norm every Sunday.  After  many “invites”, she agreed to sit with us before Mass. Her name was  Julia.
 
We found her to be  a simple and honest woman.  We learned that she wasnot homeless, but was mentally challenged.  She lives with her step-father, who adopted her when she was 12 years old and she is on disability. She was  very private since I think her father taught her to be that way so that people  would not take advantage of her, especially because she is so giving and honest  and could easily be put in a compromising position.  We learned that she  has been taking the bus (with her bus pass) each Sunday to our Cathedral so that  she could attend Mass even though she was not Catholic.  She had fallen in  love with our Catholic Faith.
 
Julia was always counting her  pennies to buy religious things in the Cathedral Religious Store.  She  would never allow us to pay for them, especially if they were for someone  else.  When she really wanted something, she would bring  a crocheted scarf or hat or doilies and try to sell them to get  the money for her purchase. (Our home is now filled with scarf’s, bright pink  and blue doilies and other objects that she would bring all of us as gifts  after we purchased something from her so that she could buy something that she  wanted.)
 
Finally, 3 weeks ago when  talking to her, she told us that she was not Catholic and that her greatest wish  was to be Baptized a Catholic and to receive Jesus Christ at Communion. She  was afraid of going to hell! She told us that she had tried to become  a Catholic but she would have to go to class at night (I don’t  think she is allowed out after dark) and she couldn’t because she took care  of her father and she does not know how to read or write or memorize things.  There wasn’t a dry eye at the table as this humble woman came to tears. She told  us that she had no other family or friends and Susan immediately told her  that she now had a Church family and many friends at our Cathedral.  The  tears stopped and huge smile lit up her  face.
 
Immediately, I went to my stash of  Scapulars and got her a Green Scapular of the Blessed Virgin.  We sat with  her and I taught her about the Blessed Mother and the promise she made  to those who believed and would say the simple Prayer everyday for  conversion. When I told her to read the pamphlet, she told us she couldn’t read  or write.  So, I  explained to her that this Green Scapular was  for conversion AND THAT SHE SHOULD CARRY IT AT ALL TIMES AND SAY THIS PRAYER  EVERY DAY for her conversion and baptism and we would say it every day for her,  too.  “Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us now and at the hour of our  death.  Amen. ( I quiz her every time I see her and
she has almost got it  right, but I don’t think Our Blessed Mother cares if
it isn’t  exact.)
 
After speaking to the powers to be and  some heavy “begging” before we left on our “personal pilgrimage”, we  were able to tell her last Sunday that
she was going to be Baptized a  Catholic.  Again, the tears flowed abundantly.

She had to meet with  Deacon John for an evaluation of her special circumstances and to be absolutely  certain that she understood our Catholic Faith. She passed with flying  colors and I think her simple innocence and tremendous humility got to Deacon  John as well.
 
Deacon John knew that Julia wanted us to  be her Godparents, along with Sam and Johna.  He made special plans to  meet with her on Wednesday for her evaluation and, after much time with the  approval process, he arranged Julia’s Baptism for Friday at 11:30 am and  Confirmation and First Holy Communion to be done on Sat. at the 8:30  Mass.
 

Preparing for the Baptism
Preparing for the Baptism

We were to pick Julia up at her bus stop  on Fri. at 10:30, but she called us very early that morning and told us  that she was taking the 9 am bus because she didn’t want to take the chance  of being late. She was so excited.  Deacon John did a great job with the  Baptismal Ceremony and Julia was just so reverent and glowing.  (Pictures  enclosed)
 
Afterwards, Susan asked Julia how  she felt and she said that she said sheJulia-baptism-blurred
felt different and so happy.  And,  she was.  For Julia now seemed at peace
and the chance of her going  to hell was out of the equation.  We celebrated by showering her with  gifts and cookies and coffee as we planned the next day’s event including  breakfast at the local diner. We dropped her off at her bus stop so that she  could walk to her home and we promised to pick her up at 8 am today.  This  morning, I left our cell phone on in case we got the call that she is catching  the 7 am bus. 
 
At 7:45 we arrived at the bus stop to  find Julia sitting on the curb and waiting patiently.  Mass began  promptly at 8:30 A.M. and Fr. Eli did a splendid service.  The  Confirmation was beautiful and, after Father has Consecrated and received his  Holy Communion and the Precious Blood, he called up Julia and she got  her most important desire … the Body and Blood of Our Lord, Jesus  Christ.  Amen.
 
Afterwards, we treated Julia to  breakfast at a local diner along with Sam & Johna and Julia said the most  beautiful grace before our meal that we were all most humbled.  She thanked  Our Lord for everything that has happened to her (for her) in the last two days  and, individually, for everyone who was involved in this “small miracle” for  her.  I think she will be teaching us a few  things!
 
We (Susan, myself & Sam) have  several challenged people that come to Mass at the Cathedral and we all always  try  to take them under our wings and help them with their needs.  We  call them “The Tests”.  Julia was one of those, but she now has her  own chair at our Sunday (after Mass) table.  I think we all  passed this test … The verdict is still out on the others … but
we  Pray.
 
Have a blessed day.
 
Warning…. Our 2015 “Personal  Pilgrimage Trip Reports” beginning
tomorrow,

Love, Hugs & Prayers,
 
Tom & Susan Melillo
Our  “2015 Personal Pilgrimage”

Prayer to St. John Paul  II

Oh, St. John Paul, from the window of heaven, grant us your  blessing!
Bless the church that you loved and served and guided, courageously  leading it
along the paths of the world in order to bring Jesus to everyone and
everyone to Jesus. Bless the young, who were your great passion. Help them dream
again, help them look up high again to find the light that illuminates the
paths  of life here on earth.

May you bless families, bless each family! You  warned of Satan’s assault
against this precious and indispensable divine spark  that God lit on earth.
St. John Paul, with your prayer, may you protect the  family and every life
that blossoms from the family.

Pray for the whole  world, which is still marked by tensions, wars and
injustice. You tackled war by  invoking dialogue and planting the seeds of love:
pray for us so that we may be  tireless sowers of peace.

Oh St. John Paul, from heaven’s window, where  we see you next to Mary,
send God?s blessing down upon us all.

Amen.

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About our pilgrimage, by Tom & Sue

FRANCE, SPAIN, ANDORRA & (KRAKOW) CRACOW,  POLAND

As  we begin to pack after months of preparation, our excitement builds … we are  almost there!  It’s been 19 months since our last  “personal pilgrimage” and 9 months since we booked our flights  (ugh)!  Long, long wait!
After hours and hours of research and planning,  we “think” we have created another great adventure filled with remote, out  of the way villages and Shrines, spectacular drives, plenty of mountains for  Susan and plenty of climbing for me … let’s hope the legs hold  out.

This is also a chance to re-visit old friends  that we have made over the years, as well as the excitement of meeting many  new people.  This year will mark over 200 Shrines dedicated to  Jesus and to Our Blessed Mother that we have visited in this, our seventh  pilgrimage.  That’s not to mention all the Saints and other wonderful  Basilicas that we been fortunate to have traveled to over the  years.

This isn’t a luxury-filled journey by  any means.  Except for the CAR!  I’ve  reserved a Mercedes for the month.  If we get  it.  And, I’ll say it only once right now …  “DID I TELL YOU I LOVE THIS  CAR?”   For those of you
who have traveled  with us via our Daily Trip Reports over the years, you  will understand!

On  this trip will we will drive about 3,500 miles and visit 4 countries  including France, Spain, Andorra, and we will fly to Cracow, Poland for a 5  day visit.  No driving there, we will use the train, bus  and walk. Our greatest luxury will be a Queen or  King-Size Bed.  And a shower bigger than a linen  closet!  (I better get some “soap on a rope” just in  case!).   There are no fancy  restaurants or resorts.  Just local bistros,supermarkets,  picnics and small hotels and Bed and Breakfasts (some with
home-style  meals).

When, How and Why, Many Have Continually Asked  …

When?
Sunday, May 17, 2015 for 33  Days!

How?
Just do a lot of research and planning, book a  flight, rent a car, and go!  (With lots of Faith!)

Why?

Why Do We Take These “Personal  Pilgrimages”?  We  have answered these questions many different ways in the past.   But Susan and I both feel that our “personal pilgrimages” have become  more likea “Vocation” rather than a “Vacation”.  It is a  joyous time filled with a lot of Prayer and adventure.  It  is a chance for us (and you) to experience the great glory and  mysteries of our Faith.  And, for us to travel and Pray  for you (and along with you) for all of your Special Intentions … which, through the Grace of God and Our Blessed Mother, many Prayers have been answered.

As  we all work and strive (or at least should) for Eternal Life and redemption,  these “Personal Pilgrimages”, for us, is one of Faith, Hope & Love (Charity) which always leaves us refreshed and  renewed.Our  Lord said … “For those who receive, much is expected”.   This, to us, is part of our “giving back” that which is expected. 
Personal Pilgrimages”.

WHY A PILGRIMAGE?

Going on Pilgrimage is to uninstall  and go to other places, to otherlands, to other people, it is open to the  unknown … and the new.  Journeying is a physical and  spiritual journey: investment of the whole body, de-cluttering, in favor of  the essential, to go to meet the unknown, not only walk inside.  Walking forces them to invest a whole.  Not only the heart, but also with the body.   And Faith comes not  only from the head but also by hands, by legs, etc.

Pilgrimage is an important moment (moments of  healing and building), but it must return to daily life.  Indeed, the  time is not yet ripe for the Pilgrim to stay on the mountain.  He must  go down as Peter, James and John after the  Transfiguration.

As  always, we send this early so you can send us your Special Prayer Intentions  now.  As in the past, you can always send them to us while  we are on our journey.  On our last Pilgrimage, we were  Blessed to carry and Pray for 268 of your Special Intentions.   That’s Susan’s job to keep them straight and deliver them to the  right Shrines which she does so carefully.  Your job is to  Pray with us for those intentions.  Please remember us  also in your Prayers.

That’s it for now. Our first report  will be on the 17th and hopefully, daily, if time  permits.  So sit back and “ENJOY THE  RIDE”.

May  God bless all of you … Always!

Tom & Susan  Melillo

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