September is the Month of Mary of Sorrows. The Feast Day for the Sorrows of Mary is 15th of September. Nazareth House Apostolate is convinced that Pilgrimage is important and necessary, especially in these troublesome times.
There is a special place hidden away in Kentucky, where everyday people make pilgrimage. It is a location where the property owner had a vision of Mary on the top of the hill. A shrine was built in which the statue of Mary of Sorrows was placed.
Stairs reaching up the hill to the shrine were made, the neighbors pitched in.
When the property owner passed away the neighbors and others purchased the property from Medicare which had taken the property to cover the cost of the lady's medical bills. This Shrine is not owned by the church, but by laity. This Shrine is not a church but is most definitely the unity of the Body of Christ within the brethren.
People come here and symbolically lay their hurts, their fears, their struggles, their hopes, their addictions and their thanksgivings at the feet of Mary, the "Yes" to God. Knowing that Mary will do what she always does, point them to her Son, Jesus.
At first glance, the artificial flowers, the items piled up at the shrine look almost "kitschy", gaudy... but as with anything, if you take the time to look deeper you see clearer. Each item is a concrete memorial of the prayers of the people.
A tape dispenser may be a prayer for binding things together, the Ale8 a last reminder of a deceased loved one, a pack of cigarettes in prayer for quitting. I've seen full bottles of bourbon, left behind in prayers of sobriety. This is humanity piled up and laid at our Holy Mother's feet, offered to her Son.
When you arrive at the Shrine you are greeted by statues of Angels and the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Just a bit East of the Sacred Heart is a Statue of Mary that leads to the bridge and the stairway to the Shrine.
As you cross the bridge, you look over to see a building being constructed.
This is a chapel being built by a man who lives in Cleveland, makes the bricks in his basement and hauls them to Kentucky in his old but well maintained car
periodically adding a row of blocks to the chapel each visit. The man's name is David Stillwell and he is an amazing Godly man.
He'd like to finish the chapel some day, but it doesn't matter to him if he doesn't because his efforts are his gift to God.
The people that come here are all amazing, and it is one of our favorite pilgrimage places to take the pilgrims that come to Nazareth House Apostolate.
It is a holy place, complete with a stream to prepare for prayer with Ablutions.
“In the Name of...”, make a simple intention, then:
- Wash the hands to the wrists saying: “May these hands be instruments of peace.”
- Then cup a handful of water to the lips with the right hand, rinsing the mouth three times saying: “May this mouth speak only the pleasing words, the healing words, the truthful words.”
- Then lightly sniff water into the nose three times, which has a remarkable brightening effect on the senses. Begin this stage by saying: “May I long for the sweet fragrance of His presence”, then sniff the water into the nose.
- Next wash the whole face and eyes saying: “May this face shine with the light of His countenance. May these eyes behold the hand of the Creator everywhere they look.”
- Clean the ears by inserting the tips of the index fingers, wetted with water, into the ears twisting them around and in the folds of the ears then next pass the thumb behind the ears from the bottom, upwards and then over the nape of the neck saying: “May these ears be attentive to the resonance of His Word; may this neck bend in humility to the One.
- Wash feet (right foot first) up to the ankles, making sure that no parts of the feet are left dry. “May these feet walk on holy ground.”
The purpose of washing each of these parts of the body is that it gives you time, bit by bit, part by part, to move your awareness away from the world and toward God. It is to remind you of the need for inward impurity to be removed, a washing the self of the self (Ps. 51:2,7; Jn. 4:10-14; Jn. 3:3; Gal. 2:20).
Time to say within your heart:
I am now going to establish a connection with God
I am going to turn toward God.
I am going to hand over my cares and my love to God.
As you make your way up the stairs you pass a Nativity Shrine, a Bathtub Mary
and small grottos. This is not a perfectly groomed, sterile, disinfected, well marketed tourist spot. This is a place that wreaks of humanity: its flaws, its strengths, positives, negatives -all coming together offering it all to God for His Will to be done.
As you approach the top of the hill you first glimpse a Golden Cross before you see the Shrine.
The shrine is in a cleared area surrounded by woodland and wildflowers.
On our visit for the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows this week, there was a man cutting the grass and trimming with a weed-eater. He said that he and his wife have taken over the care of the lawn as a penance and devotion to God.
Pilgrimage is both a journey and a sacred destination. Its a conscious effort to journey afar either in search of meaning or as an act of praise, prayer and worship.
There are many places in the USA exactly like this, tucked away waiting for people to fill with prayer. In these days of confusion, I urge you to take the time to look for them. We must remove ourselves from the bombardment of media, social media and all that seeks to distract us from our real center of focus - Our Lord and Our God. Find your place of pilgrimage and visit often.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2
"And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while..." - Mark 6:31