As Catholics, we have a tendency to refrain from sharing about our personalrelationship with God. However, this is something we feel needs to change! Webelieve sharing our faith with others and being witnesses to how God has workedin our lives, can only help to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ!
In order to help facilitate this sharing, we will be featuring conversion stories and personal testimonies about how God has impacted the lives of our parishioners.
I've just recently returned from Corpus Christi's pilgrimage to Fatima, Santiago, Lourdes and Paris. I was so excited to participate and didn't know what to expect. I felt called to this pilgrimage by the experiences my daughter had the previous summer in Spain and through some inkling deep within me that surely was the Holy Spirit. Before I left I had asked myself, "Why am I going? What does God want me to receive from this experience?" I knew that I wanted reparation for my sins and the sins of others, but I still wasn't sure what God had in store for me along the way.
This is a little story of how the Lord helped us all, Find Grace:
We arrived in Fatima on Wednesday October 11, in the evening, sleepy but spirited. Immediately we walked to the Fatima Plaza to attend Mass in one of the chapels of the Holy Trinity Church, but we missed it as the chapel runs on a tight schedule and we came ten minutes too late.
The next morning, after Mass, our group set off to learn about the history of Fatima and the events in the surrounding area. We started at the Basilica only to find it closed for the whole 100th anniversary weekend! We were so disappointed, but pilgrimages have their disappointments and hardships, or else they wouldn't be pilgrimages!
Our group was led to the front of the Basilica and next to the Little Chapel of the Apparitions that is the actual site of the Marian Apparitions at Fatima. Mary appeared in a holm oak where now a small little chapel stands surrounded by an indoor/outdoor chapel. We proceeded across the Plaza, approximately ¼ mile to the Church of the Holy Trinity, which seats 8,633 people. Not too long after, as we were to board the bus to visit the site of the angelic apparitions, we noticed that one member of our group was missing: Grace, the lady who had led the singing at Mass earlierin the morning.
Both tour guides and the security at Fatima went to look for her where she was last seen, the Little Chapel of Apparitions, but she wasn't there. We thought maybe she had walked back to the hotel, so the group continued on with our daily schedule, but we were getting pretty nervous about her being onher own.
The tour guide checked in with the hotel several times that morning, even to the point of having someone go check her room. Grace was not there, nor had anything in the room been changed. She hadn't been seen for a long time now. Later in the afternoon, we went to the police and gave her picture over so they could search. By dinnertime, we were so worried that we thought about calling the American Embassyto report a missing American.
Back at the Fatima Plaza, a rosary procession and an international Mass were going on. After dinner, we just had to go look for her, so seven of us set out to search. When we arrived at the Plaza, it was nighttime, and there was a sea of people around us: 80,000 people, praying and holding candles surrounded us. We proceeded to pray. We prayed that the Lord, St. Anthony and the Blessed Virgin Mary would help us find Grace, who we knew had to be somewhere in this ocean of prayer.
Our group plunged into the crowd. The plan was to head to the Little Chapel of the Apparitions—the last place Grace had been seen. We inched our way through candle after candle, person after person. Finally, we reached a pathway of polished stone used by pilgrims to walk on their knees in prayers of thanksgiving for graces received from the Lord. The Pathway went from the Church of the Holy Trinity to the Little Chapel. In single file we made our way down the path until scolding security guards stopped us. One of our group, Monique felt called to drop to her knees and she continued to proceed along the path praying intently, with us following close behind.
We finally reached the Little Chapel, filled to the brim with pilgrims praying the rosary. We couldn't see Grace anywhere. We continued to follow Monique and rounded the corner of the Little Chapel. Through the glass walls, we spotted a sparkly black hat and leopard print vest. There she was! We had finally found Grace! I grabbed her roommate, Emma,and asked if that was Grace, for sure. Indeed it was!
We all began to cry. We joined in the sea of 80,000 and with such overwhelming joy and thanksgiving we said the rosary and sang the hymns with all our hearts. When the ceremony was over, we went back to Grace and she told us she'd been there all day and she would have stayed there all night until someone came for her. Glory to God that He led us right to her. Her patient and joyful surrender to the Lord and trust that He would provide some way of helping her touched us deep in our hearts. She had been found and returned safe and sound to her hotel.
As we continued on our pilgrimage, four of us in particular, made it our responsibility to know where Grace was at all times—Grace has a bad knee that gives her pain with too much walking and slows her down. Grace always had her cadre of assistants wherever we went.
We all agreed that we had "found Grace" in more than one way. Through this grace we grew in patience, fortitude, and the desire to give a sincere gift of self to those around us. We realized that miracles happen every day, through the abundant love and mercy of the Lord. We will never forget how the Lord gave us Grace and how He led us all closer to Him through her. Thank you to Monique, Bernie, Pam, Emma, Michelle, and Tracy for their assistance on thatadventure! And there is more!
The second miracle of the pilgrimage happened when we reached Lourdes. Monique, one of my dearest friends, has been dealing with cancer for a number of years and was really looking forward to the healing baths at Lourdes. She was greatly disappointed when she learned she was not one chosen from the parish who would receive special permission to skip to the beginning of the line for the baths. Monique accepted the truth that not everyone could possibly make in it there, but she continued to hope and pray.
On the day of the baths in Lourdes, Monique, Pam, and I got in line. We were at the back of the line and it seemed as if the Lord had other plans. Suddenly, one of our group came back to us wondering if we had seen another woman who was supposed to be at the head of the line. We all immediately thought that maybe Monique could take her place if they couldn't find the woman. Monique and Pam went to ask but couldn't catch up with those ahead of us in line. I stayed put to hold her placewhile they went off.
Monique was able to find the only English speaking guard and she began pleading her case. He immediately stopped her, looked at her kindly, and invited her to the front of the line. He looked at Pam and asked if anyone wanted to come with her. Pam immediately thought of me and came to get me. Pam and I walked back to the guard and he called me by name, "You are Rachelle. Come Rachelle."
I thought this was unusual as I had forgotten my name tag back in Arizona. He gave me a hug, and escorted me to Monique. We looked at each other and both began to cry. The Lord had been so generous,and just when we thought He had said, "No."
A few moments later, the guard escorted Pam in with us as well. We had a strange feeling that this guard wasn't just a guard. We did not see him again.
We were all abundantly blessed to have been given the gift of the healing baths first hand. Just when we thought we weren't going to be able to make it, the Lord provided an opportunity and brought us into His healing embrace. We found Grace, and were given so much more by surrendering ourselves to the Lord and His plan. We let the Lord take us out of our comfort zones, be humbled and He taught us to give thanks for the gifts we have been given. It was an experience we will never forget, and we will always be thankful for the way the Lord loved us through thePilgrimage.BACK TO LIST