I can't put into words (or fewer words than writing a novel) how this trip changed me and intensified my relationship to Our Blessed Mother. I am not this same Allie, and for this I am eternally grateful for the opportunity afforded me on this pilgrimage. When I first starting blogging after meeting Sew, I remember reading so many blogs, namely Sew's, thanking God for the cross they were given to bear of IF or RPL. I thought to myself, "Are they crazy? Why is this cross a blessing?!" After this trip, I fully embrace my cross and am blessed to have shouldered the pain, suffering, and disappointments because I see how much closer I have grown to Our Lord while in the midst of such suffering. I know that God chose me for this hardship because he wanted a more intimate relationship with me. Had I carried our first pregnancy to term without going through these trials, my faith life would be somewhat mediocre. I would not be the stronger, faith-filled woman I am here today.
There are so many wonderful experiences from my trip. I kept a prayer journal retelling day and there are so many wonderful things I want to share. Sadly, my wallet was stolen from my basket at kroger the day I returned so I can't share any pictures (YET!) from Fatima, which was by far my favorite part of the trip. I am getting copies of my friend's pictures from her and will tell all about Fatima when I can post some pictures. I loved Lourdes also, but Fatima was by far my favorite part of the trip (aside from the miracle I experienced in Lourdes). Lourdes was commericalized. Stores sold gold chains by the inch all around the basilica. Restaurants, shops, camera stores, perfume stores, and more. Fatima was humble, smaller, and we were there on the 13 of October which is the last day Our Lady appeared and at the feast day mass there were about 200,000 faithful there and at least 2000 priests in procession. It was breath taking to see.
I cried more those 10 days, than I have in a year. I cleansed my soul, my mind, and I feel so positive for the future. I have no doubt Mary will listen to my prayers. Before this trip, I said occasional rosaries, but after Fatima, I am fully convinced of the need to say daily rosaries, and multiple rosaries in a day!
Our pilgrimage group was a motley crew at best. There were people ages 18 to 80 but by the end of the trip, we were one huge family. Our tour guide was OUTSTANDING. He is the most faithful, pious, humble man I have ever had the priviledge of knowing. Being a tour guide of holy places is undoubtedly his vocation. I can't say enough wonderful things about him. Every morning we were up at 6 and nightly international rosaries put us in bed at 10:30 or later. I was exhaused but rejuvinated at the same time. We had daily mass, rosaries, Stations, and tours. Our spiritual director, Fr. B is - I can promise you - the most humble, faithful priest on earth and I can't imagine the trip without him. The tour organizer and I are now great friends, she is a convert, and knows more about our faith than I could ever hope to know. She is amazing and I can't wait for the next pilgrimage with her on 12-12-2012 to Guadalupe!!!! If any of you want to come with us, start saving and make plans to join us, I can't wait!
There was a young girl in our tour group, named Marissa who just graduated from high school and is taking some time off before she decides what to do with her life. She was quiet, very devout, had the most beautiful voice I have ever heard, and would sing songs in Latin after our rosaries or Stations of the Cross. It was like an angel was singing. This trip was her birthday, graduation, and Christmas gift from her parents, and I couldn't help thinking was an exceptional girl this was. At 18 I was no where near her in terms of my faith, and as strange as this sounds, I was a little jealous of her for that.
The 2nd to last day we were in Lourdes Fr. B offered Blessing of the Sick after our daily mass. I had already been annointed after my first general confession (I could write a novel about that experience as well). Those who weren't getting the Annointing after mass were asked to go leave so I headed out of the Basilica to the shops to look for a nativity set for my mother and me. Well, Marissa followed me out of the Basilica and kind of followed me around the shops. I asked her to help me look for a nativity and she shopped with me for 30 minutes or so. I thanked her for helping me and we went back to our rooms. I thought it was a little odd, but thought maybe she just wanted a little company?
That afternoon there was an international Eucharistic procession and Benediction. Our tour guide told us we could sing in the international choir and that we just had to be there in the underground church at 4:15 instead of 5. There were about 5 of us who wanted to sing, and I met them all in the lobby of our hotel. On the way there Marissa asked me if I knew someone named Sophie. I said no, but I love that name and that it was the name of our first baby we miscarried, Mary Sophia but called Sophie. Marissa starts SHAKING and BAWLING CRYING. I was like What is WRONG?!!? She sobbed out, that when she left the Basilica that morning she felt the need to follow me. So she starting walking towards me and as she was looking at my back and getting closer, she felt something wash over her and she heard, "Tell her Sophie says hi". She didn't understand what is meant but was following me that morning trying to tell me but coudn't get the words out. She kept apologizing and didn't want to make me upset. I was like WHAT!?!?!? Do NOT apologize!!! This is the greatest thing you have shared with me!!! I know this is awful, but I have always had a hard time wrapping my brain around the fact that our 4 babies are in heaven. I believe a child is concieved at the very minute of conception, but this has always been hard for me to understand, especially the first baby that had no heartbeat and that was a "blighted ovum". BUT..... THIS IS THE BABY THAT CHOSE TO MANIFEST HERSELF TO MARISSA AND ME!!!! I told her this meant EVERYTHING to me and that I couldn't ask for a better miralce to happen to me while on pillgrimage!! Now I know without a shadow of a doubt that our babies are in heaven waiting on us, praying for us, helping us become better people. I cannot explain, nor will try to, my feelings of elation and joy that day. It still makes me cry (with gladness) everytime I think about our little Sophie speaking to me through Marissa.
She said nothing like that had ever happened to her before and I joked, keep close to me in case you get any more revelations! That Eucharistic Benediction was very emotional, with Marissa and I both crying often through the procession and singing when we could with others singing along with us in Italian, French, German, and we in English. It was beautiful. I felt so wonderfully complete.
The last day after our English speaking mass at the grotto (where Fr B placed all the intentions so many of you emailed me :) we got in line (in frigid 40 degree weather) for the baths. We prayed the rosary while we waiting and I was still so emotional from the day before, Marissa, Melissa, and I huddled together trying to keep out the cold while we waited. We went inside and I cried the entire time. I undressed, was assisted by several women into the first step of the bath which was freezing and prayed my heart out while immersing in the waters of Lourdes. It was the strangest thing. Coming out of the frigid waters, I felt no coldness, almost felt warm. I dressed easily, the water seemed to dry immediately. On the way back to the hotel, despite it being 40 degress and the fact that I just immersed my whole body in just as cold water, I felt strangely warm. It was unreal.
The last night there before dinner, we joined together in the basement of our hotel to say good byes and thank our guide, Javier, with words and tips. He shared with us a story of how his son met and regularly speaks with Cardinal Bertone and even spoke with the POPE! His story was breathtaking and we were all amazed. He asked us to share any experiences with the group from our 10 days together. I wanted to share but was afraid my emotions would get the best of me. I asked Marissa to do it, she slowly shook her head and I started the story. Afterwards, there was not a dry eye in the group. Everyone was touched and moved by such a miraculous experience Our Lady allowed us. I said, I may not ever have my own natural born child after this trip and the intentions and bathing, but I have received my own miracle here through Sophie.......
Crosses made from pilgrims all over the world. I made one that afternoon and tied Melissa and my intentions to the cross.
Javier (our saintly guide), Melissa and I outside Bernadette's home. During roll call he would always say, "the twins" for us!
Commercialism of Lourdes which Bernadette greatly opposed and one of the reasons why she left Lourdes for Nevers
Our group members who sang the day of the Sophie miracle. Marissa is on the far right, you can tell we had been crying all through the Benediction!