June 4: Tom & Sue in Garabandal for a second day

Buenos  Dias:
 
We slept really good last night and were ready for our climb up the mountain to Los Pinos.  We didn’t shower, since it was warm and we knew we were going to sweat. I ran down and got a pot of coffee and, after wiring up, we grabbed a couple walking sticks and headed out.  We stopped at the Village Church first to see Our Lady and  Pray our Morning Prayers.
 

We walked through the village  to the path to Los Pinos.  Every time we begin our path up the rocky gorge, we remember our first visit to Garabandal in 2007 when we made our climb in the  pouring rain and the water was gushing over our feet … we don’t know how we made it that year since it is a difficult climb without rain.  Now we are 8  years older so maybe the tough climb has something to do with it. 
 

Stopping where Saint Michael appeared
Stopping where Saint Michael appeared

We Prayed the Stations of the Cross, as always, on our way up and stopped at the Shrine to St. Michael the  Archangel (this is always a good place to “take a breather”).     Susan disappeared behind the Shrine to rid herself of the turtleneck she had worn, thinking it might be cold up there. We decided it would become our  “towel” because it was getting very hot during our climb.
 

Our new friend Roberto
Our new friend Roberto

We met “Roberto” on the way up  … a new friend and a young man from Mexico who lives in Holland now. Roberto pointed out the new “easier” path when he first met us … do we look  that “old”?  We told him that we always take the aggressive path in honor  of Our Lady.  We spoke for a short time and continued our  climb.
 
Reaching Los Pinos is always a  thrilling moment for both of us.  This is a very special, spiritual and  Prayerful place … you can feel it all around you. We finished the last  Station of the Cross directly in front of the Pine Tree where Our Lady appeared  numerous times to the four visionaries.  There were a couple of women up at  the Pines Praying their Rosary … probably 15-20 years older than us.   They had taken the “easy path” up, but we give them credit because they still  made the climb.  They left when we finished our last Station to give us our  private time at Los Pinos.  We told them to stay but they had to get back  to the village.
 

Sue praying at "The Pines"
Sue praying at “The Pines”

We Prayed our Rosary on the  bench in front of Our Lady’s Shrine realizing that, unfortunately, we were not  going to be able to make it up the Rosary Path this year as we did on our last  visit here.  Our hearts said “yes” but my knees and our feet said  “no”.
 

I tried to get a pine cone, but I guess Blessed Mother said "NO"
I tried to get a pine cone, but I guess Blessed Mother said “NO”

Before we left Los Pinos, Susan was requesting a “pine cone” to take home with us for our little “Shrine”.  Listening to her request, I tried to whack one out of the tree and almost broke my walking stick.  With no success, I decided Our Mother did not want me to take one so I quickly went over  to St. Michael to ask him to pray for me for forgiveness (LOL).
 
After an hour up at Los Pinos,  we headed back down to the Village via what we call the “Saint Padre Pio Path”  which is the long way down via a very narrow road that will allow some small  vehicles to drive up to the Pines.  This path is a very peaceful return to  reality with a beautiful and scenic walk and views of Garabandal and the mountain ranges. 

Caught a picture of this woman throwing out trash
Caught a picture of this woman throwing out trash

On our way down, I spotted an elderly woman making her  way back home down another path.  She had a bag in her hand.  I  realized it was garbage after she stopped and threw it into the woods … I  caught her red-handed with a photo (see lady with the blue hat).
 
Once we reached Garabandal, we stopped at the fountain.  The first  time we visited here, I told Susan that one side was hot water and the other  cold water … she is so trusting that she had believed me.  So each time  we are there, I try to test it again to see if she is still gullible …  LOL.
 

Tom working on our trip reports to send to you
Tom working on our trip reports to send to you

We were in time for lunch back  at Sari & Papa’s, but we had not made arrangements with them so we accepted  the fact that we had planned to fast for the day, went up to our room to  shower (we knew we would need it after Los Pinos) and then went down to the Salon at our Posada to get caught up on Trip Reports done which wasn’t easy with our stomach’s growling but we survived.
 
As we were working in the Salon, we heard loud thunder so we went out to see what was going on.   There was a tremendous hail storm going on. The weather can really change  quick here!
 
By the time we were finished  and ready to attend Mass at 7:30 P.M., the storm had cleared.  We left  early for Mass so that we could stop at the new Garabandal Foundation Center  where we met our new friend, “Michael” … an American from Philadelphia who moved to Garabandal to work at the Foundation.  He told us that he had  never been to Garabandal, but that, one day, on November 22, 2014, he got a  “calling” from Our Blessed Mother that he should move here.  He  sold everything (his family thought he was nuts) and he arrived at Garabandal on  December 8th … the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.  I think he told us that he was in the Seminary for a while and was floundering with his life decisions, not knowing what to do.  He seemed to be enormously happy and content being here in Garabandal.  My gut feeling is that Michael will be in Garabandal for a long, long time.  He is a tremendous young man and we  feel Blessed to have met him and shared time with  him.
 

Here we are with Father Rolando
Here we are with Father Rolando

It was time for Mass so we all  left the Foundation together to walk across to the Church.  Father Rolando  began Mass with a very long dissertation which, for some reason, I understood him to be telling everyone that there was not going to be the usual offering of  Special Intentions today because he had done it yesterday when we arrived in  Garabandal.  He also explained that if they looked in the Petition Box,  they would see pages and pages of Special Intentions in English that we had  delivered to Our Lady in Garabandal.
 
During Mass, Padre Rolando  offered the Opening Prayer and the Sign of Peace to the Congregation in Spanish and then to Susan and I, in English, as he had done the day before.   Tonight, we also surprised us with a special treat … unbeknownst to us, he had  arranged for Michael to get up after the First Reading in Spanish (which was  very long) and Michael re-read it to the Congregation (for us) in English.   No one seemed to mind, not even us (although we had pre-printed all of the  Readings for every day of our pilgrimage.)
 
When Mass concluded, we went in  to the Sacristy to than Padre Rolando and he pulled out this very, very old and special Cross with our Crucified Lord on it and allowed us to venerate it after he did.  This Cross was kissed by Our Blessed Mother here in Garabandal  over 50 years ago … how special is that?  Father then gave us a “bath” in  Holy Water (I tried to tell him that we had already showered … LOL).  And  he Prayed a very Special Blessing over us … just incredible to both of  us.  A lot of hugs and kisses later, we left Padre (stomach’s still  growling) and headed back to Sari & Papa’s for dinner.

 

Michael and Barry joined us at dinner
Michael and Barry joined us at dinner

As we entered the dining salon, we were pleasantly surprised to see that Michael and Barry (whom we met yesterday at lunch) were seated at our dinner table.  The food began to come out.  Michael Prayed Grace. 

No one spoke for a while as we chowed down … I guess we were all famished.  After our stomachs quit growling, we all began what turned out to be wonderful conversations.  We got on the subject of The Mystical  City of God.  Michael told us he had the books back in Philadelphia, but had never read it.  He had a lot of questions about it which I gladly  answered and shared my thoughts.
 
Another table of eight came in for dinner around 9:30 P.M.  The four  of us continued to sit and chatted for another 30-40 minutes until it was time to go to bed.  Michael told us that he would open the Foundation Center early for us in the morning after Mass and we all bid each other farewell for the evening.  On the way to our room, Susan and I stopped to talk to the people at the other table.  A few of them spoke English and they told us  that they were from Madrid and were visiting Garabandal until Sunday. They told us that they saw us at Mass and they confirmed what Father Rolando had said at Mass.  We shared a few laughs and left to retire after a long  and beautiful day.
 
Buenos Noches

Click here to learn more about the apparitions at Garabandal.

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June 3: Tom & Sue visit Garabandal

Buenos  Dias:
 
Before I begin today’s report, Susan  and I want to thank those of you who have sent your well wishes, Prayer request  updates, new Prayer Requests and just communications, in general, to let us know you are thinking of us. As much as we are enjoying our “personal  pilgrimage”, it is so great to hear from loved ones … makes us feel wanted, I  suppose (and, Kler, every time we get an email from a loved one, we say YEAH (as  Kler would  say!).
 
 So back to Monzon de Campos … 6:00  AM came early … That’s pretty stupid … it usually does.  There was no hesitation about getting up and getting going. Beatriz told us she would have  coffee and juice and something for us to eat in the salon at the hotel. She’s no  dummy getting up at that hour. As she promised it was ready and we made coffee for there and a large shot of caffeine for the road and headed  out.
 
Barring any road delays, we were going to make Mass in Garabandal on time. The drive was 2 hours and 45 minutes to and over the Cantabrian Mountain Ranges.  The first 40  minutes got us more than 2/3 of the way there.  The rest of the time you  can ask Susan about.  I was in Heaven … Susan was much warmer.   Susan did manage to take 100 pictures of our trek over the mountains but she has  to remember to keep her eyes open. LOL

We pulled into Garabandal with 20  minutes to spare before Mass and we parked at Sari’s and Papa’s  restaurant/Posada.   We saw papa on our way up walking down the 3 mile drive from Garabandal to Cosio (which he does every day).  We laughed later when we found out he gets a ride back to Garabandal from Coscio.  He looked great, and Susan decided to walk more, maybe not here but in the next  life.
 
We walked to church for the 10 AM mass and saw Father Rolando out front and got a wonderful warm greeting as he welcomed us.  We went into the church to say our morning prayers and  when I saw the  Statue of Our Lady, the tears flowed.  This is a  happy place for us and a very, very “special memory of The Virgin Mary” for  me!
 
Just as Mass was going to start Fr. Rolando left the church and a few minutes later he returned with a Monstrance. In the meanwhile, the sacristan was scurrying around to get ready for Adoration and put the Intention box in the Sanctuary  near the  altar.
 
Susan and I agreed that we should  place all the intentions we have been carrying and praying for in the Intention Box to Our Lady of Garabandal and offer your Intentions to God through her Intercession.  Susan filled the Special Intention Box with some difficulty  since we had so many.  We could
both sense something special.  Mass  that day (and as always with Padre Rolando) was as special and sacred as  always.  After saying his Prayerful welcome to the Congregation in Spanish,  Father turned to us and Prayed the welcome to us in English.  We were  astonished.
 

After Mass, Benediction started and  we all prayed for 20 minutes for all the intentions left for Our Lady.  We knew and later confirmed that this was done every Thursday and people wondered why it was done today on Wednesday.  We were very touched because we had  emailed Padre Rolando long before our journey to tell him of our return to Garabandal. He knows that on our many previous pilgrimages to Garabandal, we carry many intentions and we know and are grateful that Father Rolando did this today … especially for all of you and your  Intentions.  I know Our Mother had a hand in it.
 
We have some very special shrines yet  to go and some very special intentions we will still deliver even though we  know that your and our prayers will be answered in God’s way and time.  We  saw Father after Mass and thanked him for that special moment when we knew him  and everyone else in the church were praying for you.  We talked a little and, surprisingly, I understood him and he told us Mass tomorrow was at 7:30 PM.

Read more…

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Tom & Sue, May 31: Prado Nuevo (Our Lady of Sorrows)

Well these 2 days were very busy and extremely special to both of us. We were out and running at 8 AM and getting back to our hotel at 9 PM.  It was still light out so it didn’t feel so bad, until the morning.
 
We had breakfast at our hotel (more vulture eggs) and headed towards Madrid to finally meet Consuela and Humberto.  We found a parking space on these packed, narrow streets right in front of their home.  It was a wonderful  moment after 3 years of communicating, and Consuela being our messenger to Florita,  and all the people at Prado Nuevo. 
 
I wasn’t sure what to expect today since the translations that we sent each other were not the best.  I was down right amazed at the English they could speak and the Spanish we could follow.  We laughed and joked  and had the best time with them, we never stopped talking.  Consuela was preparing lunch for us and we brought the wine. 

Consuela made a wonderful Paella...enough for ten people I believe!
Consuela made a wonderful Paella…enough for ten people I believe!

She made a  wonderful Paella of chicken and calamari with lots of onions and tomatoes over a small pasta noodle.(it was enough for 10 but we managed to leave them a few leftovers). It was hard to leave but we had to find our hotel and get to Prado Nuevo in time for the Rosary and Mass that began at 5.
 

Our hotel even had a private garage
Our hotel even had a private garage

Our hotel was unbelievable with your own private garage, a king size bed  and a dumb waiter in your room for room service so they didn’t bother  you.  I felt like a cloistered Nun. Of course no one spoke English but  they were warm, friendly and helpful.  We dropped ALL our bags after we lugged them up the stairs from the garage, not realizing they had an elevator in the lobby.  DUH. 

We then headed out to Prado Nuevo running just a late since we  made the wrong turn onto the highway and had to go 10 miles before we could  turn around. My fault not the Queens’.  (ed note:  the Queen is what the Melillos have named their GPS device)

Father Guillermo saw us coming thru the field and ran to greet us.  We hadn’t seen him in 3 years, when he was a Deacon and spent so much time telling us of the miraculous stories that happened at this Sacred Shrine.  Our Lady told Amparo, the visionary and stigmatist, that this shrine would be one of the greatest in the world, the likes of Lourdes  and Fatima and people would come from all over to visit. We believe it……it is so very Holy and special and seems more so on this our 3 rd visit.

Father Guillermo introduced us to his parents, who volunteered to be our guides.
Father Guillermo introduced us to his parents, who volunteered to be our guides.

Fr. Guillermo introduced us to his parents, who were assigned as our guides. He warned us that neither spoke any English but it didn’t matter we all made do. The woman talked and Tony and I laughed.  They were to  stay with us for the Rosary and Mass and then take us to visit the grave of  Florita.  That we opted out of until the next afternoon, we wanted to  bring her flowers. 
 

Mass was special in this little chapel packed with the devout, not to mention the 100 or so people outside in chairs that couldn’t fit in the  chapel.  They are going to have to expand soon with another larger church especially since the approval of the apparition is moving forward rather  quickly.  They need prayers, so please remember them even though I know Our Lady is watching over them.
 
After Mass we went with Maria Del Carmen and Antonio AKA Tony, the parents of Fr. Guillermo to the old church and gift store and then headed to the Foundation, and the home for the aged that the Blessed Mother requested from Amparo, were we first met and made Florita part of our family  They now have 5 such homes.
 

Sister Pilar
Sister Pilar

Sister Pilar met us at the gate and took us in to the residence to see and introduce us to everyone. Most remembered Florita  and we  remembered a few of them from our last visit, especially Thomas I think  is his name. 

Thomas & wife

He is the only man in residence, since he lives with and  helps take care of his wife.  3 years ago we had a nice conservation, he  reminded me of my mom and dad and the love they had for each other.
 

The sisters serving those in the residence
The sisters serving those in the residence

Sister was great and we got to talk to many of them and exchanged lots of  hugs and kisses.  You can see the joy on the Sisters’ faces as they serve the residents.  We stayed until Fr. Guillermo came and we made our plan to meet his mom and dad on Mon at 4 PM at the Shrine to go to Florita’s grave, then the Rosary and Mass.

We bid them all a good night and made it back to our hotel just as the  sun was going down, 9:30 p.m., with lots to do to get organized we poured a glass of wine and managed an hour before it was lights outs.

Hasta Manana:

My Queen, My Mother, I  offer myself entirely to thee.
And to show my devotion to thee, I offer thee this day, my eyes,
my ears, my mouth, my heart, my whole being without  reserve.
Wherefore, good Mother, as I am thine own, keep me, guard me as thy  property and possession.
Amen.
 
 
In Loving Memory
of
Our Florita

Thank you for sharing our 2015 “Personal Pilgrimage” with  us!
Tom & Susan Melillo
Palm Beach Gardens, FL  33418 (USA)
E-Mail:

_TSMelillo13@aol.com_ (mailto:TSMelillo13@aol.com

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Tom & Sue May 30 Melillo..May 30: Venerable  Marie De Jesus of Agreda (The Mystical City of God)

Buenos Dias (again as I will explain)
 
As I was about to end this trip report I lost the whole thing some how.  I wanted to scream and yet had to laugh.  The Author of the Mystical City of God, and who was commanded by God to write it, had written it twice before the final writing as she was told to burn it by two temporary confessors. She got me!  Read this story below it is worth you  time and get the book, which is proclaimed as the second most important book  after the Bible.
 
As I started before we set the alarm for 6 AM wanting to make the 7:00 AM mass at Our Lady of the Pillar.  We passed through the town with only a dozen youths hanging around, who were drunk and apparently had partied all night and this one old lady who walked faster than us to get  to the Pillar on time.  That wasn’t going to happen so we got behind her  and managed to keep pace.

Mass was again so very special for us in this most Sacred Shrine to Our Lady. ( I hope you read the story).  After mass we lit more candles and headed for breakfast at the hotel.  They had MEAT and cheese but it is Saturday and we don’t eat meat on Sat urdays.  We thought about a doggie bag but gave up the idea.  Wired  from our coffee and some toast we got our bags and went down to the lobby and  I went down to the garage.  This wasn’t any fun since some idiot parked in a no parking area.  All cars are assigned a spot and this was not a  spot.  Some people also trying to leave had a problem negotiating their exit and scratched their car as they finally got up the ramp. 
 
The guy was right behind me and it took almost 15 minutes of back and forth to get clear enough to approach the ramp.  Well, a few scratches on both sides of the car later, I did get out….trying patiently to remember that I had just gone to Mass. (as much as I wanted to Yell at this lazy so-and-so)
 
We headed to Agreda and I was calmed as we said our morning prayers and Susan then re-read the story of this marvelous woman we were about to  see.  We arrived at the shrine, which is also a convent of cloistered nuns, and our instructions from Sister Patricia was to ring the bell and she would  tend to us.  How good is that!
 
As we waited for this sweet old lady to finish with another person we decided what we wanted to buy in the case before us.  We then tried to explain to her what we wanted and the man she was waiting on helped her to understand. 

Greeting Sister at the monastery
Greeting Sister at the monastery

After she understood she escorted us to a small room with an opening to another room but had a bar and curtain.  We weren’t sure what  to expect so we waited and in a few moments the curtain opened and our Angel  of the day appeared, Sister Patricia of the Trinity. She was lovely and  warming and answered all our questions after we all greeted each other thru  the bars. 

She taught us how to buy things in the gift shop and where to  go to see Venerable Maria De Jesus. We talked for a while. and knowing they were  preparing for a big festival tonight, we reluctantly bid farewell.   

The turnstile worked perfectly in the gift shop as I told Susan the items  and the Sister on the other side delivered them.  She sent the bill and we sent the money and they returned the change.  Great system  I  think some of the stores we go to should adopt.
 

The incorrupt body of Blessed Maria Agreda
The incorrupt body of Blessed Maria Agreda

Into the Chapel we went to venerate this Saintly Woman, who has been denied Sainthood for 350 years because of her book which was dictated to her by the Blessed Virgin Mary is not in sync with the overwhelming understanding of the Divine by man.  She was beautiful and encased in glass, and very tiny as most Saintly incorrupt people are except for Saint Pio. (sorry  Pio)  We prayed before her to pray for all of you and you intentions. I  know she heard us!  

Signing prayer intentionsAs usual, we left our prayer intentions….for us and for all of you.

I have read this book 3 times and I will read it again and  again.  It is the most influential thing that has happened to me  for the understanding of our faith.  I cried on the way there  and cried when I left.
 
We visited the cemetery after we left next to the Shrine hoping to find the grave site of the family but gave up for it was so big and headed for our overnight about an hour and a half away.
 

This was Susan’s kind of drive, a few hills and mostly flat as we were allowed 80 MPH.  We arrived to this quaint little village and our hotel  which was bustling with visitors. 

Sue eating breakfastAfter checking we went for a walk thru the town and checked each rest. menu we saw for non-meat items.  We were hungry.  We settled for a restaurant down from our hotel and dined on Sardines (again), Queso (cheese) (again) and then I had Baclava (salted cod) and  Susan had eggs, the size of a vultures, and I didn’t even get a bite before  she devoured it all.  As we dined outside, storms swept into the valley from all sides, and we only got a couple drops before we finished. 

A group of Priests and Deacons showed up at the restaurant
A group of Priests and Deacons showed up at the restaurant

A  group of priests and deacons and seminarians came to the restaurant and we conversed and laughed since they all knew how to cook as we told them of our seminarian  cooking classes.
 

We are back at the room and Susan is finishing yesterday’s story as I finish this one.  Tomorrow we are in Madrid and Prado Nuevo, to meet a Counsuelo and her husband Humberto for lunch at their house.  We have been communicating with her for 3 years and she would bring messages to Florita and the nun’s at the nursing home for us. We can’t wait to  meet them.   Later at Prado Nuevo when we go to Mass we  hope to see Padre Besan and Padre Guillermo, who was  a seminarian when we first met him and was just ordained, as well as the Sisters, Priest and elderly at this Shrine to Our Lady that we hold dear to  our hearts.
 
Ok this is it, it’s 7 PM and we will relax and and read for awhile and lights out.
 
Adios amigos,

O Mary Immaculate, Virgin so  fair
Mother of Our  Savior, please hear my prayer
Intercede, dearest Mother
to Your Heavenly Son.
Tell Him I am truly sorry for all the wrongs I  have done.
Ask Him to  guide me by the Gifts of The Holy Spirit
in all of my deeds and  way.
So that I may give  Him glory, honour and praise at the end of my days.
Amen.

Love to you all

Susan & Tom

The victory of  Christ over hell
As reported by Mary of Agreda
Venerable Mary of Agreda was born on April 2, 1602, in Agreda,  Spain.
Christened Maria Fernandez Coronel, she took the blue habit and made  her vows
as a nun in the Franciscan order, and in 1627 she became abbess of  the
Agreda Franciscan monastery until her death on May 24, 1665. The process  to
declare her a saint began almost immediately after her death, in 1672, as  she
had lived a life of evident holiness in the eyes of her contemporaries.
During her life, she had experienced mystical phenomena including private
revelations.
The most famous of these writings is the Mystical  City of God: Divine
History of the Virgin, Mother of God, which had been  dictated by the Virgin
Mary Herself. Even after death, Sister Agreda continues  to defy the
rationalists and non-believers: her body, kept in her convent, is  incorrupt. Like a
small number of deceased mystics and Catholic saints, the  nun’s body refuses
to naturally decay, even after 339 long  years.

SISTER MARIA JESUS AGREDA

THE BLUE NUN
SOURCE: _The Mysterious  Valley_
(http://shell.amigo.net/~tmv/Special_Inv4.html)

JUST A NUN FROM AGREDA
Another notable character on our journey  is Sister Marie de Jesus Agreda,
born April 2, 1602, in Agreda, Spain.  Christened Maria Fernandez Coronel,
she donned the blue habit and took her  vows as a nun in the Franciscan
order, and in 1627 she became abbess of the  Agreda Franciscan monastery until
her death in 1665. The Encyclopedia  Britannica states:

“Her  virtues and holy life were universally acknowledged, but controversy
arose  over her mystical writings, her political influence, and her
missionary  activities (my italics). Her best known work is The Mystical City of God
(1670), a life of the Virgin Mary ostensibly based on divine revelations
granted to Maria. It was placed on the Index Libroum Prohibitorum in 1681,
but  the ban was lifted in 1747.” 10

THE 502 RAPTURES

In 1620,  teenaged Sister Maria of Agreda, began having unnerving visions,
or raptures.  Cloistered in the convent, she would meditate for hours,
sometimes all day,  and return and tell her fellow sisters wondrous stories of
her “over 500”  spiritual travels to a faraway land, meeting savages and
telling them of the  Word of Christ. She experienced many of these episodes of
rapturous meditation  and bi-location, and word began to spread of the young
nun in the convent.  Finally, convinced of the reality of her experiences,
she wrote a book in  which she described, in great detail, her missionary work
bringing the Word of  Christ to the savages of The New World. In early
Fifteenth-Century Spain, this  was not a prudent claim to make during the height
of the Holy Inquisition,  which quickly put to death untold thousands found
“guilty” of witchcraft and  dealings with demonic forces. Before long the
Inquisition took a pointed  interest in the good Sister of Agreda, and she
found herself at the center of  a dangerous, whirling controversy. She
insisted to the Father Inquisitor that  she was indeed bi-locating and doing God’s
work, but to no avail. A very  public trial ensued with the full brunt of
the powerful Church bearing down on  the poor nun from Agreda. During the
height of her trial, a newly returned  expedition of conquistadors and friars
arrived in Spain with a wondrous  tale.

A PUZZLING SCENARIO

It seems that the Spanish explorers, while  in the unexplored region north
of Mexico, had encountered numerous Native  American tribes in New Mexico,
Arizona and Texas who had already been  converted to Christianity, and
somehow knew of “Jesus Christ” the Savior. Even  more fantastic were the Indian’s
claims of being visited by a white-skinned  “Blue Lady” who appeared to
many, drifting in a blue haze while she preached  the word of the Lord in their
native languages. She helped them to build  crosses and places of worship,
and even handed out rosaries and religious  objects.

“From 1620  to approximately 1631 the Spanish nun flew from Spain to the
North American  State of New Mexico on more than 500 occasions. Thus it was
established in the  open case of the Holy Inquisition against the nun in 1635,
in which it was  affirmed further that no one in the convent noticed her
absence during those  flights. On occasion they would happen twice during the
same day. . . How then  can we explain a woman of scarcely eighteen years of
age that could bi-locate  to New Mexico, and while there, she would
dedicate herself to distribute among  the natives rosaries and other liturgical
objects as she instructed them about  the truth of the Christian faith. . . Her
trips occurred shortly before the  diocese of Mexico decided to send
evangelizers [north] towards those  unexplored territories. Her visits made their
efforts considerably easier.  11”

POSSIBLE EXPLANATION FOR THE CONQUEST OF NEW MEXICO

These first Spanish explorers to the  Southwest were amazed by the Natives
knowledge of Christianity and were  baffled by the rosaries they were shown
and by their earnest descriptions of  the “Blue Lady” that had come from
afar and preached to them.

“Finally,  when the first Franciscans, led by Friar Benvenedes, arrived [at
the Isleta  Pueblo] they discovered a singular spectacle. Thousands of
Indians approached  the Franciscans and asked earnestly for baptism. 12”

Benvenedes  wrote later of the Spaniard’s efforts to ascertain how the
Indians had  foreknowledge of Christianity:

“‘When  those Indians were asked to tell us what was the reason for which,
with so  much affection, they asked for baptism and religious
indoctrination, they  answered that a woman had come and preached to each one of them in
their own  tongue. 13′”

The rapid  Spanish conquest and control of New Mexico in the Fifteenth and
Sixteenth  Centuries may have partially been due to Sister Agreda’s solo
missionary  efforts on behalf of a bewildered Catholic Church.

“Only in  New Mexico did the Franciscans baptize more than 50,000 people in
record time  and rapidly install twenty-five missions and minister to more
than ninety  towns. The Indians remembered with special veneration the Blue
Lady, the one  whom they gave this name due to her blue mantle of celestial
tones she wore on  her back. 14” During the mid-Sixteen-hundreds, the
celebrated bi-locating nun  from Agreda garnered national notoriety. King Philip
of Spain may have  enlisted her help in foreign affairs, and it is firmly
documented that the  king carried on a life-long correspondence with her. It is
surmised by some  that Sister Agreda may have even bi-located to foreign
courts on covert  foreign-policy missions on behalf of Spain. Now one would
think that this  story, alone, is compelling, but the unbelievable saga of our
talented nun and  her doppleganger-twin does not end there.

INCORRUPTIBLE IN DEATH

Even in death, Sister Agreda defies the  rationalists and supplies
non-believers and the faithful with evidence of her  fantastic talents. In a
secluded crypt on the grounds of the convent we find  what proves to be the latest
dramatic chapter to her unbelievable story.  Sister Marie Jesus Agreda’s
body, it turns out, is incorruptible. Like a small  number of deceased mystics
and Catholic saints, the nun’s body refuses to  naturally decay, even after
335 long years. The flush of her cheeks and her  life-like features still
baffle the Catholic Church and modern science. During  an opening of her
casket in 1909, a cursory scientific examination was  performed on the pristine
body in peaceful repose, astounding the scientists  and doctors who were
allowed to perform the examination. In 1989 a Spanish  physician named Andreas
Medina participated in another examination of Sister  Maria Jesus Agreda as
she lay in the convent of the Conceptionist nuns, the  same monastery where
she had lived in the 1600s.

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Tom & Sue May 28th: Lourdes

Bonsoir once again (tomorrow it will be Buenos  Dias … off to Spain in
the morning!):

We have been longing for Mass and missing the Eucharist we arose  early, foregoing breakfast (I made a pot of coffee as we got ready), and headed to the Grotto for the Mass For The Infirm.  This has been a  very difficult trip
this year as far as Masses.  There is not a lack of Churches around, for every little village we pass through has a Church.  There are just not enough Priests to Celebrate Masses on a  daily basis.
 
We headed to the Grotto, rushing a little since we thought we were  going to be late.  I decided to take a short-cut on our walk and it  didn’t turn out very well, since we had to climb up a hill and then walk down flights of stairs to get to St. Joseph’s Gate at the Basilica. 
 

The long lines as the procession of the sick forms
The long lines as the procession of the sick forms

Huffing and puffing from our quick walk, we entered the Grotto area  and a very, very long caravan of carts/wheelchairs carrying the infirm were still processing in.  Susan was off on the Mass time by 15  minutes so we had time to spare.
 

It is humbling to see people brought in on stretchers
It is humbling to see people brought in on stretchers

We love attending the Mass for the Infirm when we are in  Lourdes.  It is a most humbling experience to see so many who are  suffering and who come here to Lourdes with “hope of healing).  It  makes us so very grateful since our “pain du jours” do not even come  close to the suffering we see all around us here.
 
Mass at the Grotto, as always, was spiritually rewarding.  It  was celebrated in Spanish (I didn’t know that until Susan just told me  … I’m so confused with languages!).  We brought our daily “cheat  sheet” so, at least, we had the Reading of the Day, the Psalm & the  Gospel to read for the day.
 

We leave your prayer intentions wherever we go
We leave your prayer intentions wherever we go

During the Homily, Susan and I always split up your list of Special Intentions that we carry and we read each one to Our Blessed Mother and  offer them up to Her intercession.  It usually takes each of us  10-15 minutes to quietly read our half of your Special Intentions.   This morning we finished well in time to listen to the remainder of the 30 MINUTE HOMILY the Priest gave (he made Father Tom look GREAT! …  LOL).
 
When it was time for Communion, we had the opportunity to receive  Our Lord in the actual front of the Grotto and underneath Our Lady’s  Statue.  It was very special to both of us.
 
Before the Final Blessing, some Special Prayers (we think as it was in Spanish) and we awaited the Final Blessing, after which we all sang the Ave Maria (I think that was in Spanish, too … I’ll have to ask  Susan  ).
 
We are cheating a little this year at Lourdes because we are  sending you some photos from previous trips here.  Most of you have  been “traveling” with us for many years now so you have seen them.   For those who have not, we wanted to send some photos from our previous pilgrimages to Lourdes so that those of you who have never been to  Lourdes can see the inside of the Basilica and the different Shrines on  the three levels.
 

Getting some water from the fountain in Loourdes
Getting some water from the fountain

We were thirsty after Mass and had not brought a water bottle with us, so we stopped at the Holy Water Fountain to refresh ourselves by hand and drink from the Fountain.  We walked to our favorite restaurant,  planning to have an early lunch/dinner but they were not opening until  Noon.  We didn’t want to wait for half an hour so we decided to  come back for dinner this evening.
 
We returned to our hotel for a little cheese & pate’ to hold us  over and we each took a short “power nap” because today will run  late.  Susan’s “battery was on low” so her power nap took a little  longer than mine.  I got up and finished yesterday’s Trip Report to  all of you.
 
Now, we are really caught up because in our next venture to the  Basilica,
we’ll have to find more things to share with you … we are  now in “present
time” with our Trip  Reports.

Map of the trip to France, Spain, Andorra & Poland
Map of the trip to France, Spain, Andorra & Poland

In our down time I marked up the map for our first 11 days (photo  enclosed).  We have traveled almost 1200 miles on 30 gal. of gas that  is around $5 a gal.  This is a far cry from the $9 we paid on our last  trip. We have been in and out of 8 B&B’s and 2 hotels’ have been to 20  shrines and had a few bottles of wine, And you wonder why we look so  tired.  Spain will be different:  for the 11 nights we are there, only 3  hotels and 3 B&B’s. and a lot less miles and shrines.
 
We went back to the Grotto at 5 so we could do the stations of the cross and go to Eucharistic Adoration and confession.  Unfortunately,  Susan mis-caculated the time as 5 hours difference from home instead of 6, and we missed it all.  I had to get some ammo at the bank, so we walked  into town and on the way back stopped for dinner at a Restaustarant where we ate with Fr. Yves in 2009.  The food was still as good and we enjoyed a night away from the sandwhich routine. We never thought we would eat it all but we did and headed back to the Grotto for the 9 PM Rosary procession.  We wanted to collect some water, leave another copy of all of your intentions under the Grotto of Our Lady and light a candle.  We did this with  great success. 
 
At the Grotto they were taking the very infirm into it and helping  them touch the rocks and the water that constantly flows lightly from under the site of the apparition.  Again very humbleing to watch the faith of these people who don’t seem to have a chaqnce of survival.  We were  more upset than they were, they seemed to be at total peace and trust with  Our Lord.
 
We gathered for the procession behind all the infirmed.  We usually are in the very end, but we felt like being close to them tonight.  We offered up our prayers for them and for you, for nothing  is impossible for God.
 
On the way to the Grotto, the streets were empty.  They must have  all been hiding behind trees, because when the Procession began, it was PACKED which was a great thing.  We love Praying our Rosary during the Rosary Procession at Lourdes with so many people sharing in the Prayers of  the Rosary … I am sure She loves it too.
 
When we finished the Rosary Procession, it was finally dark and we  began
to head back to our hotel for the evening.  I did notice at the Grotto that there were a lot of people who were not Praying aloud and/or  they had left early which was sad … possibly an “early bird special in  town”?  I think we Prayed for them as well for them to have wasted an evening not giving Praise to our God and to our Blessed Mother for a short  period of time.  It
makes us very sad.
 
On the way back to our hotel, we stopped for our second beer since we  have been on our “journey”.  We sat at our cafe table on the street and said “hello” to people as they, too, returned to their rooms.  This is  one of only two places (Fatima being the second) that we stay out past dark  to Pray … it was about 10:30 P.M. when we reached our room.
 
As tired as we were, Susan worked on some real estate business while I  worked on our Trip Report.  Then she joined me and began typing to save  time.  I was dictating as I laid on our bed (which was very  dangerous) but I
survived.
 
It is almost midnight and we have lots to do in the A.M.before heading out toward Zaragoza, Spain and some very wonderful places we will be visiting and meeting up with friends and/or new friends …from our previous pilgrimages.
 
I would like to leave you with this very special Hymn of Lourdes:
 
Ave, Ave, Ave Maria!
Ave, Ave, Ave Maria!
 
Oh Mary, Our Mother, We come to this place,
Where you, who are sinless, appeared “Full of  Grace”.
 
As Bernadette waited, there came to her sight,
A radiant Lady … surrounded by light.
 
She gave her a message … “Let Penance Be Done, 
and Pray that all sinners, May turn to My Son.”
 
“Come here in Procession, to Praise God and sing,
to Wash in these Waters, and Drink at this Spring”.
 
She asked that a Chapel be built in this place,
that all be encouraged to Pray for God’s Grace.
 
The Lady responded, when asked for Her name:
“Conceived Without Sin Is The Title I Claim”!
 
Love Susan & Tom
Palm Beach Gardens, FL  33418 (USA)
E-Mail: TSMelillo13@aol.com  

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Tom & Sue May 27th Our Lady of Garaison & Lourdes

Bonjour;
 
I awoke this morning to the bells from the church at around  7:30 AM. I let Susan sleep and went down stairs figuring everyone was  up.  Bob was on the computer and he also let BeBe sleep in.  He  gave me coffee and out to the patio we went where we solved the problems of  the world. (at least in our minds)
 
BeBe finally came out so we started to make some noise hoping to rouse  Susan.  It didn’t work so I went up to shower and pack and make a lot  of noise.  Susan got the hint and she also showered and we went down for coffee.  We had a great conversation again filled with some  laughter and had a lite bite of cheese and fresh bread for breakfast.  Not being hungry, we opted out of having eggs and ham.  That was tough, but for the Brown Scapular penance, we don’t eat meat on Wed and Sat. More  cheese tonight.
 

Saying goodbye to BeBe and Bob, our new friends
Saying goodbye to BeBe and Bob, our new friends

We loaded the car and had to prepare ourselves to say good-bye to our  new friends.  There were hugs, kisses and a few tears and promises to  keep in touch and return on our next trip.  We put them on the e-mail  list and already received mail from them.  I think the logo B&B came from them. B(ob)&B(eBe).
 
We made our way thru the narrow mountain roads towards Garaison and  were cutting it close as to whether they would be closed or not. The views  from here were great and they would only get better when we approached  Lourdes.
 

Site of the apparition of Our Lady of Garaison
Site of the apparition of Our Lady of Garaison

Garaison was closed when we arrived, but you can walk the grounds and  visit the apparition site and get water from the Miraculous spring.  As  we entered the grounds we met a man who after finding out we were American took us to the Sacristy to meet the Priest. He was very welcoming and  allowed us to view the Sacristy.  The woman in there then took us to  the site of the apparition and departed so we could be alone.
 

We took a seat and prayed the rosary
We took a seat and prayed the rosary

This was a holy place, you could feel the peace and calm as it came over you when you entered it.  We lit our candle and went up to the seats and prayed our rosary with all the intentions out as we offered them up in our prayers.
 

Before leaving we walked the grounds made a pit stop.  Susan used  the Men’s Room by mistake and a guy tried to open her door … oops!   We hopped in the car and were off to Lourdes, via the mountain roads of  course. We were only an hour away, and just before our hotel there was a  supermarket, so we stopped and re-loaded.  Our wine cellar had  been depleted, too, at Bob & BeBe’s!
 
We checked in and had to change rooms.  The first room was real small  and the second wasn’t what we booked either, but were pilgrims and we  settled for it without causing any trouble.  We dropped the bags and  headed off to the Grotto at Lourdes and a potential Mass. We love this  place and it feels had if we have never left when we are here.
 
Below there is a great explanation on Lourdes and puts it’s meaning and being into a new light for us as  we are sure it will for you. Please read especially those of you who are  suffering.
 
We were shocked by how empty the town was  This our 5th trip and  we never saw so few people. We had no trouble walking down the busiest  streets.   

It's a short walk from most hotels to the entrance of the Shrine.
It’s a short walk from most hotels to the entrance of the Shrine.

Out of luck for Mass, we visited Our  Lady in the Grotto and said a few prayers and walked the grounds for a few minutes before returning to our hotel. We figured we would relax and  maybe make the 9 PM rosary procession.  It was a good thought, but we were so tired we were in bed before the procession ended.

At the hotel we worked.   I worked on the past day’s report and Susan handled some real estate business that we had to  address.  We had a little
cheese, fruit, tomatoes, and sardines with  some fresh bread and that was it. 
 
Au Revoir
 
O Mary, conceived without  sin,
pray for us who have recourse to  thee,
and for those who do not have recourse to  thee,
especially the enemies of the  Church
and those recommended to  thee,
Amen.
 
Love 
 
Susan &  Tom
 
 

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Tom & Sue May 26—Some Very Unusual Churches

Bon  Soir:

We we were caught up on e-mails until today and now we are 2 days  behind, but that you will understand later in the report.
 
We got up and had a light breakfast and said our good byes to Jo and  Roy and headed to Vals, France and the Chappelle Notre Dame Du Val D’Amour.  I could sit here and try to describe this Church, but a picture is worth a thousand words, and this holds true for our next unscheduled stop in Montradit, France, to a road side church which was built by the local priest one rock at a time.  It was a special place and the story is also below.
 

Some very tricky roads
Some very tricky roads

The drive to both place was uneventful for me but poor Susan was  slightly terrified on a couple of the back roads through the mountains, that were hardly big enough for 1 car. When we travel these roads we hardly ever see any cars, as was the case today, but the blind turns tend to make you a  little cautious.
 
Vals was very unique and secluded in a small town in the hills.  We actually ran into some British folk and shared a few laughs.  We  didn’t stay to pray because it was very cold and we only had 5 layers of  shirts and coats on, not to mention the bat that was flying around….unbeknownst to Susan or
she would have flown out of there.  We said the  Rosary on the way to our
next stop.
 

The sign that leads to the church Notre Dame de la Goutte in Montardit
The sign that leads to the church Notre Dame de la Goutte in Montardit

Montardit was a different story, this little church mesmerized  us.  It was so unique and you could tell it was built with a lot  of love and 33 years of hard labor.  We spent some time here, praying and leaving our intentions

We sat out front at one of the picnic tables and enjoyed half of the rest of that sandwich I made the night  before.  We were going to save some for tonight if we got hungry at our next B&B  (read on, and you will see that was not going to be a problem).
 
More mountain roads and tremendous views and some white nuckles later we arrived in Forgaron, France.  For the most part this is a one street  town of good roads.  All the other off streets are so small that even I wouldn’t  go on them.  It was close to 3:00 p.m..
 
Not being shy, I asked the first person I saw, who was standing in  the drive of this beautiful house, if he knew of B&B Fouargon.  He broadly smiled and said “you’re here, I’m Bob”.  Bob said to park  right on the street and I guess I looked a little concerned, so he offered his  spot in the drive.  I asked if it was safe and  he laughed saying that the only 4 people passed him were already home and the  road ended.  I pulled close to the curb and bushes and had to start over as we all laughed since Susan couldn’t get out of the car. I said  hello to BeBe, Bob’s wife when she came out. I knew her name from the e-mails as we corresponded before our trip. I did cancel once and rebooked as we changed our plans and routes to give us more time to  relax. We were glad we did and they were taking bets if we were coming  or not.
 
Bob and BeBe helped with the luggage into the house and we started to talk about our journey and their beautiful house.  He offered us a  drink so they had wine and I had a Courvoissier VSOP  that I saw  on the shelf and laughingly he said to BeBe, I told you to hide that  bottle.

Sitting on terrace at the B&B ForgaronWe went and sat on their back patio sheltered from the wind and  the fun began.  We all clicked as if we had known each other for years and started laughing so hard at the stories we told each other it hurt. 

Having finished our wine we went in to go to our room and  He said  that we should use the living room or dining room  for our computers,  so Bob and I only had 2 bags to carry up … 3 flights of stairs  … Bob was “NO DUMMY”.
 
We came back down after a few minutes and I hooked Susan up to the computer. She spent all of 5 minutes and Bob and BeBe invited us to have  dinner with them.  That sandwhich was still in the car, and it could stay there for a home cooked meal.  Bob opened up another bottle  of wine and back to the patio we went. From that point on and  throughout we had a fun and enjoyable evening, we never stopped  laughing.
 

Dinner was far more than we expected...the heck with the sandwich
Dinner was far more than we expected…the heck with the sandwich

I don’t know what time we started dinner, but it was dark out when we sat for the 2nd course, so it had to be close to10.  We got thru  the first course of Coquille St. Jacques in a puff pastry along side a one with goat cheese and a small salad.  I thought that was it when he had  said light supper and we were almost full.  Back to the patio we  went.

enjoying dinnerAfter dark we went back in and  BeBe next brought a cream of carrot soup that was just as delicious as the first course.(S)  Little did we know that there was  more to come but I think we all had faded and just shared a little cheese to help finish off the 6th bottle of wine.  It was a perfect a perfect day except for the lack of peanuts. LOL
 
As the church bells rang 11 PM and we were all exhausted, not from the wine, but the laughter….. well, the wine helped. So we hugged and  kissed each other good night and went to bed.  Susan just hopped in to  bed clothes and all and was out in seconds.  I managed to get  my jammies on and crashed right behind her.
 
Au Revoir
 
We fly to thy patronage, O holy  Mother of God;
Despise not our petitions in our necessities, but  deliver us always from
all dangers,
O glorious and blessed  Virgin.
Amen.
 
Love
 
Tom & Susan
 
 

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Tom & Sue May 26 Notre Dame de Marcielle & Rennes-le-Chateau

Bon Jour
 
Today was the first day we hadn’t set the alarm and we got up around 8:30. We ran down to breakfast not wanting to miss it.  Jo and Roy had a large array of breads, pastries,fruit, cereal, cheese, butter and jams.  After juice and some coffee we ate only a little.  Just knowing food was available did the trick.  Today is another holiday and everything is again closed but we may get lucky and find a lone restaurant open.
 
This was great, our first 2 day stay. We didn’t have to load the car and unload later at another destination. Our plan was to visit our first shrine whenever we got there for Susan had e-mailed and found out they didn’t close at 12. We headed out at 10:45 and was at the shrine by 11:15. On  the way we saw a supermarket that was open and planned to stop on the way  back.
 

Entrance to Notre Dame de Marcielle
Entrance to Notre Dame de Marcielle

There were people coming out of the shrine and we weren’t alone as more people arrived.  This was a very old church with several separate  naves.

Closeup of the statue at Notre Dame de Marcielle
Closeup of the statue

The statue of our Lady was in the chapel of the Blessed Mother in a niche carved out of the stone. She had a glass front and a steel grate over it  so no one could get to her.  She was stolen once and found 2 years later  in an antique shop far away. Almost like when she was first found and moved and kept returning on her own to the place where this church now stands.
 

Sue signing the prayer intention book at Notre Dame de Marcielle
Sue signing the prayer intention book

Everyone left, so Susan sat at the intention book and wrote as much as she could since it was the last page. We left the pages of all the intentions out in front of Our Mother and said our Rosary for all of you, another peaceful experience.
 
On the way out we walked down the old stone road that was built by the  Romans to the well of the Miraculous spring.  The spring had a grate cove  to keep animals out of it and Susan with head in the niche was trying to figure out how to get the bottle thru the grate.  I said lit it up and she did andit came up so she filled the bottle and blessed herself and I dove in and did the same. Many cures have been attributed to this water and we will add it to our concoction of holy waters from Miraculous springs we have  collected from all over Europe and Turkey.  We are up to 18.
 

Had to settle for store-bought bread...a tragedy in France!
Had to settle for store-bought bread…a tragedy in France!

On the way back we just made it to the supermarket.  They closed at 1:00 and in 10 minutes we scurried around and put together a new sandwhich. The fresh bread was totally anniliated so we had to get store bread.   That’s a real bummer in France!
 

On the way back I detoured up the mountain to the Rennes-le-Chateau, a very small town with an old church, castle and shops and homes that have been added over the years.
 
Susan was not a happy camper.  This was a very narrow road with no side rails and sharp high turns.  I was careful since it was a little hairy and all I think Sue said all the way up was remind me not to talk to you later. 
LOL
 
We we got to the top her first words were “Thanks Roy”, our host for he was the one who told us about it.  It is a cute little mountain-top  village that, for hundreds of years, was used by the locals as a shelter against invading armies since they could not get up there so it was easy to  defend.
 

The Magdala Tower in Rennes-le-Chateau
The Magdala Tower

The aura of this place came when a Priest, back in 1885, arrived in the village and created a magnificent estate which remains there today. It includes the Magdala Tower.  He also renovated the Church of Saint Mary Magdalene. 

The enigmatic Priest lived a high life and spent a fortune.  It was rumored that he had found a treasure.
 

Entrance to the town of Rennes-le-Chateau
Entrance to the town

There were also rumors that this is the place where Mary Magdalene was buried.  Many books have been written about the area … the most famous  being Dan Brown’s Divinci Code which he drew inspiration for his book from  this legend.
 
I dragged Susan into the car and strapped her in for the descent … much against her will.  She wasn’t bad going down, though … only a few ooohs and aaaaahs.
 
Returning to our B&B around 3:00 P.M., we parked and walked a short  way to the local Village Church which had some lovely side Chapels.  It  is sad that there are so many beautiful small Churches in France where Jesus  is present, but Masses are rarely held because of the lack of Priests … this was one of those Churches.
 
Taking our food goodies with us, we went up to our room, locked the door, put on our jammies and spent the rest of the day catching up on Trip Reports,  E-Mails, etc.  I made us a “small” sandwich for dinner.
 
 We retired at about 7:30 P.M. for a long night of sleep  (hopefully).
 
P.S.  The leftover sand will be our late lunch tomorrow.
 
Au Revoir

We fly to thy patronage, O holy Mother  of God;
Despise not our petitions in our necessities, but deliver us always  from
all dangers,
O glorious and blessed Virgin.
Amen.

Love and Hugs

Susan and Tom

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Tom & Sue–Sat May 23 Villefranche de Rouergue, France

MELILLO – SATURDAY, MAY 23 – VILLEFRANCHE DE ROUERGUE,  FRANCE

As always, I begin with our evening pre-retiring  story:
Before I hopped into bed last light, I took a couple of photos of our Host & Hostess as they walked around their property evaluating plants, the gardens and the grounds.  You could just see and feel the love they have for their home … and  for each other.   It was a great way to end the  day.  

Got up in the morning and we went downstairs for coffee and a quick “smoke”.  We greeted our hosts and they  invited us into their “Gathering Room” (which Susan named “The Club Room”  and they loved it!).  It is actually a room attached to  their garage under the house.  It is set up  with a table and chairs, lights for the evenings and shades to be drawn to hide the other areas of the garage.  A very comfortable and welcoming  “social center” to say.  It appears that this is also a  retreat for them during the day … or to visit with guests over wine and  cheese in the evenings.  We enjoyed a great conversation  with both of them over what was probably a full pot of coffee. But I still  wanted coffee with breakfast, I hoped we were not on rations! 

We went back upstairs to shower and finish  packing as Ina went off to prepare our breakfast.  We came down to a lovely dining room and a table set with all sorts  of “goodies” for breakfast and a full pot of coffee. (I’m getting used to  being wired) I think we have had a croissant for breakfast every morning since we arrived in Europe.  But today was different … Ina & Kees treated us with fried  eggs, prosciutto (jambon), other meats and cheeses.  Being the “pro’s” that we are, we both made ourselves a wonderful  “Egg Croissant” SANDWHICH … absolutely delicious! Wired up we went back upstairs to finish packing and  took some time for some photo ops with Kees, Ina & Bo … bidding  farewell and hating to leave.  We are most grateful to them for  making our time at their Bed & Breakfast so enjoyable and  memorable.  Kees asked that we add them to our email address for our Daily Trip Reports during our “personal pilgrimage” and we  have done so … welcome to the van Der Sandt’s. By the way … did I tell you that I loved this  bed and shower?

We headed out toward our next stop …  Villafranche-de-Rouergue, France … to Notre Dame de Treize Pierres les  Clerksde Saint Viatuer (the Path of the 13 Stones) where a beautiful story is told about Our Lady and the Apostles helping some workmen get across a  river in the area by laying 13 stones so that they could cross over the  waters with theirs carts and their oxen.  Of course, the purpose of the workmen’s efforts was because they wanted to build a Chapel to Our Lady which still stands today and we were Blessed to visit.

On our way to Villafrance-de-Rouergue, we wanted  to stop to stretch our legs and for Susan to remove her fingernails  from the car’s leather arm-rests that she was trying to hide from me as I  had my “fun” through the mountain “S-Turns”.  We saw a road sign on the side of the road that said “Notre Dame de  Quezac”.   The two of us, within seconds, said … this is a Shrine that the Sisters and Priest at Notre Dame L’Hermitage in Noiretalble had told us about.   This was not on our “radar” for  our trip … we had also learned that it is a pilgrim stop for those walking  the “Way of Saint James on the Road to  Compestello”.  I made a quick right turn, not knowing if we had  a long ride ahead of us and not knowing anything about the  Shrine.   Within less than one minute, the Shrine was  directly in front of us on the left … we pulled into the empty parking  spaces and entered the grounds … there was absolutely no one around. I was  wondering if they had a toilet?

Sitting inside the Church of QuexacThe Church of Quexac was beautiful and gave us  another opportunity to visit a Sacred Statue of Our Blessed Mother and Jesus which are so prevalent in France especially this  area. The finding of Sacred Statues, I believe is  one of the catalysts that has led so many people to the Chapels, Churches and Cathedrals that have the honor of Our Lady’s  grace and presence in the form of these mysterious statues.  They have been Prayed in by so many believers.  We have seen “ex-votos”(testimonial plaques) adorning walls, chapels, Sanctuaries …. Just incredible! Unfortunately today the believers  are few. We couldn’t leave this Shrine without praying, so we  decided that this was the perfect place in front of the Mother and Child  statue to pray the rosary for all you intentions. Our voices echoed  through out the church and a peace fell upon us.  We lit a candle as  usual in thanks to our Mother and Savior for listening to our  request.

Sign outside the Chapel of the 13 stones
Sign outside the Chapel of the 13 stones

We continued on our journey to  Villefranchise du Rougere  and the Chapel of the 13 Stones. The story  is below and a quick read. When we arrived it was closed as we had figured  since everything closes from 12 to 2, so we decided to find our B&B  and see if we could check in. No problem except for the flight of stairs I  had to go up to find the owner.  She, Jane, said the room was  ready and wanted me to go up another flight of stairs to see the room.  I said let me get some luggage first (my legs were killing me  and I didn’t want to up and down 2x without something in hand).and by the way let me get my  wife.

Here is our relaxing dinner in our room
Here is our relaxing dinner in our room

I figured we could do this in  3 trips, but dangerous  Dave the husband appeared and grabbed the 2  biggest pieces of luggage and was in our room with them before I locked  the car. Jane also appeared and grabbed some more luggage.  I gave  Susan some and I made it to our room with the wine and food in hand  without losing a breath.
 

The entrance to the Chapel of the Penitents
The entrance to the Chapel of the Penitents

We went into town to the Chapel of the  Penentinents, not realizing it was a museum of sorts. As we paid to  go in the woman at the desk, found out we wanted to visit the  chapel of the 13 stones that was always closed except by appointment,  she called the caretaker and made an appointment for us for 5 PM.
 

The caretaker gave us a great tour of the chapel
The caretaker gave us a great tour of the chapel

Pretty good except that this guy couldn’t  speak a word of English and his exuberance for his job was so overwhelming  that he spent 40 minutes telling us the story of the chapel and of the frescos on the walls in french and I think I said “oui” 50 times.  Thank God we understood the depictions. I tried to tip him but he  wouldn’t take it so I said donation and that was the it.  We bid him  farewell and returned to our B&B in desperate need of a glass of  wine.
 
We had a bite to eat and sent out a report  and crashed into that lovely
KING size bed.  Morning came to  soon.
 
Au Revoir
 
God Bless you all
 
Love Susan and Tom
Our Lady of  Quezac

Click here for the story of Our Lady of Quezac

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A visit to the Basilica of Our Lady of Orcival in France….by Tom & Sue

Bon Soir (again), from France …
 

Well, having slept almost 11 hours, I woke up early and, as Susan continued  to sleep, I got on the computer … absolutely determined to find  Notre Dame Du Port in Clermont!  I plugged in the hot water kettle in the  hotel room so that we could have tea or instant coffee before we left (another  snag … it didn’t work!).  When Susan awoke, we decided to just shower,  pack up and leave.  We didn’t want breakfast because we were looking  forward to meeting our Cathedral friends from home (who also live in France  for 1/2 year) for lunch.
 
As we made our way to check out of the hotel and re-load the car, I did  mention at the front desk our problems with the Internet, E-Mail and inability to have tea of instant coffee … the associate told me to go into the cafeteria and fill our traveling mug with coffee.  So I did!  It  took 6 Espressos, 2 Cappuccinos and a Cafe Ouelette.  Boy were we “wired” after drinking that mug of coffee.
 
As we left the hotel, I informed Susan that I was determined to go back  downtown in Clermont to find Notre Dame Du Port.  Having found the exact  street it was on while “Googling” the Shrine, the “Queen GPS” took us as close to the Shrine as she could.  There was no parking in sight, so I drove on further and we ended up parking in the exact same lot and parking space that we had been in the day before.  Our search of “Our Lady” was over … it  was a short 5 minutes away and we were right there in front.
 
Very happy and “mission accomplished”, we were both happy that we had pursued our efforts to visit this Shrine to Our Lady.  We entered the Church and knew that we were on limited time so we headed to the Sacred Crypt.  It was beautiful and filled with spirituality and  tranquility.  As we had intended, we Prayed our Prayers for your Special  Intentions and lit a Candle on your behalf … there was not a Prayer  Intention Book to enter names …but be assured that “Our Lady” heard the  requests!

We knew we had to leave Clermont-Ferrand so that we could get to our  meeting up with Bridgett & Richard (Our Palm Beach Cathedral Friends) at  their home in France for Mass and lunch … in Orcival and the Shrine of Our  Lady of Orcival  it was about a 1/2 hour drive and we were meeting up at  10:00 A.M.
 

You can tell we are not used to this chilly weather
You can tell we are not used to this chilly weather

We entered the Shrine parking lot almost on time and, when we were parking, Bridgett & Richard were just about walking in front of our car and Susan jumped out to beckon to them.  Once we saw them, we could tell  that they are from Florida (at least part of the year).  They were laden with heavy coats and sweaters … I think more than we even had on!  The four of us greeted, hugged and laughed together … so happy that our plans to  meet up had come to reality … it was GREAT!
 
After a lot of greetings, we decided to have a cup of coffee together and then head up to the mountain Shrine before Mass.  We all entered a small cafe and the conversations continued.  Then it was on to walk The Way of  the Cross from the Shrine up to visit the small Shrine and the Statue of Notre Dame d’Orcival which Bridgett & Richard had seen processed up the mountain about a week ago for the summer months.
 

The climb along the stations of the cross in Orcival, France
The climb along the stations of the cross

This was the first “climb” Susan and I had attempted since our arrival… and since our last pilgrimage about 1-1/2 years ago … it wasn’t “very  pretty”! There were a lot of “ouches”, Ooooohs, Ahhhhhhs and stopping to catch our breaths and ease the burning pains in our legs.  Richard,  however, was just fine as he proceeded like a “mountain goat” … always far  ahead of the three of us and urging us on.  Without him, we probably  would have turned around.
 
We arrived, safely, at the summit and Richard & Bridgette said that they didn’t think that the Statue at the Mountain Shrine was the same that had been processed up about a week ago.  Richard moved on to see if the pilgrimage road went even further but it didn’t.  We all talked about trying to go further into the mountain walk to see if we could find “Her”, but we knew that there was a Pilgrimage Mass that was supposed to begin around  11:30 A.M., so we had to begin our climb back down the mountain.

Luckily, when we reached the Shrine of Notre Dame d’Orcival, there was a Pilgrimage Bus from Southern France accompanied by a young French Priest who was going to Celebrate Mass at 11:30 A.M. for his group.  The four of us entered the Church.  Richard saw the new “Cure” (Priest) of the Parish who had recently been assigned and he introduced us to him. Susan had  already “somewhat” had met him when she had e-mailed to find our Mass times  some time ago before our trip.  It was a pleasure to meet him and, through Richard’s interpretations, it appeared that Father did not know about  some of the Shrines we are planning to visit on this pilgrimage.  We bid  farewell to Father and, because Mass was not yet ready to begin,the four of us  decided to go down below and explore the Crypt.

Down below the Church and in the Crypt, there were some very unusual statues and vessels (see photos).  It was beautiful but time to get back upstairs in preparation for Mass. 

Read more…

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