I told you that I was going to explain why last week’s Monday Diary was late and I had pictures and all to go along with a story but I lost them somewhere on this computer. I downloaded them and knew that there was something amiss but didn’t have time to cope with it at the moment. They are here somewhere but I don’t know how to find them. So I'll do my best with pen and ink.
Anyway, here is what happened. I was invited on a mini retreat. It was not exactly clear where I was going but that is somewhat by design. “Just tell me when to have my bags packed and assume all the rest of the planning,” is my traveling motto.
A very generous person donated the use of a private jet to take a small band of us to the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament.
You might know the Shrine better for its most famous resident, Mother Angelica. About an hour ride past dozens of Baptist churches from the Birmingham airport the Shrine rises out of an otherwise rural area like the fabled Brigadoon. It was made all the more fantastical for us having spotted a grand rainbow just before coming upon it. Then suddenly there were white fences, rolling acres of grass and trees and cows and horses.
One passes through a giant rough iron gate welcoming people of all faiths to the shrine. The first building encountered is the “barn” where I would be staying and where a new order of which I was completely unaware, is taking shape. By barn, I mean one of the nicest retreat centers for priests I have ever encountered. That it looks like a barn on the outside is a bit misleading.
“The Knights of the Holy Eucharist” is a new order set up by Mother Angelica. These young men serve the needs of the sisters who are cloistered at the Shrine. “They serve Masses, Healing and Benediction services, give public witness to the profound reverence and devotion befitting such a sacred service. They also provide assistance, tours and talks to the many pilgrims who visit the Shrine. The Knights also generously attend to the needs and maintenance of the Shrine.”
But that is not all they do. Oh no.
Brother Michael who served as our host not only took very good care of us, but showed us some of his projects: repairing statues, making wine and beer, cooking, making jerky, all of which we got to sample.
The shine itself is breathtaking. Here is their website and some pictures from online since I cannot find my pictures.
The day we were there was spent in adoration, prayer, and dining. I will admit that I was a bit intimidated by the prospect of the trip when I found out where it was that we were going. Sometimes “holy people” scare me. One never seems to be able to live up to the level of holiness that “holy people” like and they let you know it. I must say that there was not a soul that we came across that was not joyful, welcoming, accepting, and willing to share and accommodate.
In addition to the Knights, we were in the company of Franciscan priests and were able to visit with the cloistered nuns in one of their parlors. A parlor is a sort of living room with a grill that cuts it in half. The nuns there were so happy and joyful (how excited they were to get some chocolate!) that one had not the sense that they were locked in but that we were locked out.
It was only 24 hours but it filled my tank. I recommend visiting the Shrine which is one of the most visited sites in Alabama. 40% of the visitors there are not even Catholic. And the EWTN studios are only 45 minutes away. I think of returning there one day when I the trip can be a bit more restful.