When my mother was 8 years old she was deaf in one ear. My grandmother brought her to the best doctors in Boston, but the diagnosis stood. So my grandmother brought her to another physician, by way of His grandmother, St. Anne, Our Lady’s mother, whose feast we celebrate today (along with St. Joachim, her husband and Mary’s father.)
An arduous journey, it was long before the Mass Pike was built. And what for us is now an hour drive, then was an overnight stay and a 2-day bus ride. With great faith, my mother and grandmother took the bus to Boston and then to Worcester where they stayed overnight. The next morning they went out to Fiskdale, a section of a town named Sturbridge, located in about the middle of Massachusetts near the Connecticut border. It was there that they went to the shrine of St. Anne and prayed for my mom’s healing. It was there that their prayers were answered.
They returned to Boston. The doctors had no explanation. My grandmother did. My mom did. We do.
Every year after that, my grandmother would go out to Fiskdale to say thank you to “Grammy Anne” for her intercession. Many years we went with her. Of course, this was well after the Mass Pike was built, so even though it seemed interminable to us with my grandfathers’ poky driving, it was much shorter than the original trip. On those drives, we learned the fine art of praying the rosary in the car.
Four things stick out in my memory:
- The walking stations of the cross. It was such a long prayer! We had to be quiet and pay attention. I didn’t have the words and I couldn’t follow along and aren’t we done yet?
- The holy stairs: Concrete steps with some kind of carpeting climbed up to a huge crucifix at the top. I mean it was huge. We prayed a Hail Mary on every step and an Our Father on the longer landing in between. Man, my knees killed. Do we have to do this?
- The statue of St. Anne with all the crutches hung up on the wall around it. Now this was impressive. People were cured here. My grandfather contracted polio when he was 16. Falling ill before Sister Kinney’s treatment, he did his own rehab and walked with crutches as long as I knew him. I knew what that meant – giving up crutches. It was amazing that this God could really do that. Those crutches on the wall are seared in my memory.
- Lighting a candle: They use real candles at the shrine. It was hot and smoky and smelled of melted wax. If we were lucky, my grandmother would slip us a quarter and we could light a candle. Now that was really a treat.
As I got older, I would bring my grandmother. The last time we went she was in a wheelchair. It was really hard to move her and get her around, but until she was no longer able to go, she went to say thank you. On my piano, sits a heart-shaped frame with a picture of the two of us on that day. It’s a day I will never forget.
The shrine is different for me as an adult. I pray the stations because I understand that Jesus walks with us in our suffering. For our part, we must pray and unite it with him. I pray on the holy stairs, because Our Lady brings us up to Jesus one step at a time as we grow in faith. My eyes fill with tears at the crutches and canes and eyeglasses hanging on the wall and the notes folded up and tucked away near St. Anne, as I know they are prayers of gratitude and hope. I light a candle and let my children do so, because the light of the world hears our prayers and I expect miracles.
There are two great lessons in this:
- Be thankful. Tell God so. Tell others. Never grow weary in gratitude for all of God’s blessings.
- Bring your children to shrines. Children experience the world by what they do. The walking, the kneeling, the car ride, the prayers, the heat and smell of the candles, seeing the crutches, and witnessing other people’s faith…they speak to our children in ways that we don’t. Each child absorbs it in his or her own way. God uses all of their sense to draw them closer to Him. Be sure to make it fun, too. Go with another family, so there are other kids to hack around with. And at the end of the day do something a little special. We go to the gift shop, and we always stop at Friendly’s on the way home.
About 10 years ago a friend of mine from church told me about her granddaughter’s hearing problems. I told my friend about what happened to my mom. She brought her granddaughter out to St. Anne’s and today her granddaughter’s hearing is 100%.
Our God is a God of miracles. 2000 years ago Jesus’ miracles helped people to believe. Right now, in 2010, they help us, too.
So today, pray for miracles through the intercession of St. Anne. Pray with expectant faith. We don’t always know the blessings, but we know that “nothing is impossible with God.” (Lk 1:37) Plan a pilgrimage and bring your children.
St. Anne, pray for us! Anne
Here are some useful links: Shrine of St. Anne in Fiskdale. Be sure to check out the history of the shrine to hear of the first miracle. There is also an icon museum at the shrine. Although the feast day ends the novena, you can always start up another one Novena to St. Anne
PRAYER TO SAINT ANNE
O, glorious Saint Anne, you are filled with compassion for those who invoke you and with love for those who suffer. Heavily burdened with the weight of my troubles, I cast myself at your feet and humbly beg of you to take the present intention which I recommend to you in your special care.
Please recommend it to your daughter, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and place it before the throne of Jesus, so that He may bring it to a happy issue. Continue to intercede for me until my request is granted. But, above all, obtain for me the grace one day to see my God face to face and, with you and Mary and all the saints, to praise and bless Him for all eternity. Amen.
For those of you who are local, I noticed the following:
FR. RALPH DIORIO: APOSTOLATE OF DIVINE MERCY AND HEALING
Fr. Diorio will conduct a series of healing services in St Joachim Chapel on Tuesdays from 12:00 noon to 3:00 PM and Sundays from 2:00 PM to 4:45 PM. Advance notice of attendance must be registered with the Divine Healing Apostolate Office in Worcester (508) 791-0233. All inquiries about these services including upcoming dates and all other information must be directed to Fr Diorio’s office. For further information click here.