Do You Believe in Miracles?
I just returned from a two-week trip to Europe where I was part of a group visiting the miraculous sites of Assisi, Lourdes and Medjugorje. The tour was the dream of Wayne Dyer, an internationally renowned author and speaker in the field of self-development. He called it Experiencing the Miraculous and it was nothing short of miraculous that an email about the trip appeared in my inbox four days after my partner, Ralph, had passed away. There were just a few spots left and the tour was scheduled to begin in six weeks. I clicked on the registration button, believing that this would be the beginning of my healing.
Merriam-Webster defines a miracle as 1. an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs or 2. an extremely outstanding or unusual event, thing, or accomplishment. Certainly the miracles of St. Francis of Assisi, St. Bernadette of Lourdes, and the children of Medjugorje fall into the first category. And perhaps some of the people on the journey hoped for a miracle of similar magnitude. But I think that most of us sensed we were going to experience our own little miracles in more subtle yet profound ways.
Upon arriving in Assisi I felt an immediate sense of peace. Walking through the town where St. Francis lived, there is a palpable reverent energy and I had a knowing that something special would happen during my stay there. After a visit to the Sanctuary of San Damiano, where in 1205 at age 24 Francesco was called to change his life and rebuild the crumbling church, my two new friends and I decided to visit the cave where St. Francis used to retreat to pray. Neither San Damiano nor the cave was on our itinerary but we had heard about the sites and were drawn to them. So we headed outside the city to the tiny cave at the Hermitage of the Carceri on Mount Subasio and entered the sacred space where we sat alone and meditated. After climbing outside the little door (more like a window!) we found ourselves on a path in the woods surrounding the cave. It was late afternoon and the only sound we could hear were the birds chirping. We came upon a sign pointing down another path that read “Francesco’s Altar”, so we went exploring and it was there that I experienced my first little miracle. In the clearing we saw an old worn wooden altar with eight benches. The altar had been made into a shrine by people who were lucky enough to have discovered its existence. Lying at the foot of the altar were pictures, letters, rosaries, and flowers. All of a sudden I felt an overpowering feeling of Ralph’s presence with me. I remembered that before I left home I had placed a favorite photo of him in my wallet. I took the picture out and tucked it behind a rock. This simple small act was, for me, a miracle.
Lourdes was our next stop on the tour. It is a little town in France at the foot of the Pyrenees Mountains which became a famous pilgrimage site after the Marian apparitions of Our Lady of Lourdes, reported to have occurred in 1858 to young Bernadette Soubirous in a grotto at Massabielle. As a young girl growing up Roman Catholic, I was always drawn to the story of Bernadette and loved the month of May when we would honor Mary with songs and May flowers. On my second night there I found myself in a surprisingly short line in front of the grotto (there were thousands of people visiting the site). Just like in Assisi, the energy in the grotto was tangible. I was surprised that it wasn’t roped off – you could touch the walls and feel the water trickling out of the grotto. I saw people wiping the walls with their handkerchiefs and I remembered that I had tucked a handkerchief that my mother had made into my backpack, and so I followed suit. Later on I sat down in front of the grotto to meditate. My mother, deceased now for ten years, came flooding into my meditation. Her name was Bernadine and until that moment, I had never made the connection that Bernadine is a variant of the name Bernadette. It means strong or brave as a bear. This was my second little miracle.
Climbing Apparition Hill in Medjugorje was another transformational experience. It’s a fairly treacherous climb up a very rocky hill to reach the top where the six children reportedly first saw a vision of the Queen of Peace. I walked alongside many others, some very old and some very young. I found it amazing that I didn’t see anyone fall. The same feeling of peace and tranquility was in the air as in Assisi and Lourdes.
When I returned home from my trip, someone questioned me as to why I would go on such a journey when I had long ago left the Catholic Church. My visit to these sites had nothing to do with religion. In fact, very few of the people I met were Catholic and most did not practice any formal religion. But we all had a common spiritual bond – a belief in the power of love to elevate us and to change the world. Being in the presence of so many other like-minded people while at these sacred sites and sharing their positive energy was a feeling I will hold in my heart forever.
So, do you believe in miracles? I would love for you to share your thoughts and miracles, big or small, with me.
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