Dearest, darlingest Carol went to Ireland in October with her church group, part pilgrimage, part tour. She took, she informs me, over seven hundred pictures with her new digital camera, and had many delightful experiences.
One of the nicest things about this trip is that she wants to learn to scrapbook. I already have her sorting through her photos to see which ones she wants to have printed, as well as jotting down things she wants to remember about the places the group visited. She's also organizing all the keepsakes she collected along the way: postcards, brochures and things like that. We have arranged that she will come and stay with us on some weekend in January, if the weather behaves, and then we'll take her to the Most Awesome Scrapbooking Store Ever, as well as to our own Anne, the Scrapbook Lady. After making numerous purchases, we'll spend the rest of the weekend scrapbooking and eating our heads off. I can hardly wait!
I was already excited about this, but I was mystified when a box arrived in the mail last week. It had Carol's return address on it and I had this fleeting thought that maybe she'd mailed a package of stuff to me, to store here for her until she comes in January. Carol and I travel together every summer, and we are no strangers to cars that are packed to the rafters, kind of like the Beverly Hillbillies. So I opened it thinking that I'd be finding a stack of photographs and memoribilia. Imagine my surprise when I found three little packages wrapped in Christmas paper.
Ordinarily, I would have put those under the tree -- this is going to be kind of a light Christmas around here, so far as gifts are concerned, and it's always nice to have a little something extra. But Carol enclosed a very nice card saying that she thought we'd want to start using these during Advent, and with that hint, she was sure we knew what the packages contained.
We did! Meelyn, Aisling and I eagerly tore open the little boxes and found that Carol had bought each of us a beautiful rosary at the shrine of Our Lady of Knock in County Mayo. She'd even had Father John bless them for us, right there on the premises. Well, this kind of thing does one thing and one thing only to me -- this kind of thing makes me cry like a fish. I had exactly the same reaction when our neighbor, Patrick, the Bitter Ex-Catholic, went on vacation to Italy and bought me and Brian rosaries he bought in Vatican City. I bawled then, too.
Coming from Carol, though, these rosaries are even more special. We have used them every night to good purpose, using them to offer up our prayers for this most beloved cousin and our sweet Uncle Graham. They are the only Catholic members of our family, and so we share a special bond with them that has grown so close, even though we're separated by half a state. (Thank goodness for email.) One of the best experiences I've had was going to Sunday Mass with Carol this past summer and going forward to receive Communion with her. I had to restrain myself from drowning right there in the pew.
Carol, knowing how much we all love to read, also enclosed fancy, tasseled bookmarks with the story of Our Lady of Knock on them, which I've typed below:
At about eight o'clock on the Thursday evening of the 21st August, 1879, the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Joseph and St. John the Evangelist appeared at the south gable of the church at Knock, County Mayo. Beside them and a little to the right was an altar with a cross and the figure of a lamb, around which angels hovered. There were fifteen official witnesses to the appartition -- young and old -- who watched it for two hours in pouring rain while reciting the rosary. Two Commissions of Enquiry accepted their testimony as trustworthy and satisfactory in 1879 and 1936.
Today, Knock ranks among the world's major Marian shrines, having enjoyed the full approval of the Church for many years. It has received privileges from four Popes and the most recent privilege was the visit of His Holiness, Pope John Paul II, on the 30th September, 1979.
Here's a website with a fuller version of the story of Our Lady of Knock. (I think it's so funny that the first woman passing in the rain thought "Oh, look! Father got some new statues for the church! But why on earth did he have the leaving of them out in the rain? Isn't that just like a man, now?" It's just so exactly like what I think I would have done and thought.) This website does have a wav. file of the Celtic Alleluia, so if you're at work or you have a sleeping baby nearby, turn down your speakers before clicking the link.
Our Lady of Knock from Catholic Traditions.org
Thank you, Carol! We love you so much!
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