Sunday, September 8, 2013

For Our Lady’s Birthday…

Our Lady of Brezje (or Mary, Help of Christians)
Sorry, everyone, for the long silence! The past several months have been very full and busy. Besides my schoolwork—which takes up more time and energy than I would have expected—I’ve had lots of other demands in my personal life.

I’m afraid that blogging in general is still going to have to be fairly light for at least the next year or so. I did consider taking the blog offline for a while, but in the meantime I received several emails from different people who found it helpful. So even if there won’t be much regular new content here, I will be keeping this blog accessible to the public for the time being.

Although I’m not able to write about it as much as I would like, along with all the challenges, my life in Rome has been filled with a number of beautiful experiences—not only in once-in-a-lifetime historical events like Papal transitions, but also in a number of smaller, more personal “adventures.”

Once such adventure that I will share, in honor of today’s feast of Our Lady’s Nativity (or the feast today would have been if it wasn’t a Sunday…) is the quick little pilgrimage I made during Easter week to the shrine of Our Lady of Brezje, in Slovenia. The shrine is a national basilica which houses an image of Our Lady, Help of Christians.

According to a Slovene friend of mine, the image was painted by an artist who was sentenced to death for forgery during the Napoleonic period. Desperate, he promised Our Lady that, if she found a way to rescue him from his fate, he would paint an image in her honor. Of course, the artist survived, and painted the image! Later, many people would report miracles and favors granted through Our Lady’s intercession after praying at the shrine in Brezje.

This is me in front of the basilica.
 If you go to the shrine, the image itself is housed in a sort of side chapel, in a magnificent (and huge!) gilded frame. In a small alcove behind the image, the walls are completely covered in testimonies to prayers answered through the intercession of Our Lady of Brezje. There are countless letters, some photographs, but also some more interesting, concrete offerings, such as hand-made pieces of lace or other traditional crafts. For me, one  of the most touching votive offerings was a full braid of human hair from a young girl, offered in thanksgiving for her father’s safe return from a war—presumably, being poor, this girl offered Our Lady the most beautiful thing she owned.  

To my great joy, after praying about a very special, sensitive personal intention at this shrine, I had my own petition answered in a quite remarkable way. As my own sort of “votive offering,” I decided to do something here to promote devote to Our Lady under this specific title.

And so, on this lovely feast…

Our Lady of Brezje, Help of Christians, pray for us!