The following is an excerpt from the introduction to My Queen, My Mother: A Living Novena.
As I made my way on my Marian pilgrimage, I was most often asked one question: “Why are you doing this?”
The idea started percolating in my brain as I watched the growing success of my book Our Lady, Undoer of Knots: A Living Novena. I wanted to do something challenging and magnificent that would uncover the spiritual treasures of our United States and, in the process, help people to fall in love with our country again (or perhaps for the first time).
The early missionaries came to this continent to conquer it for Christ, and many of the places they founded were dedicated to Mary. I wanted to reconquer it for our Lord and his Mother and help others to set out to reconquer it too.
The best way to reconquer anything is to first reconquer it spiritually. I know many people who go to great lengths to travel on pilgrimage to distant places—the Holy Land, of course, but also Marian places such as Lourdes, France; Fatima, Portugal; and Knock, Ireland, to name a few. They make painstaking plans and invest their time, energy, and money into the journey. More than anything, they invest their spirits by preparing mentally and spiritually beforehand so that they can make a fruitful pilgrimage. I don’t know anyone who has gone on pilgrimage and regretted it. Nor do I know anyone who did not gain far more than he or she invested.
Each Marian pilgrimage site shows Mary in a different way and under a different title. She’s the same woman, presented uniquely in each place. Yet all Marian pilgrimage sites have one thing in common: from each one, Mary calls her children to herself and distributes graces in abundance to them. From these graces stem spiritual miracles of conversion, healing, comfort, and transformation. In many cases there are physical miracles of cures as well as the solving of many kinds of problems.
Visiting Marian places of grace is ingrained in me. From my earliest years, I’ve been drawn to our Blessed Mother. That’s no credit to me—it’s the result of her having called me to herself and showering me with her motherly love and protection. When I was one year old, I was given the great gift of having been consecrated to Mary by Servant of God and founder of the Apostolic Movement of Schoenstatt, Fr. Joseph Kentenich. His consecration of me to Mary was my introduction to the Schoenstatt movement and, especially, to the Schoenstatt Marian shrine near my childhood home. At the time of the consecration, Fr. Kentenich presented my mother with a print of the image of Mary that is enthroned in every Schoenstatt Marian shrine throughout the world (260 and counting!), titled the “Mother Thrice Admirable.” Mom hung the picture in our living room, and I fell in love with it—and with our Blessed Mother! The connection with the image in my living room and the image in the Schoenstatt shrines profoundly impacted me, and the shrine became home to me. I visited it as often as I could, spending hours praying, thinking, and sometimes simply looking into her beautiful eyes.
As an adult, my love for the Schoenstatt shrine fostered my love for, and curiosity about, Marian places of grace in general. I searched and discovered that there are innumerable Marian places of grace throughout the United States.
Just before I set out on the final stop of my pilgrimage, I received some tragic news. The Schoenstatt shrine near my childhood home was scheduled for demolition. Through that tragedy, the Blessed Mother instilled in my heart a fourth dimension of my Marian pilgrimage: What happened to the Schoenstatt Marian shrine of my childhood could happen to other Marian places of grace as well. Secularism is spreading across our country, and no place is completely immune from its clutches. If, by my journeys, I can move others to take interest and ownership in Mary’s special places of grace in the United States, perhaps we can turn the tide and save other Marian pilgrimage places from demolition. They are treasures, part of our Catholic heritage in the United States, and that makes them a part of us. It’s time to step out of ourselves and into an encounter with our Lord and his Mother — for our own sakes and for the sake of our nation.
Visit our Book Notes archive.
Copyright 2019 Marge Steinhage Fenelon
This excerpt from My Queen, My Mother by Marge Steinhage Fenelon is reprinted with the kind permission of Ave Maria Press.