It’s only a month past my birthday, and I’m feeling the pressure to (try to) complete my 40 by 40 List. At least I am checking off #1—to visit a local Marian shrine! 🙂
My family took advantage of the beautiful spring weather on Holy Saturday. We packed up 8 of our 9 kiddos and took a road trip to Eureka, MO, to visit the Black Madonna Shrine and Grottos. Get ready to be inundated by beautiful pictures!
First, we visited the open air Chapel of the Hills. There we met Brother Tom, a Franciscan brother who guards and maintains the shrine. He is a wonderful man, full of loving stories about his life and the Black Madonna Shrine.
Tradition holds that St. Luke, a painter and physician before becoming one of Jesus’ apostles, painted this beautiful icon on a slab of cypress wood from the Holy Family’s table. The original icon is kept in the town of Czestochowa in Poland, where Mary is revered as Our Lady of Czestochowa (pronounced chen-sta-ho-va). Because St. Luke painted Mary and Jesus with crude oil paints, giving them olive skin tones, this icon is also called the Black Madonna. The painting has survived fires, vandalism (note the two slashes on Mary’s right cheek), and continues to darken with age. For a more complete history of the Black Madonna, click here.
In 1937, Brother Bronislaus Luszcz, a Franciscan monk who emigrated from Poland, began his lifetime dream of spreading the love of Our Lady of Czestochowa. With only an ax in hand, Brother Bronislaus cleared the thick forest, built a beautiful cedar chapel, and built several outdoor grottos using native Tiff rock from nearby mines.
Unfortunately, the cedar chapel burned to the ground in 1958, but in its place this beautiful open air Chapel of the Hills was constructed:
A beautiful mosaic lines the background, and three images of Our Lady of Czestochowa adorn the altar:
After exiting the Open Air Chapel, we shepherded our brood of kiddos across a bridge and along the path. Here is a close up of the native rock Brother Bronislaus used to build the grottos—notice all the quartz crystal that shimmered in the sunlight!
Our first stop was the St. Francis of Assisi Grotto. My little animal lover, Drake, stopped for a moment of prayer. St. Francis, pray for us!
Mike, baby Brooks, and I stopped to pose in front of St. Joseph’s Grotto. Wasn’t Brother Bronislaus a creative artist?
Another family favorite was the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Grotto. Notice the elaborate flowers Brother Bronislaus created by molding concrete in cupcake tins!
At the end of our journey, the little ones—especially Britta and Heath—were tuckered out. We stopped at Pilgrims Rest to admire a beautiful statue of St. Anthony. St. Anthony has prayed many times for God to help me find lost things!
I have more pictures from the Black Madonna Shrine, but I will save them for another post. I don’t want to make this post too long! Here is a prayer to pray with Our Lady of Czestochowa each morning:
Holy Mother of Czestochowa, Thou art full of grace, goodness and mercy. I consecrate to Thee all my thoughts, words and actions, my soul and body. I beseech Thy blessings and especially prayers for my salvation. Today, I consecrate myself to Thee, Good Mother, totally, with body and soul amid joy and sufferings to obtain for myself and others Thy blessings on this earth and eternal life in Heaven. Amen.
We were ravenous after walking around all afternoon, so we had a late lunch at Red Robin. I never realized Red Robin had so many gluten and dairy free options! Our waitress snapped a group picture of us—perhaps I should Photo Shop my oldest daughter’s face into the picture? 😉 We missed her, but she was having fun with her grandma that day!
Thank you, Lord for this wonderful family experience!
St. Joseph, pray for us!
St. Francis, pray for us!
St. Anthony, pray for us!
Our Lady of Czestochowa, pray for us!
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