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A Little Pilgrimage

A couple of summers ago, our family ventured around the state of Texas in search of BBQ and Jesus (it’s all in my upcoming book, y’all!) and we had a blast. So, when Ave Maria reached out and asked if I’d share my favorite site in celebration of a new book by Marge Steinhage Fenelon, “My Queen, My Mother: A Living Novena,” I was thrilled to do it. In the book, Marge takes you to nine different shrines around the country, walking you through its history, prayers and questions for reflection.

May I present one of my favorites in south Texas, the Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan of the Valley. This national shrine did not disappoint. We are incredibly grateful to the Diocese of Brownsville for their wonderful tour of the diocesan offices, along with rooms at the shrine’s pilgrim hotel. We literally spent the night across the parking lot from this beautiful place!

From the shrine’s website: In 1623, an acrobat traveling with his wife and children stopped in San Juan de los Lagos to give a performance.  While practicing their act, the youngest daughter lost her balance and was killed. An Indian woman, who was the caretaker of the church, begged the parents to place the image of the Virgin Mary over their daughter’s body and prayed for the Virgin’s intercession. The child was then brought back to life. As word spread of the miracle, the devotion to Our Lady, under the title of “La Virgen de San Juan”, started to grow throughout Jalisco. Today, she is recognized by many people throughout Mexico as well as the United States.

We decided to enjoy the 5pm bilingual Mass, after lighting some candles and placing our intentions at the shrine. What they failed to mention was that bilingual really meant the entire Mass was in Spanish except for the first reading. Um, no habla Español. At least we knew when to sit, stand and kneel! Just before Mass, though, Scott had taken Gianna and Luke to the shrine to place their candles while the rest of us sat in the pew. They hadn’t been gone two minutes when we hear this CRASH. And I thought, “Dear Lord, we’ve been here less than 10 minutes and my kids have already destroyed the place.” Nope, that would be the 70yo lady who placed her candle on the spot where workers were cleaning off wax. For once, it wasn’t us. Miracle #856.

After being in the van all day, it was nice to get out, walk around and, of course, be the family that everyone stares at. Oh well, that’s life.

And, if you’re like us and you need a little BBQ with your Jesus, just head a little further south to Rio Grande Grille. It won’t disappoint. You’re welcome.

If time is on your side, get up before sunrise and catch this.

I think we call that, “worth it.” The walk through the stations of the cross, the stillness of the day, the humidity at 1000% – it was all worth it.

No matter what site your pilgrimage takes you to, do it with intention. You’ll be changed for the better!

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