Thursday, July 12, 2007

Miracles in Unexpected Places

Photos: Andreas and Stefano talking near the field of sunflowers, an upclose of what I call the "Marigold Madonna," and a more wide-angle view.

Today we took Angela to Collevalenza to be immersed in the miraculous healing waters of Madre Speranza (Mother Hope). The Italian Red Cross came to help us with the transport of Angela from her bed to the wheel chair, to the ambulance and out, around the sanctuary, and then back home. Andreas helped us organize everything and he also led us in prayer there, especially in front of the tomb of Madre Speranza, a very holy place to the Italians. In fact, Padre Pio, one of the most beloved Italian priests of the last millennium, used to have people come visit him from Umbria asking him to pray for a miracle of healing. “Why did you come all this way when you have the miraculous waters of Madre Speranza so near by?!” He inquired.

The experience at Collevalenza was beautiful, but somehow even more poignant happened that evening when Stefano drove me down the hill so I could shoot some photos of the sunflowers and fields of grain in the golden light just before sunset. I had taken many photos when Andreas came driving by, in fact I was about to get into the car considering my photo shoot complete.

Andreas began to tell us something from the car, but then he pulled over, parked and got out of the car in order to have a longer talk. He told us that he had a strong feeling that Madre Speranza’s message to the family was one of forgiveness. “Much healing can come from simply forgiving one another.” Believe me, everyone in the family, myself included, has done something for which they must seek forgiveness, and we all have many things that we need to forgive the others for. These painful incidents might have been done unintentionally or with a cold calculation, they may have given way to feelings of despite, anger, resentment, jealousy or greed, and they may be raw wounds from recent times or heinous scars from the past. In any case, we all need to both seek forgiveness and forgive one another.

The odd thing about this conversation is that perhaps only an hour earlier I had had a similar discussion with Stefano. When we told this to Andreas he smiled at me and then expanded on the topic of forgiveness with Stefano. Together they identified some of the family’s wounds, the potential motivations behind them, how to move past them in order to heal, etc. This encounter and conversation was an answer to my prayers for greater familial harmony and love.

I began to look around as they were engaged in dialog and curiously I saw behind me a roadside devotional shrine to Mary and the infant Christ, one that I had not noticed earlier. I walked over to it in order to admire the beautiful maiolica (Italian ceramic). I was especially moved by the vases of marigolds on either side of the Virgin and Child, and I wondered who it was that comes here to venerate and offer beautiful flowers along with their prayers. I began to take pictures of what I call the “Marigold Madonna,” set against a field of sunflowers in full bloom at the moment just before sunset. What a special gift it was to be in their presence; photographing the shrine dedicated to both familial and divine love I absorbed the harmony and peace of the holy Mother and Child.

Miracles may happen at Collevalenza, but thanks be to God, they also happen in unexpected places, like back country roads and fields of sunflowers.

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