November 30, 2020

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Salonen: Plan B Pilgrimage | Brainerd Dispatch

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Back in July, we’d been invited on a pilgrimage to southcentral Minnesota to explore some...

Back in July, we’d been invited on a pilgrimage to southcentral Minnesota to explore some of its spiritual riches by the Reverend Peter Anderl, our former pastor. But other obligations made our participation doubtful. Noting weather predictions, I texted Ann the evening before: “Are you ready for a possible adventure?”

Tennis courts now dripping, though disappointed, we hurriedly prepared for a day previously distant, including stops at the Runestone Museum in Alexandria, Sacred Heart Church in Freeport, Immaculate Conception Church in St. Anna’s, St. John’s University in Collegeville, the “Grasshopper Chapel” in Cold Spring, and St. Mary’s Cemetery in Alexandria.

En route, I recalled that 52 years earlier, on Sept. 12, 1968, I’d been baptized into the Christian faith. Additionally, both Ann’s and my parents chose “Marie” French for “Mary” in honor of Jesus’ mother for our middle names.

Maybe we’d been called away for a reason, we thought. Indeed, reminders of our history as daughters of God popped up everywhere along the way.

Who’d have known we’d see Christ’s mother in an ancient runestone? But there it was, inscribed into the 202-pound slab of greywacke: “AVM” for Ave Maria. Discovered in 1898 by Swedish immigrant Olof Ӧhman, the slab dates internally to approximately 1392 AD. Though some contest its authenticity, we saw there a witness to Christ’s authentic life.

In tours of churches and cemeteries, more testimonies arose to our faith, connected to the devoted individuals inhabiting this land.

Stained glass windows adorn the interior of Sacred Heart Church in Freeport, Minn. Special to The Forum

Stained glass windows adorn the interior of Sacred Heart Church in Freeport, Minn. Special to The Forum

The Sacred Heart Church in Freeport off I-94 revealed impressive stained-glass windows, and paintings created in the stunning Beuronese style – the same muted, tranquil art form that inspired the Jesus mural in the Great Hall of St. John’s.

The church was an act of thanksgiving by German farmers, who’d been devastated by locust swarms devouring their crops. Arriving annually from the Rocky Mountains, Fr. Anderl shared, “they’d eat through people’s shirts, leaving only the buttons.” Livestock, too, were overcome.

Roxane Salonen pauses after visiting the "Grasshopper Chapel" on Sept. 12. At the top of the doorway, carved into concrete, are two grasshoppers on either side of the Blessed Virgin Mary, commemorating the end of a four-year plague of locust swarms that devastated the area in the late 1870s. Locals attribute their cessation to Mary's intercessory prayer on their behalf.  Special to The Forum

Roxane Salonen pauses after visiting the “Grasshopper Chapel” on Sept. 12. At the top of the doorway, carved into concrete, are two grasshoppers on either side of the Blessed Virgin Mary, commemorating the end of a four-year plague of locust swarms that devastated the area in the late 1870s. Locals attribute their cessation to Mary’s intercessory prayer on their behalf. Special to The Forum

After four years of this, in 1877, Rev. Leo Winter led his two Stearns County congregations to petition the Virgin Mary for relief, and began constructing the Cold Spring Assumption, a.k.a. “Grasshopper,” Chapel. Around the time construction began, the swarms flew away, never to return. The site now tells that incredible story and other miracles attributed to local prayer, bringing Mary and her Son to our sights once more.

Leonard Didier of Alexandria, Minn., shares about the life of his son, the Reverend Darin Didier, who died of cancer just three months after being ordained in September 2005 by Bishop Samula Aquila in the Diocese of Fargo. Miraculous healings have been attributed to his intercessory prayer. Special to The Forum

Leonard Didier of Alexandria, Minn., shares about the life of his son, the Reverend Darin Didier, who died of cancer just three months after being ordained in September 2005 by Bishop Samula Aquila in the Diocese of Fargo. Miraculous healings have been attributed to his intercessory prayer. Special to The Forum

At our final stop, the father of a young, holy priest, Darin Didier, who died just three months after his ordination in Fargo in 2005, reminded us, amidst the backdrop of a sun setting pink and purple, that our whole purpose is to know, love and serve God in this world, and be happy with him forever in the next.

And for me, a planner, it was a reminder that God’s Plan B can be beautiful, too.

Salonen, a wife and mother of five, works as a freelance writer and speaker in Fargo. Email her at [email protected], and find more of her work at Peace Garden Passage, http://roxanesalonen.com/

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