Wednesday was Pilgrimage Day. The GRN family was up and at it early for a big breakfast spread. In the main hallway, a smorgasbord of fruit, eggs, sausage, a pot of bacon, a vat of grits (delicious!), and different pastries awaited us. After we ate our fill, we boarded the buses and headed out towards Hanceville, a little more than an hour away from our hotel. The scenery was something straight out of a book. As we were driving, there were dilapidated houses next to beautiful country houses. Tall oak trees lines the streets and little ponds were seen throughout.
We arrived at The Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament and were led through the courtyard into the lower church. The courtyard itself was something I’ve never seen before. It was likened after the piazzas found in Europe. Once we were in the Lower Crypt Church, Fr. Wade Menezes gave an inspirational talk on the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Among the points that stood out was the fact that when in confession, the confessor is more likely to go too in depth. That is something that scares people off. Instead, Fr. Wade encouraged us to simply confess the type of sin and the number of times we’ve done that sin. Nothing more, nothing less. After the speech, the conference went upstairs to the main church where confessions were being heard.
The Main Church, or Temple of the Divine Child, was the most beautiful church I’d ever been in. Taking on a Romanesque-Gothic style, the back of the alter was gilded and the monstrance was simply majestic! Bishop Robert Baker, of the Diocese of Birmingham, Alabama, said mass with half of it in Latin. After mass,we had a good barbecue lunch and then some free time to roam the grounds. I went on the John Paul II Eucharistic Center Tour while others went to the gift shop of El Nino to pick up rosary rings, prayer coins, and other reminders of their trip. I also took that time to go back to the Lower Crypt Church and was able to pray at Mother Angelica’s final resting place.
At 2:15 p.m. we met in the Lourdes Grotto for a Private Rosary. The Grotto was designed after the actual Lourdes Grotto in France and there was a piece of rock that came from the real Grotto. The alter contains 33 relics from saints. After we prayed the Rosary, we had about a half an hour which I took to do self-reflections before we boarded the bus.
Our next stop took us to the EWTN studios. We were given dinner and a tour of the campus before we were led into the studio and sat in as the live studio audience for EWTN Live with Fr. Mitch Pacwa and his guest Bishop Kevin Vann of the Diocese of Orange, California. Our very own David Hornbek was able to ask a question and had it answered live! Following the show we were able to see Mother Angelica’s office! It was left as it was when the miracle occurred that allowed her to walk without a braces or crutches.
That concluded my first pilgrimage and it remains as one of the most inspirational days of my life, especially in regards to my spiritual life. The beauty and reverence of the day will never be forgotten.
Tomorrow, I will recap the workshops that we attended throughout the day.