You guys! Today’s my blogiversary! Three years ago today I posted my very first post!
As I was approaching my first blogiversary two years ago, I was feeling overwhelmed with gratitude for the blessing of the blog and all of you and all the wonderful things that have come out of this sweet little space, and since St. Anne is the patroness of the blog, I decided to visit a St. Anne Shrine to thank her for her intercession and to pray for all of you. My wonderful husband helped me pack up our six boys for a day-long pilgrimage to Isle La Motte, VT, which wasn’t the kind of thing we ever really did back then, but it was so important to me to mark the occasion in an appropriate way, and the day turned out beautifully.
Last year, for the second blogiversary, we visited the St. Anne Shrine in Sturbridge, MA, which was a little farther away than Isle La Motte and came with its own set of pilgrimage-type suffering, but it also was just a perfect way to celebrate the day.
This year, we decided to go even farther away (mostly because there wasn’t any closer St. Anne Shrine), and we were originally planning on going this coming weekend, but sort of last minute decided to go this past weekend — school ended Friday and we left right afterward to go to Scranton, PA, where the Basilica of the National Shrine of St. Ann is. How cool! St. Anne has her own national shrine! It has an amazing history.
First I have to back up and say, since it was such a long drive we decided to stay overnight, so our plan was to spend Friday driving to the hotel and swimming in the hotel pool, and going to the Shrine on Saturday. Have any of you ever used the web site Six Suitcase Travel? They provide info on places for families of 5-8 to stay together in one room (as opposed to broken up into two hotel rooms, which is what we always have to do), and when I saw TownePlace Suites in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre as one of the places they recommend, I was sold! So fun to see my name on the hotel. 😁
(Beautiful, beautiful country, and up so high!)
They didn’t actually have any of their big rooms available, so we had to go the two-room route, but they put us next to each other (never a guarantee), so that part worked out well. I admit I was feeling a little bit like we weren’t being pilgrimage-y enough, since we were staying at a hotel and swimming, etc., but God finds a way! His mysterious ways! And His sense of humor! As we were checking in we were informed that their pool was closed for that night only. 😒 Fortunately they’d arranged for their guests to use the pool in the neighboring hotel, so all we had to do was go across the parking lot, but, you know, it just made it that much less easy. Fortunately the next morning their pool was open again, and they had a noon check-out time!, so we thought we’d enjoy the complimentary breakfast in the the hotel, swim for an hour, then check out and go to the shrine. Which we did, but I’m thinking the chlorine levels were extra high in the pool because of having just been cleaned? Because the boys were wailing with pain for the next couple of hours, no joke, despite rinsing eyes in the shower and the sink, and their eyes were still red and puffy at lunchtime. Poor kids. All we tried to do was have a little fun! 😭
Anyway, so we went to the Shrine, and I was trying so hard to bring my mind to a prayerful, pilgrimage-y place, despite the wailing children and my son (the one who threw up during the car ride on our St. Anne trip last year) looking at me with a green face and saying, “Mom?” while hiccuping (he didn’t get sick, thank goodness). I was thinking of you all and all your intentions, and how grateful I am for all of you and all of this.
My goals when I go on these trips are threefold: (1) to visit the church and say my prayers, and also to light a candle if possible; (2) to take some pictures; (3) to go to the gift shop. So (1) turned out to be impossible, because there were baptisms going on in the church at the exact time we were there — I peeked from the vestibule through the inner doors to see if we could go in, and there were a bunch of people right in front of those doors, so we didn’t even get to see the inside of the church. Can you believe that? We only had a certain amount of time carved out to be there, so we couldn’t wait for the baptisms to be over. And there were candles in a little grotto next to the church, but the gate to them was closed and locked.
(See the gated area on the left? With the boxes stored behind the gate? That’s where the candles were.)
(Close-up of one of the many gorgeous St. Ann (they spelled it without an E there) and Our Lady statues. I love the throne.)
(The front doors of the basilica.)
(A side door. I loved the words above the door. ❤)
Number (2) worked out okay — I took a bunch of pictures, including some of the many, many dedicated benches and bricks, as well as the different statues on the grounds.
(You know I loved seeing all the names, and I was so moved by the devotion and gratitude to St. Anne for her intercession. ❤)
(One guess as to what Frank X.’s middle name is. 😉 And I loved sweet Husband Robert’s gift to his departed wife.)
I’m going to post the pics of the saint statues on Instagram — I’ll have them up by the end of the day!
And (3) was a total bust as well — though there were no hours for the gift shop listed on their web site, there was a sign on the door saying it closed at noon on Saturdays. We were there at 12:45.
It felt a little silly that the entire point of our trip was to visit this shrine, and most of what I wanted to do there wasn’t possible. But we did offer our family rosary for the intentions I wanted to pray for: For all of you and your intentions; for your babies both living and deceased; for those who are hoping for a baby, and those who are struggling with parenthood; and in thanksgiving for all of you and the blog and all that’s happened because of it.
We also added something to our trip that felt meaningful for our mission — my maternal grandmother was Anne, and when St. Anne — grandmother of Jesus — made herself known as the patroness of the blog, I immediately thought of my own grandmother Anne, and how cozy and homey it always was with her, which is how I think of us all together. My grandmother, who went by Annie and whose actual married name was Annie Oakley, is buried in a tiny rural cemetery next to a tiny rural church in a tiny rural Pennsylvania town (google maps had a hard time finding it!). The last time I was there was when my grandfather was buried next to her twenty two years ago, and with a slight adjustment to our route we could stop there on the way home.
(David X. and Annie. One guess what my grampa’s middle name was. 😉)
(We said some prayers. Those little folded hands. 💕🙏 My uncle is also buried there — my grandparents are on the left, my uncle on the right, both with flags.)
We also stopped to have dinner with one of my sister-friends, which was wonderful, and we pulled into our driveway around 11pm that night. What a trip!
I’d really wanted to get something for you at the gift shop — something for a giveaway — and I was really intrigued by the St. Ann oil I read about on the Shrine’s web site. But instead, I’m delighted to give away three St. Anne chaplets from HandmadeCatholicShop on Etsy. I really love that the shop gives “quarterly donations to both the Catholic Church and American Troops overseas” — how wonderful!! To enter the giveaway, just click here — the giveaway will run until midnight on Friday, and I’ll notify the winners via email on Saturday! 🎉🎉🎉
St. Anne, pray for us!