If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know that my family and I are away for the week. The last week away that we did was three years ago, when we shared a beach house with my parents and siblings and their kids (there were twenty two of us) — Luke wasn’t even on the way yet, and my next boy up was three, and there were lots of family members to help out. Being away for a week on our own hasn’t been attempted at all since my nearly-sixteen-year-old was the same age Luke is now (22 months) and we cut our week short because he wasn’t sleeping and then threw up and I was eight months pregnant with our second and DONE WITH VACATIONS AND TRIPS AWAY.
Since then, other than going away with my extended family for a week (which we’ve only done twice), we haven’t gone away for longer than four days, and even then it was only when most of the kids were old enough to sleep well and enjoy themselves.
I was laughing remembering all this because Luke is at that same age when my oldest caused us to cut our vacation short and oh boy, I am so totally remembering why I insisted we go home early and why our vacations since then have been nearly nonexistent. What a terror! (The cutest ever and we all love him more than life itself but still: a terror.)
I was also laughing that my plans for this year’s St. Anne’s pilgrimage had to be adjusted because of Luke. That kid.
If you’ve followed the blog for a while, you’ll know that, not long after I started the blog, I was wondering about a patron saint for it and I felt like St. Anne was waving from heaven asking for the job (or, more likely, letting me know she’d already taken it). She’s been our patroness since almost the very beginning, and I’ve often felt her care for all of us as we enjoy naming our own babies or looking forward to when we can, and helping to name those of others, poking around the nooks and crannies of our faith for the perfect monikers that will help both the babies and their parents keep their eyes on heaven.
I’ve been so grateful to St. Anne that as my first blogiversary approached (June 27, 2015) and I was trying to figure out how to properly celebrate it, the idea of thanking St. Anne for her intercession for our little community and all the blessings that I personally have received through Sancta Nomina by taking a pilgrimage with my family to one of her shrines seemed the perfect idea — difficult enough for it to feel like a real gift of thanks, and so appropriate for a Catholic blogger.
It was such a success (despite all odds), that we made it an annual tradition — an annual blogiversary pilgrimage to a St. Anne shrine to offer thanks and to pray for you all. That first year we went to the shrine in Isle La Motte, VT; the second year we went to Sturbridge, MA; the third year to Scranton, PA; the fourth to Waterbury, CT; and the FIFTH — last year — was appropriately celebrated in a big way: in Ireland!
I admit my impending sixth blogiversary — last Saturday, June 27, 2020 — was not on my mind at all this past spring because of the all the pandemic stuff, nor was a St. Anne pilgrimage. But when we were planning this week away to my parents’ lake cabin, and I realized that my blogiversary was the day before we left, I thought I’d look to see if there might be a St. Anne church close by-ish that maybe we could drive to one day while we’re here. Because of social distancing and reduced space in our local churches, I wasn’t expecting there to be a Mass we could attend or anything like that — my hopes were very modest, I just wanted to visit a St. Anne church, even just the outside. Simply an effort to thank her.
Are you at all surprised that I discovered a St. Ann (that spelling) church less than an hour from our lake? And that it had a 6pm Mass on Wednesday evenings? And that, while I was sure the 6pm Mass wasn’t currently happening, since churches have only just barely begun opening in my diocese for Sunday Masses, when I inquired I discovered that, indeed, the Wednesday evening Masses have resumed? Of course you’re not surprised, and I wasn’t either. That St. Ann(e).
My plan was for us all to go — part of the gift and the gratitude, in my mind, is to offer something back, a suffering, to be used as God sees fit, through the hands of His grandmother. As much as I’d like it to be different, traveling to go to Mass with the kids qualifies as the kind of suffering I have in mind. (You can read more about my tips and tricks for taking pilgrimages with little ones in this piece I wrote for CatholicMom last year (they just redesigned the site and it’s hard to find the archived articles, so please excuse the state of this link).)
But I ended up having to drive home with Luke that morning to bring him to a doctor’s appointment, and he screamed in the car the whole way back (an hour), and I didn’t feel like I could subject him or the rest of us to a repeat of that again that evening. So my oldest and I went instead and it turned out to be perfect, exactly what I’d hoped for.
This church of St. Ann is in a town called Fort Ann, named after Queen Anne of England (the Wiki entry notes that it’s unknown why the original spelling of Fort Anne was later changed to Fort Ann). It was so cool to see “Ann” used in the names of various businesses and on street signs — and not just “Fort Ann” but “St. Ann” too!
The church itself is a sweet, small country church. It wasn’t overflowing with St. Ann(e) statues and windows, as so many of the other shrines I’ve visited, but what it had was beautiful.
The Mass was beautiful as well — Father started with the Angelus, then said Mass, then led us in the chaplet of Divine Mercy. My son and I said the rosary together on the way home. Perfect.
There were eleven people there besides us, which nearly brought the church to full capacity. It was lovely and peaceful, and I offered the pilgrimage in thanksgiving for this wonderful community and for all the blessings that have come through Sancta Nomina, including the ministry of naming and my book and the unending intercession of St. Anne for all of us. I also offered it for:
- All of you and your intentions; for your children, both living and deceased; for those of you who long to be parents but aren’t yet; for those of you who have children but long for more; for those of you who have children and are struggling to stay afloat
- For the intentions our Holy Father asked us to pray for earlier in the spring: the end of the epidemic, relief for those who are afflicted by it, and eternal salvation for those the Lord has called to Himself
- For our country and our church
In addition to St. Anne, I want to thank you all for a wonderful six years! It’s been such an unexpected and wonderful gift! Thank you for teaching me more about the names of our faith and sharing your families with me. ❤️❤️❤️
My book, Catholic Baby Names for Girls and Boys: Over 250 Ways to Honor Our Lady (Marian Press, 2018), is available to order from ShopMercy.org and Amazon — perfect for expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady!