Marian Journey, Part Two

Mike, Florencio, me, the parish priest and Sylvia

You must set yourself apart if you want to seek God. Jesus did this in order to reach His spiritual zenith and speak to His Father.

San Sebastian de Garabandal Church

It is no different today. I find that when I need to pray I must have a place where I feel totally alone with God. When I’m attending Adoration I can go deeper into prayer. Truly this is my happy place, being in the presence of God. In a sense, the road to Garabandal was like going up to Mount Tabor, following the footsteps of the Lord.

San Sebastian de Garabandal

After a hardy breakfast, we headed to San Sebastian de Garabandal. Though the village was a little over an hour’s distance, it took almost two hours to reach. The winding roads led us to the steep Cantabrian Mountain range.  The intermittent  rain  kept us at a safe driving pace.  Garabandal has always fascinated me: 1. because the apparitions took place in an isolated, poor village; and  2. because of the powerful messages that the Blessed Mother gave to Conchita Gonzalez and the other girls. Because I do not want to leave any important details out, you can find this information on YouTube. For the most part these messages are a warning for a great chastisement if we do not get our lives aligned with God.


The site of the apparition of Our Lady of Garabandal Me, Florencio, Sylvia, Ernesto and Mike

My Mission

I had with me a gift that was bestowed on me in Rome.  While Father Pat, an American priest, was renewing our wedding vows 20 years ago at a chapel in Saint Paul Outside the Walls, a stranger approached and interrupted the service to give me a gift. It was a beautiful  ornate rosary. The stranger asked me if I knew anything about Garabandal. I answered yes. He then presented me with a rosary that he made with his own hands. Written in Spanish on the back of the rosary were the words “kissed by the Blessed Virgin.”  I also had with me a picture of the gentleman who gave me the rosary. We walked around the tiny village asking the villagers if they knew who the man was. Many said, “He looks very familiar.” But no one could identify who he was. This gift was and will remain a sacred mystery.

Time To Pray

We prayed in the small San Sebastian De Garabandal  church, then I purchased medals and rosaries. Now it was time to visit the pines where our beautiful Lady appeared. We drove up a dirt road which led us to a gate; the rest of the way was on foot.  The gentle rain made the walking difficult because we were still climbing up and down a muddy hill.

It was as if the rain opened  and the scent of fresh pine welcomed us.  The glory of God was ever present. We could see the small village from where we stood; to me it seemed that Our Lady was watching over the villagers. On our way down I found a puddle of water. I stood in it and moved my feet around  to remove some of the mud from my white shoes before returning to the car.

The gate leading to the site of the apparition Florencio and Mike
Potes, Spain Me and Mike
Potes, Spain Me and Mike
View of the Cantabrian Mountains
The tram ride

I remember in times past when returning from a foreign country, when going through  customs we were asked if we visited a farm. On this trip every village was a farm


On our way down Sylvia was busy looking for a place to eat. She and Florencio were familiar with a beautiful resort in Camaleno because they vacationed there when their children were younger. We arrived a few minutes before siesta and ate another wonderful Spanish meal. This was followed by a tram ride up to the top of the Cantabrian Mountains overlooking the valley below. We were all so stuffed after our meal that we decided to go on a nature walk. We took a 30- minute walk and headed to the village of Potes.


Potes is a médiéval village with Roman bridges and the soft Deva River running through the main area of this graceful town. It was a special treat for us to take a stroll and watch the laid back attitudes of the locals conducting their day. Surrounded by this beauty, I would want to stay close to home too.


What I discovered on this trip is the food. Nothing that we consumed had preservatives.  Each village makes their own cheese, bakes the bread and I would imagine gently slaughters their cows, goats and pigs for personal consumption. They all have gardens and barter with other villages for different types of vegetables. Mild green peppers are a staple and the patatas are the best! These potatoes are sweeter than what we are accustomed to back home. This tasty vegetable is  fried like potato chips and served at almost every meal. Of course we in the states love our fried foods, so I was pretty content with the patatas.


It was a long drive back to Santander, and by this time the rain was constant. To keep our driver Ernesto awake, We shared so many funny stories, some about our children when they were younger and many about our pets and their odd behavior. We laughed all the way down the mountain, and it was close to 11 p.m. by the time we arrived. I can only speak for myself, but this day was one filled with spiritual  awareness of the supernatural and grand beauty. Now I have a greater appreciation for Northern Spain. Our friends became our family.

My Prayer

Dear Lord, thank You for keeping us safe during this journey. As we prayed for our friends and loved ones, I know that our prayers reached the heavens. Lord, how grateful we are to be Your vessels in transporting all of our needs to You. I understand that You can hear us wherever we are, but I also realize that these pilgrimages draw us closer to You. Please answer all of our petitions and make haste in moving mountains for those who need a miracle. Amen.



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Marian Pilgrimage, Part One

This journey began with a great desire in my heart to visit Garabandal, Spain

How It Began

I must first introduce our wonderful friends who faithfully took this journey with Mike and me. We have known Florencio and Sylvia for over 30 years.  Our paths crossed through a business venture, and  we have remained  friends ever since. In the late eighties they moved all six of their children to California to expand their European business. Our company distributed their product.  When they visited family in California, we would often go to dinners with them.

Florencio, Sylvia, me, Mike, Alvero, and Ernesto

Our friendship is rooted in our love for Christ and our conversations always remained with our minds focused on how much our faith has helped us through life. We recently rekindled our friendship when we visited Spain in 2019 with our friends Larry and Helen. Both Florencio and Sylvia picked us up from our hotel and took us to a wonderful dinner in Madrid. They wanted us to savor the great tastes of Madrid.

Through the conversations, Sylvia shared that one of her daughters was suffering with cancer. Since we were en route to Lourdes, France, I promised to bring her blessed water. We had to return through Madrid to fly home. Again, Florencio and Sylvia were so gracious to meet us for a brunch in Madrid and grateful for the holy water from Lourdes.


Both Sylvia and I continued to communicate via WhatsApp. Turns out that we have a lot in common; she, like myself, is very conservative and attends daily Mass. We are prayer warriors for our friends and family. I shared with her how I wanted to visit Garabandal, where the Blessed Mother appeared to four girls. Sylvia mentioned that her nephew has visited Garabandal and had a wonderful spiritual experience. Our conversation became more vivid and now Fatima, Portugal, was part of the plan.


Reina Sofia Museum Picasso

Getting Mike On Board

While Sylvia was working on planning the trip, I still had to convince Mike. I knew better than to use the word “pilgrimage”, so I started with the fact that these were places that he had never visited. My husband is connected with God and prays daily, but this was going to be a big Marian Journey. It took a while before he finally purchased the tickets, but there was no turning back!

The Planning

Our part was easy but for Sylvia it was a different story. She had to arrange for hotels in all the cities and little villages. She wanted us to experience the food like the locals. This was painstaking because we also had to consider the siestas that are taken during the day. Every restaurant shuts down at four and does not reopen until eight. How she managed to accomplish this was with the hand of God, because on several occasions we made it to the  restaurants a few minutes before closing and experienced a wonderful meal!

The Vehicle

Florencio and Sylvia own a nice sized van, but right before the trip she took it in for service. The vehicle was not ready on time, so they had to rent a Peugeot. I, like the rest of all of my travel adventures, sat in the middle. We became family in this white wagon Peugeot; we talked for hours and shared family stories while making our own.

Ernesto, Mike, me, Sylvia and Florencio




Ernesto,  Florencio and Sylvia’s nephew, was our wonderful chauffeur the entire trip. He took time off from work to drive us over 2,500 miles. He is the son of one of Florencio’s seven sisters (he also has a younger brother). This clan is huge and close-knit; Ernesto has four brothers and one sister. He, too, attends daily Mass in Madrid. Ernesto had only been to Garabandal, so this adventure was equally exciting for him as well.

Day One

Mike and I had one full day in Madrid before meeting our friends in Santander. It was a whirlwind adventure, but we made it to Museo Nacional del Prado and Arte de Reinas Sofia to see the gallery Picasso. We ate at a local cafe and were first introduced to croquettas.  This would be part of our daily meal throughout the trip. These delicious appetizers are made of potatoes, cheese, ham and vegetables rolled in corn meal and fried.

Day Two


On this part of the journey we met Alvaro, Florencio and Sylvia’s son who traveled with us on this day. Alvaro is a charming, precious young man who also attends daily Mass. Though he does not think so, he speaks perfect English. He attended Corona Del Mar High School in Newport Beach when his family lived in California for six years. Alvaro added so much to our conversations and graciously answered all the bombardment of questions I had for him. I thanked him for carefully watching over me as I made my rosary purchases, making sure all was correct. Alvaro was visiting with his parents in Santander and had a busy schedule, so he was only with us that one memorable day.

Ampuero, Spain
Ampuero, Spain   Alvaro, Ernesto, Florencio, me and Mike


Ampuero, Spain, is where Our Blessed Mother appeared on a stone September 15, 1605. The apparition stone is located on the side of the small church. We all took our time and prayed for our loved ones and friends. Personally, this was truly a holy experience; when I placed my head into the opening of the stone I  felt the power of God so strong! We all shared the same sacred experience with the presence of God through Mary. This was a new  level of worship for me that set the tone for the rest of the trip.


Saint Peter the Apostle Church, Limpias, Spain “Christ of the Agony”


At one time this small village of just over 1,200 people was as famous as Lourdes, France. At the 16th century parish church of Saint Peter the Apostle  in Limpias many miracles are attributed to the life-sized figure of Jesus on the Cross, who is depicted as Christ of the Agony. Before this crucifix was moved to Limpias, it  saved the village of Cadiz, Spain from a massive flood. From 1919 through 1924 many villagers  from Limpias witnessed the eyes of Christ opening and closing. Thousands of miracles have been attributed to Christ of the Agony in Limpias. We prayed for so many at this holy site.

Saint Peter the Apostle Church, Limpias


Never Doubt

The miracles of Limpias are well documented. In August of 1914, Father Antonio Lopez was installing electrical wiring to illuminate the beautiful crucifix “Christ of the Agony” when he noticed that the eyes on Jesus were closed. He was on a ladder, eye level to the crucifix, as he leaned closer to examine he made this great discovery. The eyes “Christ of the Agony” are always opened. Many of the villagers had similar experiences.

On Palm Sunday, April 13, 1919, two prominent men from Limpias attended the service but they considered these manifestations as hallucination and hysteria. As they approached the altar they were able to see the eyes and mouth move. They fell to their knees asking forgiveness and imploring mercy from God.

The “concha” on the way to Santiago de Compostela

Limpias is also where we encountered our first  “concha”; this shell on the way to the journey of Santiago de Compostela is located directly in front of Saint Peter the Apostle of Limpias. This is one of the many places you can get your stamp for  “The Way of St. James ” or as it’s referred here  “El Camino”.

My Prayer

Lord,  thank You for blessing us with good health, allowing us to make this journey. I am completely humbled to be able to venerate and to walk in the same steps where so many miracles took place. Amen.

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The Upper Room

With The Upper Room

On May 19th, Christians all over the world will be celebrating Pentecost Sunday. I have visited the  Upper Room in the Old City of Jerusalem many times on this special day

The Upper Room In Jerusalem is entered through the Zion Gate. As you walk past the Jerusalem stone walls you are met by street vendors selling goods made of sesame, honey bars, and other products indigenous to the Holy Land. When the path splits into two, the walk continues toward the left until you reach a statue of David. The Jews frown upon this statue because they believe that it is an offense; Jewish culture does not venerate idols and considers this a graven image. Of the many times that I have visited, poor David has suffered amputated toes from the hands of Jews and, on several occasions, his nose has been broken

King David’s statueThis area of the Upper Room is considered the Jewish section of the Old City. The Muslims consider this to be a mosque, but the Israelis believe the lower level of the old structure is the Tomb of David. As Christians we remain neutral; we visit both the Tomb of David but spend most of our time in the Upper Room. This is one of my five favorites sites to visit in the Holy Land.

The Upper Room

The Upper Room, also referred to as the Cenacle, is located in the southern part of the Old City of Jerusalem. In this room many historic occurrences took place that changed the course of Christianity: Jesus washed the feet of His disciples,  the Last Supper, the post-Resurrection and Resurrection of the Risen Christ, Pentecost, and the introduction of the Holy Spirit.

The Last Supper

I’m sure many of you have a picture of the Last Supper in your homes. This image is etched in our hearts. The apostles were too spiritually immature to receive the powerful message that Jesus shared about His death. Their eyes were clouded with the inability to comprehend this mystical phenomenon. These chosen few were not stand out people; they would go unnoticed to the world. Yet they were hand picked by Jesus.

The Institution of the Eucharist

This also took place during the Last Supper. This is our true communion with God. The Eucharist is what brought me back to the Catholic Church. In the 15 years of wandering from one Protestant  church to another, nothing was more evident than the lack of Holy Communion. I had completed my religious journey by finding Christ in the Eucharist once again.

When I visit the Upper Room, I imagine Jesus holding up the bread and wine and consecrating it with His Holy Hands, I imagine the stillness in the room while our Lord spoke these words:

26 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and giving it to his disciples said, “Take and eat; this is my body.” 27 Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.
This is the reason a Catholic priest consecrates the bread and wine; they are Jesus personified. This is the true body and blood of Christ. This is not ordinary bread with grape juice, it’s the TRUE body and blood of Christ! It’s appalling to me that many Catholics do not understand the holiness of this part of the Mass.

Our Upper Room

Our Upper Room is a time spent in communion with God. We seek to draw closer to Him from the same place where Jesus poured out His spirit.  Jesus chose this room. He wants us to go up and visit, to stay and experience what His disciples felt, to be in complete union with Him. As I make my way up the spiritual steps to the Upper Room, sometimes I feel like Thomas, doubting  yet  desiring this emotion for growth to rise up within me. I want this encounter that the  disciples experienced, the pure love of Christ. Jesus knows we are all human and fall short. He knew that Judas would betray Him. He knew that Peter would deny Him not once, but three times. Our Lord also knew that Thomas would doubt His Resurrection. We all suffer conflicting guilt for not serving the Lord as we should. Even though I’m in constant prayer throughout the day,  I always feel that I should go deeper into prayer. The distractions of the world bring me out of the Upper Room, so this makes the climbing more laborious as I make my way up again. My desire is to reach the Upper Room void of all my daily burdens.  I aspire to be in the presence of our Lord and receive what He has in store for me through contemplative prayer.

Contemplative Prayer

Contemplative prayer is the prayer of the quiet. You become one with God through emptying yourself so that the Holy Spirit can fill you. You rest in His holy presence by relaxing and breathing out all distractions. Your breathing must come naturally, not too slow, not too fast. Many times when I attempted to practice contemplative prayer in my home, my cat Prudie jumped on my belly. I can’t tell if she wants affection or if she wants to share this holy experience with me. It takes a lot of discipline to get into this spiritual zone. Believe me, many times I have attempted to reach this zenith but I failed miserably. I will not surrender to my shortcomings and will continue to attempt mastering this type of prayer.

Contemplation is a gaze of faith, fixed on Jesus. “I look at him and he looks at me”: this is what a certain peasant of Ars used to say to his holy cure about his prayer before the tabernacle…[Jesus’ gaze] …teaches us to see everything in the light of his truth and his compassion for all men [and women]  (Catechism of the Catholic Church No 2715)

The Holy Spirit

I mentioned earlier about the apostles not fully understanding Jesus’ powerful message in the Upper Room. Only after Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit on them were their eyes fully opened. This is considered the Sacrament of Holy Communion. This all took place after the Resurrection, in the Upper Room. After Jesus’ Ascension, the fire of the Holy Spirit fell upon them. From that day on, the apostles went forth  sharing the Good News with boldness. When we are filled with the fire of the Holy Spirit, we, too, can change the world by witnessing the love of Christ.

My Prayer

May we all encounter You, Lord, in the Upper Room. Close all distractions, especially those of social media. Allow us in Your Holy Presence. Meet us on the way up, so that we can see Your beautiful, nail-scarred hands extended toward us. Jesus, touch our hearts to become more like You. Amen.

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