The introduction to the saints and mystics began early on my spiritual path. Theirs were some of the first stories and divine beings I learned about. They stirred my heart especially, thinking about the circumstances many of them endured and lived, loved and thrived through. St. Hildegard of Bingen (1098–1179) , Benedictine abbess, visionary, composer, polymath was tithed to the Church at a young age-if one can imagine such a thing- and is reported to have become an anchorite, deliberately walled into the confines of a structure with only the barest living essentials, spending her days within the strict enclosure (at least until later in life when she became magistra of her own community of nuns.) in prayer, meditation, studying. She did not come into her own until middle age, as prolific writer, composer, orator, healer and more. Perhaps this restrictive existence contributed to the deepening of her gifts, or at the very least the removal of distraction to face them and surrender to bringing out into the greater world as she did eventually.
Enamored and fascinated by her and others: St. Joan of Arc, St. Francis of Assisi, Julian of Norwich, Bernadette of Lourdes, Gobnait, of course, Brigid, Mother Mary and others, I found a deep resonance with the mystic life; challenging no matter the century we find ourselves in. Like Hildegard who is quoted as writing:
“Although I heard and saw wondrous and mysterious things, I refused to write them down because of self-doubt and my fear of the opinion of others,” she wrote. Weary and frightened, she gathered the strength to begin recording her visions. Once she started to write, her health greatly improved. “Cynthia Overweg, Hildegard of Bingen: The Nun Who Loved the Earth
I’ve resisted opening up about some of the mystical experiences I’ve had. I, too, have found that as I have given up the struggle, surrendered to the life that wants to come through me, that I feel stronger and more alive. My sense is that we as a species are becoming more aware of our spiritual senses and find our days are richer, more authentic and real as we embrace our divine nature and essence, grounding heaven in these earthy bodies. And for me, that expresses itself through a drive to seek out and write about the mystical, mythical, miraculous and mysterious we encounter on our journeys. I believe we are awakening our inner mystics and miracle makers now like never before, an en-mass quickening, shaking ourselves out of a bad dream in order to dream a new one of our conscious making, one that can re-enchant our existence, restore a wild love, holy inter- connectedness, and natural order to this tender world.
Today Wild Wandering takes us to a shrine I first discovered in 2004: St. Anne in Sturbridge, Ma.
The Parish website retells:
“In 1879, Monsignor Elzear Brochu, a Southbridge pastor in failing health, pledged to St. Anne that if he were to regain his strength, he would propagate her devotion by building a shrine in her honor. He did recover his health, so he purchased the land and had the present St. Anne Church constructed in 1883. He predicted that great wonders would be worked there. St. Anne Church as built in 1883 as a mission of Notre Dame Parish in Southbridge, MA. Simultaneously, another mission was established under the patronage of St. Patrick. Both missions were united in 1887 to form St. Anne and St. Patrick Parish. “
Other healings have taken place over the years and the shrine has expanded to include an outdoor service pavilion, Hall of Saints, Russian Icon Exhibit, Angel of Hope, Generations Statue, a number of outdoor tributes such as a Way of the Cross, large Crucifixion, labyrinth, and a number of assorted outdoor statuary.
I spent time in prayer in front of St. Anne and can tell you there is certainly an energy field held in this space. Even with a few fellow pilgrims coming and going, it was not difficult to stay in the quiet ambiance of the sanctuary.
The Shrine is open daily and masses are held throughout the week. Plan on spending some time, lots to take in.
Peace on you