A month’s pay for one airline ticket?

A month’s pay for one airline ticket?

As people in the U.S. take to the air for the Thanksgiving weekend, it is interesting to look at how the cost of air travel has come down….yes, down, since back in the 1960’s and 70’s.  Americans flying to Europe these days have a few complaints about the hassles of air travel; however, you may be interested in comparing how far we’ve really come in terms of costconvenience and comfort of flights.  In 1960, according to U.S. government figures, US airlines carried about 62 million passengers, by 2010 it was over ten times that number at 720 million.  Here are a few ways that air travel has actually improved!

1. Cost of flying: Think air fares are through the roof? Better think again.  Few people could afford to fly back in the 1960’s.  A flight from New York to Paris was about $370 in 1960, when median family income was only about $450 per month.  That is $2800 in today’s prices, and almost a whole month’s income. So compare that to the $900 or so that you can get if you shop around,  and you’ll quickly see that today’s prices are actually a bargain.

2.  Convenience: Today we have hundreds of convenient, non-stop flights; however, prior to 1960 these options did not exist.  For example:

Flying from Chicago non-stop to Rome in 1960? Not without at least one stop along the way–and there were only two flights per week.  Here is a Chicago newspaper article from 1960.  Flying non-stop from Houston to Istanbul…you’re kidding, right?  Atlanta to anywhere outside the U.S……forget about it in the 60’s.

In the 1960’s Pan Am* began using Boeing 707’s from New York to Paris/London. It was at this time that they introduced their “round the world” flights.

Pan American DC-8
Pan American Airways DC-8 (photo courtesy Wikimedia)

Pan Am flight #1 was westbound, and flight #2 was Eastbound.  So, if you wanted to fly from New York to New Delhi, flight #2 had six stops along the way:  London (Paris on alternate days), Frankfurt, Vienna, Istanbul, Beruit, Karachi, and finally New Delhi.  From there it continued on to Burma, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Honolulu and then finally San Francisco.

3. Comfort: This is the only one where you might have a valid complaint.  Seats in coach were comfortable, and planes were often half-empty it seemed.  Sure there is less room nowadays…in some cases a lot less, but that is one of the trade-offs.  And the meals were better (Pan Am advertised meals catered by Maxim of Paris) as well as free.

But there are also some things that are better:  There is also a lot less cigarette smoke (none, in fact) which is certainly an added plus for non-smokers.  Did we think the smoke really did not venture into the non-smoking area?  Were we really that naive?

Gone are the days when you were satisfied to catch up on your reading on a long flight.  Now, however, we are spoiled.   We expect…DEMAND….movies and more.  And we get them…often for a fee.

*Want to know more about the history of Pan Am?  Check out this article that we found.



Pricked by a thorn on the Mount of Beatitudes

By Denise Bossert

I was on pilgrimage to the Holy Land, organized by Select International Tours. Another pilgrim, Terry, was sitting beside her husband at the outdoor Mass we attended on the Mount of Beatitudes. She leaned into Chris’ side and felt the joy of praying the Mass with him, the enormity of hearing the words of the divine liturgy on this mountain where Jesus Christ proclaimed the Sermon on the Mount.

Then, Terry suddenly reached up and swiped at the back of her neck as though she had been stung…….it was no bee.

When I looked behind her, I had to smile. The branch she had just swept away was from the Zizyphus Spina Christi plant, a tree believed to have been used to make the Crown of Thorns that was placed on Our Lord’s Sacred Head before the crucifixion.

The significance of that moment on the Mount of Beatitudes and the grace of being pricked by the thorns of that plant in the middle of Mass still resonate with me. Yes, it was a grace: it is a grace to share in His Passion, just as it is a grace to share in His Resurrection and triumph over death and sorrow, and little pricks of pain from countless things that trouble us.

The Mount of Beatitudes is an essential part of any visit to the Holy Land
The Mount of Beatitudes is an essential part of any visit to the Holy Land. The Sermon on the Mount comes alive here, where it was preached over 2,000 years ago.

A little thorn on an obscure branch on a hill where the gospel was proclaimed and is still proclaimed today.  This tree was most likely the one from which the Crown of Thorns was made  The Zizyphus Spina Christi bush was most likely the one from which the Crown of Thorns was made. It grows wild here on the Mount of Beatitudes and elsewhere.  The thorns were not big, like those we imagine or see in Hollywood depictions of that day. They were little. So sharp. Like needles, but so small that one has to look closely to see them. The first time I visited the Holy Land and walked along that Mount of Beatitudes, I paused to snap a little branch from one tree as we descended the mountain and approached the Sea of Galilee below.

The thorns pierced me three times, drawing blood. It was painful, but I had to laugh at the irony of it. Such a little thing, this thorn.

Such little things to cause such pain. And there was a little joy in knowing I was sharing in a very small way in the pain my Lord had experienced. I treasured that little thorn. It is now between the pages of my Bible – resting in the crevice of a page that tells about the Passion and a crown of many thorns.

As we approach Lent, I am thinking again about the Mount of Beatitudes and the Zizyphus Spina Christi plant.

I am thinking about our thorns, the countless sufferings we embrace and consider a share in His great suffering.

I think of Our Lord, who walked down that same mountain, passed thorny plants such as these, and yet had His eyes on the path that led all the way to the Cross of Mount Calvary.

Oh, my Jesus. Let me take up your suffering and wear it with you.

Let me see each prick as a grace.

And let me say what you said.

Thy will. Only Thy will.

Denise Bossert:

Denise is a convert to the Catholic Church. She is the daughteDenise Bossertr of a Protestant minister. In 2005, she converted to Catholicism after reading books by Carmelite saints. Her syndicated column called Catholic by Grace has been published in 63 diocesan newspapers. She has also written for Catholic magazines and appeared on EWTN’s Journey Home and Women of Grace. She is a Catholic travel writer and pilgrimage leader with Select International Tours and Cruises. Her first book is entitled Gifts of the Visitation and explores the Blessed Mother’s journey from Nazareth to Ein Kerem where she remained with St. Elizabeth for three months prior to the birth of St. John the Baptist. Website: denisebossert.com

Denise Bossert, Catholic columnist & author

+1 (636) 352-8705



A Lapsed Catholic finds God in Nebraska

A lapsed Catholic finds God in Nebraska:


It’s strange how I decided to make the trip up to the chapel, after having driven past it numerous times (it is clearly visible from I-80). I had been reflecting on the famous statement made by Nietzsche who lamented that “God is dead.” And I guess the thing that made his words ring true were the countless times I found churches with nothing new and revivifying… the tradition was all there but there was no passion! And I began to feel the “deadness” because the words had become so rote and repetitive, and because the message was never applied to how I ought to act in the modern world. I began to think Nietzsche might have been right, and that perhaps those bland, relatively dark churches were in fact coffins in which we were holding a series of funereal rites.

But this dark thought caused me to look anew at the chapel on the hill… I looked and saw that someone must believe with all their heart to have built such a place. And I thought, “well if it is to be a funeral, at least here is an open casket!” It spoke to me as a lapsed Catholic because it did not attempt to recreate old styles of architecture, but rather it was built as something brand new and designed to be a natural piece of the landscape.

And so I visited, and I was filled with awe. I spoke to the deacon in the visitor center who told me the entire story of the construction of the place, and the series of miracles which allowed for its construction.  I have personally had intimations of miracles in my own life since coming to this place… and I find myself returning to it every week, since I am fortunate to live so close to it (in Omaha, NE).

There have been many miracles witnessed at this place, and I can only imagine it is because God is pleased by an offering of such transcendent beauty.

What is YOUR “Benedict Option” ?

Author Rod Dreher, is his book “The Benedict Option” argues that the best way to fight the growing secularism and hostility to Christianity that most of us see in our home countries is to go back to the example of Saint Benedict of Nursia.

Saint Benedict of Nursia, looking at the moral collapse following the fall of Rome in the 6th Century, chose to retreat from the world and build communities based on the order and stability that Christianity offered.  The existence of these communities is credited with saving Christianity and Western civilization.

Dreher points out that watered-down Christianity, a secular culture that is hostile to Christian values and general apathy of Christians themselves, make it advisable….maybe even necessary….that we build our own separate communities.

It is certainly easy to get discouraged and feel that you are swimming against the tide….such as the Charlie Gard case, where the government dictates what care parents can give their child.  Or where Catholic doctors and nurses are obliged to violate their consciences in order to practice their profession.  Or sidewalk counselors are threatened with arrest.  Or even some of our own clerics who have strayed from the teachings of the Church.

However, something we may have forgotten was that Christianity was never meant to be easy, and unfortunately, surface Christianity has become too easy in many places.  No one stops you from attending Mass or practicing your faith….until you take it out of the church building.  But, of course, the building is not the Church, we as Catholic Christians are the Church.

What is often missing, though is a sense of community.  In fact, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has stated that Facebook has taken the place of churches in providing a sense of community, and sadly, he is probably correct in many cases.

Although retreating to a monastery might appeal to some (and they may even feel called to it), it is not practical for most of us.  We have jobs, children (or grandchildren) to raise, responsibilities that keep us in the world around us.  And, of course, we are called to be “a light unto the world” rather than withdraw from it.

Archbishop Charles J. Caput has written a similar book on the subject, “Strangers in a Strange Land”, as shown here on the left.

We highly recommend it.

And in reality, what Dreher is proposing in his book is similar:  rather than hide out in a monastery in the forest, we remain in the world, but withdraw from those things which are so harmful to our spiritual life.


Some simple things you can do that can be your own Benedict Option:

†    Turn off the TV and read a book.

†     Start a prayer group

†     Plan a weekly social event with other like-minded Catholics.

Thus, we become our own community, or “Benedict Option”.

So how does all of this relate to travel?  We suggest you go on a pilgrimage or retreat.  Traveling to a local shrine, taking a pilgrimage, whether near or far away, can be a way to help renew our faith and to be in community with fellow Catholics.

There are many opportunities…a retreat center nearbya group pilgrimage to various shrines, or just a personal pilgrimage as shown on our blog.

Being around other Catholics offers a chance to re-charge your batteries…..not so much in the physical sense but in the spiritual sense.  You realize that you are not alone in the struggle. And, of course, if you travel to on a pilgrimage you will be with other Catholics, participate in Mass in other cultures, see just how universal the Catholic Church really is, and how you fit in to this world-wide community.

And that, really, is what “The Benedict Option” is all about.




Tom & Sue Personal Pilgrimage 50th Jubilee Mass for Sister Maria

Power To Be God’s Prayer

 The Holy Spirit shall come upon you. 

— Luke 1:35 

Mary is called the Temple of the Lord and the Sacred Resting Place of the Holy Spirit:  For by the operation of the Holy Spirit, She became the Mother of the Incarnate Word. 

—  St. Thomas Aquinas


Dizen Dobry:

Sunday morning 5 AM and I’m up, and the café wasn’t even ready, and Susan crawled out of bed.  You can’t be late for a Nun or it could be arthritis on the other hand. We were early, so we stopped for a cappuccino and water  for our guest.

We arrived at Sisters Maria’s sister’s house right on schedule and there were a lot of hugs and kisses as they welcomed us. All that were there were going to Nowy Sacz for the festivities.  We loaded Sister and Joe into the car and now we had baggage in the back seat again.  The Angels had to move a little.

GreetingsWe headed out at 7:30 and Sister Angela leads us in a short few prayers to protect us on our journey before Jag woke up and we made the 1 ¾ hour drive laughing, talking and getting to know each other in 1 ¼ hours.    Sister Angela has been in Africa as a missionary sister for a loooong time and that is where she met Sister Maria and they have been friends ever since. Joe moved to Italy over 30 years ago and little did we know that the United Nations were going to be represented. Sister has family in Italy, Germany and Poland and friends coming from The USA, (the two of us and her friend Delores), Africa and somewhere else, that’s all we remember, we met so many people.

Meal #1
Meal #1

We were given a warm greeting when we arrived with lots of you know what.  Sister Maria’s family was great and we felt right at home.

They had food and coffee for us and not having breakfast we indulged and it was great.  (Meal 1)   We met many of the family now and we all headed for the church that we could see from the house.


We met the pastor before mass and then we all went in to pray and they had a seat of honor ready for Sister for the mass. The celebration began before the mass when 7 young girls came out and honored Sister in Polish with a tribute and we forgot to ask what they said, but it was beautiful.  They presented her with roses and the mass began with a full procession and a beautiful choir.

The church was packed and Sister was acknowledged all through the service, at the beginning, the homily and before the final blessing.  Another group of the pastoral committee came out and they lovingly paid a tribute to her and gave her a large basket of roses and she placed on the altar and left them there.  She did take the red roses.

The pastor invited Sister to speak and her speech was vibrant and we could tell from her heart and when she had finished and returned to her place of honor the pastor stood up and she stood ,”wait I forgot something”.  She then proceeded to thank all of us in English that had traveled from abroad, just as she had in Polish, she received her second standing ovation, and it was really beautiful.

The pastor then as a special tribute and led a procession of the Eucharist as the churches all did on Thursday for Corpus Christi and had Sister follow the procession right behind Jesus as they processed around the church.  Not a single soul left. After the final blessing we hung back and took a few photos and headed for the reception.

They had the reception at this lovely hotel and the banquet room was perfect for the size of the group of about 60-70 people.  She had us at the head table, much to our embarrassment.  Sister said she had the different languages sitting with each other so they would have a good time.

Sister Marie at the banquet
Sister Marie at the banquet

Then the feast began in Polish tradition.  (Meal 2) Chicken soup was served and on the tables there 4 different salads and then they served platters of breaded pork cutlets, stuffed breast of chicken, pork tenderloin in a mushroom sauce and platters with 3 kinds of potatoes. There were 3 different juices and sodas and gas water.  We all took what we wanted and if the platter got low more came, an insane amount of very good food.


Beautiful cake for Sister Marie
Beautiful cake for Sister Marie

After that was over they cut the cake made by her niece and served cappuccino, café and tea.We were full and enjoyed every bit of it.  It was almost 2, and I thought it was a little early to begin to say goodbye, until Susan informed me Sister told her to have some desserts before the next course comes out.  Oh boy, I was ready for a nap because we had just eaten a huge piece of this five layer cake that was delicious and I don’t eat dessert.

Meal 3 then arrived and there were new salads with beef and chicken and dressing, Greek salad, Caesar salad, tomato and mozzarella, platters of cold sliced stuffed roulades, five different kinds of hearing in sauces and an aspic of I think chicken and veggies and topped with vodka and since we arrived there were trays of pastries and fruit that they kept refilling.

It looked so good we had to try it.  I almost OD’d on the herring…..it was terrific. Susan picked a little we were all so full.  So it was time for a walk led by sister Maria and her niece, Katia, there were 6 of us and we visited the church where sister received her First Holy Communion, her childhood church, and then we went to the Basilica to see the famous statue depicting the Pieta. We walked maybe 1-2 kilometers and headed back to the reception.  When we got back sister brought her nephew Wojtek over to our table and he sat with us until we left.  His English was perfect and we had a great time with him.  He invited us to stay with him the next time we come to Poland.  His wife was lovely, although we didn’t get to talk to her very much; she organized the day for the family and was very busy for most of the day. We did accept his invitation.

Meal 4 came at 5 on the dot.  This was the hot meal and remember they eat small at night so they served a very large croquette that we still don’t know what it was filled with but it was good.  We did best we could.

Around 6 people started to leave and so did we, Joe and Sister Angela were both tired as were we. More hugs and kisses from everyone, including people we had not met. On the road it was little tedious getting back since it was the end of a long weekend but we finally got to Joe’s sister’s house and dropped him.  We were taking Sister Angela to her Sister’s house not too far away. Finding it was a different story.  Her sister lives in a complex that is so huge with 70 large buildings and one street name so navigating is difficult. After 10 minutes we asked for help and the woman Sister didn’t even understand all that she said but we got enough out of the hand language and 5 minutes later we were at her building.

Sister insisted we come up to meet her family and even though we were tired we parked and went with her.  She is so sweet we couldn’t say no until we met her sister and she had just made pizza for us.  Sister Angela called her after we had been gone an hour and the fresh pizza was made but as good as it smelled, we couldn’t pick up food…….let alone, eat it.

We made it a short visit and departed for home, exhausted and ready for a glass of wine and our jammies which we did as soon as we got in.  Tomorrow we had to be up 5 again so we talked for awhile and I went into bed and that’s all I remember.

God bless you all


Susan & Tom


Prayer for the Sisters


My Spiritual Mother, please remain in their conscious awareness always.  Inspire them when they are weak, gently speak to them when they are stressed, sing them lullabies of the wonders of God’s Providence when they fall into fear, graciously cover them in the warmth of Jesus’ Divine Love for you and for them forever.  Spiritual Mother, please Pray for a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit of Love upon them.  Bring anew the Holy Spirit of Courage to their days and nights on Earth.  Pray fervently that they may be made worthy of the Promises of Christ.



Tom & Sue in Poland Day 17: From Zakopane to Our Lady of Lezajsk

Dzien Dobry:

I don’t remember where I ended up with the last report so if I repeat myself, pardon me.

I woke up at 5:30 A.M. … Susan came around the corner at 6AM when the coffee was ready. I showered and shaved last night (in the bathtub) so that we could get an early start. I got into the tub okay … I almost couldn’t get out! This bathtub/shower combination is the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen.

We had our coffee, our bags were packed and we were out the door before 7:00 A.M. Our plan was to try to miss the morning traffic in Zakopane. We did a good job with our planning. There was hardly anyone driving out of Zakopane today … but lots of people were driving in the opposite direction to the mountains.

Filling up at the well
Filling up at the well

We had decided to drive back to Ludzmierz because Susan had figured out on her Internet search where the Miraculous Water Font was. The day we had left there, we thought we had seen it but we never thought to stop to find out if that was the location. Once we saw the photo online last night, we realized that we should have stopped. We found it right away. I had to pump the water from the well and I pumped and pumped and pumped and finally some water came out. I filled the bottle, dumped it and filled it again to try to get some fresh miraculous water.

Mission accomplished, we got right back on the road. There was no one in front of us on the roads on the way out but, once again, the cars in the opposite direction were backed up for miles and miles with no one moving. We had to head to the outskirts of Krakow to pick up “A-4” … the “Super Highway” and Jag had a super time … as did I! The speed limit was 140 Kilometers per hour. If you were driving that speed, everyone would pass you. Well, only two cars passed Jag during our entire journey on A-4. We made the 150 KM trip in just about one hour. Before we exited and got back on to normal roads, it felt like we were crawling.

As we were traveling, we noticed that every Church we passed, there were large numbers of people standing outside on the terraces and there were cars parked everywhere. Susan was checking her emails on the cell phone and we received two … one from our friend Wojtek and the other from our new friend “John” (where we spent three wonderful nights at their apartment outside of Wadowice). Both informed us that today in Poland was “Corpus Christi” … both a Catholic and National Holiday here. They both told us that the locals only attend their Churches with large processions throughout the towns and then they stay home (as if Sunday) because all of the businesses, restaurants, shops, etc. are closed down for the day. So the two of us realized … THAT’S WHY TRAFFIC WAS SO LIGHT and we saw no real signs if life on the streets.

We stopped during our drive for a 2nd pit stop and had breakfast (or lunch … whatever you would consider it). I had prepared some sandwiches last night and they were GOOOOOOD! Having refreshed ourselves, we drove the last 15 miles to our destination … The Basilica of Our Lady of Lezajsk.

This Shrine’s history began in 1578 when the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph appeared to a woodcutter named “Tomasz/Thomas”. She told him that she had chosen this place to be “Where Her Son will be loved and respected and, whoever shall call on my Intercession here will receive my Blessing”. Thomas didn’t listen and report her requests at first … soclick here to read the story for the rest of the story. It’s a bit confusing but you will understand.

We arrived and the Basilica was absolutely mobbed. As we pulled up, there was a very small parking lot right in front of the Church and another large parking lot on the opposite side of the street. Both were packed with cars as well as the street going up the hill. There were parked cars everywhere and people walking everywhere. I notice a car pulling out of the parking lot in front of the Basilica so I decided to “take a chance”. There, lo and behold, there was one parking place right there in front of the Church … Thank you Blessed Mother! I didn’t think I was going to find a place anywhere.

I parked and opened my car door to get out. All of a sudden this “large man” ran up to the car door and started speaking very, very quickly and excited to me IN POLISH! I thought he was trying to tell me to move but we had a language barrier. I finally said “AMERICAN” and he laughed, smiled and quickly walked away from the car (what was that all about?).

We hadn’t walked 50 feet from the car and we were directly in front of the Basilica. This guy walked up to me and, in English, he said “Where are you from?”. I said “Florida” (What? Do I have a big “T” on my forehead?). He told me (with a Polish accent) that he was from Philadelphia. He then introduced us to two of his other friends who were both also Polish but live in Philly as well. Then the man who had come running up to our car when I parked came into the group … he was a friend of the guy who was talking to us. That man was the POLICE CHIEF of the town. They were all childhood friends who had been born and lived here until leaving for the States around 10 years old.

The “police chief” had gone to tell the three Americans that we were there … he thought that we were all friends. They don’t get many Jags in Poland that have Warsaw license plates. We all shared a laugh and the police chief kept talking to me with great excitement … but in Polish.

There was a lot of activity as they began to form for the procession around the town with lots of Banners, statues, a band, altar servers and of course First holy Communion children. Mass had been celebrated at 9 and the procession was next. (See photos) We couldn’t believe the amount of people that poured out of the basilica to follow the priest with the Monstrance with Jesus. Our friends followed and we hung behind for this was a 2 hour walk. We planned to go to the 12 noon mass but I guess the schedule changed and as we entered the Basilica the 11 AM Mass began.


The Basilica is amazingly beautiful and the place was packed to the outside. We were wondering where they all came from for this Shrine is in the sticks in this small village. The priest gave a verrrrrrry looooooong sermon but he was so vibrant we had to laugh a few times almost knowing the point he was trying to get across. He looked like Fr. Della Russo, our new chancellor at the diocese. (We are going to have to have a chat about the length of his homilies).


Communion was very different here and you just went to the end of your pew if you had one and knelt on the stone floor and the priest walked back and forth up and down the aisle and gave you the Eucharist. Susan and I had a bench some family vacated and there was only one spot to kneel and I couldn’t turn around or move to let her go so I knelt and Susan climbed over two benches to get a spot, good thing for she was the last to receive and the priest were gone. When we knelt on the kneelers in front of us, they were so tilted that we had to hang on so we didn’t slide off. During the whole mass a small little girl was roaming on the large altar behind the priest and God didn’t seem to mind, so neither did anyone else. Even though we chuckled at times it was beautiful.

Close-up view of the image of Our Lady of
Close-up view of the image of Our Lady of Lezajak

What I loved so much was after the priest gave the final blessing they started a song to Mary and everyone sang and no one left even after the priest did. Not a single person leaves a service early at every mass we have been to here in Poland. When the song was done some sat for a few minutes and the others left so Susan and I went to explore the Basilica and we found a Miraculous Cross of Christ behind the altar that you could venerate by touching the glass enclosure. Many people came in to do so and say a short prayer.

Praying before the image
Praying before the image

We then found the Miraculous Painting of Our Mother in a small chapel on the right and many people were on their knees praying for just a few seconds. When most had left we went into the chapel and sat with a few others whom quickly left and then it was just Susan and I here with this magnificent painting, it was magical. What better place than to pray our Rosary as it seemed Our Mother and Our Lord were here with us and blessing us as we did so.

We began to wonder when the procession would get back so we went out to the parking area we came in and I had a chance to move the car to a better spot so it would be easier to get out and as I did so it seemed that buses just dropped off 100’s of people. Susan and I sat on a bench and just watched as the kept coming and coming. We kept saying where is the procession and then I heard the music and excitedly said to Susan I hear them they are coming. She laughed and laughed for she had just re-player a phone camera video she had taken earlier and that’s what I heard. DUH!

We couldn’t take it anymore as a large van pulled in and backed into the outer entrance of the Basilica so we went up to see what was going on as people outside the walls stood and faced the Church. They had all the statues and banners and the Coppola in the truck and I said to Susan, where is Jesus?  We still don’t know, since mass had started and people were standing outside and everywhere, a whole new group for this great day of celebration in Poland. We got out of the way and headed for our hotel.

About 40 minutes later we were checking into this very nice hotel and they had a restaurant so we wouldn’t go to bed hungry since everything else was closed. We met a lot of people there including some teen age kids that sat with us and we talked for a long time about the problems of Poland with the young. That’s another story.

Dinner was excellent and very elegant and we forgot the camera so I won’t bore you to death. We went to our room and typed part of this report but got tired so into bed we went and that’s all I remember.

God Bless you all


Susan & Tom


Stay with them, Dear Mother of God. Keep them in your Heart of Love, for You, alone, are the true daughter of God the Father, Eternal Mother of God the Son, and cherished spouse of God the Holy Spirit. Spiritual Mother, Most Powerful, keep them centered in God’s Plan for their life forever. Amen.

Tom & Sue Day 4 in Poland: Our Lady of Skepe (Virgin Mary Expectant)

Jane Dobry;

It’s hard to sleep here if you don’t have black out shades and you have to go (you know where). The light came in my room at 5:30, Susan had black out shades.(sort of).  I quickly did my thing and Susan stirred so I told her to get into the little bed with me and we could hug and may sleep to a reasonable hour.  That was about 6:30.  I got up and sent out a trip report and before I was finished Susan crawled out of bed.  We forgot we had bought instant coffee so we showered and packed and left.  TOD almost  8.

It was almost 9 by the time we found a place to stop for café and it was needed. We had made a cheese sandwhich (no meat today, we are abstaining) from the leftovers from our dinner and were  finally were fully awake and refreshed. We continued on our 2 ½ hour ride to Our Lady of Skepe.  Our friends here in Poland, including Fr. Tomasz, don’t even know about this shrine.  It’s a beautiful story so click here to read it.

We arrived around 10:45 and there were 3 cars in the huge parking area and we figured that they worked there, because we were the only ones in the shrine except for the maintenance man. The Miraculous Statue dates back to the 1400’s and has been the source of many miracles as they are listed on the wall outside the main church.  Miracles still continue to this day so we prayed very hard for all of you.

Editors note: You can still send prayer intentions to Tom & Sue for them to leave at the various shrines they will be visiting on their pilgrimage, which does not end until June 22.  Send them to tsmelillo13@aol.com

The old church is being restored and the outcome so far is beautiful.  We felt a great warmth and comfort here and spent a lot of time in prayer and reflection.  The Statue of Our Lady is very beautiful and mesmerizing.  We spent a lot of time here and when we took a break before praying our Rosary we took a walk.  They were kind enough to open the gift shop which was closed and the monk sitting in there was very sick with flu like symptoms.  We purchased a few things and tried to communicate with him but he didn’t understand or didn’t care.  We said thank you in Polish reading from our big cheat sheet and he smiled and Susan handed it to him.  He gave it back and said something and we said God Bless in English and left.

We walked the grounds and there are some very old frescos and paintings to enjoy as well as the grounds.  Back to the church we sat and prayed the Rosary and we disturbed by 6 people who came in so un-reverant and loud.  We realized they were the group doing the restorations. They finally left and we finished our Rosary and went back to the altar for one last prayer before Our Lady.  This Statue of Her is very special as is this place.

Another special day in Poland….it doesn’t get any better than this.  Each day has had something special to offer and we just started.

Our hotel was only 20 minutes away and we talked all the way about this beautiful experience.  When we arrived it was just after 2 and our room was not quite ready so we unloaded the car with our overnight bags and by time we got in she gave us the key.

There was no elevator here so we had to take everything up to the 1st floor (which is really the second floor at home).  I booked a room for the first floor only, they must have laughed when they got it.  This was the earliest time we ever got to a stop and had time to relax and get caught up on things again.  Day-to-day moving is a little grueling but that is how we do our pilgrimages.  Tomorrow we spend 2 nights and Susan gets to do laundry again.

We had dinner at the hotel and it was great.  Bedtime was at 8:30 PM and it was still light out but we had black out shades. That’s all I remember.

May God bless all or you always and Blessed Mother hear our prayers.

Love Susan & Tom


Tom & Sue Pilgrimage Day 5 Garabandal to Prado Nuevo

HE asked life of thee; thou gravest it to him,  Length of days forever and ever.

His glory is great through thy help; splendor and majesty you do bestow upon Him.

Hea, you make Him most Blessed forever.

— Psalm 21: 4-6


Buenos noches:

We all got up early this morning.  It was time to pack and leave Garabandal even though none of us wanted to go and we couldn’t have stayed anyway since the hotel was over booked for tonight.  It was so nice to see so much activity in the village, finally.

Time flew by here and we met so many new friends even a couple from Arizona that knew my cousin Jan as he was their priest at their parish for many years.  Most of us went to mass after a wonderful breakfast of café con leche and stale bread.  Sacrifice is the key word, small beds and rooms, meager meals, no lunch, because you spend most of the day in the pines but there is lots of love and excitement that overcomes all these hardships.

Mass was celebrated by Fr. Rolando,  Fr. Kingsly from London, but a native of India, and a French priest that drove in from somewhere to also concelebrate the mass.  After the mass there was benediction and all the petitions from the week were offered up to Our Blessed Mother.  It all so beautiful and the church was packed.

We spent some time saying good-bye to everyone and got on the road for Prado Nuevo hoping to make the 6 PM mass at the shrine since our good friend Fr. Guillermo was presiding.  We have never been to one of his masses and were hoping to end that drought today but it took over five hours with traffic and we didn’t arrive in time.

We made it to our apartment without a hitch and were greeted by Luis the concierge, he didn’t speak a word of English but we got by.  Luis took all our luggage up and showed us around.  There is no penance in this place; it has all the comforts of home.  Susan unpacked and organized our lives as Sam and I went to the market to get something for dinner and breakfast that wouldn’t hurt our teeth. We were hungry since our last meal, 10 hours earlier, was hard bread and coffee. We did split a bag of chips on the way since we didn’t stop to eat as we were trying to get to mass.

We snacked on cheese and fresh fruit and bread and some fish sticks we could have done without.  None of us eat meat on Wed. for Our Lady and the brown scapular and we no choice in Garabandal since chicken was the menu Wed. night. So we switched to Thurs.  Tomorrow we will make up for it I am sure.

We finished dinner around 10 and ½ hour later we started migrating to bed.  That’s all I remember.

May God bless all of you


Susan & Tom

And when they met Her, they all Blessed Her

with one accord and said to Her, “You are the exaltation of Jerusalem,

You are the Great Glory of Israel,

You are the great pride of our nation.


— Judith 15:9


The Beginning
Garabandal is a small village in northern Spain, in the Santander province, near the Picos de Europa mountains, a rugged and beautiful setting. Its full name is San Sebastian of Garabandal. It is located 600 meters above sea level, some 57 miles from the capital of the province. To get there one must climb steep, poor roads. No more than 300 people live in Garabandal. The town is impressively quiet. There is no doctor in the town and no resident pastor at the parish church. The pastor from Cosio, the next town down the road, used to celebrate Mass there on Sunday.

In the evening of June 18, 1961, four girls were playing on the outskirts of the town – Conchita Gonzalez, Maria Dolores (Mari-loli) Mazon, Jacinta Gonzalez and Maria Cruz Gonzalez (not related despite having the same name.) Maria Cruz was eleven, the others twelve, and all were from poor families.

Suddenly they heard a loud noise, like thunder, and saw before them the bright figure of the Archangel Michael. On the following days the Archangel appeared to them again in the same place. He announced that on July 2 they would see Our Lady. This was the beginning of the Garabandal events.

Our Lady of Carmel
The news spread quickly through the region. July 2 was a Sunday and the town was crowded. There were people from all social levels and very many from out of town, among them several physicians and priests. At six in the evening the girls went to the place where the Angel had appeared, and to the surprise of the crowd they entered into ecstasy. Our Lady appeared to them accompanied by two angels, one being St. Michael. The girls described the vision as follows:

“She is dressed in a white robe with a blue mantle and a crown of golden stars. Her hands are slender. There is a brown scapular on her right arm, except when she carried the Child Jesus in her arms. Her hair, deep nut-brown, is parted in the center. Her face is long, with a fine nose. Her mouth is very pretty with lips a bit thin. She looks like a girl of eighteen. She is rather tall. There is no voice like hers. No woman is just like her, either in the voice or the face or anything else. ” Our Lady Manifested herself as Our Lady of Carmel.”

At times the wind rustled her long hair which reached down to her waist. The girls spoke with the Virgin with the utmost naturalness. “We were telling her,” they said, “about our tasks, how we were going to the meadows…” and “She smiled at the little things we told her.” Our Lady showed them how to treat her: “Like children who speak with their mother and tell her everything…Children who rejoice to see her when they have not seen her for a while.”

More Apparitions
After this first apparition there were many more. During 1961 and 1962 Our Lady appeared several times each week. The four girls did not always receive the apparition together. Sometimes only one, other times two or three of them saw the vision. Nor was it always at the same hour of the day. Our Lady appeared many times at night and even early in the morning, in an attitude of sacrifice and penance, at the same hours when Our Lord is most offended by the sins of men. Even so, the girls would arise the following morning, as early as usual, to work in the fields, carrying bundles of grass or wood, or tending the cattle and sheep, without showing signs of fatigue.

The Ecstasies
When the vision appeared, the girls fell instantaneously on their knees, striking the sharp rocks with a loud noise that was frightening, yet they showed no signs of injury. The expression on their faces was suddenly transformed. Their look became extraordinarily beautiful, sweet, one of profound mysticism. There are no words that can properly describe the change. They were completely absorbed in their rapture, unaware of anyone or any material thing around them except for each other. They did no react to pricks, burns or blows. All attempts to distract them failed. Powerful beams of strong light were focused on them, yet their eyes did not even flicker, blink or show any signs of discomfort. Quite the contrary, their eyes remained wide open , expressing a look of intense joy. However, when the girls returned to the normal state, they immediately shielded their eyes from those bright lights which under normal circumstances should have caused permanent eye damage.

During these ecstasies, which lasted from a few minutes to several hours, time did not seem to count. On many occasions they remained immobile in off-balance, beautiful “sculptured-like” positions, heads tilted back, eyes looking up, kneeling on the rocks or bare-legged in the snow. At the end of the ecstasy, they showed no signs of excitation or nervousness, just deep, profound peace and joy.

Participation of the Observers
Many visitors and villagers gave the girls various objects, such as bibles, rosaries, scapulars, medals, crucifixes, wedding rings, etc. for Our Lady to kiss. In ecstasy, the girls raised them up to Her and She kissed them. Then guided by Our Lady, the girls returned the items to their correct owners, even in cases where the person had first confided the object to someone else so the child did not know who the real owner was. Things “kissed” by Our Lady of Carmel have been the instruments of very special favors. Occasionally, these have emitted a mysterious fragrance like that of roses. “Our Lady says”, Conchita wrote, “that Jesus will work miracles through the objects kissed by her. Those who carry or wear them with faith and confidence will suffer their purgatory here on earth.”

While in ecstasy, the girls often carried a crucifix in their hand which Our Lady had kissed, and as She directed, they extended it for observers to kiss, blessing them with it at the same time. On seeing the girls approach, many witnesses experienced such a tremendous spiritual awakening, that it produced a very deep interior emotion in them. They cried unashamed tears, admitting the supernatural nature of what they were seeing, hearing and feeling within them, the very presence of the Mother of God. The conversion of unbelievers and those of different faiths, of souls suffering from religious indifference, the conversions of many sinners, all of which have experienced an increase in faith, hope, and charity.

New Phenomena
Soon after Our Lady of Carmel appeared, the ecstatic walks began. The girls went throughout the entire village – up and down stairways, in and out of homes, at all hours of the day and night, avoiding obstacles without faltering, guided solely by the vision. Frequently, they ran at great speed down the steep mountainside, even backwards, so that it was impossible for the astonished spectators to follow them. Their bodies did not seem to be subject to the law of gravity, but endowed with some sort of spiritual agility. During their high-speed running, the objects entrusted to the girls were sometimes lost. However, upon seeing Our Blessed Mother again, they asked as to their whereabouts and She told them where to find them.

The Miracle of the Host
Above the village is a steep hill on which stands a cluster of 9 pine trees. “One day,” said the girls, “an angel with a golden chalice appeared to us at “The Pines”. He told us to recite the Confiteor and then he gave us Holy Communion.” This wonderful favor happened many times during those days when the parish priest of the neighboring town of Cosio could not go to Garabandal. It was possible to film some of these Communions, using very bright light. The movements of the lips and tongues of the girls gave the exact idea of a real Communion. On May 2, 1962, the angel told Conchita that God would perform a miracle so that all people would believe: they would see the Sacred Host on her tongue at the moment of Communion and that she should make this known fifteen days in advance. On July 18, 1962, the town was crowded with visitors. At midnight Conchita, who had remained in her home continually surrounded by visitors, entered into ecstasy and went out into the street. At a short distance from her house she fell down on her knees in the midst of the crowd. Lanterns were focused on her. She put out her tongue upon which nothing was resting, as everyone could see. In a few moments, a white host appeared on her tongue and remained there for a few minutes. A businessman from Barcelona, Don Alejandro Damians, standing less than three feet from the girl, secured some very good moving pictures. In the film there appeared 79 pictures of the extraordinary scene. This same witness wrote a report which he submitted to the Bishop of Santander, together with a copy of the film. The number of witnesses on this occasion was very large: there were people from different cultures and social classes. Don Benjamin Gomez, a farmer from Potes, wrote:

“I was standing at less than an arm’s length from the girl. I saw very well that her tongue was completely clean of everything. The girl did not move. Suddenly there appeared on it the Sacred Host. It was white, shining and resplendent. It reminded one of the snow when the sun strikes it with its brilliant rays. The girl’s face was beautifully transformed into heavenly ecstasy. Her face was angelic I can certify that she was there motionless, moving neither hands nor tongue. In this motionless position she received the Sacred Host. We had enough time to contemplate this marvelous phenomenon without any undue haste, and we were many who saw it. I was an unbeliever until that day. I am not such a Catholic as to be subject to any hallucination or imagination. I had not concerned myself about God until then except to offend Him. I went to confession in April but previous to that time I had not gone to confession for twenty-three years.”

The miracle of the host is a true confirmation of the apparitions of Our Blessed Mother in Garabandal and of the reality of her message. But a still greater miracle has been promised.

A Greater Miracle to Come
Conchita has clearly said that Our Lady has promised a greater miracle in Garabandal so that all may believe the apparitions and be obedient to the message. “As the punishment which we deserve for the sins of the world is great, the miracle must also be a great one, for the world needs it.” It will occur on a Thursday on the feast day of a saint devoted to the Eucharist, at 8:30 in the evening, and will last for about one quarter of an hour. It will also coincide with a great event in the Church. The sick who come to Garabandal on that day will be cured, unbelievers will be converted. There will remain a permanent sign at “The Pines” as a proof of Our Lady’s tremendous love for all her children.

“The sign that will remain,” says Conchita, “will be able to be seen, photographed and televised but it will not be able to be touched. It will appear clearly that it is something not of this world, but of God.”

Conchita has been granted permission by Our Lady to announce the date of the miracle eight days in advance. With the present means of communication and travel, eight days are sufficient for people around the world to gather. The day of The miracle may be the last opportunity given us by God and may be also Our Lady’s last effort to save the world from the punishment already threatened.

Some time ago Conchita wrote, “The Blessed Virgin will not allow me to reveal the nature of The miracle although I already know it. Neither can I reveal the date of it, which I know, until eight days before it is to happen.” Before The miracle takes place Our Lady has said that all mankind will receive a warning from heaven.

The Warning
Conchita wrote: “The warning comes directly from God and will be visible to the whole world and from any place where anyone many happen to be. It will be like the revelation of our sins and it will be seen and felt by everyone, believer and unbeliever alike irrespective of whatever religion he may belong to. It will be seen and felt in all parts of the world and by every person.”

It will happen in the sky, no one can prevent it form happening. We will even prefer to be dead rather than to pass through thisWarning It will not kill us. It will be a “correction” of our conscience. It will cause great fear and will make us reflect within ourselves on the consequences of our own personal sins. It will be like a warning of the punishment to come. In this way the world will be offered a means of purification to prepare itself for the extraordinary grace of the Great Miracle.

Jacinta was told by Our Blessed Mother “that the warning would come when conditions were at their worst.” The date was not revealed to the visionaries, however Mari-Loli does know the year; and she said that The Miracle will happen within one year after The Warning.

The Punishment
If we do not pay attention to the message, the punishment announced by Our Lady will be visited on the whole world afterThe miracle. During one of their ecstasies the girls were heard praying for the innocent children but, nevertheless, they shed tears at the same time. Since the day they learned about the punishment they have developed a great spirit of sacrifice. They pray very much for sinners and for priests. They often say that if priests are not what they should be many souls will be lost.

Conchita has written: “I cannot reveal what kind of punishment it is except that it will be a result of the direct intervention of God, which makes it more terrible and fearful than anything we can imagine. It will be less painful for innocent babies to die a natural death than for those babies to die because of the punishment. All Catholics should go to confession before the punishment and the others should repent of their sins. When I saw IT (the punishment), I felt a great fear even though at the same time I was seeing Our Blessed Mother. The punishment, if it comes, will come after the miracle”

When Our Lady spoke to the girls of the punishment, her face assumed a look of great sadness. The girls revealed: “We have never seen her look so serious. When she said the words ‘The cup is already filling’, she spoke in a very low voice.”

A New Message
On January 1, 1965, Conchita had an apparition of Our Lady who told her that on June 18, the fourth anniversary of the apparitions, she would be given another message. Thus, six months before the actual date Conchita revealed this promise of Our Lady.

On June 18 more than two thousand people gathered in Garabandal – French, Germans, English, Italians, Americans and Polish were among the people who joined the groups from different parts of Spain. The Spanish were in the minority, perhaps due to the fact the apparitions had received practically no publicity. The French constituted the largest group. There were journalists, TV cameras from the Italian TV network, and cameramen from NO-DO (the Spanish official documentary news program). Leaving her house at 11:30 p.m. Conchita walked to the road leading to the Pines to the place called the Cuadro. There she was rapt in ecstasy which lasted sixteen minutes. St. Michael appeared to her and delivered the message from Our Lady, which was made public the next morning. It reads:

Message which Our Lady has given to the world through the intercession of St. Michael the Archangel. The angel said, “Since my message of October 18 has not been made known to the world and has not been fulfilled, I tell you that this is my last message. Previously, the cup was being filled. Now it is overflowing. Many Cardinals, many Bishops and many Priests are on the road to perdition and with them they are bringing many souls. The Holy Eucharist is being given less importance (honor). We must avoid God’s anger with us by our efforts at amendment. If we beg pardon with sincerity of soul, He will forgive us. I, your Mother, through the intercession of St. Michael the Archangel, want to tell you to amend your lives. You are already receiving one of the last warnings. I love you very much and do not want your condemnation. Ask sincerely and we will give to you. You should make more sacrifices. Think of the Passion of Jesus.”

From this message one can clearly sense Our Lady’s disappointment at the scant attention paid to her message of October 18, 1961. The Blessed Mother shows her motherly concern for priests and the need to place the Holy Eucharist where it belongs – at the center of the mysteries of our Faith. To urge us to sacrifice, she recommends meditation on the Passion of Our Lord.

Our Blessed mother has told us this is her last message. Because of this she wants all her children to listen to her plea before The warning and The miracle. For the reason that she wishes it, we should propagate this urgent message as widely as possible.

Father Luis Marie Andreu
The only other person to see Our Blessed Mother at Garabandal was a 38-year old Spanish Jesuit Priest, Father Luis Marie Andreu. On August 8, 1961, Father Luis was Among the spectators at The Pines when suddenly he became an integral part of the Garabandal drama. He was heard to say, Miracle! Miracle!” Not only did he see The Virgin Mary, but he was shown the forthcoming Great Miracle. The children in ecstasy understood Our Lady to say to him: “You will soon be with me.” Although, he had never had any history of serious illness, he died that same night of complete joy. His final words were:

“Oh! What a sweet and lovely mother we have in heaven…how happy I am… what a favor The Blessed Virgin has bestowed on me. How fortunate we are to have a mother like her in heaven!. There is no reason to fear the supernatural life. The girls have given us an example of how we must act with the Blessed Virgin. There is no doubt, in my mind that the things involving the girls are true. Why should the Blessed Virgin have chosen us? This is the happiest day of my life.”

With those words, Father bowed his head and died. Our Lady has said, “that on the day AFTER the Miracle his body will be found to be incorrupt.”

Our Blessed Mother showed special attention and concern for all priests, repeatedly asking that they come to Garabandal. She gave the girls the ability to recognize them even when they came dressed as laymen, revealing the state of their souls. She taught the children that priests were more important even than angels because by means of their ordination they have the power to change bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

The Last Apparition
On Saturday, November 13, 1965 Conchita had her last apparition of Our Lady in Garabandal. She gives the details in a letter of which the following is a literal translation:

“One day in church Our Lady told me in a locution that I would see her on Saturday, November 13, at the pines; it would be a special apparition to kiss the religious objects so that I could give them away afterwards. I was anxious for this day to arrive so that I could see again the Blessed Virgin and the Child Jesus who have implanted in my life the seed of God’s happiness.

It was raining but it did not matter to me. I went up to the Pines carrying with me the many rosaries which people have given to me to distribute them… As I was going up I was talking to myself, being sorry for my defects, desiring not to fall into them again, for it gave me much worry to appear before the Mother of God without wiping them out.

When I arrived at the pines, I began to take the rosaries out and heard a sweet voice, that of the Virgin, which you always distinguish among others, calling me by my name. I answered her ‘what?’ At that very moment I saw Her with the Child in her arms. She was dressed as usual and smiling. I told Her, ‘I have come to bring you the rosaries so that you can kiss them.’ She said to me, ‘I can see it.’ I had been chewing gum, but as I was seeing Her I did not chew it; I placed the gum on a tooth. She must have noticed for She said, ‘Conchita why don’t you get rid of the chewing gum and offer it up as a sacrifice for the glory of my Son?’ I, a bit ashamed of myself, took it out and threw it on the ground. She said afterwards, ‘Do you remember what I told you on your saint’s day – that you would suffer much on earth?… Now I repeat it to you. Have confidence in Us. Then I added, ‘How unworthy I am, O Mother of us, of so many graces received through you, and now you have come to me to help me carry the little cross I have.” She said, ‘Conchita, I am not coming only for you but I am coming for all my children, with a desire to get them closer to Our Hearts.’ She asked for the things I was carrying. ‘Give them to me so that I can kiss all you are carrying with you.’ And I gave her everything. I was bringing with me also a small crucifix which I gave her to kiss. She kissed it and said , ‘Put it in the hands of the Child Jesus.’ And I did that and He said nothing. I said ‘This cross I intend to take with me when I go to the convent.’ But he did not reply. After kissing everything She commented, ‘My son, through this kiss, will work wonders. Distribute them to the others…” Of course I will do it.

After all this she requested that I tell her all the petitions for others which I had received. She said, ‘Conchita, tell me, tell me things about my children. I have all of them under my cloak.’ And I commented, ‘It is too small and there is no room for all of us.’ She smiled at this.

‘Do You know, Conchita, why I did not come personally on June 18 to give you the message for the world? Because it pained me to say it myself, but I have to say it to you for your own good and, if you fulfill it, for God’s glory. I love you very much and I desire your salvation; to gather you all around God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Conchita, won’t you respond to this?’ I said, ‘If I could be always seeing you, yes; but otherwise I can’t because I am very bad…’ ‘You do all you can,’ Our Lady added, ‘and We will help you, as well as my daughters Loli, Jacinta and Maricruz…’

She did not stay long with me. She also said, ‘This will be the last time you see me here, but I will always be with all my children.’ Afterwards she added, ‘Conchita, why don’t you go often to visit my Son in the Most Blessed Sacrament? Why do you let yourself be carried away by laziness and not go to visit Him Who is waiting for you day an night?’

As I have written above, it was raining hard. Our Lady and the Child did not get wet. I was not aware it was raining while seeing them, but when I stopped seeing them I was soaked. I also told her, ‘O how happy I am when I see you. Why don’t you take me with you right now?’ She answered, ‘Remember what I told you on your saint’s day. When you go before God you must show Him your hands filled with good works done by you for your brothers and for the glory of God; now your hands are empty.’

That’s all, I spent a happy moment with my mother from heaven, my best friend, and with the Child Jesus. I have stopped seeing them but not feeling them close. Again they have sown in my soul great peace, joy and a desire to conquer my defects so that I will be able to love, with all my strength, the hearts of Jesus and Mary who love us so much…”

Conchita ends with this: “The Blessed Virgin Mary told me before that Jesus does not want to send the punishment in order to distress us but in order to help us and reproach us because we pay no attention to Him. And the warning will be sent in order to purify us for the miracle in which he will show us His great love, and in order that we may fulfill the message.”

With this apparition of Our Lady, the cycle of apparitions in Garabandal closed. It will be definitely confirmed on a Thursday at 8:30 p.m. when the miracle takes place. This will mark the beginning of a new era in the history of the salvation of mankind.






Tom & Sue Personal Pilgrimage: Accidental Tourist June 16 (Day 21)

Jane  Dobric:

Well, the title says it all. We listened to everyone, including Father Tomasz, and left early for the Salt  Mines and the tour from hell.

Editors note:  The Wieliczka salt mine dates from the 13th Century, and was in operation up until 2007.  Over the centuries, the miners carved statues, as well as four chapels, completely made out of salt.  Since the majority of these miners were Catholic, almost everything in here relates to the Catholic Church.  It is one of Poland’s most popular tourist attractions. 

Even without breakfast and only 2 cups of coffee……I was ready for anything but this.  When we parked, we had to pay the attendant, but he didn’t speak English, so we walked up some stairs and around a loop and then down some stairs to the ticket window.  It took 10 minutes  and we ended up 30 feet from where we parked and missed the 8:30 tour by a minute.

Now you know me, mister  patience, I wasn’t too happy because I wasn’t sure I wanted to be here in the first place.  We stood at the front of “no line” for awhile as other non-group tourists arrived for the tour. I  must say that at 9:00 sharp we were led in to a chamber and waited a few minutes  before we had to descend 390 stairs.  With my arthritis it’s not so bad going  down stairs, but 390?

At the bottom we were led thru a bunch of corridors, felt like we were there an hour until we saw the first SALT statue of fat man who was important.

My ear phone kept  falling out! So I don’t know what she said. I decided that we should keep close to her so we could at least hear. A few more tunnels and the tour really heated  up, when we saw the ropes and pullies and fake horses and cave men and more SALT  statues of fat people, but important fat people.

Now, rock salt is dark  grey and black and is hardened rock and I won’t bore you with all the things I learned, but some of it was interesting.  I did feel like a hostage because after less than an  hour on the tour I felt like it was way past the hour and a half this tour would  take. Now I was starting to panic because we wanted to go to noon mass at the  Saint John Paul II center.

Susan kept telling me it was only 10 and I kept telling her that her watch was broken. I decided to get friendly with the guide, her name was Natasha, no this is no joke, she was from Romania, and to be exact she was born in Transylvania.  I backed off a  little remembering that she told everyone not to take her picture and she loved caves. I can’t wait to see those pictures or not
see those I took with her in  it.

The only real thing we cared about was the large church made all of salt. They have a chapel in the John Paul II Center like that.  I asked the vamp if we were close and she said we where but had to walk  down another 250 stairs to get there and after there were another 150+ more stairs before the end. Now…….that’s a 40 story building folks.

Now I start playing  the arthritis card and started to slowly and quietly whimper a little…..rather  loud, actually….. and Susan panicked not knowing my plan.  I saw  someone down here in the church in a wheel chair and he had to come in by  elevator and that’s the place I wanted to be.  Get me  out of here!  No one was paying attention and Natasha said you had to be registered to use the lifts.  Great.

I asked how many more tunnels till we got out and she said three. She lied……..and when we didfinish, she dropped the bomb. They make you go thru  each gift store, restaurant and shop in order to get out.  The walk was about a  ½ mile.  The bomb was that when you got to the lifts, it could  take a 1/2 hour to an hour to get in a lift.  She  told us to go stand in line when we got there and it was 1st  come first serve.

Wrong!  We were the first people in line and a tour group muscled their way in and they got to go first.  We weren’t too happy, but let them go first and as luck would have it, there was room for 2 more on the last one.   The ride up was in a mine shaft and the car held 8 people elbow to elbow and you could notsee a thing except cracks of light now and then. We made it as  we were left off in another gift shop area, and I said to Susan, bring some SALT  home from the apartment.

We left and when we got in the car the clock said 11:00 AM.  I thought it was afternoon.  The  longest morning of my life was only 1 1/2 hours!


With so many new prayer requests for Saint John Paul II and Divine Mercy, we had decided to go to the shrine for mass to pray and leave them there to be read at mass.  After mass it was  off to Saint Faustinas’ to pray the Divine Mercy and leave  intentions.

From here our plan was to  go to the church of the Rock and pray the rosary. Which we did………but not before stopping for some perogi’s at a real off the beaten path place. The place was packed and we finally ordered and only got ½ the order.  We ate and left ½  full.

We found the church and accomplished what we came for, except that mass started in the beginning of our prayers, so we finished outside next to the statue of Saint John Paul II.

Back at the apartment we did a  few things and went to eat, since today’s intake of food consisted of one piece of cake and six perogi’s split between the two of us. We went to Corlione’s, one of our  favorite restaurants.  Susan had Octopus, freshly grilled with lemon and olive oil and I had a  homemade spinach gnocchi and salad. As usual we had wine and left $29.00 poorer.  DIETYILK?
Both were outstanding and finally  satisfied we headed back for a good night’s sleep.

The following was sent to  us from an old friend who teaches in Costa Rica, and we have not seen each other in over 30 years, but he found me on facebook and we have been writing and  praying for each other ever since.


“It doesn’t make one holier to kneel where a saint has knelt, but it is

Those words are so true. Yes, I want to be holy, but the holiness comes
from within and not from outside the heart. Being holy is denying myself,
picking up my daily crosses, and walking the painful journey of the Holy Cross.
I only wish being holy was as simple as praying in the same spot of a


Through the Grace from God may we all become Saints,


Susan & Tom

May God Bless Each and Every One Of You!

Tom &  Susan Melillo
Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33418 (USA)


_TSMelillo13@aol.com_ (mailto:TSMelillo13@aol.com)



June 8: Tom & Sue visit Our Lady of the Afflicted

Bon  Jour:

Well, we are back in France and the trip was tedious with all of the traffic and then all of the AutoVia  (Highway/Tollway) road construction.  I think Susan would have been happier going back to Lekitio again.  Passing lots of trucks in narrow lanes for miles was not fun for her or for moi. At one point, we must have passed a convoy of 100 trucks, They were not allowed in the left lane. Thank  God!

We were in bed last night by 8:30 P.M..  I  think we were both traumatized and I was exhausted after cooking dinner for 2 and a 3rd large glass of wine.  I got up around 6:30 AM and I let Susan sleep after I moved her to the bedroom till about 8AM.  I made a sandwich for the road and got breakfast ready to go for when she awoke. Half a pot  of coffee later I was cleaning the kitchen, taking out the garbage and working  on the computer. This new coffee we bought was real hi-test.

Susan got up and relaxed over a cup of coffee  and our days itinerary.  (And, as Susan reviews to send this email to you  right now, she is saying … “EVERYONE IS GOING TO THINK I AM ONE LAZY  WIFE/TRAVELER BECAUSE TOM SEEMS TO BE DOING ALL OF THE WORK!!!! … I’M IN  TROUBLE  NOW!)

We would have to leave soon to visit our first shrine … Our Lady of Guadeloupe in Hondarriba, Spain … another mountain shrine for sailors. After yesterday’s Shrine, I figured I should join the Navy first. Susan said from her research  that getting in was iffy if the caretaker wasn’t there so we both  sat down and had more coffee, finally deciding we had enough mountain costal towns for now, so we will leave this for another pilgrimage.  We took our time but finally said goodbye to Rosa  and headed  out.

Arriving at our B&B
Arriving at our B&B

We arrived in Gans, France at our next B&B and were met by one of the two owners, Jackie.  The B&B has been owned by Jackie’s Parents and their family  for years.  Nowadays, Jackie and his Mom, Jacquelyn, run the B&B with the help of their staff. He was born in Bordeaux, raised in Martinique and spent  holidays in Nantucket, CT during his lifetime.  He and his Mom own this lovely home and he was very gracious and showed us the residence that all the guests were able to use.

Our room was very quaint and extremely comfortable … it was a bedroom in their home  and had our bed, small TV and a couple small night stands, plus a bathroom of course and the rest of the house … the kitchen, breakfast room, dining salon, Parlor, living room, patio, pool area, etc., etc..  He gave us our key and we put a few things in the room and headed out for
Verdelaise and  Our Lady of the Afflicted.

We were  going to meet Father Robert there and he was going to show us
around and tell us  of the background of the  Shrine.

Father Robert met us outside the Basilica
Father Robert met us outside the Basilica

We  were  20 minutes late and as we approached the Basilica there was a man standing outside. He wasn’t dressed as a priest but it had to be him and I told  Susan we were going to get scolded for being late (only joking,Father).   It didn’t happen,

Father Robert was a very gentle man and hugged Susan as soon as they said  hello.  (We do have to interject right here that Father reminded us so  very, very much of our dear friend, Father Tim O’Toole (a/k/a “TOT) … in his peacefulness, kindness, warmth and everything else).  I got a warm handshake and greeting too.  He took us into the courtyard and sat as he told us about the Shrine and the history of the town.

A close look at the statue of Our Lady of the Afflicted
A close look at the statue of Our Lady of the Afflicted

He then took us into the Basilica with wonderful further explanations on the background of the Shrine.  Father Robert was going to leave us to Pray at the Shrine and, hopefully, walk the Way of the Cross up to the top of the hilltop.  I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it up the hill with my bad knee, but I was going to give it a valiant effort.

We agreed that Father Robert would meet us back at the Basilica at 4:30 P.M. and then  would walk down the street to share a glass of wine and then go to the  Rosary and attend the Evening  Mass.

We lit a candle for all your prayer intentions
We lit a candle for all your prayer intentions

We spent  some time in the Basilica praying for your intentions, lit a  candle and Susan put your intentions in the box provided.

We walked  out to go across the street to the Stations of the Cross that wound up the hill  and I realized I couldn’t make it, my knee and leg were really bothering me today.  We went back to the car to get a pill and I realized that they  were in the bag we left at Jackie’s (our B&B for the night).

We decided that I needed a pill and went back with the intention of returning for the  Rosary and Mass. I tried to let Father know but couldn’t get thru to him on the  phone, so I took a pill and relaxed on the lounge chair.  I would have been fine, except Jackie made us a tropical coconut drink and we couldn’t say  no.  I woke up late for everything.  Susan sent Father an apology and  I’m sure he would  understand.

The  evening was great at Jackie’s and Jacquline’s (we call her mom).  We
were  in the living room on the computers but didn’t get much done as we laughed and told stories to each other for a long time.  Mom sat, and her English was great, even though she didn’t think so.  This family is very Catholic and we  shared many things that had happened throughout our all our lives. They  have a great love for St. John Paul II, just as we do.  We were going to tell them about Krakow but decided to wait and get a few things done first, but  ended up telling them anyway and then the photos came out and we shut off the computers.

When they  fed the other people that were staying at the house Susan and I
went out to the patio to have our sandwich I had made and Jackie brought us a nice bottle of wine.  He sat with us and more stories flowed  especially about his dad and the army and his life in Conn. during the summers he stayed there and his encounters with women when he was young.  Our faces hurt we laughed so hard and mom would come out now and then and confirm his stories and we would laugh again.

Jackie and Jaqueline
Jackie and Jaqueline

We had  eaten but mom brought out a small piece of steak and little salad for each of us  and then some cake.  It was too good to pass up, so we had a second  meal.  We will diet tomorrow.  It was 10:45 and mom and their cook had sat down for dinner and we forced Jackie in to eat or we would have been out  there all night.

We all hugged and said good night and Susan and I went to our room feeling like we were again at home with our wonderful new  friends.

Susan was  asleep in less than 5 minutes and I think I was right behind her.  (It was  special this morning when Susan told me that she had awoken at Jackie &  Jacquoelen’s in our room for the night and she woke up feeling that she was in  the bedroom we always stayed in at my Mom and Dad’s in Danbury, Connecticut.  That was always a very special bedroom for us and, perhaps, the love and memories of the love and memories of this family brought us “back  in time” … thank you for that  experience.

Au  Revoir

Click here for more information about Verdelaise and Our Lady of the Afflicted.