February 7, 2014 A.D.
Last week, here in the deep South, many were hit with a snow storm that was unexpected—unexpected in that the deep South rarely gets snow, and also, at least in the area in which Caritas is located, it was predicted that we would see only a “dusting” of snow. Northerners who visit the South during winter months usually laugh at Southerners when snow is predicted. Everything closes, from schools to businesses to churches, grocery stores are packed where panicky shoppers are busy clearing out the shelves of bread, milk and eggs. With no snow plows and limited capability to salt icy roads, the hilly to mountainous landscape in Alabama, where the end of the Appalachian Mountains is located, can become treacherous quickly. But southerners are conditioned to false alarms of predicted forecasts of winter storms that never happen. Usually after all the grocery stores have been emptied and businesses closed, at the most, there will be only a light “dusting” though at least several inches of snow would be predicted. It is a cry of “wolf” which doesn’t show up.
That is not what happened this past week. Just the opposite happened. News reports were confidently predicting only a “light dusting” for central Alabama, if at all. But when an actual snow “storm” descended upon Birmingham, within a short time, thousands found themselves trapped on highways as traffic came to a standstill. When roads became slick, it caught everyone off guard. After several hours, cars began running out of gas. Because the temperatures were so low, people had to abandon their cars, many right in the middle of the road. Some were taken into homes by charitable people, others walked for miles in seek of shelter or walked all the way to home. Some made fires along the road to stay warm. Some stores with their employees trapped, stayed open, having 50 to 100 people spending the night. Many restaurants gave away food until they ran out. With roads being closed because of hazardous conditions, parents weren’t able to reach the schools to pick up their children, leaving hundreds of children in the care of school administrators and teachers, including many nursing infants and small children in day care centers, and not just for one night but in some cases two. Every hotel was booked to maximum capacity, so for those who arrived later in the day, there was “no room in the inn,” but they were allowed to bed down in hotel lobbies. Many others just stayed at their places of work and made the best of it. Airports were closed because pilots couldn’t make it into work. One brain surgeon had to walk six miles to get to the hospital for a critical surgery to save a man’s life. Others lost their lives or were seriously injured in accidents, but with the roads blocked by so many vehicles ambulances could not get through to them.
As always in circumstances like this, you find people who go out of their way to help, such as the restaurants who gave out free food, people who had equipment that could handle the snow rescuing those who were stranded, strangers looking out for strangers. You, as always, had others who could have helped but did not. Finally on Friday, January 31, the temperatures began rising melting the snow which had turned to ice. For many, if you asked them to find the “blessing” in this past winter storm, they would be hard pressed to come up with an answer. Yet, for those who follow Our Lady, a blessing can be found in every circumstance, especially in the way of life where we pray, work, live and are buried on the same ground.
Snow had just begun to cover the ground while the community makes a fire. The Caritas Community’s Morning Rosary time in the Field corresponds to the time of Our Lady’s daily apparition in Medjugorje. It is also, as our founder terms it, their “meeting at the well,” where they gather together before Rosary begins and share the “news of the day.” Our founder tells of how the women, in ancient times, would gather at the well as one of the first duties of their day. He would say imagine the little ones in tow who were not old enough to stay home, upon seeing other little ones at the well, they would be filled with joy every morning. We see this joy in our little ones when they come to Rosary during the week. It is something they anticipate with longing and joy. On Tuesday, January 28, just a short time before the bells began to ring to call the Community to Rosary, the snow began falling. Though weather reports were saying to expect “a dusting,” they looked to the skies and felt the sting of dropping temperatures and knew the snow was going to continue to fall. This was their “news” for the day!
Though only having a few occasions to experience snow in her young life, Angela Grace knew exactly what to do when the snow began accumulating last Tuesday.
To live in an area of the country where even seeing snow flurries is rare, snow brings joy if one lives looking for the blessings in everything God sends. In April of 1994, Birmingham was hit with a record breaking snow fall. There was over a foot of snow fell, with 3-4 foot snow drifts. Electricity was lost for days, and it was one week before the first utility truck was seen on our road. But it was a week of pure fun for the Caritas community children, many of whom had never seen snow before. The next year, in 1995, having the memory of those fun days in the snow, several of the school aged children wrote a novena asking Our Lady for snow, a snow “bigger” than the last time. They even walked on their knees all the way from the Tabernacle of Our Lady’s Messages to the statue of Our Lady in the Field, a ¼ of a mile, to add sacrifice to their novena. It was a good opportunity to teach lessons of eternal value while praying for the temporal joy of snow. In the captions that follow, you will read several of the intentions of the children that were included in their novena and the messages each child chose to go with the novena.
“Dear Mary, we say this novena that it will snow like the last snow we received or bigger. We ask you to let it snow if it is your intention. Do it when You like and at the right time. We pray this for snow.”
December 1, 1983
The first day of the snow the kids were trying to find anything that would move quickly across the snow. By the second day, it was all about physics and technique of what to do to be able to go faster down a hill. Advice was being called out from every direction—tuck your feet in, lean back, get a good push at the start, relax, keep your eyes closed, try to steer away from the cow patties. It was all for one, and one for all.
Another intention from the novena written by another child:
“Jesus, Mary, and the angels, please let it snow like the last snow we received or bigger. We ask you this with all our hearts. Make our souls white like the snow when it snows. We pray to you that it will snow at an appointed time. In Proverbs it says, ‘be patient and you will win.’ We will try to be patient if that is what God desires.”
April 12, 1987
October 26, 1986
June 3, 1983
By the second day, little Rebekah was a natural after learning she could go faster by leaning on her legs backward and crashing at the bottom of a long hill.
“Mary, we offer this novena for snow like the last one or bigger. Only let it snow if it is alright. In the book of Matthew it said, ‘Ask and you shall receive…’”
December 25, 1982
Our heavenly Father had to be at least impressed with their boldness and reasoning.
Not every ride was a smooth one…but every ride was a fun one.
Another of the Caritas kids wrote:
“Dear Mary, we give our hearts to you asking you for snow like the last snow we received or bigger. But we ask you to let it be at the right time. We only ask for this if it’s your intention. Mary, we listen to your words which say to be like flowers after the snow. Please cleanse us like flowers through your snow. Amen.”
December 18, 1986
Little Lucy, one of Our Lady’s little pink flowers.
This past December, snow storms hit across the nation preventing some from being able to attend Caritas’ Five Days of Prayer December 8-12. A dear friend from Colorado wrote to us of her frustration of having to turn around and go home after encountering hazardous roads.
“I am profoundly disappointed that I could not join you there today. I tried. I got over half way—to Sallisaw, Oklahoma. One hundred fifty miles of that was 30 mph ‘white knuckle’ driving due to the ice and snow. I talked to some truckers who had driven across Arkansas earlier and they said I-40 was treacherous. I could not muster the courage for another 300 miles of ice and snow driving. I did chuckle when I thought that the Caritas little ones were probably praying for snow and I knew I couldn’t compete with that!”
Many of you are wondering whether God answered the prayers of our children through the 1995 novena, “for snow like the last one or bigger.” God did, through Our Lady’s intentions, at the right time as the children all had asked…20 years after the novena was prayed. The kids who wrote the prayers are now dads and moms. A new generation of Caritas kids, who just got their first taste of snow fun, will be keeping the tradition of praying for snow alive and well at Caritas.
It wasn’t just the kids who were praying for the snow, and having fun in the snow, and who were fighting for a space in the line-up to slide down the hill in the snow.
While the repeated battles of the snowballs was taking place in the valley, there were other youth and community members who wanted to climb to the Cross. They knew it would be very windy and cold on top of the mountain, being the temperature was in the mid-teens, but they were excited to make the snowy climb, giving this sacrifice to Our Lady. They knew that they would get back more than what they gave—in the way of graces and memories. A few of the pack passing the 11th station on the way up.
It was a year ago, this time last year, when our founder went walking for a day along this ridge and felt a strong push, through an inspiration, to re-approach the owner of this mountain to build a cross. He was called to the mountain as a result of the Community’s prayers in his office one Sunday evening. More than twenty years ago the Community began praying a Rosary in the office of our founder every Sunday evening. Through this Rosary, they covered in prayer both our founder and his wife for the week ahead, praying specifically for blessings upon every meeting, writing, and decisions that our founder would make during the week concerning the mission and Community of Caritas. Lastly, they prayed Our Lady would choose a separate message for them both, picked randomly out of Words from Heaven that would help guide them during their week ahead and in which they tried to specifically to live that week. On February 3, 2013, the message the Community picked for our founder prompted him to dedicate a day in prayer. He chose to walk for miles through the mountains behind the Field, which in turn led to reinitiating the inspiration of a cross to be built on the mountain behind the Field. Following is the message the Community had chosen for him in his office:
July 25, 1989
Walking the mountains toward the end of February, as a result of the above message picked on February 3rd, led to a change of heart in the land owner, which led to the beginning of road construction by March with miracle after miracle continuing to fall from Heaven like dew to make way for the Cross. There is great joy and peace seeing the Cross standing so tall and majestic as the seasons come and go—from summer, to fall, and now its First winter….waiting for spring, where it will be for centuries.
Rain or shine, in hurricanes or snowstorms, we are on our knees for you interceding to Our Lady for all of your needs and intentions. Snow just begins to dust the ground, but the temperatures were biting.
Mary, Queen of the Winter, Queen of the Snows, Queen of our Hearts
Mary, She moves behind me
She leaves Her fingerprints everywhere
Every time the snow drifts
Every way the sand shifts
Even when the night lifts
She’s always there…*
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