Friday, August 30, 2013

More churches

If you think all we did was visit churches on this trip, you're about 80% correct! The rest of the time we had wonderful visits with family and added lots and lots of miles to our car (I was only stopped once, for the ticket, I just wasn't driving with my lights on which apparently is a law in Slovakia. Good to know!)

On with the tour!

Our second day (Sunday) took us to the village of Siroke. This is such a special place for me. It's my heritage! My father's family (both sides) hail from this place and so it is full of the cousins, aunts and uncles that are missing on this side of the world.

1. The village church of Siorke.

Hanging out after Mass

A simple, village church made beautiful by the people inside.

A view of the steeple from the top of the cemetery which is directly behind the church. It's kind of lovely to think that your eternal resting place allows you to see your lifelong church and, beyond, your earthly home.
My cousin, Fr. Peter, said the Mass which we attended, making it even more special. It was all in Slovak of course but it is amazing how the Mass flows, no matter what the language. I said all of my English responses at exactly the right time!
On the way into the church, Father pointed out a small room just inside the foyer. "This," he said, " is for the times when you have some trouble with the baby." Ahh, the "trouble room"...Slovak for "cry room".
Of course, G-man was the troublesome (read squirmy) 16-month-old that he is at home so I went to the trouble room. The trouble room was quieter than most of the churches I have attended in the US. Oh, and that's with at least 5 strollers, with fresh newborns (including one set of twins), jammed into the room. The children eventually got a little rambunctious as Mass went on but, truly, I was impressed with the behavior. The main church was silent. Wow. Reverence.
Then, after the final blessing, all the parents filed out with their kids and up the aisle to the altar. My cousin, Eva, waved me to the space in line with my husband and other kids. When we got to the altar, each child received a personal blessing from the presiding priest. That impressed me. The whole way home I couldn't get out of my head how much they welcome and value children here and how annoyed the people at home would be if someone tried to add 5 minutes to the already less-than-an-hour service. (I know, not nice. True, but not nice).
2. Spisska Kapitula

This is a really cool area about 30 km from Siroke. It is called the "Slovak Vatican" because it is a walled city containing only church-related buildings. The seminary is here (where Fr. Peter studied), the bishop lives here, and the Cathedral of St. Martin is here. This Cathedral was built between the 13th and 15th centuries. Not at all what we would expect of a Cathedral (on the small side and NO bathrooms!) but the building and some of the art/murals were just stunning.

this mural must have dated to the 13th century

this was the side altar

I love, in the midst of this antiquity, the electronic song number sign!

The wall is still there and in good shape.

We finished our church crawl with authentic Slovak fare at a local restaurant. Homemade pierogi and halushki with sheep's milk cheese. Yum.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Persevere in Prayer

For today's feast, we turned to the book of Sirach for the first reading:

Blessed the husband of a good wife, twice-lengthened are his days; A worthy wife brings joy to her husband, peaceful and full is his life. A good wife is a generous gift bestowed upon him who fears the Lord; Be he rich or poor, his heart is content, and a smile is ever on his face.
A gracious wife delights her husband, her thoughtfulness puts flesh on his bones; A gift from the Lord is her governed speech, and her firm virtue is of surpassing worth. Choicest of blessings is a modest wife, priceless her chaste soul. A holy and decent woman adds grace upon grace; indeed, no price is worthy of her temperate soul. Like the sun rising in the Lord’s heavens, the beauty of a virtuous wife is the radiance of her home.

Wow! Now, that's what I call a step-by-step list of how succeed as a wife. I think I need to print it out and read it daily. I love when scripture gives us, as women, something to emulate. Some days I just need a target for which to aim.

Good and faithful women, wives and otherwise, are such a blessing. Over the last two weeks, I have had a mighty struggle that I am sure I would have lost if not for the love and prayer of a few good women. I am so honored to call them my friends. I don't know about you but I can truly feel the depth of grace that comes from a good friend's prayer. It lifts me up and carries me to the next day (or hour or minute sometimes). How blessed I am.

So today, on the feast of St. Monica, I give thanks for the women who persevere in prayer, even when things seem bleak. Those who have time in their life to lift up a friend in need. I strive to be like these women because I know that God's good blessings are right around the corner and that these trials are part of what binds us together as friends.

Saint Monica, Pray for Us.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The churches of Slovakia (Part I)


The first stop on our pilgrimage was the "shrine" church (Minor Basilica, actually) of Levoca (the one on the hill, Marinska Hora).

1. Marinska Hora (Marian Hill)

This is the place! I came here to pray for my children and, well, our friends from Kosice now refer to our little people as "The Children of Levoca". God is so good!

Outside the main church  

Pat and our Children of Levoca

Our Lady of Levoca and the crucifix, which I adore. We don't have them quite like that here.


If you walk a little ways down the parking area from the main church, you will come upon a trail that leads to a very long set of stairs. Very steep but well worth the trip.
The stairs lead to Mary's Chapel. This is where my pilgrimage truly ended.
In 2004 it was here that I came to pray for my babies. 9+ years later, I came to give thanks and ask for help and healing.
(Inside the chapel is kept many of the items left by other pilgrims. It is truly a moving site)

 Beside the chapel is a cross where pilgrims leave their offerings. I had brought some blessed lavender from a friend and placed it at the base of the cross.

Just down the trail a bit is the Mary grotto where the spring runs up hill (we are at the top of the mountain at this point). There is a spigot where people come to drink the water and pray.

 I dumped my water bottle on the flowers and filled it up. Thank goodness for G-man. I made it through every security checkpoint with the water because they assumed it was for him. It's now resting safely in my refrigerator ;0)
2. St. Jakuba (St. James) - the main church in the town of Levoca. It was a block from our house.
You can't take pictures inside the church and the main altar is being restored so all of these photos come from here.
This church is a functioning parish and has held masses for OVER 700 YEARS. That, to me, is an amazing thing. Standing in a building that was there before OUR COUNTRY even existed. Wow. Mind-blowing.
The altar was carved by Master Pavol and is the highest Gothic altar in the world.

The wings of the altar piece can be closed to reveal beautiful paintings from the crucifixion of Christ. This is on display during Lent.
The church has 17 altars in addition to the main altar, including the Altars of St. Ann, St. Nicholas and Nino's favorite, St. Michael the Archangel.
My favorite is the Altar of St. Elizabeth, in front of which is the baptismal font in the form of a Gothic chalice. Beautiful.
3. Starý kostol minoritov
This church was literally two buildings away. Here is the description:
At the end of Kláštorskej Street stands the Church of the minoritov, also called gymnaziálnym Church. Comes from the first half of the 14th century and its construction used money provided by magister Knight Donč1309 in 2006. It is one of the largest churches in Slovakia, which is a superb example of the art of Gothic building. It built the famous "building a smelter. In 1671 the ship of the Church was rebuilt in the Baroque style, however elements of Gothic architecture, which are preserved in the presbytery are the perfect, stunning kružby Windows, heads, feet, sedílie paintings. Mohutnosťou stands out for the main altar with Gothic statue of Madonna from the 15th century with Baroque statues of Jesuit Saints and Kings and. Sakristii is located in the painting of the first half of the 14th century, depicting the crucifixion, above the portal to the sacristy is the death and assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
 I was so bummed that it wasn't open when we were there.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Run much?

Me? Not lately. If you're like me, it's can walk if you have to. This, my friend, is the beauty of a virtual 5K. The Second Annual Run for the Little Flowers Virtual 5K registration is up and ready to go. Go, go, go. Register and run!

From Blessed with Full Hands blog:

This fundraiser is to benefit Little Flower Projects, a US registered non-profit that was started by Brent and Serena Johnson.  To read more about their work, please read this great article about Brent.  I was honored to speak to Brent on the phone last year and I am even more convinced of the amazing work they do. 
Little Flower Projects works with orphans with special medical needs in China.  They have set up homes that give the care these orphans need, while giving them even something more precious, love.  Little Flower Projects is named for their patron, St. Therese of Lisieux.
So, give it a go. It's $25, you get a free t-shirt, you benefit beautiful babies and you don't have to run with a bunch of ;0)

Friday, August 23, 2013

Travel Edition

round button chicken

~ Capturing the context of contentment in everyday life ~  



I could put about every picture here that we took in Slovakia and Vienna. The land is beautiful, the churches are amazing. Even the house we rented was 500+ years old and incredible. Some examples...
The garden of the gymnasium (middle school) next to our house
The entry to our rental home. My cousin said parts of the house are 500-600 years old. Wow.
Every church, from the tiniest village church to the grandest cathedral were amazing inside. This is the altar piece at the small chapel in the Kosice seminary where my cousin worked for 12 years. We got to sit right there when he was presiding over Mass (no, I didn't take the picture during Mass. Most uncool.)


My children, by some act of Divine grace, were overtaken and transformed into (mostly) angelic beings. There were meltdowns a plenty when it got too late and they were spent but, on the whole, it was a beautiful time of meeting new friends and relatives and having fun.
 My big man in my big van
 Little one enjoying the fountain
Who knew that even Kosice, Slovakia has shopping malls with great play areas! (our friend, Jan (pushing G) and his wife Veronica, spent the day with us. What a big help!)
Cousin Julia cheezin with G
HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my EIGHT-year-old! (that was way too fast)
Backyard soccer  and bike riding with the cousins


We had some sad times and some trying times but, on the whole, this was one grace-filled trip. Laughter was abundant and for that, I am grateful. How blessed we are

Thank goodness for #1 son. He drives me nuts at times but he can be so entertaining to his baby brother. Sitting together was a must. Especially during a 9-hour plane flight!

You know how, in the mall, they have "personalization" stores? Cups, blankets, etc., all with your name? Well this is the Slovak version. Can you find your name ;0)

There is no language barrier for those under the age of 2. I was ready to steal little Lukas and bring him home. Golly he was cute.

These kids ran themselves ragged so wake up wasn't always the best time of day. It was funny to watch, though.

The Vienna "family" hotel room. Six of us in the space of my dining room. Thank goodness we were exhausted and had to get up at 4 AM!


We flew in and out of Paris both ways. The joke is that we didn't really fly into Paris but some minor airport on the outskirts of some random city. I never personally saw the Eiffel Tour which is suspect, since Paris is about as flat as a pancake. On the way home, the pilot made a point of saying "look out your right window to see a beautiful view of the Eiffel Tour". Do you see it? Guess I'm just not French enough.



Amidst the funny and happy times there were a sprinkling of real moments. For these I am always thankful. They rank among the most memorable times of our journey.

The van. The 9-passenger-manual. I'm the only one that was able (legally and skill-wise) to drive. It was good anyway, since I would probably have thrown up if I had to ride in the back. I know this because several of my children did so on different occasions (always get the full coverage!)

We were able to watch a wedding at one of the churches we visited. It was really great to see the differences between here and there (see how the bride has her arms covered for church, even though she chose a strapless gown?). Also, the processional consists of the bride and her father along with the groom and his mother.


No trip is complete without a trip to the cemetery to visit relatives. This is my aunt's grave (she died at around 20 months old and is the only one of her immediate family buried in Slovakia). It was so great to walk through and remember the family I have there. It was even more special to have my Aunt with me. This is her "family cemetery" - she has to go to Slovakia to visit grandparents, aunts, uncles and other family! (I also love the little red candles they light every time they visit. On Sunday night the cemetery glows with candlelight)

Taking my children to the shrine at Levoca, where I prayed to the Blessed Mother to help me in my journey to motherhood, was overwhelming. (Blondie was more camera shy than ever on this trip)

This guy was praying everywhere we went. How blessed we are.


The food was amazing. The time spent over a simple meal with family was priceless.

I was so worried about the little guy and how he would adapt to life in a foreign country. (I even forgot his favorite bear. Yeah. Mother of the year here). He was the best traveler by far. Didn't hurt that everyone thought he was cute (even the customs agents ;0))

for more pretty, happy, funny, real- head over to Like Mother, Like Daughter

Monday, August 19, 2013