One week ago today three of my daughters and I were cruising around Washington, DC. As unplanned as the trip was with no hotel reservations (proved to be stressful a couple of nights), an atlas, a GPS (Emma) and some ideas about where I wanted to go in our 5 day tour (ideas that changed daily), it all turned out to be quite amazing. We literally looked up addresses at night, punched them into the GPS in the morning and drove. The girls often thought Emma was leading us to our death but I thought she was wonderful. She got us in and back out of some tough places.
We drove from Manassas, VA where we had found a hotel the night before into Washington to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception without a hitch. Did not know the USCCB was right across the street. Heck, could have picked up my order for encyclicals and Spanish Catechisms for the bookstore.
We entered the Basilica on the lower level and must have looked out of place. A security guard politely asked if we needed help and proceeded showing us where to start in the lower Chapels and how to move to the Upper Level. We toured for several hours. Stopping in each Chapel and reading the prayers on the kneelers in front of the Visions of Our Lady. Seeing where both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict had been. Watching the other people who had come to pray and to touch. Entering the lower Sanctuary and happening upon Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. Mary leading us to her Son. Seeing the workmen diligently and reverently replacing the used devotional candles, hundreds burning as prayers to Our Lady for requests, in thanksgiving and in honor. And finally, the same security guard giving us directions to Mary's Garden, one of his "favorite spots". (understandably)
The tour of the Basilica on this day and others was interesting to me for another reason, as well. Each of my girls had different responses, different interests, different gifts to offer. The youngest would not hesitate going straight to the front, kneeling, reading, taking it all in. The oldest could not take enough pictures and read enough of the writings on the walls, from the great Saints and about Our Lady, loving the idea of the many different images from around the world, respectful of all who have immigrated to the U.S. and all who visit. And then my middle girl, watching, waiting at a slight distance, taking it all in cautiously and in her own way loving different areas and happenings, lighting candles for specific requests.
The first tour of the many places in the U.S. where Mary is loved by so many and where so many are loved by her. The first of many places where the people who work there have a love for the people who come as well as a willingness to share their love for Our Mother and her Son. The first of several areas where the young and the old and all in between witness openly to the fact that Christ is alive and waiting, as well as His Mother, for us to come and to visit and to receive the gifts these special places, made to honor them, have to offer.