A little community of Oblates of the Precious Blood has been springing up in Milwaukee-we now number five! So a visit to the Handmaids of the Precious Blood was certainly in order! Plans were made and a date set and off we went! My husband, Paul, had lovingly taken our car in for a tune-up, gave it a good cleaning and sweetly placed flowers in the pocket of the door for me as his way of wishing me love and safety on our drive to the Lake Villa, Illinois Priory. A loving husband is a blessing from God! Although the sprig of Bridal Wreath carries no fragrance, a scent of love and goodness was definitely in the air!
When we arrived at the priory we were warmly welcomed by Sister Maristella and all of the Handmaids of the Precious Blood. The first thing that Fr. Paul Schneider, one of our traveling companions, did upon our arrival, was to say Mass for all of us. During his homily he spoke about Martha and Mary and Mary's better choice to sit at the feet of Christ . He told us, "When we have a little bit of Jesus, we want more. We want more. We want more." And he reminded us to "always hold close to the Mother of Christ, to put our hands in hers, and she will never fail to lead us to Jesus."
|A Handmaid of the Precious Blood at prayer|
|Fr. Paul Schneider, OFM Conv. with the Handmaids of the Precious Blood|
It was clear that the Handmaids were thrilled to see their dear friend Fr. Paul who is one of the original Oblates of the Precious Blood, having made his Solemn Resolution of Love nearly 30 years ago. The Handmaids are cloistered nuns and yet we were able to visit with them without having to stay behind an enclosed grille, and, although they are committed to perpetual Eucharistic Adoration, a friend from the local community who comes to adore Christ each day at noon while the sisters take lunch, watched over Jesus in the chapel so that we could have a few precious minutes to visit with all of the small community of Handmaids in Lake Villa. Each time I visit the Handmaids I marvel at the sweet joy that emanates from their souls. They are, without a doubt, the warmest and most welcoming women, truly touched by the Heart of Christ and spreading that warm welcome to others so easily.
The conversation freely flowed with talk of the Handmaid's daily schedule, their garden, the upcoming Corpus Christi Procession that they will be hosting, their favorite recreational activities and games, as well as talk about the move coming up for the Handmaids at the Motherhouse in Tennessee. The life of a Handmaid of the Precious Blood is busy and full, that's certain! The moments of the day that surround the hours of prayer are never wasted!
The Handmaids had the honor of hosting an exhibit on the Shroud of Turin in one of their buildings and we were fortunate to be visiting them while the display was still on hand. One of the most moving parts of the display was a crucifix that was created based upon the image on the Shroud. Because it was so large, it didn't fit in the building with the rest of the Shroud exhibit and was displayed in the Handmaid's chapel. It was impossible not to be moved by the depth of Our Lord's suffering while gazing upon the crucifix.
|Crucifix based upon the image on the Shroud of Turin.|
|What love He has for us!|
Following our visit to the Handmaids, we traveled to Marytown, The National Shrine of St. Maximilian Kolbe where Fr. Paul gave us a beautiful history lesson on St. Maximilian, who was martyred in Auschwitz during World War II, offering to take the place of a prisoner who was spared for his family. Fr. Paul explained that St. Maximilian was the last of ten prisoners in his starvation cell who was still living, and his joyful, hope-filled attitude despite his starvation made the Nazis furious, so they hastened his death with an injection of carbolic acid. Because of that injection with a deadly drug, St. Maximilian is known as the patron saint of those who are chemically addicted.
|A replica of the cell that St. Maximilian Kolbe and nine other prisoners were held in while being starved to death.|
Following the fatal injection, St. Maximilian was cremated so there were no bones available from which to create relics. So how is it that Marytown has a relic of St. Maximilian? Fr. Paul shared a fascinating story about a barber, a fellow Conventual Franciscan, who was certain that the holy Fr. Maximilian was destined for sainthood, and so, when he finished cutting Fr. Maximilian's hair following his time as a missionary in Japan, he swept it into a bag to save it. When Fr. Maximilian learned that the barber was saving his hair, he told him to throw it out, but the barber disobeyed, and because of his disobedience, we have relics of St. Maximilian Kolbe's hair.
|St. Maximilian Kolbe relic and barbed wire from Auschwitz|
|Strands of St. Maximilian Kolbe's hair.|
To learn more about St. Maximilian Kolbe, visit the Marytown link here. Hover over the name "Kolbe" to find additional links.