A Mother’s Journey  -  The Blessing

It was another beautiful spring day in the south.

It was about 8 o’clock in the morning of Friday, April 9th, when Allan and I left Corydon with the young mother in our back seat, so to speak, traversing Interstate #64 toward St. Louis, Missouri, where our friend Father Bernardine Hahn, OFM, lives and works.

The six hours to St. Louis went fast.

As we pulled into the west parking lot of the St. Anthony Friary on Meramec Street — it was 2:00 p.m. — the sun continued to be warm upon us.  Father Bernardine appeared at the door with his Holy Water in hand and Book of Blessings under arm.

“May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, born of the Virgin Mary, and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”

It seemed like sort of a baptism, and her baptismal name is Ave Maria, which is Latin for Hail Mary, which is biblical, as you know.  “Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.”  Beads of holy water clung to her brow and her mantel, and I smiled to know we could now truly call her Our Blessed Mother as well as Ave Maria. 

Fr. B. looks like a million bucks and hardly changed in all the years we’ve known him, although he is now 94 years old. 

Last time Allan and I met up with Fr. B. was at Father Elstan’s funeral Mass in Victoria in May of 2008 when he stayed at our house.

After the blessing in the parking lot, we tucked our truck and the Ave Maria aside for the afternoon and visited a few hours with Father Bernardine.  His room is small and his material possessions are few, but his knowledge is vast and his prayers are numerous and productive.

We walked the halls of the friary and visited the archives.

We walked outdoors and sat in the shade of a big old maple tree and then dined in their refectory.  Their chicken dinner with all the trimmings was delicious.

Several priests and visitors who happened by were invited to see our Ave Maria and she didn’t seem to mind all the attention.  She just smiled, held Baby Jesus, and waited for the next leg of her journey home.

The following morning, after spending a night in the parking lot of a nearby Drury Inn, the Madonna went with Allan and me to the Poor Clare Monastery down the road about 20 minutes.  It’s where Father Bernardine drives to say daily Mass at 6:15 (when it’s still dark outside, especially in the winter!) for the Poor Clare sisters and people who drop by, like us.

After Mass we could see this was a statute of St. Clare, friend of St. Francis of Assisi.

The grounds of the Poor Clare monastery are beautiful and peaceful.

Construction equipment was getting in gear as we left, since the Poor Clares are growing in number and need more rooms built onto the monastery.

After coffee and cinnamon rolls at a nearby restaurant, we headed north for the first time on this five-day journey.  It was now Saturday, April 10th, day number four.

One of the many bridges we crossed was the Jefferson Barracks Bridge that spans the Mississippi River on the south side of St. Louis.  Notice the bugs on our windshield.  Yeah, spring!

The Mississippi River always brings to mind one of our trips through Hannibal, Missouri, the home of Mark Twain and Huckleberry Finn.

This is the Hwy 30 Gateway Bridge over the Mississippi River at Clinton, Iowa.  It reminded me of the Mackenac Bridge that connects the Upper and Lower Peninsulas of Michigan.

We whizzed by everything pretty fast.  The  further north we went, the few leaves there were on the trees.

The countryside was picturesque with rolling hills and ponds as far as the eye could see.

Seven hours after leaving St. Louis, we arrived in Galena, Illinois, a river town with more shops and eateries than Stillwater, Minnesota, and then we skirted the area to find the LeFevre Inn, another bed and breakfast that Allan found on the internet and secured our reservation in advance.

We were very much out in country, off the beaten track.

The place had a manmade pool and gazebo where they host fancy weddings for the brides of Galena.

We went into town for dinner that night and drove through flood gates that protect Galena from rising waters of the Mississippi River.  It reminded me of fortressed cities built in the medieval days of Euope.

Sunday morning, April 11th, we said goodbye to the Black Angus and departed for Lewiston, Minnesota, where the granite base for the Ave Maria had been delivered by ship across the Atlantic Ocean from India.

On the way to Minnesota we passed through industrial centers like the Quad Cities.

And we passed over more rivers and bridges.

We collected another fine splattering of bugs on our windshield.

And we crossed the Missisippi one more time. 


I wanted a spectacular base to support the spectacular Ave Maria in her sentry position near the front door of the St. Victoria Catholic Church.  Teresa Winslow of Winslow Monuments at Chaska had made the arrangements for the granite base per my specifications:  black, polished, circular, 30 inches in diameter, two feet high.

We drove into the big warehouse, opened the tailgate, undid the ropes, took out the sleeping bags we used for padding, and removed our suitcases.

“I wonder how they are going to get her out of there,” was the thought on Allan’s mind.

Mr. Bernie Kennedy, the proprietor of the place, directed the operation.  First they carefully pulled the mattress out of the truck a little ways …

 … then wrapped wide straps from a ceiling pulley around the statue …

… but what if she slipped out of the straps?

So they made sure the mattress followed the Madonna out of the truck.

It was not easy to leave the Madonna behind, in another’s hands, but time was needed to retrofit the granite for the bronze and vice versa.  I told Mr. Kennedy to keep her safe and free from scratches or damage while in his care.  Allan and I arrived back home in Victoria about 3 o’clock that Sunday afternoon.