By Kelly Wahlquist
In preparation for a WINE & Shrine Women’s Pilgrimage through Italy, our pilgrims receive the usual traveling tips—what to pack, temperatures to expect, where to get Euros, and a few key phrases to say in Italian, such as Teresa Tomeo’s favorite, “Is this on sale?”
The pilgrims also receive some practical tips—hold your purse tight on the busy streets of Rome, don’t order a Cappuccino after noon, and never, under any circumstances, cut your pasta!
One unique aspect of a WINE pilgrimage is the spiritual preparation. In the months leading up to our departure, the pilgrims receive emails highlighting the saints we will be visiting. We recommend the women get to know these saints and ask for their intercession. And, we encourage each pilgrim to connect, in a unique way, with one of their heavenly sisters. However, we may have had that last part backward.
In preparing for our 2016 WINE pilgrimage, I watched a movie on St. Rita of Cascia and decided this “saint of the impossible” was going to be my gal. In my mind, Rita and I were going to have an awesome connection. It never happened. Cascia, although set in the steep hills of Perugia, where escalators line the streets to bring people up and down the city, didn’t provide a mountaintop experience. Instead, I felt deflated. I had chosen St. Rita as my saint, and she didn’t seem to know I was there.
Then, while visiting the Basilica of St. Clare in Assisi, I realized I had it all wrong! Before St. Clare’s tomb, I was overcome by emotion. With tears streaming down my face, I stood, for what seemed like hours, talking to St. Clare (in my heart.) In that conversation with my new Franciscan friend, I realized we don’t choose the saints; they choose us. During this pilgrimage, I had just started a women’s ministry, who was better than the founder of the Poor Clares to befriend me at this time!
I have to laugh at the incredible timing my saintly friends have in “choosing” me. In 2011, while at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa, St. John Paul the Great prompted me to pray for the Lord to use me in a radical way for the New Evangelization. A year later, when I went through an emotionally and spiritually tough time, St. Mary Magdalene found me and taught me to always go to where I know Jesus to be. Then, as a women’s ministry was beginning, St. Clare brought me to her hometown in Italy and taught me about communication. And, as WINE began to flow, Blessed Jordan of Saxony introduced the joy of the Dominican Spirituality. Lately, St. Teresa Benedict of the Cross (Edith Stein)has been following me around. (I am looking forward to seeing that relationship blossom!)
These marvelous members of the Church Triumphant seem to be choosing to be with me at moments in my journey when the climb is challenging, and that brings me great comfort. On days when I begin to feel overwhelmed, I call on these saints, knowing they will help me overcome any obstacle to get back to my Heavenly Home—turning hills into valleys and stairs into escalators.
And if you’ve ever been to Cascia, you know what a blessing that is!
St. Rita of Cascia… Pray for Us
Blessed Jordan of Saxony… Pray for Us
St. Clare of Assisi… Pray for Us
St. Mary Magdalene… Pray for Us
St. John Paul the Great… Pray for Us
Our Lady of Czestochowa… Pray for Us
Kelly Wahlquist is a wife, mother of three, inspiring Catholic author and speaker residing in Minnesota. She is the founder of WINE: Women In the New Evangelization, Director for the Archbishop Harry J. Flynn Catechetical Institute. Her book Created to Relate: God’s Design for Peace & Joy encourages and inspires women to live fully their beautiful God-given gifts for building relationships. She is the creator and editor of Walk in Her Sandals: Experiencing Christ’s Passion through the Eyes of Women and Gaze Upon Jesus: Experiencing Christ’s Childhood through the Eyes of Women.
It’s been a great joy to follow you around , Kelly, through all this. And while I’m no saint just yet (St Anthony’s following me – sort of like Instagram – so I don’t get lost), I know that our communion of about-to-be saints will include all of us involved with this radical ministry of yours (and ours… just sayin’)!!! ❤️
Thanks, Carol! I love St. Anthony too. He’s a good one to have in your Saint Posse as Jeff Cavins and Allison Gingras call it. He is the patron saint of our incoming class at the Archbishop Flynn Catechetical Institute. A good guy for anyone feeling a little “lost” right now. Blessings! Kelly
Good morning Kelly! As always your words of wisdom, insight and inspiration reach deep into my heart and soul… as a Prayer Warrior, the Saints have always been such a guide and inspiration for me and I also share your love for Edith Stein / St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross… Thank you and God’s blessings to you and this wonderful Ministry of WINE
Hi Chris, I found a great webinar on her (actually, it found me… haha!) Check out The Avila Institute. They may still have it on their website. It was really good! Blessings, Kelly
Lovely words, Kelly, as always! I’ve heard this before, that the saints choose us! Love that idea. And it really makes a lot of sense. For what do we know anyway?! Ha! God bless you and thank you for your ‘yes’ when it would have been easier to say, “I’m too busy” or “I’m not equipped.” God provides, doesn’t He?
Blessings and Godspeed (the pilgrimage to Rome sounds awesome!),
I found a great webinar on her (actually, it found me… haha!) Check out The Avila Institute. They may still have it on their website. It was really good! Blessings, Kelly
Oops, Linda, I think I answered Chris under your comment. Sorry about that. Haha. So much for answering while on the phone. Time to get new readers! Can’t wait until you are with us on a WINE & Shrine through Italy! We’ll be drowning in lemoncello… #seewhatididthere
Love this Kelly! I too have saints whom I marvel at when, where, why they found me! Also for my loved ones. What a great reminder they are there for us each and everyday!
We’re you with us the year we went to Cascia? I can’t remember, but I know you braved the cobbled streets of Italy carry for your dear friend, Kathy, with her broken foot! Can’t wait to have you with us in Ireland, and can’t wait to see which Irish saint is calling you! Blessings! Kelly