An Unexpected Gift at 4,000 Feet

Depositphotos_33987685_xsOur cable car hung suspended thousands of feet above the ground. Each of us held on tightly as it slowly moved up the rugged mountainside. The steep cliffs reminded me of Arizona’s mesas. When we reached the top the doors opened to buildings that blended into the cliff. The place was remarkably quiet and smelled of crisp mountain air – like scout camp. The view was spectacular. It was Marit’s idea to see this monastery at Montserrat. Considering the stress we put her through the day before, I figured she deserved it.

I wanted to tell Jill this place counted as a visit to church then realized that would be pathetic (I’d still not answered her question from the day before).

We came upon a line that had formed outside the sanctuary to see the Virgin of Montserrat. Marit really wanted to see it. I felt bad for blowing off the teenaged saint the day before, besides, the line wasn’t so deep, so I gave in.

“Do we have to do this?” Alex whispered.

“Yes Alex.” Donna explained how people had been making this pilgrimage to see the statue for centuries. This Black Madonna was carved from a special wood in 50 AD then hidden away. It was rediscovered in 880 AD by sheep herders. The carving inspired the monks to build this mountainside monastery.

“Whatever.”

montserratWe got inside and I realized the outside line was only the tip of the iceberg. Along with hundreds of others, we meandered through the ornately decorated sanctuary, making our way to the chapel where the beloved statue was located. After a half hour it seemed we’d made little progress. I was trying to keep Alex calm even though I was probably more annoyed than he was. I’ve never understood the Catholic passion for saints and statues. Protestants would never stand in line for anything – except maybe a good casserole at a church basement potluck.

It seemed like hours before we finally approached a busily decorated and very claustrophobic stairwell. There, I got my first glimpse of the glass-encased statue. She was in a sitting position, with a baby on her lap (Jesus, I presumed). In her hand, she held an orb which protruded from the Plexiglas. As we got closer, I could see the reason the line moved slowly. Everybody stopped to touch the orb then paused to pray. Some took several minutes. For the sake of efficiency, I planned to take a quick glance and keep the line moving. Once we got there, I let our group go ahead of me. My turn came and since I stood in line for so long, I thought – what the heck – might as well touch the orb. I reached out and at that moment felt something – hard to describe, but it made me look up at the face of the statue. I swear she was looking back at me – directly into my eyes. I wasn’t expecting an ancient carving to have such a life like face. It was kind and gentle and seemed to radiate warmth. She looked as though she was happy to see me – possibly even expecting me.

More about Montserrat and the Black Madonna on Facebook

NEXT: Stanley’s Sangria Binge

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