Monday, June 20, 2011

The Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Des Plaines

Woke early today to the rumble of thunder. A strange thunder, a little like the kind I heard vividly while in the Upper Peninsula once, like a bowling ball dropped on an aluminum sheet and then rolling. This morning's din wasn't quite as loud as the UP incident, but it got my attention. Until I went back to sleep.

On Saturday I had a few hours to myself and also happened to be near the Des Plaines River, so I decided to find the Des Plaines River Trail and do some walking, inspired by its description in an excellent guide I found in the library last week: Take a Hike Chicago, published by Moon, subtitled "Hikes Within Two Hours of the City." A first edition, published May 2011, and sporting a fine set of maps.

It's hard to consult maps while driving, however, and I missed the entrance to the parking lot near the trail, and eventually abandoned the idea (for now). Instead, I doubled back on Des Plaines River Road to take a look at the enormous All Saints Cemetery. I hadn't been to a new cemetery in a while, after all. But before I got there -- such are the twisty paths of travel serendipity -- I saw a sign for the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

That I had to see. It was a lot closer than the other Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which is in La Crosse, Wisconsin, or the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe near Mexico City, though of course that didn't occur to me until later. Turns out that the Des Plaines shrine isn't that old, dating only from the late 1980s. It was built on the grounds of Maryville Academy, a Catholic social service organization that focuses on children that began in the 1880s as St. Mary’s Training School for Boys, an orphanage on a 880-acre working farm.

"Although it's a focal point of the Catholic Church in the [Chicago] area for many Spanish speakers... the shrine is not greatly known to others," wrote Robert Herguth in 2010 in Chicago Catholic News. "The shrine includes a flower-adorned mound with statues of the Virgin Mary and the peasant Juan Diego, an enclosed image of the Virgin Mary and a cave where the faithful light prayer candles. There's a gift shop and a chapel, and services are held indoors as well as sometimes outside."

Indeed, on Saturday morning, there was a wedding in the chapel, so I didn't venture inside. Along with a steady trickle of other people, I spent some time taking in the outdoor part of the shrine, including the mound, the big cross, the relic at the base of the cross, and the cave. The cave exuded a powerful smell of wax. Hundreds of candles were alight -- it must be quite a glow by night -- and the cave's walls were covered with photos of children and others, sonograms, handwritten messages, devotional cards, prayer beads, items in plastic bags, and small toys, including a Minnie Mouse plush toy.

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