|St. Gemma Galgani|
|Last year's 'shrine'|
I thought that perhaps this year I might continue my tradition of buying the pink carnations but because I had no chapel to put them in, I would make a mini shrine somewhere along I-84 and leave the flowers there. I had no particular inclination as to where I'd leave them, but I figured the afternoon/evening would be best so I could say Vespers at the shrine in addition to my other prayers.
The night before I had to depart, I went over to Fred Meyer (the Portland equivalent of Smith's for you Salt Lakers) to pick up the flowers. While I was there, I made sure to buy a decent vase to hold the flowers and as I browsed the home decor, I decided to buy some votive candles. I bought a tall red one and a tall white one, again going for the same symbolism as the pink roses. As I went to go to pay for my items, I wondered at the amount of thought I was putting into this, which was honestly comparable to the amount of thought I would put into a date or a gift for a significant other. I have to admit that one of my friends makes good natured fun of me for my devotion to St. Gemma by calling her my 'saint crush.' I had to laugh at myself for buying flowers and candles with well-thought-out symbolism for a saint's feast day.
As I left the store, I felt the gravity that this feast day was going to have. Just that day (Friday), I had turned in my completed application for seminary studies with the Archdiocese of Portland. I have been discerning the priesthood for quite some time, and finally, finally, I have taken action and applied. There is still much more to the process before I am accepted, but I can safely say that most of my part is done. Having not been accepted yet, I am hesitant to count my eggs before they hatch, so I am cautious about saying that I will definitely be in seminary (especially since I have had a tendency to cry wolf in the past), but it seems pretty likely at this point. I feel that St. Gemma has been a special advocate for me, especially with regard to my vocation. It seemed fitting therefore, that I should be observing her feast day with extra solemnity now that I had finally turned in the application.
After I hit the road the following morning, it was sunny for little while until I reached the dreaded Blue Mountains. There was a wall of cloud that, when I reached it, began to unleash it's torrid downpour, which wound up lasting all the way through the rest of Oregon and even into Idaho. Where was I going to set up my shrine? I prayed that the Holy Spirit would show me when I ought to pull off and and where I ought to go.
As I hiked around looking for a suitable spot, I spied something underneath a large rock. It was a tiny little mailbox. Suppressing my fears that a creature of some kind lived inside, I opened the box. After all, the little flag was up. Inside was a plastic bag with various trinkets. There was a tiny booklet of orange paper bound by duct tape, and inside it read, "Everyone please leave something. :)" It appeared to be written by a child with a pen completely devoid of ink. I had to really concentrated to
|The items in the mailbox|
|The shrine of St. Gemma at Malad Gorge|
As I prayed my Rosary there and my other St. Gemma prayers, the sun set and night fell. The clouds that had plagued me earlier all but disappeared and the stars lit the night sky like the flames of candles at Easter Vigil, casting light on my bouquet of pink carnations. After finishing my prayers and determining that I ought to get driving again to arrive home at a reasonable time. As I walked back to my car, I spied the faint light of the three candles glowing, just barely visible. I wondered how long they would stay lit. Perhaps I will return there one day and see if my shrine is still there. I contemplated the graces St. Gemma had received and it made me think of the generosity and mercy of God. As we say in the Divine Praises, Blessed be God in his angels and in his saints!
When I got back to the parking lot, I learned from a sign that this particular spot was called Devil's Washbowl. Not anymore, I thought, this place belongs to Gemma now, and therefore to God.