Day 11. Mothers and Marys and being invisible

I cross the Dutch-German border. I try to take a photo of it but like a lot of borders it is invisible. A long windy road leads to Kevelaer, a pilgrim town, dedicated to the virgin Mary. It is one of the most important pilgrim towns in North Western Europe. In 1641, a travelling salesman, Hendrik Busman, stopped at a Cross on the heath of Kevelaer on his journey from Weeze to Geldern and, as was his custom, prayed there for a few minutes. Today the chapel of Grace stands on that spot. Suddenly he heard a mysterious voice that came from the direction of the cross: “Build Me a Chapel on this spot”. At first he took little notice, but he heard this mysterious voice on three different days. With the permission and help of the then local Parish Priest of Kevelaer he started promptly with the building of the chapel. Shortly after the Easter of 1642, Hendrik's wife had a vision one night. She saw a pure white light and a chapel with therein a picture of Our Blessed Lady of Luxemburg.

The story of the vision on this night is supported by a night watchman who had, during his nightly rounds, seen a strange light in the home of the Busmans. This on copper printed picture of Our Blessed Lady of Luxemburg had recently been offered for sale to her, by two soldiers. She did not buy it as she thought it was too expensive. This for Hendrik was the confirmation of his Heavenly assignment. He sent his wife out to obtain this copper printed portrait, which she, with a lot of difficulty, succeeded in doing so. This was portrait of Our Lady of Luxemburg as she had been portrayed and worshiped during the pest epidemic of 1623, as the “Comforter of the Sad and Distressed”. Hendrik was now really inspired to make sure that the chapel would be build.

On Sunday 1 June 1642 the chapel was finished. Father Johannes Schink placed the portrait, also known as the statue of Grace in the chapel. The portrait is a simple copper impression measuring 7.5 cm x 11cm. The text on the picture says, “A faithful portrayal of the Mother of Jesus, The Comforter of the Sad and Distressed renowned for miracles and worshiped by many people”.
Lots of curious people came on this day. The story of these wonderful events spread like a wild fire throughout the district. Kevelaer became a place of pilgrimage.*

I always feel uncomfortable in these places when I am walking in my suit. People think I am a pilgrim when I walk around in a pilgrim town. Last year in Vezelay, where a lot of people start their walk to Santiago de Compostella, people pointed at me and took photos. I heard Kevelaer is a touristy place. When I enter the centre I see a broze statue that resembles me. A person with a hat and a cane, carrying a big basket with things on his back. I see it on flags and in shopping windows too. People stare at me. But it might just as well be my strange cart they stare at. Nobody asks me anything.  Probably because they assume I am a pilgrim. People always see what they want to see. I become a different character in every setting. Or maybe it is the other way around. Maybe I am what people see. Maybe I am a pilgrim here, today.

I play my role. I go to the chapel and I burn a candle. But it isn't because I am a pilgrim. It is because it is my mother's birthday today. And burning a candle is what she would do. She would burn a candle for her mother, my grandmother, who was very dedicated to the virgin Mary. I burn a candle and I think of her. Of my mother and her mother. And I walk on and drink a beer on a terrass and take another long windy road to find a campside next to a small stream. On my way I pass a pile of wood. It will be Easter tomorrow. I haven't seen an Easter fire since my childhood. I decide to stay around to see it.

The campsite is a gentle place. Next to a stream, friendly people, wonderful atmosphere. I find a corner where nobody can see me and I become invisble. It is time to be invisible for a while.

*quoted almost literally from this site: http://www.marypages.com/KevelaerEng.htm

(Today's story is for Mary Rothlisberger whom I know as Marybird. I take flying lessons from her from time to time. Thinking of her comforts me wherever I am. You can find her here: http://bangbangboomerang.com)

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