Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Just in time for Christmas: CNS has unearthed a fascinating story about the place outside Bethlehem where tradition holds that the Holy Family paused while on the way to Egypt:
The rows of framed letters and baby pictures are testimony that the Milk Grotto -- where Mary is said to have nursed Jesus as the Holy Family fled to Egypt -- has been much more than a pilgrimage to many couples.Read the rest for more on the history of this unusual shrine.
One picture on the wall of the Milk Grotto's chapel shows a mother from Argentina happily nursing her newborn baby. In another letter a mother from Spain wrote, "Carmen is a gift from heaven." A couple from Ireland wrote, "In thanksgiving and deep gratitude to Our Blessed Lady for our dear son Jamie."
Another mother from India described how she and her husband had given up on a child after nine years of trying to conceive. Now, she wrote, after the birth of their daughter, her "whole life will be a life of thanksgiving." From Venezuela another woman wrote how after five miscarriages she gave birth to a "miracle baby, Leonardo Jose."
One after another, parents from such far-flung places as Sri Lanka, the United States, Canada, Bermuda and England have written about the miraculous birth of their children after having prayed using the "milk powder" from the grotto.
"Throughout the centuries this has been a place for special devotion for women ... who are trying to conceive," said Franciscan Brother Lawrence, an American who oversees the grotto and chapel for the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land. According to tradition, he said, a few drops of Mary's milk dropped onto the cave floor as she stopped to nurse her child.
"Women who can't have children have a very hard time. With this prayer they are filled," he said.
Some people have even brought their babies back to the small shrine inside the grotto to give thanks, he said.
The grotto is at least 2,000 years old and the early Christians came to pray here, he said, but the first structure was built over it around 385.
Image: Woman praying at the Milk Grotto, by Debbie Hill/Catholic News Service