Thursday I took a little pilgrimage of sorts to a sacred site just outside of Rome. The church of Divino Amore was built on the site where a miracle occurred in 1740.
On the site once stood the medieval Castel di Leva. 1n 1740, a man passing by the gatehouse of the castle was set upon by a pack of wild ferocious dogs. Seeing no one around him to come to his aid, he looked up to the gate and saw a fresco of the Madonna. He called out to her to save him, and miraculously the dogs calmed and did him no harm.
Since then it has become a site of pilgrimage for Catholics who built a Sanctuary to the Madonna of Divine Love on the spot in 1745. The fresco was removed from the gatehouse and placed above the altar of the church, but a replacement in mosaic now adorns the former.
The most moving thing, for me, about this site are the notes and plaques of gratitude that thousands of faithful have left on the walls in and around the sactuary, thanking the Madonna for her diving intercession on their behalf in the wake of illnesses, horrific accidents, childlessness and other miraculous situations.
Here are two of the most moving notices that I read:
"To you, Holy Lady, who interceded for us so that we would be able to take part in the miracle that is our baby daughter, Giulia.
To you, Holy Lady, because only you were able to understand how much we needed your love.
To you, Holy Lady, who has allowed us to go on living, and to enjoy this life in three.
Valeria, Antonio and Giulia."
"Thank you, Madonna of Divine Love, for helping me to escape alive from this accident, and for this I will pray to you and I will thank you for the rest of my life. I pray that you will always stay near me and give me the strength to go forward and surpass all the obstacles that life will put in my path. Above all, protect these two angels, Andrea and Chiara. You are their heavenly mother. Stay near them, and help them grow in the love of God. Always keep a protective hand over them and all of my family."