Written By: Roxane Salonen
When our son’s scheduled tennis tournament Sept. 12 was threatened by rain, a “very unlikely” Plan B that had intrigued a friend and me months earlier moved into the surprising slot of “very certain.”
Back in July, we’d been invited on a pilgrimage to southcentral Minnesota to explore some of its spiritual riches by the Reverend Peter Anderl, our former pastor. But other obligations made our participation doubtful. Noting weather predictions, I texted Ann the evening before: “Are you ready for a possible adventure?”
Tennis courts now dripping, though disappointed, we hurriedly prepared for a day previously distant, including stops at the Runestone Museum in Alexandria, Sacred Heart Church in Freeport, Immaculate Conception Church in St. Anna’s, St. John’s University in Collegeville, the “Grasshopper Chapel” in Cold Spring, and St. Mary’s Cemetery in Alexandria.
En route, I recalled that 52 years earlier, on Sept. 12, 1968, I’d been baptized into the Christian faith. Additionally, both Ann’s and my parents chose “Marie” – French for “Mary” in honor of Jesus’ mother – for our middle names.
Maybe we’d been called away for a reason, we thought. Indeed, reminders of our history as daughters of God popped up everywhere along the way.
Who’d have known we’d see Christ’s mother in an ancient runestone? But there it was, inscribed into the 202-pound slab of greywacke: “AVM” for Ave Maria. Discovered in 1898 by Swedish immigrant Olof Ӧhman, the slab dates internally to approximately 1392 AD. Though some contest its authenticity, we saw there a witness to Christ’s authentic life.
In tours of churches and cemeteries, more testimonies arose to our faith, connected to the devoted individuals inhabiting this land.
The Sacred Heart Church in Freeport off I-94 revealed impressive stained-glass windows, and paintings created in the stunning Beuronese style – the same muted, tranquil art form that inspired the Jesus mural in the Great Hall of St. John’s.
The church was an act of thanksgiving by German farmers, who’d been devastated by locust swarms devouring their crops. Arriving annually from the Rocky Mountains, Fr. Anderl shared, “they’d eat through people’s shirts, leaving only the buttons.” Livestock, too, were overcome.
After four years of this, in 1877, Rev. Leo Winter led his two Stearns County congregations to petition the Virgin Mary for relief, and began constructing the Cold Spring Assumption, a.k.a. “Grasshopper,” Chapel. Around the time construction began, the swarms flew away, never to return. The site now tells that incredible story and other miracles attributed to local prayer, bringing Mary and her Son to our sights once more.
At our final stop, the father of a young, holy priest, Darin Didier, who died just three months after his ordination in Fargo in 2005, reminded us, amidst the backdrop of a sun setting pink and purple, that our whole purpose is to know, love and serve God in this world, and be happy with him forever in the next.
And for me, a planner, it was a reminder that God’s Plan B can be beautiful, too.
[For the sake of having a repository for my newspaper columns and articles, I reprint them here, with permission, a week after their run date. The preceding ran in The Forum newspaper on Sept. 21, 2020.]