Archive for the ‘Caritas’ Category

Sacred Places

November 26, 2007

U. S. News and World Report recently had a cover story titled Sacred Places that explored various sites deemed to be of particular importance to religious or spiritual groups. Included were stories about the Sanctuary at Chimayo in New Mexico, built on a site of centuries’ importance to the ancient Puebloan communities; the Kalasasaya Temple at Tiwanacu, Bolivia, a prominent Incan site; along with more traditional sites like the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerulalem and The Western Wall in the same city. Islamic and Hindu sites and others are recognized as well, with as much attention given to them as the Christian and Jewish sites.

Their online site, linked above, provides the articles and photos and more, and is worth visiting.

I wonder if Caritas in north Shelby County could be considered a sacred place. Caritas was founded in 1987 by Tony Colafrancesco to promote Medjugorje, the village in Bosnia-Herzegovina where children saw visions of the Virgin Mary.

From The Post Herald : (who knew that the Post Herald articles could still be found online!?)

“The connection between Caritas and Medjugorje was cemented about a year after Colafrancesco created Caritas, in 1988, when visionary Marija Pavlovic Lunetti came to Birmingham to donate a kidney to her brother, Andrija, at UAB Hospital. While in Alabama, Lunetti stayed in Colafrancesco’s Bear Creek Road home in Sterrett, where she said she had a vision in one of the bedrooms.

“According to one report, Lunetti had visions of Mary at the hospital while recovering from the operation.

“Once word got out that Lunetti was in the area, pilgrims flocked from all across the country to Sterrett, jamming the Shelby County roads. Thousands of people were at Caritas on Thanksgiving Day when Lunetti claimed to see Mary in the 90-acre field next to Colafrancesco’s home.

“In 1999, Lunetti returned to Caritas for a week of worship. At the time, Caritas members estimated the event drew 20,000 to 30,000 pilgrims. “

Lunetti has returned a time or two and when she does, thousands (or tens of thousands) flock to the site.

Of course Caritas has been called a cult and lawsuits filed and accusations made. Regardless of all that, the site has a sacred quality about it. I first visited in the 1990’s and returned several times, although not recently. And I have not donated any money. And I don’t even know if the place still exists. (Well, the “place” cetainly exists, but maybe not in the way I remember it).

But if someone, in this instance Marija Pavlovic Lunetti, has such a profound spiritual experience there, it is a sacred place. Many places are sacred to individuals, and no one’s spiritual experience should be ignored.

All of these experiences: the ones experienced by the ancients described in the U. S. News and World Report articles, the ones in a field in Sterrett, Alabama, and your own experiences as well as mine, are part of the (New Age like) spirit of the world. Hopefully the world balance of spirituality is tilted toward the positive, but sometimes it’s hard to tell.

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>Sacred Places

November 26, 2007

>U. S. News and World Report recently had a cover story titled Sacred Places that explored various sites deemed to be of particular importance to religious or spiritual groups. Included were stories about the Sanctuary at Chimayo in New Mexico, built on a site of centuries’ importance to the ancient Puebloan communities; the Kalasasaya Temple at Tiwanacu, Bolivia, a prominent Incan site; along with more traditional sites like the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerulalem and The Western Wall in the same city. Islamic and Hindu sites and others are recognized as well, with as much attention given to them as the Christian and Jewish sites.

Their online site, linked above, provides the articles and photos and more, and is worth visiting.

I wonder if Caritas in north Shelby County could be considered a sacred place. Caritas was founded in 1987 by Tony Colafrancesco to promote Medjugorje, the village in Bosnia-Herzegovina where children saw visions of the Virgin Mary.

From The Post Herald : (who knew that the Post Herald articles could still be found online!?)

“The connection between Caritas and Medjugorje was cemented about a year after Colafrancesco created Caritas, in 1988, when visionary Marija Pavlovic Lunetti came to Birmingham to donate a kidney to her brother, Andrija, at UAB Hospital. While in Alabama, Lunetti stayed in Colafrancesco’s Bear Creek Road home in Sterrett, where she said she had a vision in one of the bedrooms.

“According to one report, Lunetti had visions of Mary at the hospital while recovering from the operation.

“Once word got out that Lunetti was in the area, pilgrims flocked from all across the country to Sterrett, jamming the Shelby County roads. Thousands of people were at Caritas on Thanksgiving Day when Lunetti claimed to see Mary in the 90-acre field next to Colafrancesco’s home.

“In 1999, Lunetti returned to Caritas for a week of worship. At the time, Caritas members estimated the event drew 20,000 to 30,000 pilgrims. “

Lunetti has returned a time or two and when she does, thousands (or tens of thousands) flock to the site.

Of course Caritas has been called a cult and lawsuits filed and accusations made. Regardless of all that, the site has a sacred quality about it. I first visited in the 1990’s and returned several times, although not recently. And I have not donated any money. And I don’t even know if the place still exists. (Well, the “place” cetainly exists, but maybe not in the way I remember it).

But if someone, in this instance Marija Pavlovic Lunetti, has such a profound spiritual experience there, it is a sacred place. Many places are sacred to individuals, and no one’s spiritual experience should be ignored.

All of these experiences: the ones experienced by the ancients described in the U. S. News and World Report articles, the ones in a field in Sterrett, Alabama, and your own experiences as well as mine, are part of the (New Age like) spirit of the world. Hopefully the world balance of spirituality is tilted toward the positive, but sometimes it’s hard to tell.