I had an unusual experience last weekend visiting relatives in beautiful Central New York State. Fall is the perfect time to travel through the undulating hills and valleys that characterize that region, and it’s especially entertaining to try the highways and byways you’ve never explored. This time, as we cut across Otsego County southwest on Route 80, we came to the unassuming township of Edmeston, population 1,826. The Amish have settled in the area recently, and just as we were passing several families in their horse-drawn carts, we saw an inconspicuous sign pointing to the right : “Rosa Mystica” it said. Curiosity got the better of us, so up the hill we went along a country road with very few houses on it. After about 2 miles we found Rosa Mystica, and let me tell you, it’s a surprising place. There is an ornate white chapel surrounded by statues of angels and Mary in all sorts of sizes and in all sorts of poses. Next to it is the “Jesus the Divine Healer Prayer and Meditation Chapel,” a log building just 2 years old. Across the road there was the “Stations of the Cross Woods Walk” with even more statues of Mary and angels, and one larger-than-life Christ on the cross (26 feet high). A life-size replica of Michaelangelo’s Pieta can be found on the grounds and we also saw little log cabins across the road—maybe a dozen or so, built for participants in retreats. What was all this doing here?
That’s the most surprising thing of all.
The website tells us that for ten years starting in 1973, an Italian woman, Mother Leonardi , a follower of Padre Pio, was given a series of numbers by Mary. Those numbers turned out to be the longitude and latitude of a spot on the globe: Edmeston, NY. She traveled here to determine the exact location for the chapel and the building was dedicated as a Marian center for priests in 1985. It’s mission: to bring more people to Christ through Mary.
What are we to make of all this? It all seems so improbable.
Well, first of all, never underestimate the power of religion. It will move mountains.
Second, it’s comforting to know that Catholics can find solace and strength in contemplation and prayer in these environs. We all can use a dose of that now and then to help us deal with the human condition.
Third, and here’s where my impious side kicks in, I couldn’t help wondering why Mary couldn’t have given Mother Leonardi a tip on how to solve world hunger, or the population bomb, or tropical diseases. Why this cryptic series of numbers that turns out to be coordinates to a location (wasn’t that an episode in Lost?). Are my brethren of Central New York so in need of salvation that Mary had to go to these lengths to save them? To my heathen mind it all seems so medieval, as does referring to Mary as “Our Lady.” or the relics, the focus on Christ’s blood, his wounds (and by the way Padre Pio is famous among other things for bearing the stigmata of Christ for decades).
To add an additional layer of unreality to the picture, a gentleman named Anthony Fuina experienced “the Lord’s miraculous blessing and healing through Saint Pio.” It happened while he was driving his car, so Anthony donated his car to Rosa Mystica, and there it sits, under a small roof in Padre Pio’s Grotto.
I couldn’t help wondering what the Amish thought about it all.