The Power of the Rosary

House of Mary Shrine, Yankton, South Dakota

If two strands are stronger than one, imagine the supernatural power of dozens of people praying the Rosary in one accord and with one intention. Folks at four Catholic churches in Georgia, Kansas, and Missouri don’t need to imagine — they know.

When their men left to fight in World War II, parishioners at the Catholic Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Atlanta, Georgia, St. Mary’s Church in St. Benedict, Kansas, St. Mark the Evangelist Church in St. Marks, Kansas, and St. John Church in Leopold, Missouri, also went to war — spiritual war. They gathered weekly, often daily, to pray the Rosary, imploring Mary to cover their soldiers with the mantle of her protection. Nobody knew if or when they would see their loved ones again.

Week after week, year after year, the Rosary warriors prayed. “Spare our husbands, sons, and brothers,” they pleaded, their tears splattering the church floors.


Now rolling off the presses!

No need to travel abroad to visit a miraculous Marian shrine. You’ll find Mary’s miracles all across our land: in wee chapels and grand basilicas, in hillside grottos and on a tiny island, even in a ghost town. In Cold Spring, Minnesota, Mary averted a locust plague and then eradicated the species. When the rag-tag American army defeated the well-fortified British navy at the Battle of New Orleans in 1815 — a battle that lasted all of 30 minutes — the victory was ascribed to Our Lady of Prompt Succor. After a Colorado church fire, a multi-pointed crown of soot appeared over a painting of Mary, just like it belonged there.

These riveting stories and dozens more are told in Mary’s Miracles: A Traveler’s Guide to Catholic America (OSV). A companion to the bestselling Catholic guidebook Monuments, Marvels, and Miracles (OSV, 2021), Mary’s Miracles features maps, color photos, and testimonies galore of Mary’s intercession. No prayer petition is too big or too outrageous for “Miracle Mary.”

Our Lady intercedes for the sick, stops fires in their tracks, drills for gas, and is one tough real estate agent. At Carey, Ohio, Mary the Wonderworker helped catch a thief who confessed to


The Gates of Saint Peter

(Photo courtesy of Saint Peter Chamber of Commerce)

Are the gates of Saint Peter real?

They are in Saint Peter, Minnesota! And if the pearly gates won’t open for you, repent and try again!

A bit of town levity, the pearly-white iron gates are illuminated at night for an even more surreal feel.

You’ll find the gates at 101 S. Front Street.

© 2022 by Marion Amberg


A Lamp unto Our Path

Wherever you go in New Mexico, you’ll find Spanish place names exalting God and things divine. The country’s oldest capital city, Santa Fe means Holy Faith. The Santa Cruz River is Spanish for Holy Cross River; the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the Blood of Christ Mountains.

Photo by Marion Amberg

You’ll also find a litany of villages named for saints, including San Ysidro (Saint Isidore the Farmer), Santa Teresa (Saint Teresa of Avila), Santa Rosa (Saint Rose of Lima), and San Miguel (Saint Michael the Archangel). The town of Belén means Bethlehem.

Perhaps the most intriguing Spanish name of all was bestowed upon the yucca: Lampara de Dios (Lamp of God). When the yucca — New Mexico’s state flower — blooms in late spring and early summer, the white blossoms collectively resemble an old-fashioned lamp. Some say the plant’s sword-shaped leaves represent God’s Word (a two-edged sword), the white flowers his light unto our path.

Copyright © 2021 Marion Amberg

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Toothpicks for Minnie: A Mother’s Day Tribute

Nobody ever dreams of finding love in a toothpick. After all, it’s barely a sliver of wood. But sometimes the simplest things in life teach the biggest lessons. The trouble is nobody knows how or when it will happen. I certainly didn’t.

For years I had ribbed Mother about her habit of leaving toothpicks on window sills in the living room. Whenever I pulled back the curtains, I found toothpicks waiting for anxious teeth. They waited anxiously at not just one window but at nearly every window. Some even waited on the baseboard. I hated Mother’s toothpicks, and her idiosyncrasy began picking away at me.

Until one day, and it goes without saying what happened.

How it happened is still a mystery. Was it my subconscious? Was I thinking about Mother when my toothpick found its way to the ledge of my window? I don’t know, but I gasped in disgust. I had broken my vow never to be like Mother.

Suddenly, a brother’s accusation that I laughed just like Mother was no longer humorous. “Not so,” I had chortled then. Now I knew it was true — my laughter is a cackle facsimile of Mother’s. Toothpicks and laughter. Anything else?


Many Steps of Faith: The Good Friday Walk to Chimayo

“Take up your cross and follow me,” Jesus tells us. And every Lent, tens of thousands of faithful do just that: They pick up their crosses and make the Good Friday pilgrimage on foot to El Santuario de Chimayo, a centuries-old adobe church in Chimayo, New Mexico. Some pilgrims walk from nearby villages. Pilgrims in Albuquerque begin their 100-mile journey on Palm Sunday in order to arrive on Good Friday. Wherever there’s a road — north, south, east, west — people start walking.

Like a giant Communion host, the paschal moon lights up the sky on Holy Thursday night, a lamp unto pilgrims’ feet beginning the thirty-mile journey from Santa Fe. Bundled up in coats and hats, the walkers are a microcosm of the Church in the American Southwest: Indians, Hispanics, and Anglos, all walking together on the road to Calvary. A few pilgrims carry life-sized wooden crosses, a heavy penance as the miles go by — miles filled with heartwarming stories of sacrifice and faith.

“Why are you making this pilgrimage?” a reporter asks an elderly woman, her walking stick covered with photos of family. “I’m praying with my feet, begging God to bring my kids and grandkids back to church,” she replies. “It’s in the journey — not the destination — that God hears us.”

Pilgrims getting a head start on the Good Friday walk. (Photo by author)

Walk. Walk. Walk. A steady stream of Rosaries are prayed in English and Spanish: “Our Father, Who art in heaven … Padre nuestro, que estás en el cielo.” From a distance, the procession of flashlights looks like fireflies. Walk. Walk. Walk. As the hours pass, more Rosaries saturate the crisp air.


The Miracle of a Million Pennies

One penny alone isn’t much, but when millions of pennies are gathered together, the miraculous happens. That’s the “penny-nomenal” tale of Dr. Kate Newcomb and the World’s Biggest Penny in Woodruff, Wisconsin.

Dr. Kate and the World’s Largest Penny

The story begins in 1931 when Dr. Kate began practicing medicine in Wisconsin’s north woods. Her “clinic” spanned 300 square miles; house calls took her down dirt roads and across lakes in a canoe. When her car got stuck in the deep snow, she trekked by snowshoe to remote cabins to deliver one of more than 3,000 babies by the light of a kerosene lamp. Nothing could stop the “Angel on Snowshoes,” as she fondly came to be known.

In 1941 Dr. Kate opened her own clinic in Woodruff. Her hair graying and her step slowing, the 56-year-old country doctor also began dreaming of her own hospital. It was becoming increasingly more difficult for her to treat patients in hospitals hundreds of miles away. But where would the money come from? It was a hardscrabble life in these north woods.

The Good Lord had a plan — and what a plan it was!


A Gift of Peace

(Photo by Marion Amberg)

It’s a traditional Nativity scene. Christ Child. Angels. Wise men. Shepherds and sheep. What isn’t so traditional is who made it: German POWs incarcerated at Algona, Iowa.

The story begins in 1944 when Sergeant Eduard Kaib was captured in France and shipped to Camp Algona, a base camp in north-central Iowa that housed 3,200 German POWs and oversaw 34 branch camps in Minnesota, Iowa, and the Dakotas.

Suffering from war injuries, Kaib was also mired in depression. He missed deeply his homeland, family, and German Catholic religious traditions. One day, the radio operator had a divine idea.

“Sir, I’d like to build a Nativity,” Kaib petitioned Camp Commander Arthur T. Lobdell.


One Mother, One Baby, One Family at a Time

by Marion Amberg

As published in the Fall issue of Celebrate Life Magazine ( All photos courtesy of Saint Gianna’s Maternity Home.

Mary Pat Jahner with her adopted daughter, Aubrey Rose Joy

On March 18, 2020, Fr. Joseph Christensen, three pregnant residents, and the staff of Saint Gianna’s Maternity Home in Warsaw, North Dakota, walked the grounds in Eucharistic Procession and prayed for protection from the rapidly spreading novel coronavirus. They then entered the old convent school and locked the door. Their sheltering in place had begun. 

Heaven shielded not only them but St. Gianna’s own daughter, Gianna Emanuela Molla. An Italian, Gianna Emanuela, who was traveling in the US when the pandemic broke out, took refuge in the maternity home she had previously visited several times until she could safely return home to Milan in August.

This isn’t the first time St. Gianna Beretta Molla (1922–1962) protected her daughter. Saving children—her own and others—is part of St. Gianna’s astounding legacy. When the Italian Catholic pediatrician was pregnant with Gianna Emanuela, doctors discovered she had a uterine tumor. “If you must decide between me and the child, do not hesitate . . . save the baby,” Gianna heroically told them.1 She believed “the right of the child is equal to the right of the mother’s life.”

Her baby, Gianna Emanuela, was born on April 21, 1962. St. Gianna died eight days later.

A speck on the map

Like St. Gianna, Mary Pat Jahner, the director of Saint Gianna’s Maternity Home, cherishes and wants to save babies. A North Dakota schoolteacher,