How the Memorial of Gratitude Came About
Fr. Basílio Orestes Cembalista, OSBM
I had never thought of building a public place of prayer. It all began on October 4, 2004, after an accident with my eye and the regaining of my sight. At the moment of my accident I turned to the Mother of God asking her to save my eye. And indeed not only did nothing happen to my eye but also from that moment my sight, which for more than twelve years had been weakened, fully recovered and has been well for over six years. From that moment I no longer need eyeglasses.
A Feeling of Gratitude to the Mother of God
Several months later the feeling of gratitude to the Mother of God for the saving of my eye in an unfortunate accident and the return of my sight inspired in me the thought to erect on this site a small statue to the Blessed Mother. I wanted to do this only for my own spiritual benefit to come here and pray in private. However, the Mother of God wanted something else. And soon this place went beyond its bounds of privacy, and people spontaneously began coming here at 3100 Weston Road in Toronto.
People consider the creation of this place God’s great blessing for Toronto and area. Anyone may come at any time to pray here and to ask the Mother of God for her blessing and help, especially in moments of depression, illness or suffering. And indeed people do come to this holy place: they pray, obtain a variety of graces and healing of their spiritual and corporal illness and hurts.
The Memorial of Gratitude to the Mother of God and the Holy Eucharist
The Icon of the Last Supper
From the very beginning the Memorial of Gratitude is bound with the Holy Eucharist. On October 4, 2004, when the accident with my eye happened, the Eucharistic Congress in Mexico got under way. It officially opened “The Holy Year of the Eucharist,” which lasted from October 2004 to October 2005. In June, 2005, during the construction of this memorial of thanksgiving, it occurred to me to mark this occasion by some kind of memorial tablet. During that time I happened to visit our Basilian monastery in Grimsby, which was in the process of closing down. A few days earlier a sale of the monastery items was held. Over three thousand people attended the sale. Everybody was looking for a memento of the monastery. And indeed the people bought up everything there was for sale. When I arrived and entered the monastery I noticed in a room completely empty a metal “Last Supper” on the wall, in which no one seemed interested. Seeing it, I thought of taking it to Toronto and attaching it to the Memorial of Gratitude in memory of “The Holy Year of the Eucharist.” And that is what I did. A place for this icon, even though no one had foreseen it, was ready. I had it affixed to the pedestal and there it remains.
A Memorial of Gratitude to the Mother of God
Basilian Fathers Monastery Weston Ontario The Memorial of Gratitude since its erection in 2005 has drawn thousands of visitors. People of diverse ethnic origin, of various nationalities, races and cultures have come to visit from morning to late evening.
Coming here, people feel as though they were entering their own home where they are welcomed with the love and the open arms of their mother. Here, deep in their soul, the visitors experience a renewed faith, and in their hearts the hope for motherly help is born. O Most Holy and Most Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of our Saviour! We are aware of our sinfulness, but we are your children, so please help us in our needs. Heal the illnesses of our souls and bodies. Help us to do what your Son Jesus teaches us in the Gospels. (Cf. "Do whatever he tells you," John 2: 1-11). Some of the visitors fall on their knees with faith, others stand and raise their eyes and arms to the Immaculate Mother of God, revealing their wounded hearts and souls to her. No one here feels to be a stranger, or distant or unwanted. By the will of her Son, she became the Mother of all people. "Standing near the cross of Jesus was his mother...When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom He loved standing beside her, He said to His mother, 'Woman, here is your son.' Then He said to the disciple, 'Here is your mother.' And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home" (John 19: 25-27).
A Place of Prayer, Peace and Quiet The Memorial of Gratitude to the Mother of God has become a place of prayer, peace and quiet. Some come here to say at least a brief prayer, others to implore the Mother of God for her protection and blessing for themselves, their families, friends or acquaintances. Still others come to open their wounded hearts to the Mother of God following diverse spiritual and corporal experiences, concerns, family problems, or seeking healing. Many bring flowers in thanksgiving to the Mother of God for graces or healing received through her intercession. Whoever comes to this blessed place, regardless of his ancestry, race, colour of skin or culture, feels as though in the home of his own mother. The Mother of God embraces all her children, rejoices in their presence, and sends no one away empty-handed, disappointed or without hope. People leave strengthened in spirit, with the desire to return, but not alone: they bring along their family members, friends or acquaintances.