Caroline Marie

caroline marie

caroline marie
northern city, United States
July 24
Temperamental Story Teller
posts will tell


Editor’s Pick
SEPTEMBER 7, 2010 12:10PM

Our Lady of the Back of the Yards

Rate: 31 Flag


When I was a little girl, my mother and I would make a pilgrimage to Grandma’s house several times a week.  She lived in the Back of the Yards neighborhood in Chicago, so named because it was behind the stock yards that produced most of the country's meat back in the day. That heyday had passed long before I was born in 1968, and the yards shut down for good when I was three. 

Her neighborhood was not safe.  There were drug deals out on the streets, bags of white powder and pistols in plain view.  Gutted out buildings stood on each block, mostly from fires deliberately set.  There was a terrible smell when it rained--the stench of rotting flesh and blood from the closed stock yards that haunted the streets.   

Little 8 and 9 year old prostitutes approached Grandma's neighbor, who considered giving them a couple of dollars before thinking, "better not, don't want to be accused of anything."  I overheard him tell the story.   

On the pavement in front of Grandma's house there was a crack, the shape of an alligator's head, hard for me to roller skate over.  

The inside of Grandma's house was a cozy cocoon, filled with open bags of hard candy, stacks of National Enquirers and shiny-framed pictures of me.  Next to the television stood a shrine to the Virgin Mary.   

"Come here, Doll, give me a kiss," Grandma called as soon as I walked in the door.   

"I know you're a good girl," she comforted me whenever my mom tried to convince her otherwise.   

Grandma mostly lived in the big chair in front of the television.  I rarely saw her move: it was painful for her to do so.  But I liked always seeing her in the same spot wearing her bright polyester pants and floral blouses. 

Grandma worried about me because she thought my mom, her daughter, was a little nuts.  "Doll," she whispered after my mom reported my most recent sins and left the room, "I know your mother is high strung.  Believe me, I know."

Then she sighed and reassured me that everything would be okay.   

Grandma also worried about Cher's daughter Chastity.  She had a habit of talking about TV stars as if they were her personal friends.  "Accchhhh, what is that woman doing now?  Somebody needs to say something to her for Chastity's sake."   

Sometimes I got to spend the night at Grandma's house.  She and I stayed up late playing gin rummy, then we would both get under the covers of her squeaky bed.  I fell asleep as she whispered her prayers and fingered the rosary beneath her pillow.  The eyes of Jesus and Mary stared at us from the pictures on her bedroom wall.   

I tried to believe that I was good enough to go to heaven. 

When I was fifteen, a miracle occurred.  It happened in Grandma’s church in the Back of the Yards.  It was a beautiful old church with huge ceilings, stained glass windows, ornamental carvings, solemn statues--and a three foot tall statue of Mary that one day started to cry.  It's true!  Not big sobs or anything, her face didn't pucker up, her mouth didn't make gurgling, gasping, choking sounds.  Silent tears simply seeped out of her glass eyes and glided down her porcelain face. 

People came from all over to see her.  Grandma was not well enough to witness the miracle but she insisted that my mother and I go, and so we did.  I remember climbing over the drunks on the front steps, opening the church doors, kneeling before the weeping Mary and praying that we wouldn't get mugged on the way back. 

It was quiet in the church and the air was heavy with hope, anxiety and incense.   I remember feeling that anything could happen:  the earth could split open and pull us into its core.  Angels could swoop in and serenade us.  Lightning could strike us dead.   

My mom seemed so small kneeling next to me and I wanted to touch her hand, but I didn't.  She fixed her gaze onto the weepy statue and then so did I and soon we were crying, my mother and I, crying silently, like Mary, tears streaming down our faces. What is it?  I'll be better.  I'll be good.  

We waited for the Blessed Mother to speak.  

But she didn't, so my mother and I solemnly returned to Grandma's house and reported what we saw.  Somehow, the telling of the story excited us.  We declared that the three of us were truly blessed--something special must be on the verge of happening because the Blessed Virgin herself had come to Grandma's church.   

For days we were giddy and anxious, wondering what it all meant.

The TV anchorman delivered the bad news a week after our visit to the weeping Mary.  A lone gunman had stormed the church, shooting at Mary, shooting at her three times.  I imagined us there, my mother, grandmother and I, crouching down under the pew, peeking to see if blood poured from the bullet holes.  How satisfying that would be!  More proof she is here, Oh Blessed Mother, you are really here! 

But the bullets missed Mary, merely knocking her over as they whizzed past.  My mother, grandmother & I weren't even there to see it.   

The church placed the Blessed Mother inside of a bullet proof case.  She no longer wept.  The National Enquirer picked up the story and printed a picture of the now protected Virgin who used to cry.   

Grandma cut out the picture and hung it up in a frame on her wall. 



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I re-wrote and re-posted this because the church was in the news over the weekend.
Caroline, this is my favorite one. I am so glad you reposted it and I hope a lot of people see it.~
I remember reading this before. Thanks for reposting it.
Thank you so much Joan & Kathy
I love the way you have told this story, Caroline, and I have also witnessed a couple of such miracles involving The Blessed Mother. There is power in such visual encounters and they certainly have helped keep me from growing blase about my faith over the years. :)
This is so well done, just the right tone. I love it. It also carries the bonus of making me think of visiting my own beloved grandmother, who lived in Newark, New Jersey. Sounds a lot like where your grandma lived...though without the old slaughterhouse smells. Thanks for a terrific read. Rated.
hmmm, scj, sounds like you have plenty more stories to tell
thank you alysa

the chicago history museum has actually captured that smell and put it in a display where after you smell it, you try to guess what it is. I took one whiff and exclaimed, "grandma's house!"
Amazing that you were there to witness one of those weeping Mary stories. It seems to have occurred from time to time all over the world. I can't quite read the newspaper print. Did your local media try to offer an explanation of the phenomenon?
thank you for reading, blue. When I get home from work tonight I'll get out the article & see what it says because I don't remember.
I love this post -- and I remember the news story, too. This is so well written -- I enjoyed every word.
I love how you kept your child's perspective while telling...8 or 9 year old prostitutes??? No wonder the Blessed Mother cried...
excellent story, thanks for re-posting!
Interesting story. It made me remember my dad's mom, the only grandmother I knew. She was a hard working simple woman. You wrote this very well and I hung one every word. R
thank you jt & sheila

I was very fortunate to know all 4 of my grandparents, as well as 3 of my great-grandparents...
I'd missed this before, I think . . . but what a wonderfully told story, capturing the child's POV very well.
I remember this post from before and enjoyed it again! Why was the church in the news again?
" I imagined us there, my mother, grandmother and I, crouching down under the pew, peeking to see if blood poured from the bullet holes. How satisfying that would be! "

How satisfying, indeed. Wonderfully told, Caroline Marie. The tone is perfect.
thanks anne. The church has been closed for many years, and they just announced it will be disassembled and used for a new church in WI.

Thank you so much no longer irritated annie.
thank you C&V

I should add that I wrote this story years ago, way before I found the photos & clippings in my grandma's things--and some of the details are different than I remember. For ex, she was wooden not porcelain. I would have sworn that it happened when I was 10 or 11, but apparently I was 15.

And the most interesting detail I have no recollection of, is that the shooting happened on my 16th birthday!
Not sure if I read your original story on this but it sure does sound familiar. Or saw this in the news? Incredible. The meaning behind the statue is powerful. Powerful good.
I loved this the first time Caroline. A second time around is even better. Congrats on the EP and cover position!
thank you cathy & scarlett
I love this too Caroline. I remember watching Sonny and Cher with my Nannie and sleeping in her squeaky bed (the bed my mother was born in, which I now have!) and the National Enquirers all over the floor, so this brought back memories, even though we weren't Catholic and my mother wasn't (too) nuts.
This is my first time reading this. What a wonderful story. Surely, something to behold. Thank you for re-posting.
Thank you for sharing :) Love seeing you on the cover~
fascinating, caroline marie! congrats on EP.
Great story, well told. I hadn't seen it before so I'm glad you reposted it. And congrats on the EP!
I'm so glad you enjoyed this bell & that it brought back memories for you.

(And really my mom is no more nuts than I am...are you out there reading, mom?)

thank you for reading wright sight, amanda, linda, & ladyslipper!
What a great read. I enjoyed your voice, almost like you were experiencing everything as that little girl again. Well done!
This story is heartwarming and I'm thrilled it's on the cover. Some of our childhood memories are buried treasures; I'm glad you shared yours with us. :)
I remember this. And you went beyond reporting and captured it masterfully. This is really what it felt like. Great work!
thank you linn!
great story, will and p.s. me too!
thank you belinda and chicago guy
I love reading stories like these. Each time I hear about one of these miracles, it reconfirms my faith. Thank you.
you're welcome patricia. thanks for reading.
A lovely story, caroline, and very touchingly portrayed. So tragic how your family had a tough neighborhood to walk through on the way to your miracle.
Like you and Susan (and even tho' I am not catholic), I've experienced a quiet sort of "miracle" of my own, at a place here in Colorado called the Mother Cabrini Shrine. I was pregnant, worried about the delivery. I prayed for a bit in one of the chapels there, and when I stepped out onto the patio area, I was struck by a veritable tunnel of rainbows in full view. I counted 'em. 13 in all.
The eventual delivery went well enough, altho' it was a bit touch and go for a short while. Baby's all grown now, and healthy.

This was a fantastic article. It had weeping virgins, wild gunmen and shady neighborhoods. It was like Iraq all over again. Great writing and a facinating story!
wow, what a story PW! Thank you for reading

thanks doug, just telling it like it was...
I love a good grandma story, thanks for the read!
you're welcome gabby abby, thanks for reading
Very nice story. It caught my eye because I am a fireman in the Back of the Yards. I was wondering where this church is located. This obviously happened a while ago (I was actually 9!) so I was not familiar with this story. I'd like to check it out if it is still there.
Just excellent writing and a fabulous story. It has it all!
I love this one! My grandmother was also the unconditional love person in my life. I've always wanted to have a statue of the Virgin in my back yard!