Sister Marie believes the Blessed Mother had selected her for this special mission. It was decided to start the excavations and more surprises were unearthed by workers and hoped to find the burial place for Mary.
As an aristocratic young lady, Sister Marie knew manners and courtesies. She was comfortable around the very wealthy, the highly educated, the finely polished and determined. Most of all, she was very compassionate with the needy and the suffering. She had observed and assisted her mother, the Countess, in the preparations for entertaining officials of church and state. She gained further lessons of etiquette at Rue du Bac for handling crowds of pilgrims from all parts of the world as well as for those dearly beloved bashful needy noble people who stood in want of compassion.
As a Daughter of Charity, her first service was to God, then to the Blessed Mother. As a daughter, she retained any inheritance and personal funds given her which she was to use in works of faith and charity. Over the years, she had responded generously according to the rules of the Little Company of Charity, and her heart was most generous as attested to by those with whom she lived. Sister Marie believed the Blessed Mother had selected her for this particular mission.
Our Lady chose wisely, knew that the generosity of Sister Marie had already helped spread devotion to her as the Immaculate Virgin Mary, Mother of God and Mother of Man. Sister Marie, indeed, had made her first deposit on Mary’s project.
Workers and the sisters were all well aware of a need for improved travel from Smyrna to Panaghia Capouli. Tools, equipment and supplies had to be transported by pack animals over treacherous ground. The journey had to be eased and quickened for the workmen. Thus the construction of the twenty-mile roadway over rugged mountainous terrain offered a great challenge and demanded cash. Sister Marie was up to paying for this, too.
To ready the excavations of the Home, in July 1894 the workers decided to level the ground behind it for erection of a building to store equipment and to house the Sisters who might have to stay overnight. It would give protection and rest for workers as needed. The preparatory work of hand-grading it, however, delayed the building project for three years.
Then they unsuspectingly stumbled upon two tombs. The heads of the skeletons faced Mary’s Home. They judged that the tombs dated back to the fourth century. Many funeral objects were also found. Among them were civic medals, funeral lamps and even a terra-cotta mold for making Eucharistic hosts bearing liturgical symbols of wheat and grapes. It was obvious that a Christian service had been associated with Mary’s Home.
After they found this secret place, real hope began to surface that they would also stumble upon the Tomb of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The four hired workers were eager to search various spots on the mountain. They trusted that they would come upon the prized tomb as narrated by Sister Anne Catherine Emmerich. Despite their great efforts, Mary’s Tomb was never found, and two of the men died during this period of work.
Then on 23 August, the workmen dug five feet deeper behind the chapel of Mary’s Home and found a greater surprise. There was a turn, or bend in the foundation that indicated it was a part of an octagonal frame. It coincided with the description by Sister Anne Catherine. They had discovered the octagonal base of Mary’s Home.
As they dug down through the floor, they came upon the greatest find of all: another cache of broken blackened pieces of marble, some ashes which had coagulated with soot and soil along with some pieces of broken stone. At first they didn’t understand, but after studying the find, they concluded they were in the middle of Mary’s Home and had come across the old fireplace. They and all who were part of this archaeological project believed their conclusion was correct. They treated these remains with respect, asked for and received many extraordinary favors in their prayers. Mary, they said, was granting the grace of miracles just as she did at Rue du Bac when she invited all to come to the altar and ask for graces from her.
The archaeological search consumed the interest of the workers, and they delayed all their earlier plans. So it was not until 1903, after a wait of twenty years, that they finally erected the building long planned as a shelter for the sisters.
The twenty-mile road also was serving its purpose. Panaghia Capouli was finally getting some publicity. Pilgrims and archaeologists were motivated to come and see Mary’s Home.
Sister Marie also was compelled to collect some of the scattered stones with Hebrew engravings and she reestablished the Stations of the Cross which Mary, according to Sister Anne Catherine’s revelations, had dutifully measured and placed in a setting adjacent to her Home. Like Mary, she too often made the Stations of the Cross while working on the grounds and the buildings for the pilgrims.
Segment 21: Development of Panaghi Capouli begins and a surprise for Sister Marie.
" I am not a priest and cannot bless them, but all that the heart of a mother can ask of God for her children, I ask of Him and will never cease to ask Him." ~ Sister Marie