I live about 55 miles from Philadelphia, which has some wonderful Catholic shrines to visit. In just one day, you can visit four or five great places of Catholic history and devotion and venerate some cool relics too!
Our parish recently chartered a bus for what we call our "Shrine Hop." On this trip we had the opportunity to visit the following shrines:
- Shrine of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal-listen as a Vincentian priest gives you a history of the Miraculous Medal as well as a spiritually-encouraging message. Then self-tour the beautiful shrine with multiple opportunities to quietly pray. My favorite was being able to venerate the cloth from the chair where the Blessed Mother sat in her apparition to Saint Catherine Laboure.
- National Shrine of Saint John Neuman - Listen to a talk given by a Redemptorist priest and go on a tour of the Church of Saint Peter in the Northern Liberties section of Philly. The best part? Kneel at the altar where Saint John Neuman's remains are exhibited under glass and ask for his intercession and venerate a first class relic (part of his body). Sit on the stone where he took his last breath as he expired right on the stoop of a house on the corner of 17th and Vine street! He died in his late forties, as a result of years of exhausting work preaching, teaching, traveling and being the bishop of the Philadelphia diocese, which in the 19th century comprised half of the state of Pennsylvania.
(St. John Neuman's remains)
What a beautiful day we had seeing the treasures of our faith, hearing the stories of heroic virtue of the saints who went before us and witnessing the beauty of the churches our fore-fathers built in a major metropolitan area as a testament to their vibrant faith. When you find your faith flagging a bit, consider visiting a shrine and asking a saint to intercede for you and your intentions. Of course, the saints can intercede for you wherever and whenever, but shrines help us because they engage our senses with the physical and material things that God has blessed us with to draw our hearts and minds to heaven. And finally, an extra bonus in this Year of Faith:
touring the shrines can gain you a plenary indulgence
, if you fulfill the requirements of the indulgence. What's not to love? Get thee to a shrine!