Crossed The Tiber

An Evangelical Converts to Catholicism

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Location: Pennsylvania, United States

I was born into the Catholic faith. At 14, I was "born again" and found Jesus personally but lost His Church. After thirty years as an evangelical protestant, I have come full circle to find that He has been there all the time, in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. I wish others to find the beauty and truth of the Catholic faith as I have found.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Shrine Hop to Flame Your Faith! (And gain a plenary indulgence too)

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)

  • National Shrine of Saint Rita of Cascia-Saint Rita is known as the saint for impossible causes. This was right on S. Broad Street a few blocks south of City Hall. I must have passed this fifty times when I lived in Philly, but never noticed it. Of course, Catholicism wasn't exactly on my radar at the time. At this shrine, you can venerate her relics as well as many other relics of other saints and my favorite one here: a splinter of the True Cross!  They also have priests of the Augustinian order who is happy to hear confessions. He gave me some great spiritual counseling as well!
    (Relic of the True Cross)

  •  Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception - We ended our trip by participating in the Divine Liturgy, an ancient Byzantine rite in full communion with the Catholic Church. Technically, this wasn't a shrine but it was beautiful to experience the chanted Byzantine liturgy and receive the body and blood of Christ with our Ukrainian Catholic brethren. They were separated from the Catholic Church until 1596, when they re-united with Rome. When Blessed John Paul 2 visited Philadelphia in 1979 this was one of his stops to encourage their unity with Rome. They also have a full-sized replica of the Shroud of Turin there, one of only 7 made from the original. We went to the front of the sanctuary before Mass (Divine Liturgy) and venerated the shroud. 
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!


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