Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Pilgrimage to the Basilica National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

     Back in the middle of July, Kevin printed out directions to get to the Washington National Cathedral, but I’d been pretty sure our best friend/brother in Christ John had decided he wanted to go to the Basilica National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception for the day-trip pilgrimage
 we gave him as part of his birthday presents back in April.       Fortunately, I caught the mix-up by around 10pm the night before.  Unfortunately, our GPS has maps that are five years outdated in it and our printer decided not to work, so we weren’t quite as prepared as we could have been.  We also found out that John’s youngest brother Matt wanted to ride up to Northern Virginia with us to stay at his sister Catherine  (Cat) and brother-in-law Chris’s place for the weekend.
     The day ended up turning out to be
very enjoyable.  We found Chris and Cat’s place without too much trouble, but we took a number of wrong turns on the way to the Basilica, so we got there in the middle of the 12:10pm daily Mass in the Crypt Church.  We arrived in time to hear the homily, but since we hadn’t gotten there sooner, we couldn’t receive Communion.  We each went up in line to receive a blessing from the priest instead.
     It was a powerful experience not to receive the Eucharist.  My hunger and thirst for the Most Precious Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus became even stronger knowing I’d have to wait until I was able to attend an entire Mass. 
     After Mass, Kevin, John, and I went around to see the different chapels in the Crypt Church built to honor the Blessed Mother and various saints.  Many of them had a kneeler or two in front of the statue, figure, or mosaic of Mary along with the details of that particular Marian apparition and a prayer.  I knelt at each one to pray the unique prayers inscribed by hand to Our Lady. 
     Kevin was thoroughly amazed by the Crypt Church and felt inspired to catch as much of it as he could on camera.  After praying and looking around for a while, Kevin and I exited its doors and admired the statues of saints nearby. 
     My dear husband asked what I wanted to do next.  I smiled.  He didn’t realize the Crypt Church we’d just been through wasn’t the main part of the Basilica.  I told him we still had to go upstairs. 
     We ended up having a delicious lunch at the cafeteria, getting there just minutes before they closed.  After briefly perusing the gift shops and window displays, we climbed upstairs to be awed and humbled by the incredible size and beauty of the Basilica. 
     I must say that the enormous mosaic of Jesus Christ on the dome facing the altar appeared rather intimidating to Kevin and me.  I could best describe it as a body-builder rendition of Jesus.  John explained that it is more reminiscent of the Eastern portrayals of Jesus than those we are accustomed to in the West.  
     That afternoon we spent over two hours in the main sanctuary of the Basilica praying, exploring, in Eucharistic Adoration, and the three of us prayed the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary in front of the mosaics in an alcove illustrating each one. We ended up staying so long that we decided to remain for 5:15pm Mass.  We sat right in the front row.
     Yet again, Kevin and I marveled at how wonderful it is to be able to go anywhere in the world for Mass and know the main elements that will be included as part of the celebration.
     That evening we went out to dinner with Cat, Chris, and Matt before driving back home.  It was fun catching up with them and sharing a little about our day.  John brought a copy of the New Testament for Chris and got Cat a book I recently read, reviewed, and really liked called Dion The Wanderer Talks Truth.
    Lord, thank You for the many ways You have given us to express and praise You for Your love, beauty, and mercy.  Amen. 
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