Sunday, November 21, 2010

Get Thee to the Church: Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

Is this the beginning of a new series, like "Get Thee to the Woods?" I don't know. We'll see. But I love taking pictures of beautiful churches, and sometimes when I visit a new one I try to get a photo or two. Not always, but if I'm going to feature churches on my blog on Sundays--not every Sunday, mind you--I hope I'll bring my camera with me on our fairly infrequent "pilgrimages," or at least snap some with my phone. (Recently I shared some photos of the church in Maryland where Joe and I were married, and a shot or two of St. Mary's Church in Newport, Rhode Island, where we attednded Mass and where John F. Kennedy married Jackie. And back in January when we visited New York, I shared some photos of St. Patrick's Cathedral.)

Yesterday, Larry and I made a trip with about a hundred other teenagers (I'm really not sure how many kids there were--enough to fill two buses and a few cars as well) to the National Shrine in Washington, D.C. for a retreat. Our parish requires all confirmation candidates to attend a retreat before receiving the Sacrament: on this one the kids took a tour of the basilica; heard a couple of great talks by Father R. and Mr. C, our youth director; prayed the Rosary; went to Confession; and to top off the day, my favorite part--Mass in the amazing Crypt Church.

The Basilica (By the way, did you know that only a pope can declare a church a basilica? And that Pope John Paul II gave the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception this honor when he visited in 1979?) is full of some wonderful side chapels, statues, and mosaics, and I managed to get a few good shots of some of them:

The Our Lady of Guadalupe chapel was especially popular with our Latin American kids. I saw lots of cell phones out snapping photos. Technically the kids weren't supposed to bring cell phones, but the chaperones said not a thing, and I for one was happy to let them use them for this.

The African chapel was quite moving. On the floor across the entrance is a diagram of a slave ship; each line represents a slave.

The most important side chapel--The Blessed Sacrament.

The Vietnamese Our Lady of La Vang. I was doing Google searches this morning to try and remember the names of some of them, and I discovered that there are beautiful mosaics on the walls of this chapel that I didn't even look at. I was so focused on getting a photo of the statue (which is amazing) that I didn't notice them. The good news is, two years from now I'll go with Curly on his retreat here, and hopefully I'll see them then, if not before.

Our Lady of Lourdes

I loved the Byzantine chapel.

Our Lady of the Rosary. We were originally supposed to have Mass in this one, but since our group was larger than expected, Father R. was able to arrange for us to have it in the Crypt Church instead.

One of my favorites--Our Lady of Sorrows.

I also loved the Our Lady Queen of Peace chapel.

Looking toward the back of the Upper Church

The Incarnation Dome

Looking above the altar

The biggest and best mosaic in the basilica: "Christ in Majesty." A lot of people don't like this image because they feel that Jesus looks too stern, angry even. Our tour guide pointed out that this image of Christ as a strict judge is a traditional Byzantine depiction, and that when you look at the mosaic up close, his expression is more gentle and compassionate, especially when you look into His eyes. I like this photo so much that I made it my desktop background.

(I ran across this article about this very image today by one of my favorite converts to the Faith, Scott Hahn--he likes it! And today during his Homily, Father R. said this is a great way to picture Our Lord, especially today on the Feast of Christ the King.)

The papal stole worn by Pope John XXIII during Vatican II, and the crown tiara worn by Pope Paul VI during his installation. This would be the last time a Pope wore a crown tiara, ever.

Pope Benedict sat in this chair when he said Mass in the Crypt church in 2008.

The Stations of the Cross in the Crypt church are amazing.

My photos of the crypt church where we had Mass came out a little blurry, but it was hard to find good ones online, believe it or not.

Okay, the Pope didn't say Mass for us. Father R did. I just had to add this one just for fun.

The renovations in our church are almost finished, and it will be formally commissioned by the Bishop this week. It is going to be a big to-do, and I'm going to do my darndest to make sure we're there for it. A friend told me it would be like Easter Vigil on steroids; Mr. C says it's going to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I'm not expecting to take photos during the Mass but I'm going to try and get some pictures of the new Church this week and share them with you here. (Click here and here to see some I took early on in the construction project. How different it looks now.)

This morning I prayed that God would help me make today a productive day, and still keep this Sabbath Day holy. I don't know if that's possible, but I'm trying; I won't have much free time tomorrow if I'm going to this big wonderful Hoo-Ha tomorrow.

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