At a shrine, God’s pilgrim people gather in the Lord’s presence. Similar to a church, a shrine is a type of icon of God’s dwelling with his people, with the Church, with the individual believer.
A Marian shrine is a place for an encounter with God. There, as in the mystery of the Incarnation, Mary is present. She is the dwelling place of God, the throne of Wisdom, the living temple of the Holy Spirit, the one who encountered the Lord in a unique way.
Marian shrines usually have their origins in some extraordinary person or event that makes a particular place a center of devotion and pilgrimage. The history of the event and the remembrance of Mary’s intercession at this place make a shrine a privileged way of encountering Mary’s presence.
Shrine: Place of Worship
The liturgy, which is the principal goal of pilgrimage to a Marian shrine, should be exemplary for the quality of the participation, the fidelity to the rite, the richness of the content, and the beauty of the ceremonies. Pilgrims to Marian shrines should participate in a full program of liturgical celebrations and devotions.
Christian tradition brings Marian devotion and the Eucharist together; this connection is based on "the reality itself of the incarnation of the Word of God and the unique role exercised by Mary in the economy of salvation, by Mary who conceived the Lord and gave Him as gift to all people." Every Eucharist is celebrated within the communion of the saints, in which Mary occupies the principal role.
Eucharistic celebrations at Marian shrines should reveal the fullness of the paschal mystery, communion with the universal Church, and the presence of Mary in word and symbol.
Shrine:Focus of Culture
In addition to being a place of worship, a Marian shrine is a center to foster cultural development. The history, tradition, and art of a shrine contribute to the via pulchritudinis and to the contemplation of God’s beauty revealed in Mary. Pilgrims should be provided with materials on the historical, artistic, and pastoral significance of the shrine.
Marian shrines are natural centers for explaining the conciliar teaching on Mary and for demonstrating the Marian dimension of the life of faith.
Shrine: Center for Promoting the Sense of Vocation
Every vocation is a conscious and free response of a person to a gift of God. A Marian shrine is a sign of this mysterious relationship between God’s call and the person’s response. A shrine is a place for announcing and celebrating the mystery of vocation within the Church. Mary’s reception of the angel’s message and her response of quot;Fiat" are the model for every vocation.
Mary is the woman called to collaborate in God’s work. She is the virgin totally consecrated to the Lord. She is the wife and mother in a family in which God’s promises to his people were fulfilled. Marian shrines are special places for discerning the meaning of vocation, the feminine, consecrated life, the family.
Shrine: Hearth of Charity
Works of charity which give expression to the Lord’s concern for the poor, as recalled in Mary’s Magnificat, should be part of a Marian shrine. The mother of Jesus was always attentive to those in need (John 2,2-10).
In all parts of the world, Marian shrines have established and maintained hospitals, schools for the poor, homes for the retired. The sick should be welcomed at a Marian shrine, and special services and assistance provided for them. Shrines should contribute to seeking solutions to problems of contemporary society and to alleviating suffering caused by chemical dependency, AIDS, homelessness, old age.
Shrine: Center of Ecumenism
In Christian history, Mary’s role and Marian devotion have caused much controversy and have been cited as reasons for the division of the churches. Marian shrines should courageously assume a role of promoting ecumenical prayer, meeting, and discussion. They should be attentive to the ecumenical dialogue and aware of the complexity of the issues. Rightly understood, Christ’s mother, the mother of all people, the first disciple of Christ, is a motive for union of all Christians. Marian sanctuaries are places of prayer for the unity of all people. The Marian Year commemorates the twelfth centenary of the II Council of Nicaea, the millennium of Christianity in Kievan Russ, the sixth centenary of the conversion of Lithuania. In celebrating these events, Marian shrines promote the union of faith and prayer with the members of these churches.
–taken from the Marian Library Newsletter (Summer, 1998)