In my last blog post for Dappled Things, I told the story of Fatima, and how the Blessed Mother met three young shepherds and gave them messages to share with the world about the war, future wars, her Immaculate Heart, and prayer. Today, I’d like to share with you a very special place I encountered on my travels with our show, The Faithful Traveler. In fact, we featured it in our first season, The Faithful Traveler in the US: East Coast Shrines, which you can watch online here (and buy the DVD here). I’ve also embedded the episode below.
Since it’s still August, dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, as is this Shrine, I thought it would be appropriate to tell you a little bit about this wonderful place.
One of our goals with The Faithful Traveler is to introduce viewers to some of the amazing Catholic shrines and places of pilgrimage our country and the world has to offer. By introducing you all to these places, I hope to help you learn more about the saints and devotions behind them. But I also hope to encourage you all to visit them, if ever you are able. Of course, for those of you who cannot visit, for whatever reason, I hope that our show will help you get there virtually.
If you are in the New Jersey area and feel like visiting a beautiful shrine where you can spend the day, the National Blue Army Shrine of the Immaculate Heart of Mary is the place to be!
Located just across the Delaware River and the Pennsylvania border, in Washington, New Jersey, the Blue Army Shrine spans over 150 acres of green, lush countryside. In fact, it’s surrounded by country. Every time we go, we always pass one house that has goats! We love it! It’s nice to get out and away from the things of man, almost like climbing a tall mountain in the Holy Land, like Elijah, to be closer to God.
The shrine is owned and operated by the World Apostolate of Fatima, previously known as the Blue Army, which is dedicated to responding to Mary’s requests at Fatima: to help save souls and bring peace to the world through prayer and penance. Not a bad goal, right?
Throughout the year, but especially during the months of the apparitions–March through October–the shrine has events that attract more than 50,000 people a year. But even on the days when nothing is going on there, there is much to see.
The Holy House
The Holy House is a replica of the Holy House of Loreto, in Italy. According to tradition, the Holy House of Loreto is the house in which Jesus, Mary, and Joseph lived during their time in Nazareth, after returning from their exile in Egypt. According to this tradition, during the Crusades, the home of the Holy Family was threatened with destruction. So one day, angels miraculously took the house apart and transported it to Croatia, where it stayed for about three years before the angels moved it again, to its final resting place in Loreto, Italy.
Those of you who have been to the Holy Land or who have seen our series, The Faithful Traveler in the Holy Land, know that back in Jesus’ time, people in Nazareth didn’t live in homes made of stone and mortar; they lived in CAVES. So, the idea that the Holy House of Loreto could actually be the home in which the Holy Family lived is hard to believe. While I do find it odd that angels would be bothered to move a house, I accept that nothing is impossible with God. Still, the historical facts make this tradition difficult to support. Look at the Basilica of the Annunciation, for instance, built atop the home of the Virgin Mary in Nazareth. That home was a cave. That said, who knows what is the real story behind the Holy House of Loreto.
The Holy House at the Blue Army Shrine was built in 1973, and its mortar includes crushed stones from the actual Holy House in Loreto. At the front of the chapel, we see Sister Lucia’s Last vision replicated on the wall and a statue of St Joseph as he appeared to the three children at Fatima during the Miracle of the Sun.
The Capelinha (pronounced cap-el-ing-yah), which means little chapel in Portuguese, is a replica of the small chapel built at Fatima on the site of Mary’s apparitions. (You can see live streaming of what’s going on at the Capelinha at Fatima here!) The Pilgrim Virgin Statue is a replica of the miraculous Pilgrim Virgin Statue carried in procession at Fatima.
The Rosary Garden and Stations of the Cross
The Rosary Garden and Stations of the Cross are a great place to pray, naturally. Each mystery of the Rosary and each Station is represented with a beautiful work of art.
The Chapel and Amphitheater
The chapel and amphitheater are where most of the events going on at the shrine take place. Masses are celebrated in the chapel, with the beautiful tabernacle built in the shape of the Angel of Portugal. Over to the right, a small diorama shows statues of the three pastorinhos meeting Our Lady. The unique shape of the amphitheater is meant to resemble Mary’s mantle, with her spiritual children gathering underneath it, praying for the conversion of souls.
Statues, Statues, Everywhere!
Everywhere you go on these grounds, you’ll see some amazing statues, from the works of art on the front lawn to the mini shrines peppered all across the 150 acres.
Some of the most striking statues are the bronze statues on the front lawn, created by Polish artist, Maksymilian Biskupski.
On the 13th of every month, from March until October, there are special events at the Shrine, commemorating Our Lady’s visits with the three children on Fatima, and I would encourage anyone who can to go and visit the shrine on one of these days. It’s almost like a little slice of Portugal, right here in the US.
For more information about the Blue Army Shrine, visit the official website.
Diana von Glahn is the co-producer (along with husband, David), writer, editor, and host of The Faithful Traveler, a travel series on EWTN, that explores the art, architecture, history and doctrine behind Catholic churches, shrines and places of pilgrimage throughout the world. She is the author of The Mini Book of Saints. She blogs here twice a month, at SpiritualDirection.com, and on her own website, and can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Google+. Her first series, The Faithful Traveler in the US: East Coast Shrines, and her second series, The Faithful Traveler in the Holy Land, can both be seen on EWTN (check listings) and on her website, where she also sells DVDs of both programs. She has begun offering pilgrimage tours to sites where The Faithful Traveler has travelled.