The crucifix above is from the new chapel dedicated to the luminous mysteries of the Holy Rosary. It was blessed by Pope Benedict XVI on his visit to Washington, D.C. in 2008. He came to the Basilica on his birthday, 16 April 2008, and blessed the Crucifix before the new chapel opened to the public. This was one of the highlights of our pilgrimage to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
What a blessed day we had yesterday. Our tour guide was informative and so very patient with all the very insightful questions from our second grade group. We were even mentioned in the homily during Mass in the Crypt Church: the priest said he was so impressed by a group of boys who were praying at one of the side altars. As he passed the boys, one rose from the kneeler and said to the other boys, "I think I want to be a priest." Of course, the priest encouraged the child to pray and consider the call to the priesthood. He also reminded all of us to pray for vocations. It is important the we do.
A mosaic of the Our Lady holding her protective mantel crafted in the Byzantine icon tradition was also of great interest to the children. It was explained that this particular image was of Our Lady who appeared carrying her protective mantle to a warring country in the East who prayed earnestly for her intercession. According to our guide, the country received the grace they had asked for. She explained that it is wise to pray for Our Lady to cover us with her protective mantle in our need.
The children participated in the Sacred Mass in the Crypt Church. They were so well behaved and you could just tell that their hearts were on fire after viewing all the glory of the Shrine. It was so beautiful to witness their reverent reception of Holy Communion.
The bus ride home was noisy and full of excitement. The second graders had just had the most amazing and wondrous time. I have to say, even though I felt a bit under the weather yesterday, it was a great gift to be there with them.
May God continue to bless them and may Mary always cover them in her protective mantle.