The week leading up to Easter is known as “Holy Week”. In the Philippines, Visita Iglesia is an important part of the Holy Week tradition. It has its origins when Rome embraced Christianity and the seven major basilicas in the area housed the tombs of martyrs and saints which quickly became favorite pilgrimage sites of the traditional faithful. Visitors pray the Stations of the Cross or they may say a rosary or lift up their personal intentions. More importantly, it would seem that this pilgrimage is also a good way to reflect on the sufferings of Christ leading up to His resurrection.
Though it would not be feasible to physically visit seven Catholic Churches during these times when people are encouraged to stay close to home to “flatten the curve”, the silver lining to all these is that we are able to virtually visit and take a peek inside their lofty interiors from the comforts of our home.
One of our favorite places to visit is the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC. It’s quite a mouthful, but simply, it is Mary’s Shrine.
When you step inside its grand doors, get ready to be in awe of the glittering mosaics, the splendor of the main alcove, and the unique character of each little chapel that houses different images of Mary from different countries and from the many titles she’s been bestowed: Queen of the Most Holy Rosary, Mediatrix of All Graces, Our Lady of Sorrows, and the list goes on.
Those who wish are invited to pray for Mary’s intercession–that she will pray for us and that she will intercede for us through her prayers to God.
Regardless of what you believe in, the National Shrine is a special place for reflection and a sign of unity for all Catholics from all over the world. As a popular place of pilgrimage, it sees one million visitors annually.
Many Filipinos feel at home in its grand interior. In the lower church, as you go towards the righthand alcove, you will pass by a statue of the Child Jesus or Santo Nino (another important part of Filipino Catholicism), and as you enter the arched hallway, you will gaze upon a replica of the Virgin of Antipolo, Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage. The original is a 17th-century wooden image housed in Antipolo, Rizal in the Philippines which was brought over via the Galleon Trades with Mexico, and her title reflected the successful voyages which could often become perilous. She has earned a place in the National Shrine.
Here is the link to join the virtual tour of the nation’s shrine for Mama Mary.
Here is the schedule for the livestreaming of services from Holy Thursday to Easter Sunday.
The National Shrine relies on the generous donations of its visitors and patrons. With the various limitations to travel, many churches have taken a big financial hit in their ability to collect funds to keep up with their operations. If you are so inclined, please consider making a charitable donation to the Basilica here.