November 20

Immaculate Conception, Washington, D.C., USA


Immaculate Conception mosaic in the Upper Church, created in the Vatican studios after Murillo's painting, from the Shrine's website, www.nationalshrine.com
In 1792, John Carroll, newly Bishop of Baltimore, designated "the Holy Mother of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ the special patroness of this Diocese," which then included the entire United States. In 1846, U.S. Catholic bishops meeting in Baltimore refined the declaration in accord with growing popular devotion to Mary Immaculate, choosing "the Blessed Virgin Mary, conceived without sin, as the Patroness of the United States of America," eight years before the Pope made Mary's sinless nature an article of faith. In 1909, a $1,000 donation from a French Basilian priest in Detroit helped launch the project of building a shrine to the nation's patron in its capital. The new rector of the Catholic University of America in Washington, Thomas J. Shahan, led the effort. On September 23, 1920, James Cardinal Gibbons blessed the cornerstone, which lay on the site under wraps for two years until a builder was found to begin the enormous construction project in 1922. The crypt church opened for worship in 1924 but was not completed until a few years later. Work ceased during the Depression and Second World War, and the Shrine remained underground until 1954, which Pius XII proclaimed a "Marian Year." Construction resumed, and the building was finally dedicated on November 20, 1959. New chapels and artworks are still being added. The Shrine contains over 70 chapels and oratories in honor of Our Lady, her Son, and the saints, on both the crypt and upper church levels. Some recall the Virgin's apparitions, such as that of Lourdes (dedicated 1931). Some are national chapels donated by immigrant organizations, such as those of the Mother of Sorrows (Slovakia, 1965), Our Lady of Charity (Cuba, 1977), and Our Lady of Hostyn (Czech Rep., 1983). Others, such as those to Our Lady of Perpetual Help (Redemptorists, 1962), Queen of All Hearts (Montfort Missionaries, 1966), and Mother of Good Counsel (Augustinians) were donated by religious orders. The building is also home to a gift shop and cafeteria. Outside, the National Council of Catholic Women has sponsored a Mary Garden with a fountain and a pool to reflect a statue of Mary, Protector of the Faith. In 1990 Pope John Paul II honored the Shrine with the title "minor Basilica." Its domed silhouette is visible throughout much of Washington. In addition to thousands of tourists, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception hosts scheduled pilgrimages from various dioceses and ethnic groups throughout the year. The patronal feast of the Shrine and its nation is the Immaculate Conception, December 8.    

Also celebrated this date:

bulletPanagia Kounistria, Skiathos, Sporades, Greece. Procession, service, bonfires, vigil.
bulletNostra Signora di Guadalupe, Rome, Italy. Painting in the Via Aurelia Basilica crowned, 1962. Feast December 12.
bulletNotre Dame du Mali, Kita, Kayes, Mali (nearest Saturday)
 

Where We Walked ~~~ Mary Ann Daly