Marian Devotion – Set in the semi-circular wall surrounding Mary’s central shrine are seven stained glass windows. Each window has two panels depicting an event from the life of the Blessed Mother. Courtesy photo

Marian Devotion – Set in the semi-circular wall surrounding Mary’s central shrine are seven stained glass windows. Each window has two panels depicting an event from the life of the Blessed Mother. Courtesy photo

By Lizanne Magarity Pando | Special Contributor

For thousands of years people have been traveling on local and destination pilgrimages and from this we have seen hundreds of shrines emerge.  So, why should I care?  What is in it for me?  I go to Mass and live the Catholic life, what else could a shrine have to offer?

A shrine is officially defined as a holy or sacred place, which is dedicated to a specific martyr, saint or similar figure of awe and respect, at which they are venerated or worshipped. A shrine gives us another place to truly learn about our God, our Blessed Mother and many of the saints, each one honoring and focusing on a story, a history and giving us better understanding of our faith.

Those who come to the Miraculous Medal Shrine in Philadelphia tell us that their visit is both a spiritual and physical journey.  Coming physically to Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal’s altar, just as she told St. Catherine that we are to, “Come to the altar and pray and great graces will be shed upon you,” brings a great sense of peace, reflection and even accomplishment. 

Vincentian Father Michael Shea, assistant director of the Central Association of the Miraculous Medal, tells us that, “The Irish call a place that you feel closer to God ‘A Thin Place.’  This refers to the veil between us and heaven feeling thinner, allowing a stronger feeling of God’s love and graces to wrap around you like a blanket of reassurance.”  This is a wonderful description of a shrine, where you can come, pray, lay your burdens and feel wrapped in God’s love through Mary’s, or another saint’s, intercession on your behalf.

Shrines are a place of learning, love and refuge from our hectic and sometimes spiritually deprived lives.  Shrines are often associated with intercessory prayers for healing of various ailments or other troubles.  And they bring Catholics together in community of prayer and their faith.

Why are pilgrimages important? 

By definition, a pilgrimage is a journey or search of great moral or spiritual significance. Typically, it is a journey to a shrine or other location of importance to a person’s beliefs and faith. Many religions attach spiritual importance to particular places: the place of birth or death of founders or saints; the place of their “calling” or spiritual awakening; the place where they believe miracles were performed or witnessed, or locations where a deity is said to live or be “housed.” 

Taking time for your spiritual well being and/or physical healing is an important part of our journey here on earth as Catholics.  Through a pilgrimage, we can find solace in the planning, traveling and visiting of shrines themselves.  When a pilgrim comes to the Miraculous Medal Shrine in Philadelphia, Pa., or back from a pilgrimage from another shrine, they seem to be filled with the Holy Spirit and excited to share about their wonderful experience.

The more than 100 shrines in the United States, and hundreds all over the world, are gifts of our faith given and waiting to be received.  They are God’s gifts waiting to help us find more of heaven’s great graces through understanding and prayer.

The Shrine of the Miraculous Medal has been a favorite place of pilgrimage and retreats  for Catholics in Philadelphia and surrounding areas for almost a century.  In 1927, Vincentian Father Joseph Skelly, the founder of the Central Association of the Miraculous Medal, introduced nine-day novenas in what was then the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception, built in 1879. 

Vincentian Father Carl Pieber, executive director of the Central Association of the Miraculous Medal, believes the shrine “is a special place of prayer and solace for many people.  It is the place where the Blessed Mother becomes our mother, and as our mother we come to her when we are in pain and in need of help.”

Thousands of people come to the shrine every week to attend one of the nine Monday novenas.  The shrine also hosts, throughout the week, many pilgrimage groups who come for tours and a special novena or a religious retreat of their own design.

There are many beautiful shrines within this shrine, all dedicated to Our Lady.  The center of Marian devotion at the shrine is a side chapel which has a large marble sculpture of Mary as she is depicted on what is now known as the “Miraculous Medal.”

A Marian museum, located across the street from the Miraculous Medal Shrine, contains more than 500 pieces of art dedicated to the Blessed Mother.  The museum also contains one of the original Miraculous Medals that was in the possession of St. Catherine Laboure.

We will be celebrating a summer nine- day novena on the Rosary, beginning June 11 and ending June 19.

For more information, e-mail or call 215-848-1010 at the Central Association of the Miraculous Medal, or visit

The Miraculous Medal Shrine is located at 500 E. Chelten Ave., Philadelphia, PA, 19144. Lizanne Magarity Pando is director of Communications, Central Association of the Miraculous Medal.