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Can you visit a shrine this Lent?

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Daniel Esparza - published on 03/04/24

Visiting shrines is not a substitute for the core Lenten practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. However, these sacred spaces can provide valuable support and enrichment to one’s Lenten journey.

Although not explicitly mandated by the Church, a visit to a shrine can have a unique significance during the Lenten season of conversion. Dedicated to figures associated with themes of ethical, psychological, and spiritual transformation, these spaces can serve as powerful focal points for Lenten reflection and devotion.

Shrines and the Lenten narrative

Certain shrines resonate naturally with the Lenten narrative. The Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, held by tradition as the site of Jesus’ crucifixion and burial, is obviously the most powerful geographical reminder of Christ’s ultimate gesture of love. A Lenten pilgrimage to this remarkable church, whether physical or virtual, can deepen contemplation of his passion and subsequent resurrection.

Shrines dedicated to the crucifixion itself, such as the Santo Volto (Italian for Holy Face) in Lucca (Italy) further emphasize the physical aspects of Christ’s Passion. Sites like this encourage reflection on the nature of sin, its causes and consequences – but also on the good news of redemption available for all.  

Shrines dedicated to saints

Shrines dedicated to specific saints can also provide inspiration during Lent. St. Francis of Assisi, known for his commitment to humility and poverty, embodies the Lenten call to simplicity, conversion, and radical self-transformation. Similarly, sites associated with the life of the beloved Italian Padre Pio, who bore the stigmata, serve as a poignant reminder of Christ’s Passion.

Shrines dedicated to the Virgin Mary, especially those associated with her Seven Sorrows, offer comfort and companionship during a season of introspection. The many churches dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows around the world can provide a space to contemplate Mary’s own suffering, alongside that of her Son.

The role of shrines in Lent

It is important to note that visiting shrines is not a substitute for the core Lenten practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. However, these sacred spaces can provide valuable support and enrichment to one’s Lenten journey. They provide a physical and spiritual environment conducive to reflection, prayer, and personal renewal, ultimately assisting the faithful in their quest for a deeper connection with the divine during this significant liturgical season.

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