For his 25th anniversary as a priest, Father Patrick L.
Posey, pastor of St. James Church in Falls Church, will make
a pilgrimage to Spain this May. Accompanying him will be
Father José E. Hoyos, director of the Spanish
Apostolate, and many members of the parish. Father Posey
hopes the trip will serve as a chance for both English-and
Spanish-speaking parishioners to grow in holiness during the
Year of Mercy. Here are a few of the spiritual highlights
they plan to include in their trip:
As cold winter days begrudgingly turn into spring,
parishioners of St. William of York Church in Stafford are
gearing up for the third season of St. William of York
Baseball, a league on a mission to unite the parish
community, foster Christian sportsmanship and help boys and
girls develop the skills they need to enjoy America's
If you drive on U.S. Route 15 in Maryland near the
Pennsylvania border, you'll see signs for Mount St. Mary's
University in Emmitsburg. You can see much of the campus and
the seminary from the road. If you know where to look, you
can also see the tower and statue of Mary at the entrance to
the National Shrine Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes on St.
Ricky Burke and Allan Flott know fancy footwork and what it's
like to compete in large stadiums in front of cheering
crowds. What gives them the most satisfaction these days,
however, is passing along their love of soccer, or "football"
as much of the world calls it, to young people.
Nestled in a tiny wooded area off West Ox Road in Fairfax,
across the street from a busy shopping plaza, is a small
park. The shoppers packing the TJ Maxx across the street and
cars whizzing by at all hours give no indication that more
than 1,500 soldiers were killed or wounded in a bloody
follow-up to the battle of Second Manassas, Sept. 1, 1862.
Richmond may seem like a natural destination for Civil War
afficionados, but did you know it also lays claim to a small
treasure trove of Catholic attractions?
Priests traveling on cruise ships are not just there for the
wind and the waves. Although they may indeed be enjoying the
same amenities as other passengers, they are working.
Christendom College in
Front Royal will offer its three-week summer study abroad
program, the St. Columcille Institute, in Donegal, Ireland,
July 17 to Aug. 9. The program will host students from
colleges in England, Ireland and across the United States.
Mount St. Mary's Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md., will host this
Vadis and Fiat Days, sponsored by the diocesan Office of
Franciscan Missionary Brother Bronislaus Luszcz was a man
with a mission - a mission to create a shrine to the Black
Madonna of Czestochowa. He had great devotion to Our Blessed
Mother, especially as Our Lady of Czestochowa. He spent 23
years, working alone, building her shrine. The result is an
open-air church and a series of hillside grottoes dedicated
to St. Joseph, the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Holy Family and
events in the life of Christ.
Brother Bronislaus was part of a group of Franciscan brothers
who came from Poland to the St. Louis area in 1927 to build
the St. Joseph Hill Infirmary, a nursing home for men, in the
rolling hills of the Ozarks. The Black Madonna Shrine is
adjacent to the site of the now closed infirmary, about 40
miles southwest of St. Louis, near Eureka, Mo.The Black Madonna's historyThe legend of the Black Madonna dates to the
earliest days of Christianity. It is believed St. Luke
painted the image of the Blessed Mother holding the infant
Jesus on a wooden tabletop from the home of the Holy Family.
Christians venerated the icon in Jerusalem for about 300
years before St. Helena found it as she searched the Holy
Land for the true cross of Jesus. According to legend, she
brought the icon back to Constantinople in 326 and gave it to
her son, Constantine the Great, the first Christian emperor
The Black Madonna remained in Constantinople for about 500
years. Then over the course of nearly 900 years it was moved
several times before it came to Czestochowa, in what is now
Poland, in 1382.
Prince Ladislaus Opolski decided to move it to one of his
castles in Upper Silesia after a skirmish in Belz with
invading Tartars. When the horse pulling the wagon with the
icon reached Czestochowa they stopped and refused to budge.
Pushing and pulling and threatening had no effect on the
animals. That night Prince Opolski had a vision in which the
Virgin Mary told him to build a chapel there for the icon.
The chapel was built and eventually grew to be Jasna Gora
(Bright Hill) monastery.
The icon has survived fires and even physical attacks. In
1430, Hussites sacked the monastery and looted its treasures,
including the Black Madonna. According to legend, the horses
hitched to the wagon hauling the painting wouldn't budge.
Soldiers tossed the painting off the wagon and the horses
started moving. One soldier slashed the icon with his sword,
creating two cuts on Mary's right cheek. When he went to
strike it again, he dropped dead. His cohorts fled,
abandoning the icon in the dirt at the edge of the road.
The title "Black Madonna" is actually a nickname given to the
icon because of the darker skin tones of Mary and Jesus. As
many people realize Mary, Jesus and St. Joseph lived in a
hot, arid climate, so their skin tones would naturally have
been brown or olive.
The Black Madonna painting is about 20 centuries old, and the
artist used crude paints when he painted the image, which
dulled and darkened with age. Along with the fires, the smoke
from innumerable candles and incense has contributed to its
darkening.The Black Madonna ShrineIn 1937, Brother Bronislaus started on what would be
a lifelong labor of love. Working alone he cleared trees from
the shrine's property. The original shrine and the land used
for the seven grottoes he constructed cover several acres.
The original Black Madonna Shrine was a cedar wood chapel
with a reproduction of the famous icon above the altar. The
chapel became a place of religious devotion. There were
pilgrimages to the shrine; prayer services and Mass were
celebrated regularly for about 20 years.
In 1958, the shrine was destroyed by an arsonist who started
a fire on the chapel's altar. No one was hurt in the inferno,
but after the flames were doused, the chapel and everything
in it was a heap of ashes.The grottoesAfter he finished the chapel, Brother Bronislaus
started building the grottoes along the hillside next to the
site of the original chapel. He built the seven massive
grottoes over a period of 20 years. Each of the shrines is
handmade from concrete and native Missouri tiff rock, which
is a rough, ragged and multicolored material. In most of the
grottoes Bronislaus incorporated seashells, costume jewelry,
ceramic figurines and even colorful crystalline geodes.
He worked alone, placing each stone and embellishment by
hand. He had no formal plans for each grotto. He prayed for
guidance and then went to work.
Brother Bronislaus spent about 23 years building the shrine
and grottoes. On Aug. 12, 1960, the other brothers became
concerned when he didn't show up for evening prayers. They
went to the shrine and found his body. While attempting to
finish the grotto to Our Lady of Fatima, he apparently had
heat stroke. He probably realized he was dying. Leaving a
trail of hand tools, he managed to stagger uphill several
hundred feet to the Grotto of Our Lady of Perpetual Help.
From the open-air Chapel of the Hills, built in the early
1960s to replace the burned chapel, visitors can see most of
Brother Bronislaus handiwork and take a self-guided tour of
At The Bridge, the first stop on the tour, you can see above
and to your left the Crucifixion Gethsemane Grotto. Its
crucifix is actually a local landmark. Hikers use it as a
point of reference as they walk through the nearby woods.
Many hikers have used it to find their way to safety.
Each grotto is unique, but most are similar in appearance,
incorporating the same kind of rocks and other adornments.
All these materials were donated by visitors or sent from
Every grotto at the shrine is worth visiting, but certain
ones resonate in a special way with most visitors. The
Gethsemane Grotto depicts Christ's hours of praying just
before His betrayal, with a large white statue of Christ
kneeling in prayer and an angel from His Father on a small
rise in front of Him.
A short distance from the statue of Christ are statues
representing Peter, James and John sleeping through the agony
in the garden.
Stop eight on the tour is Our Lady of Sorrows Grotto, the
first grotto Brother Bronislaus built. He erected it and tore
it down several times before he was satisfied. It isn't as
ornate as the other grottoes, but its white altar stone is
from the original monastery chapel.
A path leads to the Mother's Sanctuary, just above the Our
Lady of Sorrows Grotto. On the far side of a pond is a statue
of Mary the Mother of Jesus cradling an infant in her
The Chapel of the Hills has a plethora of art dedicated to
Our Lady of Czestochowa. There's a mosaic wall behind the
altar created by Frederick Henze, a friend of Brother
Bronislaus. There is also a painting commissioned by Cardinal
Stefen Wyszynski, the former primate of Poland, to replace
the painting destroyed in the chapel fire. It arrived a few
weeks before Brother Bronislaus died.
St. Louis Cardinal John Carberry donated a glass-encased icon
of Our Lady of Czestochowa thought to be between 200 and 300
years old. It originally hung over the altar of the Church of
Our Lady of Czestochowa in St. Louis. The church was razed in
the mid-1960s to make way for Interstate 55.
The Black Madonna Shrine and Grottoes are a fine example of
what one person with faith and determination can do. Brother
Bronislaus Luszcz's grottoes are a solid statement of his
love of God and Jesus' mother.
Bauman is a freelance writer from West Covina, Calif., and
the author of It Made a Difference to that One.Find out more
The Black Madonna Shrine and Grottoes are located at 100 St.
Joseph Hill Road, Pacific, Mo. For information call
Parishioners modernize an ancient practice by making a
virtual pilgrimage during Advent or Lent.
The pace might be a bit slower, but seniors can still
sightsee and explore on foot.