Category: Holy Places

The holiest places on earth are our own sanctuaries in our Catholic Churches and chapels where the Blessed Sacrament is preserved. There are highly indulgenced shrines as well, which are often the destination of pilgrimages, such as Chartres in France, Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico, Lourdes, Fatima, and so many others. Some shrines, such as that of the North American martyrs in Auriesville, New York, give honor to an event, as this one does for the eight Jesuit martyrs, three of whom shed their blood near this site. The shrine may commemorate a sacred event, apparition, or miracle; or it may house a relic directly related to Our Lord or Our Lady. Some shrines were built to honor a saint, such as Compostella in Spain, which honors St. James the Greater; and Saint Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal, which honors the protector of the Holy Family, the Spouse of Our Lady and Patron of the Universal Church.

A place becomes holy when it is specially linked to God. There can be no greater “link” to God than the place that houses God Himself. That is why the tabernacle is the holiest of all places, the Holy of Holies. Since Our Lady, preeminently, and the saints participate more intimately in the divine life, wherever they have walked on this earth is holy ground. The most highly indulgenced of all shrines is the place where the Holy Family lived, the Holy House of Nazareth. Transported by the angels to Loreto in Italy about seven hundred years ago, the original walls of this modest domicile still stand, and within them, as the inscription reads at the door, Hic Verbum Caro Factum Est (Here the Word Was Made Flesh).

The fact that there are physical miracles still being granted to the ill at these holy places is a wonderful testimony of God’s continued mercy. However what really makes these sanctae loca (holy places) even more holy are the miracles of conversion that take place there. Saint Augustine explains why: “the conversion of a sinner,” he says, “is a greater act of divine omnipotence than the creation of the world.”