For those who know me, all you have to do is read the title of this blog and you grasp that this visit was a no-brainer for the first of my epic Shrine-Tripping plans! For those who do not know me — I am very proud to reveal my 50% Lebanese heritage. Although I am certain that my mother would also claim that heritage after so many years of marriage to my father – we will stick with specifics here – not wishful thinking: 50% Lebanese!
Our Lady of Lebanon National Shrine is so close to home that I was actually dumbfounded that I was not familiar with it at all. Just an hour journey into Ohio to North Jackson and you stumble upon this sight …
The grounds are nice, and the crew was out maintaining them today. Behind the building is a very peaceful, outdoor walking path where you can stop, sit, pray and meditate at the different stations.
But what really took my breath away was the very unassuming church — unassuming in that from the outside, you have no idea what treasures await within. I opted to step inside in order to explore this area first and perhaps fit in a few moments of prayer. Follow along with me (virtually) as I give you a little tour of this gorgeous and sacred place.
Just inside of the main doors to the chapel you’ll discover this wonderful statue of Our Lady of Lebanon. I couldn’t resist the urge to kneel for a few moments and recite the prayer that was there at her feet. My eyes were drawn from there to the other statuary and candles in the narthex which is not pictured, but was lovely to behold as I made my way toward the church proper. Additionally, there were to be found in glass cases various relics as well as the letters acknowledging this site as a basilica. There was a wonderfully kind, older, widowed, gentleman who was making his rounds and changing out candles. As I stood in the doorway to the church, he struck up a conversation and told me some of the history of this peaceful place as well as stories about his family. He gave me the lay of the land, so to speak, and encouraged me to make sure that I explored every inch of the church it in its entirety, and into the naves so that I wouldn’t miss out on seeing the places of veneration for Saint Jude (to the right) and Saint Therese (to the left).
I stood in that entryway for quite some time. It really was just beautiful, naturally lit, and so peaceful. And as promised, I discovered the places of veneration for the various saints at each end.
Note that this is a Maronite Church (and yes you can freely associate the Maronites with the Lebanese-Christians). But Roman Catholics take heart! The Maronite Church is in communion with Rome so attending Liturgy in one of their churches is very much allowed, as is reception of the Eucharist.
Late morning on a Monday, the chapel was quiet, so I took the opportunity to pray the Rosary before moving back outside to find the gift-shop. As you leave the chapel and head out into the narthex area again, there is a wonderful space set aside to pray the Divine Mercy.
SO — Yes, there is a gift shop. I am highly recommending it! They had some absolutely lovely items for sale, many books, pray cards, medals, statuary, pictures and art, icons (including the very rare St. Charbel), gifts, crucifixes, rosaries, and so much more. The prices were very reasonable and the woman working in the shop chatted with me a bit about the annual Assumption Pilgrimage — giving me some inside information on the food, places to stay, and the ceremonies planned.
Currently, there is work going on concerning the tower, which has taken some weather damage over the years. The goal is to replace the outer surface and repair the drainage system. Because this was ongoing while I was visiting, I was not able to see the Blessed Sacrament Chapel in the tower – but I was assured that it was quite lovely as well!
I spent a few moments in reflection gazing up at Our Lady of Lebanon before getting back on the road. For those of us in the Pittsburgh area, this trip is a very doable half-day. With the minimal hour commute, you could definitely have time to take in the grounds, pray the rosary, the divine mercy, and browse the gift shop all before lunch. The shine opens at 9 daily and you can always visit their website for more information on what devotions take place when, as well as for their Liturgy schedule. For more information simply click HERE. The shrine website will open in a new tab.
As for me, I am looking forward to returning, to see what I couldn’t access today, as well as to hopefully climb up that tower and getting a better view of Our Lady. Not to despair, I know that regardless of the work going on she could see ME there very well.