May 2, 2018
Shrines play a pivotal role in the Catholic life of Southern India. Nearly all Catholic churches here have shrines both inside and in front. Pilgrimages and shrines are not merely populist phenomena, something that the rich and elite can afford to avoid. Devotees stop by them in a steady manner throughout the day, offering prayers and actually signalling the fact these are active places of spiritual power and not merely relics from the past. Let’s take a look at the top 3 shrines that every Indian Catholic must visit at least once in their lifetime.
1. Miraculous Infant Jesus Church (Prague)
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The Miraculous Infant Jesus Church is a popular and famous shrine that celebrates the image of the Infant Jesus of Prague, which is a devotion that has been imported from the Czech Republic. The parish and shrine are comparatively new, having been constructed in the 1960s; however, the site draws massive crowds for its 9 Thursday novena masses to the Infant Jesus, besides the 7 masses on Sunday. The church caters primarily to a Tamil-speaking community, but also conducts masses in 5 other languages. The motto of the shrine is, “The more you honour me, the more I will bless you.” Surprisingly, this is quite a mechanistic outlook on prayer; however, it effectively taps into a deep strain of Indian religion that eventually emphasises an exchange-based relationship with God, worship, and prosperity and blessing as the goals of spiritual life.
2. Our Lady of Good Health (Bengaluru)
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Our Lady of Good Health, located in Bengaluru, is the most renowned and prominent shrine in the city. The shrine always seems bustling with activity, especially in the evening and early morning. It plays host to a feast that concludes on 8th September every year, which is the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The shrine is home to a basilica church, where lay preaching and masses are held. In addition, thousands flock to the shrine, which features two other statues of Mother Mary and infant Jesus in the arcades located outside. Devotees have stated that they visit the shrine to obtain peace and to pray for the prosperity of everyone.
3. Our Lady of Velankanni (Tamil Nadu)
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One of the most important pilgrimage spots that draws pilgrims from all over India is the shrine of Our Lady of Velankanni or Vailankanni, which is a huge basilica shrine that is popularly called by many Indians as the Lourdes of the East. This shrine draws millions of devotees each year, especially during Christmas and the 9 days leading to the Feast on September 8. Devotees visit the shrine as families or parish groups in order to make or fulfil vows, offer penance, seek a miracle, to find peace, or to “connect” with Mother Mary. Velankanni is also referred to as “Our Lady of Health,” and pilgrims have stated that numerous miracles have been conducted here even today.