Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Franciscan Monastery of Washington,D.C.

We toured this monastery Sunday with our son Daniel and his wife Amanda.  As usual, what I expected in viewing this place turned out to be a bit different than what we actually encountered.  Guess I thought we were going to tour the dwelling place of a community of Franciscans, instead our guided visit was mainly that of the church itself, and the monastery gardens.  You may notice that above the entry to the church there is a red cross, the Jerusalem Cross.  It  pretty much sums up what this religious institution is all about.  The seal of the Custody of the Holy Land is a five-fold cross of Jerusalem, used by the crusaders on their banners.  For over 750 years the Franciscans have succeeded in the conquest and the preservation of the Holy Places in the Holy Land.  In 1887 the founder of the Franciscan Monastery, Rev.Godfrey Schilling, established this monastery in Washington D.C. for the purpose of training Franciscan Missionaries for the preservation of the Shrines of the Holy Land, as well as providing a place here in America for people to see the Shrines of the Holy Land as well as the Catacombs of Rome.  The structure of the church  follows the five-fold cross, the large cross constitutes the main body of the church, and the small ones the chapels.  Our first stop in the sanctuary was at the Holy Sepulchre, a faithful copy of the same place in Jerusalem.  Looking from that point our gaze focused on the Altar of Calvary, a replica of the original in Jerusalem.  The distance in the church from Calvary to the grave of Christ  is the same distance as that of the same sites in the Holy Land. 
In the center of the church is an altar dedicated to the Most Holy Trinity. A copper canopy, supported by 4 bronze pillars each with figures of three disciples, stands over it.  There are many more features of the church's sanctuary which I have not mentioned here; suffice it for me just to say that it is all quite beautiful with the stained glass, marble alters and narrative wood carvings.  Below the main church we toured the catacombs, which we were told are faithful copies of those in Rome.  From there a short passageway led us to the Chapel of Purgatory.  We then retraced our steps and came to the Nativity Grotto.
The altar in the center niche is like that of the Nativity in Bethlehem., beneath which a silver star commemorates the place where Christ was born. The tour with our guide ended here, and we moved outside to walk in the monastery gardens.   A beautiful rose garden surrounds the statue of Saint Bernadete.
In front of the rose garden is the Grotto of Lourdes,  a replica of the one in southern France. Also in our walk of the gardens we came upon the Ascension Chapel, a replica of the one on the Mount of Olives in the Holy Land.  And in this valley of shrines are the Stations of the Cross, which are of Franciscan origin.  Near the monastery church is a replica of the Portiuncula Chapel, the first church of St.Francis of Assisi.  Surrounding the monastery church is a Rosary Portico, on the colonades of its 10 arches are inscribed the words of the Hail Mary in 150 languages. One cannot help but be impressed by the peacefulness and beauty of this Franciscan Monastery.

No comments:

Post a Comment