A Eucharistic road trip: The top 10 destinations devoted to the Blessed Sacrament

11 mins read
road trip
Adobe Stock

Are you ready? Revival is happening!

In 2022, Corpus Christi Sunday, the National Eucharistic Revival kicked off across the United States. Cathedrals and churches everywhere will hail the Real Presence of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, bringing more people closer to Christ.

However, preparing for a revival doesn’t mean donning sackcloth and ashes. True revival starts in the heart. One way to spark Eucharistic revival is by taking a road trip to an adoration shrine or chapel. You’ll never forget adoring the Real Presence in the country’s largest monstrance or seeing the Gothic monstrance caught — literally — by a fisherman! And you will be inspired to pray in the chapel that held the nation’s longest stretch of adoration.

Here are 10 of the country’s most intriguing Eucharistic destinations. Some are grand churches; others, wee chapels. But all tell fascinating stories and echo the prayer: “O Sacrament most holy, O Sacrament divine. All praise and all thanksgiving be every moment thine.”

St. Clement Eucharist Shrine — Boston

ST. CLEMENT EUCHARIST SHRINEThe “spiritual powerhouse” of Boston, St. Clement Eucharistic Shrine, didn’t begin as a shrine or even as a Catholic church. The Second Universalist Society of Boston built the neo-Gothic edifice in 1925 and named it the Church of the Redemption. Others dubbed it “The Church Beautiful.” One early writer noted, “To enter the church with others on Sunday or alone on a weekday is to feel the presence of the Eternal.”

But the “Eternal” had other plans for the stately church with an Old World monastic feel. After the stock market crashed in 1929, the society’s membership dwindled and the coffers dried up. The Boston archdiocese bought the property in 1935 and called it St. Clement Chapel — named for St. Clement, the fourth pope who was martyred c. A.D. 100. A decade later, it became St. Clement Eucharistic Shrine. The Oblates of the Virgin Mary oversee the 24/7 adoration shrine.

To worship here is to pray with angels. Gigantic carved angels with censers adorn the oak reredos with Eucharistic throne. Below the angels — copies of Fra Angelico’s artworks — are Latin words that translate to, “This is the Bread which came down from Heaven. Behold the Bread of Angels, made the food of pilgrims.” Even the spectacular rose window praises the Lord. Like a kaleidoscope, your eye travels to the round center, reminiscent of the host in a monstrance.

Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary — Baltimore

BASILICA OF THE NATIONAL SHRINE OF THE ASSUMPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARYHow did America’s first cathedral celebrate its bicentennial? By launching perpetual adoration in an undercroft chapel.

Dedicated on May 13, 2021, the St. John Paul II Eucharistic Adoration Chapel will whisk you to heaven. The gold-plated tabernacle features a stunning enamel image of the Blessed Mother holding the Child Jesus, a chalice with a host in his hand. Inscribed on the tabernacle base is the pope’s motto, “Totus Tuus” (“All yours”). Adding to the splendor, the tabernacle sits in a miniature eight-sided baldachin, lined with blue shingles.

BASILICA OF THE NATIONAL SHRINE OF THE ASSUMPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARYBelieved to be Baltimore’s first 24/7 adoration chapel, the small prayer refuge also claims the kneeler used by the Polish pontiff during his 1995 visit to the basilica. A strand of the saint’s hair, housed in a small glass reliquary, is embedded in the kneeler. Welcoming pilgrims is a bronze bust of the pope.

The main upper church holds a mysterious Gothic monstrance, hooked by a fisherman in a local reservoir. How it got there, nobody knows. But didn’t Jesus tell his apostles — the first fishers of men — to “put out into the deep?”

Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament — Hanceville, Alabama

SHRINE OF THE MOST BLESSED SACRAMENTA child shall lead them, the Good Book says. In the mid-1990s, Mother Angelica, of the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration and founder of the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), was praying at the Sanctuary of the Divine Child Jesus in Bogotá, Colombia, when a statue of the Child came alive. “Build me a temple honoring the Real Presence,” the young voice said. Providence then provided five families who funded the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament at Our Lady of the Angels Monastery in Hanceville.

And what a temple it is! Everything — from the Divine Child statue greeting you on the expansive piazza, to the nearly eight-foot-tall monstrance in the 13th-century Italian-style shrine church — exalts the Lord of hosts. You can’t help but double genuflect before the tabernacle, a scaled-down replica of a Gothic church. The inlaid jasper crosses on the marble floor recall the ornamentation of the Jerusalem temple.

Outside, a walking path takes you to the Stations of the Most Holy Eucharist, 12 scriptural events depicting the Eucharist. Old Testament stations include the Passover and Elijah and the hearth cakes. Beginning with the nativity, New Testament stations include the wedding feast at Cana and the Last Supper.

National Shrine of St. Maximilian Kolbe at Marytown — Libertyville, Illinois

NATIONAL SHRINE OF ST. MAXIMILIAN KOLBE AT MARYTOWNHow many Eucharistic symbols can you identify? You’ll be put to the test at Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Chapel at the National Shrine of St. Maximilian Kolbe at Marytown. Stained-glass windows present 33 medallions with Eucharistic themes, with another 99 Eucharistic symbols interwoven in the foliated borders. Incredibly, not one symbol is duplicated!

Can you find the pelican? The multiplied loaves?

Eucharistic adoration at Marytown began in 1928, when the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration of Clyde, Missouri, instituted 24/7 prayer in the Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Chapel. Modeled after the Basilica of St. Paul Outside-the-Walls in Rome, the regal chapel hails the Real Presence in statues, mosaics, Latin inscriptions and a life-size monstrance crafted entirely from gifts of precious jewelry. Stained-glass angels — bearing the sacred vessels and vestments for Mass — process toward the marble high altar.

In 1978, the Conventual Franciscans of Kenosha, Wisconsin, bought the chapel, where perpetual adoration continues to this day. The friars also began the National Shrine of St. Maximilian Kolbe. In the Passion/Kolbe Chapel, an 11-foot-tall mosaic depicts the World War II martyr rising above the flames of Auschwitz.

St. Stanislaus Kostka Church — Chicago

When the sanctuary curtains parted on May 31, 2008 — the feast of the Visitation — at St. Stanislaus Kostka Church and revealed a nine-foot-tall monstrance, hearts stopped and jaws dropped. Our Lady of the Sign, Ark of Mercy is unlike any monstrance! The iconic vessel portrays the Blessed Mother atop a gold-leafed ark flanked by two golden angels, their gigantic wings sheltering her. Encased in Our Lady’s center is a one-foot luna that holds the sacred host, surrounded by a crown of thorns. One title for Mary is the Ark of the Covenant.

ST. STANISLAUS KOSTKA CHURCHCarved of linden wood by Polish sculptor Stefan Niedorezo, the polychrome nine-foot-wide monstrance is believed to be the world’s largest. Every detail has meaning, even Mary’s seated position. “Come to my Son and rest in him,” her posture invites. Inscribed on Mary’s robes are Marian scriptures, including the opening words of the Magnificat: “My soul magnifies the Lord.” And aptly so. It was Our Lady who inspired adoration at the historic Polish church.

In 1999, Father Anthony Bus, of the Resurrectionist Congregation, was making a 33-day consecration to Jesus through Mary. One day while praying about the struggling parish, Father Bus relates in “A Mother’s Plea,” Our Lady interiorly told him, “Give me the parish. Make me mother and queen of the parish.” He did, sparking a parish revival. Mass attendance spiked. Confession lines grew. But people yearned for more. So, the parish created the Sanctuary of the Divine Mercy inside the church and threw open the church doors for perpetual adoration. The parish hasn’t been the same since.

St. Rose Convent — La Crosse, Wisconsin

ST. ROSE CONVENTIf you’re looking for a “powerhouse of prayer,” visit the Adoration Chapel at St. Rose Convent, the motherhouse of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration. From Aug. 1, 1878, until Feb. 26, 2020, at least two adorers — sisters and laity — kept vigil around the clock. That’s nearly 142 years of nonstop prayer! Today, prayer rises like incense before the Blessed Sacrament from 6 a.m.-10 p.m.

It took “prayer power” to even get the chapel. During the 1870s, Mother Antonia repeatedly begged the bishop to establish perpetual adoration in the convent. The bishop always refused, saying there weren’t enough sisters to sustain 24/7 prayer. The sisters looked to God and began praying in pairs, in two-hour shifts, before an empty ciborium. Sometime later, the bishop rapped at the convent door. He had changed his mind.

The sisters built a 12×18-foot shrine for their divine guest, and on Aug. 1, 1878, the prayer chain began. In 1906, the current Adoration Chapel opened. Kneeling 30, the Romanesque-style temple features a gleaming white marble altar and stained-glass choirs of “all-seeing” angels ready for spiritual battle: The angels’ feathers have eyes.

Holy Angels Catholic Church — Basehor, Kansas

HOLY ANGELS CATHOLIC CHURCHWhen Holy Angels parish in Basehor outgrew its church, they not only built a new house of worship but also a connecting adoration chapel. Emulating the Portiuncula Chapel at Assisi, Italy, Our Lady, Queen of the Holy Angels Adoration Chapel is “Love made visible.” One altarpiece painting depicts St. Francis kneeling before the king and queen of heaven, as six-winged seraphim sing their praises to God.

Erected in medieval style, the Kansas Portiuncula is decked with Gothic arches — on the pews and the reredos, in the shape of the doors and the contour of the chapel, and even on the bronze tabernacle with spires. Wood-carved statues portray Francis with the stigmata and St. Clare, the first female follower of Francis, with a monstrance. When Saracens attacked her Assisi convent, Clare held a monstrance aloft. Overcome by the Real Presence, the army fled. A field of 144 stars (the biblical number of perfection) adorns the deep blue ceiling.

The “Little Chapel on the Kansas Prairie” also imitates the facade of the Portiuncula. Depicting the “Pardon of Assisi,” a mural over the entrance shows St. Francis kneeling before Jesus, Our Lady and the angels, pleading for pardon for all who come here to worship the Lord.

Our Lady of Corpus Christi Retreat Center — Corpus Christi, Texas

OUR LADY OF CORPUS CHRISTI RETREAT CENTERWhat’s under the 75-foot blue dome along I-37 in Corpus Christi? A dream chapel.

For years Father James Kelleher, of the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity, had a vision for Our Lady of Corpus Christi Retreat Center: an adoration chapel just as spectacular as Mother Angelica’s shrine in Hanceville, Alabama, but in local Spanish Colonial style. But money was scarcer than snow in South Texas.

OUR LADY OF CORPUS CHRISTI RETREAT CENTEROne day in 1999, Father Keller, the first director of the retreat center, got the shock of his life: An Illinois couple offered to fund Our Lady of Corpus Christi Perpetual Adoration Chapel! Like Hanceville, a large plaza helps pilgrims detach from the world before entering the landmark white church, its facade reminiscent of the Alamo in San Antonio.

Dedicated in 2003 and seating 250, the chapel’s spiritual heart is a captivating 40-foot-tall wooden reredos in Spanish Baroque design. Eyes gravitate to a large painted relief of the Blessed Mother and John at the Crucifixion in the center, then ascend to a golden four-foot monstrance at the summit. Two cherub gaze at worshippers below, ready to wing their prayers — and dreams — to heaven.

Chapel of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati — Vancouver, Washington

CHAPEL OF BLESSED PIER GIORGIO FRASSATIAfter what would become Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati’s last mountain climb, the Italian lover of the Eucharist wrote on a photograph, “Verso L’Alto” (“To the Heights”). He died in 1925, at age 24. Located adjacent to the Proto-Cathedral of Saint James the Greater in Vancouver, the Chapel of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati takes souls to “the ultimate height”: Jesus in the Eucharist.

Erected in 2019, the tiny Gothic-style brick chapel seats only eight, but what a unique throne room for the Eucharistic king. The walls are painted a pure white, the metallic gold ceiling forming a crown above the tabernacle — the original tabernacle from the first St. James Church at Fort Vancouver. There are no statues, not even a crucifix. Adorers focus solely on Jesus present in the Blessed Sacrament.

A framed photograph of Frassati — touched to the bed in which he died in Torino, Italy — inspires adoration. According to lore, the “saint on skis” would become so enraptured after receiving Our Lord in holy Communion that people would tiptoe past him. Once, when melted wax from candles dripped on his coat, he didn’t even notice. He had reached “the heights.”

Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament — Sacramento, California

CATHEDRAL OF THE BLESSED SACRAMENTIf you love Wild West stories, visit the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament. Cathedral builder Bishop Patrick Manogue, a burly six-foot-two-inch Irishman, not only financed his seminarian education by prospecting for gold, he also settled brawls with a pious punch! Modeled after Église de la Sainte-Trinité in Paris, the cathedral’s “eye” is on the Eucharist. But you’ll need to crane your neck to view these spectacular artworks.

CATHEDRAL OF THE BLESSED SACRAMENTIn the oculus (an eye-like opening) of the 110-foot-tall dome, a dove with a seven-foot wingspan recalls the consecration prayers at Mass, when the priest prays for the Holy Spirit to descend down upon the gifts of bread and wine. Encircling the dove, 16 large rondels depict Eucharistic scenes from Scripture. Suspended above the altar is a 13-foot-tall wooden crucifix with a 14-foot-wide crown.

The cathedral also boasts an 8×10-foot exact reproduction of Raphael’s “The Sistine Madonna,” one of only two such copies in the world.

Marion Amberg is an award-winning journalist and the author of “Monuments, Marvels, and Miracles: A Traveler’s Guide to Catholic America” (OSV, $27.95).

Corpus Christi processions began in 13th-century Europe, when priests would carry the Blessed Sacrament through villages and the countryside. Onlookers genuflected, and it’s said that even beasts bent their forelegs in adoration. In 1264, Pope Urban IV established the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Jesus.Corpus Christi processions vary by country and culture. Most American processions are made on foot, others by car. There’s even a floating procession down a Louisiana bayou. One Midwestern church fetes Our Lord with a bang.

Holy Family Church, Oldenburg, Indiana
Holy Family ChurchDubbed the “Village of Spires,” tiny Oldenburg is home to Holy Family Church and the country’s oldest parish Corpus Christi procession. Dating from 1846, the 176-year-old tradition has changed little over the years. Cross and flag bearers lead the entourage, followed by altar servers, children strewing flowers, and four men holding high a canopy to shelter the priest carrying the monstrance. St. John’s Knights with swords, parishioners and tourists, drummers, and “shooters” — a military guard — bring up the rear.

The colorful procession wends through the German village, stopping at five outdoor altars adorned with the ladies’ finest tablecloths and polished candlesticks. After hymns and prayers, a drum roll announces the Benediction. As the priest blesses the crowd with the monstrance, the shooters salute the Eucharistic king with a salvo of gun blasts. “The Father.” Bang! “The Son.” Bang! “The Holy Spirit.” Bang!

God’s parade then moves to the next altar, where the holy drama is repeated.

Holy Family Parish, Sanilac County, Michigan
Holy Family ParishIn 2021, the Catholic faithful of Sanilac County took Jesus out into the world in a unique Corpus Christi procession: A Eucharistic caravan with a police escort. Standing in the back of a bright yellow open Jeep, Father Stephen Blaxton, pastor of Holy Family Parish in Sanilac County, held the monstrance aloft. As the caravan of over 70 cars traveled to the parish’s three churches in Marlette, Peck and Sandusky, worshippers prayed the Rosary and the Litany of the Most Blessed Sacrament.

Like Jesus entering Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, other motorists pulled over and made way for the King. Our Lord was passing them by.

Fête-Dieu du Teche, Bayou Teche, Louisiana
Fête-Dieu du TecheIt’s a “floating church” at the Fête-Dieu du Teche (Feast of God on the Teche), an annual 40-mile Eucharistic procession down the Bayou Teche, in south-central Louisiana. Held on Aug. 15 — Feast of Mary’s Assumption — the pageant both honors Jesus in the Eucharist and retraces the voyage of Arcadians who arrived here by boat in 1765. Persecuted for being Catholic, they were exiled from what is now Nova Scotia. Our Lady of the Assumption is patroness of the Acadians.

After a French Mass at St. Leo the Great Catholic Church in Leonville, clergy and pilgrims process to the town’s boat landing. Leading the flotilla is the “Jesus boat,” a floating adoration chapel with a six-foot monstrance. Then comes “Mary’s boat,” with a large statue of Mary’s Assumption, and a “congregation” of boats of all kinds. The boat pilgrimage stops at makeshift altars along the Teche, where throngs are waiting onshore to pray the Rosary and for Benediction. Mobile confessionals are set up at each stop.

The day-long fete concludes downstream at St. Martinville, with vespers and a final Benediction.