Virtually tour the shrine of the wounded yet beautiful Madonna

3 mins read
Madonna shrine
Courtesy photo

The National Shrine of Our Lady of Częstochowa exists to accomplish one mission: Leading people to Jesus through Mary.

The shrine in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, houses several images of Our Lady of Częstochowa, also known as the “Black Madonna,” whose feast day falls on Aug. 26. The original icon of Our Lady — a miraculous image said to have been painted by St. Luke the Evangelist — lives in the Jasna Góra monastery in Częstochowa, Poland.

The Polish monastery, like the shrine in Doylestown, is run by the Pauline Fathers and Brothers, who call themselves the guardians and protectors of the Black Madonna.

“The history of the presence of the icon of Our Lady of Częstochowa in the main shrine, which [has been] in Poland for over 600 years, and here in American Częstochowa in Doylestown for over 60 years, shows us that Mary always as a mother intercedes for us,” Father Tadeusz Lizinczyk, provincial of the American province of Pauline Fathers, told Our Sunday Visitor.

Black Madonna

Today, the “American Częstochowa” welcomes tens of thousands of visitors each year. Those unable to attend in person can still embark on a virtual tour through the shrine’s website, submit prayer requests, order annual votive candles, watch Mass via livestream and request Masses.

Since opening its doors more than 50 years ago, the shrine dedicated to Our Lady has greeted government officials and Church leaders. Visitors include two U.S. presidents (Lyndon B. Johnson and Ronald Reagan), one U.S. presidential candidate (George H. W. Bush), a Polish president and prime minister (Andrzej Duda and Beata Szydło), and Cardinal Karol Wojtyła of Krakow, before he became Pope St. John Paul the Great.

Today, the lower church (the Chapel of Our Lady of Częstochowa) houses a replica of Our Lady of Częstochowa, as it appears in Jasna Góra, that was blessed and signed by Pope John Paul II in Rome.

A look at the icon

Before coming to the U.S., Pauline monks arrived in Poland in 1382 to care for and protect Our Lady at Jasna Góra. More than 500 years later, in 1951, Father Michael Zembrzuski of the Pauline order brought a copy of the icon of Our Lady of Częstochowa — blessed by Pope St. John XXIII — to the U.S. in the hopes of founding a similar shrine to Our Lady in America.

The icon of Our Lady of Częstochowa pictures Mother Mary tenderly cradling a baby Jesus with her left hand while, at the same time, pointing to him with her right. Their halos blend into one another, uniting mother and son. Mary looks directly at the viewer, with a thought-provoking face wounded, most noticeably, by two long scars.

On the original icon, the scars are not made of paint. When the Hussites attacked Jasna Góra in 1430, the icon is said to have been slashed with a sword.

Several miracles and legends surround the icon. 200 years later, the monastery survived an invasion by the Swedish army in an event that led King John II Casimir to honor Mary as Queen of Poland in 1656.

The Pauline order’s U.S. shrine to Our Lady of Częstochowa began in 1955. A former farmhouse served as the monastery with a small, wooden barn converted into a chapel. In 1966, the order celebrated the dedication of a large, new shrine to Our Lady of Częstochowa.

Today, the new shrine sits on Beacon Hill, one of the highest points in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

An expansive shrine

The shrine consists of roughly 170 acres of land and includes a main church with a lower church that houses the signed replica of Our Lady of Częstochowa. Visitors can also walk through four side chapels in the main church: St. Paul the First Hermit, Our Lady of Nazareth, Divine Mercy, and Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Inside the lower church, rosaries and crutches line the walls. Father Lizinczyk explained that the rosaries signify answered prayers and that the crutches come from people physically healed (although, he added, the healings have not been confirmed by doctors).

“Many people who turn to her looking for the graces, they receive that,” Father Lizinczyk said of Our Lady.

Of the rosaries and crutches left behind, he said: “They are signs of the graces which people received. So we would like everyone to come and pray for the intercession of Our Lady of Częstochowa, to receive the graces through her intercession.”

Madonna shrine

Outside the main church, the grounds include the historic barn chapel, a votive candle chapel with 1,000 candles, a visitor center building with a cafeteria and Polish deli, a retreat house, outdoor statues including one of Our Lady of the Unborn, a rosary garden, outdoor Stations of the Cross, a cemetery and festival grounds for an annual Polish-American festival.

The shrine offers daily confession and Mass in addition to adoration, Monday through Saturday.

For Our Lady’s feast day, the shrine invites visitors to attend several special events. On Sunday, Aug. 27, Catholics can attend a 12:30 p.m. Mass in Polish during which Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami will bless a renovated tabernacle. At 3:30 p.m., Father Lizinczyk shared, the shrine will hold evening prayer and a Eucharistic procession to honor Our Lady.

The Pauline Fathers and Brothers align the shrine’s focus with Our Lady of Częstochowa, who directs viewers to her son.

“The message which Mary gives us in this icon,” Father Lizinczyk concluded, “is pointing to Jesus as a central part of our life.”

Katie Yoder

Katie Yoder is a contributing editor for Our Sunday Visitor.