Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Make a Pilgrimage, in DC?


Make a Pilgrimage, in DC?


Did you know that you can make a Pilgrimage to Washington, DC?  As a newbie Catholic convert, I was familiar with the term pilgrimage. But usually those holy places that come to mind are: Fatima, Portugal; Lourdes, France; Rome, Italy; Jerusalem, Israel.  It didn’t really even dawn on me until the other day when I was listening to Teresa Tomeo’s Catholic Connection on Ave Maria Radio. She was interviewing a guest in the mid-west, who is arranging for a group of young adults to take a day trip (via airplane) to Washington, DC. As in the Nation’s Capitol. As in my backyard, basically.  I am a native Marylander and have lived in Maryland on-and-off for over 22 years. And not once, have I ever, EVER, considered DC as a holy place destination. I mean, actually, I think of it as quite the opposite. Does anyone remember the joke about DC meaning the “Death Capitol”?  So, to hear that folks come to DC on a Pilgrimage, really floored me. And then, today I reread the weekly bulletin from my parish, about the Saint John Paul II National Shrine, across the street from Catholic University. So after Mass, Mike and I drove our three kids the LONG ten minutes down the road to the Shrine to see the Saint Thomas More exhibit: “God’s Servant First: The Life and Legacy of Thomas More”. And it is good, no great, thing that we went as this wonderful exhibit ends this month.

About the JP II Shrine

The JP II Shrine is a holy place of worship. The Shrine is a place of where you can receive the Sacraments, receive pastoral care and “participate in educational and cultural opportunities” that help grow your faith.  At the Shrine,  “visitors can enter into its patron’s deep love for God and for man… through liturgy, prayer, art, and cultural and religious formation.”

What is a relic?

“The religious sense of the Christian people has always found expression in various forms of piety surrounding the Church’s sacramental life, such as the veneration of relics…” (Universal Catechism, 1674)


Christians in the early Church have venerated or cherished items of The Blessed Virgin Mary or other beloved saints.  Relics are the remains of the body or clothes of a departed saint and are considered very special if that person died a martyr for the sake of the Cross. It is *important to note* that Catholic DO NOT worship saints or relics.  Making the concerted effort to take a pilgrimage to see the relics of a saint, is “an expression of reverence for their holiness of life, and to seek the saint’s intercession for spiritual aid, healing, and particular graces.”

A relic of Saint Pope John Paul II’s blood can be seen in the lovely Luminous Chapel at the Shrine.

God’s Servant First: The Life and Legacy of Thomas More

Who is Saint Thomas More?

Who is Saint Thomas More you ask? Well, let me of the pleasure of introducing this amazing gentleman.  Thomas More was born in London on February 7, 1478, to Agnes Graunger and Sir John More, a lawyer and judge. At age 14, Thomas More entered Oxford in 1492, where he would learn Latin, Greek and prepare for his future studies. After attending Oxford, More became a lawyer and trained in London until 1502 when he was finally approved to begin practice.

In 1505, Thomas More married his first wife, Jane Colt, and they had four children. Thomas often tutored her in music and literature. They had a happy marriage. Jane died six years later and wanting a step-mother for his children More quickly remarried  long-time friend Alice Harpur Middleton. Alice, not particulary attractive, was a wealthy widow.

Thomas worked hard at building his law practice and by 1504 was eleected to the Privy Council for King Henry VIII. Yes, *the* KING HENRY VIII, who was supposed to be “The Defender of the (Catholic) Fatih.  So you know, how this story is going to end, right?

King Henry VIII took a great liking to Thomas More and promoted him to Lord Chancellor of England. In essence he was the Chief Judge and Legal Counsel and right-hand man to the King.  More was fiercely loyal to the King, but the King not so much to More.  You see King Henry’s marriage to Queen Katherine of Aragon, Spain, did not produce a living male heir to the throne. So, the King sought an annulment from the Queen, which the Pope stalled for nearly six years before finally saying “no” to King Henry’s request.  This rejection, of course, angered King Henry and he seperated himself from the See of Rome and out of rebellion created his own church, The Church of England, where he made himself the defender of this new faith.

Poor Thomas More was stuck between a rock and a hard place (literally) for not standing with the King and his unlawful marriage to Anne Boleyn. More gave the King his resgination, citing ill health, which the King accepted.  But when More resfused to attend the coronation of Anne Boylen in 1533, who was now the Queen of England, Henry became livid at the snub. More’s absence was viewed by the King as an insult to him and the new queen. Henry felt that More was undermining the royal authority of the King as head of church and state.

Well, things went down hill quickly for Sir Thomas More after that incident. In 1534, More was arrested and charged with treson. On July 1, More was convicted by Ann Boleyn’s father and brother and uncle. Henry communted the death penalty to beheading.

Sir Thomas More sprent nearly 15 months in the infamous Tower of London. On July 6, 1535, More ascended the scaffold, his last words were that he was “the king’s good servant, but God’s first.”

In the Chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula at the Tower of London, in an unmarked grave, is the buried decapiated body of Sir Thomas More. His head was put on display in London.  It is said that his daughter Margaret possibly bribed someone to take it down. A vault of a church in Canterbury The skull may hold More’s skull.

For a short time this month, vistors at the JP II Shrine in DC, may see a relic of Sir Thomas More’s jawbone and tooth, and a small piece of his famed itchy hair garmet he wore, among many other rare and marvelous pieces of art and treasured publications.

Pope Leo XIII beatified More in 1886, and he was canonized by Pope Pius XI on May 19, 1935.

His feast day is June 22.

He is the patron saint of adopted children lawyers, civil servants, politicians, and difficult marriages.

Saint Thomas More, pray for us!


Shrine: 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. daily
Exhibit: The exhibit on Saint John Paul II is open every day except Good Friday, Thanksgiving, and Christmas
Gift Shop: 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. daily except Good Friday, Thanksgiving, and Christmas


Monday to Saturday
12:00 noon – Holy Mass (preceded by the Angelus)

11 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. – Holy Mass

JPII Relic veneration daily in the Luminous Mysteries Chapel

3900 Harewood Road NE
Washington, DC 20017

Please call 202-635-5400 if you need additional information.


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