Our Lady of Lebanon shrine consecrated as minor basilica

SEE ALSO:• Shrine is prayerful place

• National Shrine of Our Lady of Lebanon facts

By LINDA M. LINONIS | linonis@vindy.com


The National Shrine of Our Lady of Lebanon, and the original shrine in Harissa, Lebanon, share the designation of minor basilica.

The Valley now has the distinction of being the location of only the second Maronite Catholic minor basilica in the world. The shrine also joins Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Youngstown, which was granted the title of minor basilica May 13. There are 81 basilicas in the United States; they are considered churches of the pope.

Pope Francis bestowed the honor on the shrine. Monsignor Anthony Spinosa, rector, received notification July 30 from the Most Rev. A. Elias Zaidan, bishop of the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon of Los Angeles.

Bishop Zaidan will consecrate the shrine today as a minor basilica during a Divine Liturgy at 5 p.m. Also attending will be Bishop Gregory Mansour, Eparchy of St. Maron in Brooklyn, N.Y.; Bishop Robert Shaheen, bishop emeritus; and a host of other clergy and shrine supporters.

The shrine also began a 50th anniversary celebration Aug. 15, the Feast of the Assumption of Mary. In 1964 on that date, ground was broken at 2759 N. Lipkey Road on some 75 acres bordering Meander Reservoir. The shrine was dedicated Aug. 15, 1965, and will conclude its golden observance on that date in 2015.

To be considered for the title of minor basilica, Monsignor Spinosa said, the shrine submitted photos, history and details of the spiritual life. “It was translated from Latin to English,” he said of the lengthy documentation. He noted that the shrine fulfills the requirements of a minor basilica “spiritually and sacramentally.”

The elevation to minor basilica comes with religious obligations. These include celebrating Mass on the anniversary date of the election of the pope and the Feast Days of Sts. Peter and Paul.

During today’s Liturgy of Elevation, the papal canopy (ombrellino), the shield with three small bells (tintintabulum), basilica candle and stand, papal coat of arms and 12 consecration crosses will be placed in the sanctuary. The canopy, in red and gold, bears the coats of arms of the pope and shrine. The canopy is displayed partially open, Monsignor Spinosa said, noting it is fully opened for a papal visit.

The coat of arms of Pope Francis includes the crossed keys of St. Peter and a miter. “Because Pope Francis is a Jesuit, there is a monogram of Christ,” Monsignor Spinosa said.

The Latin words — miserando atque eligendi — also are written on the coat of arms shield. “It means chosen to be merciful,” the rector said, adding it’s like a motto. There also is a star representing Mary and a nard flower representing Joseph.

The basilica candle, also with the coat of arms, is about 6 feet long and is in a tall, ornate holder, making the whole display about 11 feet tall.

“The shrine is a holy, prayerful place,” Monsignor Spinosa said. “People are always coming and going ... there are those who come regularly, occasionally and those that stumble upon it.” The shrine provides a quiet setting for people to pray and maybe find some peace, he said.

The shrine provides a myriad places to pray. The landmark is Mary’s Tower, which is 50 feet tall and weighs 3,700 tons, with a 16-foot statue of the Virgin Mary carved from rose granite. Sixty-four steps on a spiral stairway lead up to the statue. Monsignor Spinosa said people pray by the statue night and day.

There is a small chapel at the base of the tower.

Outdoor worship sites are St. Joseph Prayer Garden, Stations of the Cross and Martyrs Meditation.

Shrines include those in honor of Jesus, Divine Mercy, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Our Lady of Czestochowa, Our Lady of Fatima, St. Anthony, St. Jude and St. Sharbel.