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  • Writer's pictureMichaela A de Guire

Truth & a Shrine vs a Church

As I continue my journey, and my understanding of the church I have found more questions popping up. These come up in conversations with other people, inside and outside the faith alike. And, in my own thoughts throughout the day. However, one question that I was asked by a fellow Catechism teacher was in regards to a Church and a Shrine.

Beautiful moments in the Shrine

We stood outside the church, talking about our personal experiences in the church on significant days, such as Tenebrae Wednesday, when she asked me, “what is the difference between a Church and a Shrine?” If you think about it, both offer Masses, Confessions, and a place to praise the Lord through the Holy Eucharist. They also both have priests, and are typically of similar architecture. So, what is it that makes them different, why the special names?

My answer to her was, “that is a great question.” At the time all I could say was, yeah, they are very similar, but the only differences that I am aware of regarding a Church and a Shrine is that a Shrine does not have parishioners, whereas a church does. A shrine does not have a pastor, while a church does. And, a Shrine does not have the same diocesan rules as a church. Beyond that I was clueless. I didn’t know the answer, how could I? This was never taught in the Catechism classes, nor any of the bible studies I took after completing my Catechism education through high school.

Seek the answers, be open to learning

A little side note regarding truth and honest conversation, you have to know it is okay not to have all the answers all the time. When you are talking to fellow christians, Catholics, and anyone who is interested in the Catholic religion at any level. I believe it is okay to tell those who have questions about the faith that you don’t know the answer. I believe honesty is key in living out the Catholic faith, and following in Christ's footsteps. Be honest and share with the one who has the question, that you do not know the answer. This will bring credibility to you. It says that you are unafraid to tell the truth, that you are willing to seek the answer, that you are open to learning.

When a question is out of my league I usually seek someone who was educated on the matters of that particular area. Thus, I usually turn to my priest friends! Another place I turn to for answers is the Canon Law.

Speaking of the canon law, it states that a Shrine, “signifies a church or other sacred place to which the faithful make pilgrimages for a particular pious reason with the approval of the local ordinary.” (Canon 1230).

A Shrine in the Catholic church is typically the home of holy remains of a holy person (a Saint) or relics of a Saint or other holy person. However, this is not the case of all Shrines, some Shrines do not have a Saint buried nearby, but rather a miracle occurred near the Shrine. Such as the one in Lourdes, this one was built near the spring of water that Mary told Saint Bernadette (who was fourteen years old) to dig in the ground and water came with healing properties that are active to this day. It is because of these holy things housed within the walls of a shrine (or on the property of the Shrine) that religious veneration and pilgrimages happen at the Shrines.

So, in my search for the answer, what is the difference between a church and a Shrine... I find my initial thoughts are not wrong. However, a church is usually a place for all Catholic's to join together to praise the Lord, while a Shrine is a marker of a special place where God allowed a miracle to occur. A Shrine is a place here on earth that God let Heaven touch. Whether, that be through an apprehension of Mary or the presents of relics from the saints around the world, such as the Shrine of Guadalupe in La Crosse, Wi.

I believe there are a few more differences between a church and a Shrine, but I am still learning and journeying to a better understanding and more knowledge I do know one thing for certain, every time I walk onto a church or a Shrine, I feel the same feeling, like I am not alone and the world has been lifted off my shoulders. And, some days that's all I need, because somedays are hard and God reminds us we can't do it alone.

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