Even after the Shrine of the Miraculous Medal closed its annual solemn novena Nov. 22, the faithful still enjoy the spiritual richness of the shrine run by the Vincentian Fathers in Philadelphia’s Germantown section.
Thousands came to the shrine at 500 East Chelten Avenue for the nine days of prayer Nov. 14-22, capped by the Nov. 23 feast day Mass for Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, which was celebrated by Bishop Timothy Senior.
Several hundred were on hand for the closing of the holy door on Nov. 18 in conjunction with the end of the Catholic Church’s Jubilee Year of Mercy. The shrine’s holy door, in addition to that of the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul, was one of five national shrines in the Philadelphia Archdiocese through which Christians could receive temporal remission of their sins by visiting that particular church through its holy door.
Many people visiting the shrine were not members of the Central Association of the Miraculous Medal, and a few were not even Catholics. Yet they all felt blessed by the Masses, prayers and even the upgraded ambiance of the more than a century-old shrine.
New faces among the faithful are to be found at the Santuario Medall a Milagrosa Mass, also those praying before the two altars of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, as well as those who are inspired by the new organ and renovated sanctuary.
The Spanish-language Masses are celebrated by Vincentian priests on the first Tuesday of every month at the shrine. The next scheduled Mass will be celebrated on Tuesday, Dec. 6 with Masses at 10:30 a.m. and 7 p.m.
Among those in attendance at the most recent Spanish Mass was James Harris, who usually attends the English language Mass at the shrine.
“I just kind of like having something like this right here in Germantown,” said Harris, who can rely on his high school Spanish. “There are people from all over the world living in our city. The Catholic faith, like many other faiths, is not just made up of white people. I don’t believe in just saying you should worship with those like you. I say go to another language Mass even if you don’t speak the language, just for the experience.”
Many faithful people come to the shrine for private prayers. Besides the Masses and novenas in the sanctuary, there are two lower-level altars of dedicated to the Miraculous Medal. Among those in the pews was Teresa Martin of South Philadelphia.
She is a Baptist, but attended Catholic schools in Baltimore growing up, which is where she learned about the power of novena prayers. Though she never converted to Catholicism, one can find her in any Catholic church praying a novena – especially at the shrine in November for the solemn novena.
“I first prayed the novenas when my grandmother had a serious accident and all thought she would never walk again,” Martin said. “So my parents were redoing her house by putting in these ramps and wheelchair lifts. All the while I kept praying even though everyone thought I was just a naïve 12-year-old believing in a fairy tale. To everyone’s surprise my prayers worked. To this day my grandmother can still walk, drive and get around.”
Among the faithful who will miss the significance of the shrine’s holy door of mercy is Joe Harkin. A member of St. Athanasius Parish attending St. Benedict Church in West Oak Lane, Harkin has made praying at the holy door his 2016 ritual.
Even though he is a faithful parishioner, he considers his community the larger city-wide church.
“I made it a point to come and pray under the Doors of Mercy,” Harkins said. “I find that I am uplifted. I went down to the cathedral and prayed under the archway. I have specific prayers I do and the ones suggested by Pope Francis. I also go the shrine in Germantown for Mass. When I did, I made sure I entered through the Door of Mercy.”
Finally, there is nothing like the sound of a church organ. The opening concert for the Miraculous Medal Shrine’s new organ was held in October. The program featured organist and recording artist Roger Nyquist performing on the new four-manual custom instrument built and designed by the Allen Organ Co. in Macungie, Pa. It was installed by Grafton Piano and Organ of Souderton.
The organ encompasses the tonal resources of a 97-rank instrument, including a 21-rank floating string division and six 32-inch stops.
“When I hear the sound of the organ I am in heaven,” said Margie Addario, a member of the Epiphany of Our Lord Parish in Plymouth Meeting. “I just feel the presence of the Blessed Mother in here and it looks like heaven. So there is nothing like hearing a hymn on an organ in a church. There is nothing like an organ at a church wedding.”
Elaine Thorpe, who is also an Epiphany of Our Lord member, concurred. She is also a member of the Miraculous Medal global association and regularly attends meetings in Germantown. “I come here every Monday, so I am looking forward to hearing the spiritual music on the organ. A piano is fine, but having an organ in the church is always better,” she said.
Both Addario and Thorpe were also excited about the refurbished tile floors in the sanctuary under the carpet.
“The beautiful Italian tiles are the right floors under this beautiful new organ,” Addario said.