Sorrowful Mother Shrine, Bellevue, Ohio
In recent months, I have learned the value of “taking a breath”, of slowing down, doing a personal inventory and working some “me” time into my schedule. On a warm, sunny morning recently, I decided to do all of this in the natural surroundings of The Sorrowful Mother Shrine near Bellevue, Ohio.
New visitors to the shrine have no idea the beauty and tranquility that awaits them as they turn off State Route 269 and onto the long driveway stretched before them. Visible from the road is an outdoor chapel, the shrine church, a gift shop and Pilgrim Center. Beyond that in the forest are colorful gardens and 40 grottos containing various statues and the Stations of the Cross that wind down a shaded pathway. This is where we choose to spend our time.
The first path we chose was a newly-paved concrete route that was shady and full of various gardens featuring ferns, hostas, geraniums, roses and other colorful flowers in shades of
golden yellow, fuchsia pinks, deep reds and soft amethyst. This path also happened to begin the Stations of the Cross, which are
enshrined in beautiful stone structures. Walking the Stations was reminiscent of my youth in Catholic schools where we religiously attended the Stations of the Cross weekly during the season of Lent leading up to Easter. Interspersed throughout this area were statues of numerous saints including St. Lucy, St. Catherine of Sienna and St. George (the patron saint of Boy Scouts), among others.
Just as we turned the corner, a church hymn from my childhood wafted on the breeze from the shrine bell tower. Hmmm…very nice! As we continued forward, we found a stone archway tucked down a meandering path that lead to a peaceful grotto.
Just being there, listening to the chirping of a robin and the scolding of a squirrel who must have thought we were too close, I began to find the peace I was seeking. This feeling of solace continued with each twist and turn of the pathway. The further into the woods we journeyed, the calmer I became. How can one not feel complete harmony when surrounded by God’s natural beauty all around?
We came upon an elderly couple who were sitting on a wooden swing overlooking the Lady of Lourdes grotto, just enjoying the exquisiteness surrounding them. A babbling brook trickling down a hillside lay before them. Off in the distance, I heard the happy sounds of children giggling. When we approached the back of the woods, we came upon a young mother with her small children. She had spread a blanket on the grass in a clearing where she sat, watching her youngsters twirling and dancing in the sunshine. When I closed my eyes, I traveled back more than 40 years to when I was a young girl and my sisters and I had taken a Sunday drive to Sorrowful Mother Shrine with our parents. Much like the kids in front of me, I can remember skipping down the paths and dancing around, feeling absolutely free! Oh how I miss those carefree days!
Just beyond the young family was a labyrinth I had walked in a previous visit. During that walk, I prayed on my journey into the middle of the labyrinth and was quite on my voyage out. Again, that is something I could do to quiet my soul and bring peace and stillness to my heart.
After passing the labyrinth, we strolled from the woods and stamped concrete pathways and stopped by both the outdoor chapel as well as the shrine. Earlier when we arrived at Sorrowful Mother Shrine, a mass was being said outdoors. By this time, the chapel was quiet. We also stuck our heads into the shrine and were greeted by an “old” scent which reminded me of something sure, safe and solid, like something that had been around forever.
The colors inside were vibrant as the sun washed through the stained-glass windows, casting rainbows all around the church. We stayed in there just for a few moments before heading back out into the brilliant sunlight. The exterior of the shrine was surrounded by velvet red rose bushes and watermelon colored geraniums. It was a melody for my eyes! What a wonderful visit we had! My goal was accomplished. I left Sorrowful Mother Shrine and the pathways around the 120 acres feeling much calmer and happier than when I arrived.
The Sorrowful Mother Shrine was founded nearly 175 years ago in 1850 by Fr. Francis de Sales Brunner, a priest of the Society of the Most Precious Blood. The original shrine burned in 1912 and was rebuilt two years later. Sorrowful Mother Shrine is a place of inspiration and prayer. It’s a must-see if you are looking for a place to renew your spirit and refresh your soul. It is open for private reflections, pilgrimages and groups. For additional information, visit www.sorrowfulmothershrine.org.
Address: 4106 OH-269, Bellevue, OH 44811