The Marians are planning to honor the memory of the souls of all deceased children. The Shrine of the Holy Innocents will be located in the new Mother of Mercy Outdoor Shrine, on the grounds of the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Mass. For Shrine Rector Fr. Anthony Gramlich, MIC, who is deeply involved in pro-life ministry, the new project is close to his heart.
How did this idea come about?
I lead Rachel's Vineyard retreats in Stockbridge for men and women who seek healing and reconciliation following an abortion. Recently, I had invited staff members from Rachel's Vineyard to the National Shrine and took them on a tour. We were in Our Lady of Mercy Candle Shrine where we have an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and beside the image, we have our donors' names on plaques. One of the women, who's post-abortive, said, "Father Anthony, why don't you put our babies' names on bronze plaques like you have here for your benefactors?" And I said, "I never thought of that. But that's a great idea!" I knew the Holy Spirit was speaking through her, so I shared the idea with my fellow Marians and our staff on Eden Hill. We decided that the shrine would not only memorialize aborted children but also children who died through miscarriage, or who were stillborn, or who died from any cause at a young age.
What will the shrine look like?
We're going to have a statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe. And on the walls, we'll have memorials on glass tiles on which parents, grandparents, friends, and other relatives can have a child's name etched. We'll have a fountain, kneelers, benches, and candles. In prayer, I heard the Lord telling my heart, "The Shrine of the Holy Innocents will be contained within the Mother of Mercy Outdoor Shrine because it's 'the womb' of the shrine." And He said, "Because it's the womb of the shrine, that's why it's hidden." I know the Lord wants this. It will be a sacred place of prayer, mercy, and hope where the children are safe within the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary. People who visit this shrine will experience a little bit of heaven when they visit.
It sounds like this will be a place for spiritual healing.
That's exactly the purpose. There's nothing greater for me, as a priest, than to be able to offer Divine Mercy to people who are suffering, and probably the most painful form of suffering on earth is that experienced through the loss of a child.
You minister to many parents who have lost a child and who experience a huge wound that needs healing. How does this shrine fit in with their needs?
This goes to the heart of why this shrine is so important. There can be a lot of healing when we memorialize these children. People need to know that their child is alive with the Lord, alive in Christ, the One who brings us salvation and hope. As such, this shrine will be a place where people can come and turn to these children in prayer and reconnect with them. Since these children are with the Lord, they can help reconcile us to God. In other words, when we reconnect with these children, the children can reconnect us with the Lord. These children can be our intercessors. They can be instruments for spiritual healing. And believe me, there is so much healing needed. When a child dies, the impact is huge. By memorializing these children, we insure these children will never be forgotten.
Learn more about the Shrine of the Holy Innocents.