The Shrine of Our Lady of Mentorella is not the easiest place to get to. Just 30 miles outside of Rome, this shrine to Our Lady of Graces sits on the top of a mountain like a storybook castle. To get there it takes nearly two hours by car up a winding road through small villages that few tourists ever see and where cows have the right-of-way. But, at journey’s end the site of the shrine of Our Lady of Mentorella is worth the trip, especially this year as Mentorella celebrates its 1500th anniversary.
The complex includes a monastery where the Resurrectionists who minister at the sanctuary live
and the sanctuary itself. The sanctuary of Our Lady of Mentorella (Our Lady of Graces) is a beautiful stone church which exhibits an ancient carved wooden image of Our Lady seated with her child on her lap.
Pilgrims come from all over Europe to visit this sanctuary which may be the oldest Marian shrine in Italy, and perhaps in all of Europe. They come to ask Mary’s intercession and to thank her for graces received.
Just after his elevation to the papacy, Pope John Paul II spent a day there in prayer and thanksgiving. He returned often during his papacy to retreat and pray in the quiet of the mountains. Benedict XVI also visited Our lady of Mentorella just after he became pope.
I have been there many times and always find the experience uplifting. Benedictines come to honor the
monastery as one of those founded by St. Benedict. Benedict resided in a cave at Mentorella for about two years.
This weekend there will be a huge celebration for the 1500th anniversary of the Sanctuary. Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, retired prefect of the Congregation of Bishops will be Pope Benedict’s envoy to celebrate the solemn Mass this Sunday, August 29, recalling the 1500 years of the sanctuary’s existence.
I will be thinking of all the members of my Congregation who will be there and, of course, that makes me there in spirit. Our lady of Mentorella, Mother of Graces, you taught your Son how to love, teach me, too to love and serve the Church with all my heart.