The entire country of Jordan is filled with biblical treasures: historic sites marking some of the most significant events in salvation history. In many ways, it’s the forgotten part of the Holy Land, because few people fully understand its significance.
It was only when I traveled there with a group of religious journalists and bloggers in April 2015, as guests of the Jordan Tourism Board, that I began to understand for myself the scope and importance of these historical sites.
One site, however, has more to do with recent history than ancient history: Our Lady of the Mount Shrine in Anjara, Jordan. Of all the sites I visited in Jordan — and there were many incredible sites — this one had the greatest impact on me.
Anjara is a quiet, unassuming town about an hour and an half north of the country’s capital, Amman. Tradition holds that Jesus, Mary and some of his disciples stayed overnight in a cave in the Ajloun Mountains nearby during one of Jesus’ trips from Jerusalem to Galilee.
It’s also the location of Our Lady of the Mount Catholic Church, which was founded in the 1850s and was the first Catholic church and school in the area. In the 1930s, a children’s home was built, which still exists today, serving about 200 children, who are mainly orphans and those abandoned by their parents due to poverty — with an additional growing influx of Syrian refugees. The Children’s Home welcomes children of all faiths, providing them with housing, basic necessities and an education through high school. It also has a physical-therapy center, where 22 children with disabilities are treated. Currently, six of the home’s graduates are studying at the university level in Amman, a remarkable feat, given their compromised circumstances. The home is supported solely by the donations of generous individuals. The children are taught and cared for by nuns and priests of the Religious Family of the Incarnate Word, with the assistance of volunteers from the surrounding villages, as well as from all over the globe. The order was founded in Argentina in 1984 by Carlos Miguel Buela and began its work in Anjara in 2004.
At about the same time as the Children’s Home was built, Our Lady of the Mount Shrine was built upon the initiative of Father Yousef Salmeh Nammat. It’s constructed of stones from the surrounding mountains as a model of the cave in which Jesus and his mother had sheltered, according to Church lore.
Father Nammat brought a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary from Jerusalem — simple, yet beautiful — and enthroned it in the shrine. The carved-wood statue is perhaps 150-200 years old and was made in Italy.
“As soon as the statue was placed, things started happening,” explained Father Hugo Alaniz, Our Lady of the Mount’s pastor. “We had to ask ourselves: ‘What is God saying to us?’”
One example Father Alaniz related was that of a Muslim woman who had a dream of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In the dream, Mary spoke to the woman, asking, “My daughter, what would you like of me?” Mary urged the woman to visit her at the Our Lady of the Mount Shrine. The woman did visit the shrine, taking her husband along. Before the statue, the couple prayed for a son because they already had five daughters. Nine months later, the woman gave birth to a son. While she was in the hospital after the birth, she noticed a Catholic bishop in the hallway and told him her incredible story, crediting the Blessed Mother’s intercession.
What happened in 2010 was even more remarkable. On May 6 of that year, the statue cried human blood.
On that day, one Incarnate Word nun and three ladies from the parish, along with some girls from the school, were cleaning the sanctuary of the shrine. As the nun began wiping the locked glass door of the case that housed the statue of Mary — a door that was kept locked at all times — she saw the statue blink as if it were alive. Then the statue began to cry red tears. One of the school students also saw the statue blink and begin to cry. Their shocked screams brought parish members rushing to the shrine; they also saw the tears.
Word of the miracle spread, and the local bishop issued a request to have the tears analyzed at a hospital in Irbid. It was confirmed that the tears were of human blood, according to a plaque that stands at the back of the shrine. Also according to the plaque, shortly after the tears were seen, the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem gave recognition to the event as a valid miracle. Remnants of the blood still can be seen on the statue’s face.
No one knows for certain why the statue of Mary cried tears of blood. Father Alaniz said the key is that the patroness of the shrine and its mission is “Mary, Mother of the Church.”
As I stood before the statue, examining Our Lady’s eyes and the stains left behind by the tears, I wondered why Our Lady of the Mount is not better known around the world. A statue of Mary that sheds actual tears is significant as it is; a statue of Mary that sheds tears of blood bears a message for all mankind.
Each year, the parish commemorates the anniversary of the miracle and the feast of Our Lady of the Mount with a Rosary, festive Mass and a procession around the grounds, accompanied by hymns to Mary.
It’s usually held on the third Friday of June, and this year it was scheduled for June 19. Mass will be celebrated by the patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal. Christians from various rites and even Muslims were to attend, as in years past, and this year the parish was expecting a crowd of more than 4,000 people.
Even though I’ve returned home and am going about my usual activities, there’s a part of me that keeps going back to Our Lady of the Mount. From time to time, I close my eyes and picture her face, especially her eyes. I’m trying to figure out the message she has for me and for all of us.
Marge Fenelon writes from Cudahy, Wisconsin.
To find out more about Our Lady of the Mount or to donate to the mission, send email to: firstname.lastname@example.org