Eastertime, and the Adoration Is Easy
Just an hour’s drive from the country’s third-largest metropolis, Marytown has been inviting Eucharistic pilgrims to Greater Chicago for three quarters of a century.
The Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration first called the site home when construction of their chapel and convent was completed in 1932. In fact, true to their charter, they had been keeping perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament even as the buildings were going up. So it’s safe to say that Jesus has had good company here since June 7, 1928.
In 1979, the Conventual Franciscan Friars acquired the complex. They’ve carried the site’s Eucharistic devotion into the present day.
Marytown consists of Our Lady of Fatima Friary, the National Shrine of St. Maximillian Kolbe, Militia of the Immaculata magazine, a Kolbe/Holocaust Memorial, a retreat center, a conference facility and a bookstore.
Amidst all this bustle, Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament chapel is kept open to all who want to stop in and just be close to Christ — body and blood, soul and divinity — which is what my husband and I did during a recent trip.
Approaching the entrance, we were surprised that this stunning sanctuary is called a “chapel” at all. To us, it looked more like a full-bodied church — and an especially grand and glorious one, at that. The magnificent main doors are guarded by a striking statue of Our Lady of Fatima, namesake and protector of the friary. Surrounded by blooming flowers, she seemed to be asking for prayers. We took a moment to oblige her.
To the east of this building, a meandering pathway wends through a carefully tended garden. Prior to entering the chapel, we wandered the path among the flowers and towering pines. There we came upon several small shrines — one to the Infant of Prague, another to St. Francis of Assisi, and a set of five meditation points for each of the four Mysteries of the Rosary (Joyful, Sorrowful, Glorious and Luminous).
To the west of the building, wood-housed Stations of the Cross sprawl across a lovely lawn.
All of this is refreshing and nourishing for body and soul, but it was inside the chapel that we lingered longest — for here is Marytown’s truest treasure.
A Touch of Rome
The Body of Christ is displayed over the main altar in an ornate and elaborate monstrance that stands more than 5 feet tall.
We knelt in the last pew, taking our place among a handful of other adorers who took time on a weekday afternoon to “watch and pray” with the Lord. I thought of the testimony of faith and courage that the friars have, and the Benedictine nuns before them, to perpetually adore Jesus for four generations.
After my visit with Jesus, I took a few moments to bask in my surroundings. I could see that Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament chapel was patterned after St. Paul Outside the Walls, one of Rome’s four great basilicas. The chapel and St. Paul’s share a tall nave, gilded ceilings, columns and arches.
Rows of windows on the upper walls allow light to stream in, illuminating the chapel’s numerous mosaics. Six mosaics of Franciscan saints, along with four from the life of St. Maximillian, line the bottom half of the walls. Some 14 mosaics on the upper walls show moments from the life of the Blessed Virgin. Below the mosaics are reliquaries containing physical artifacts of the saints. The relics reminded me that, when we praise God, we are always in the presence of the Church Triumphant.
Among these mosaics are two that deserve special consideration. The first is on the wall above the apse. A mosaic depicting the Eucharist as the source and summit of the Christian life shows the Blessed Sacrament and a chalice. The Precious Blood streams light to all directions, drawing people toward it.
And, on the rear upper wall, reigning over all who come to the chapel, a mosaic of Christ the King shines with exceptional resplendence.
The national shrine to St. Maximillian Kolbe is just off the east wall of the chapel. Living his life in the early 20th century, St. Maximillian used media to spread the Gospel. He volunteered his life in the Auschwitz death camp during WWII, willingly taking the place of a man with a family who had been condemned to death as retribution for another prisoner’s escape.
On the one side of the chapel is a mosaic of Christ as he was crowned with thorns and bloodied from being beaten and abused. On the opposite side is a mosaic of St. Maximillian, rising to heaven from the bunker in which he died.
As St. Maximillian knew, our death is united with Christ’s. With him, we are resurrected to new life and, finally, united with the God the Father.
As we started to leave, I noticed a three-fold increase of adorers, in addition to a half dozen or so friars. One friar stood and, grasping his rosary, began leading the adorers in the Divine Mercy chaplet. Noticing it was three o’clock sharp, I thought: The friars sure don’t miss a beat.
As we reluctantly left Marytown’s adoration chapel, I was refreshed in the hope of God’s mercy and of our resurrection.
God has the power, I thought, to turn even a modest day trip into an Easter experience.
Joy Wambeke writes from
Saint Paul, Minnesota.
Planning Your Visit
Daily Mass is celebrated at noon Monday through Saturday (except holy days). The Chaplet of Divine Mercy is recited at 3 p.m., Monday through Friday. Confessors are available at 7 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. And the Blessed Sacrament is exposed for adoration 24 hours a day, seven days a week. For more information, visit marytown.com on the Internet.
Marytown is located at 1600 West Park Ave. in Libertyville, Ill. From Chicago, take I-94 to the exit for Highway 176/Rockland Road. Proceed west on 176 just past Butterfield Road. For more, visit marytown.com on the Internet.
- March 27-April 2, 2005