April 22, Jerusalem VI: A Place of Prayer.


Valencia Cathedral: Spot the baby photographs on Mary’s statue!

When popes visit Jerusalem they are shown before the Western Wall, praying and sliding tokens of their prayer between the stones. Do the stones that mark the place of God’s presence among his people still bring people closer to him, their prayers closer to his attention?

It’s by no means the only place where people leave tokens of their prayers, whether of intercession or thanksgiving.

Any devotion should be bound up in our worship of the Triune God and ‘in the vital Communion of Saints’  according to the Directory on Popular Piety (186), but Frs Marioge and Maurier welcomed pilgrims, Muslim and Christian, to the shrine of Our Lady of Africa in Algiers as its custodians. Pilgrims would offer tokens of the gift they sought or had received: flowers, embroidery, statues of newlyweds or babies. Maurier says they were responding to a ‘common religious source, inherent in every human conscience.’[1]

In Valencia Cathedral, Spain, Mary’s statue is visited by women wanting or thankful for children, leaving baby photographs in the folds of her robe. In Saint Omer, France, shoes are left on the tomb of Saint Erkembode, a missionary invoked for children with mobility problems.[2] Such shrines and wells are sacred ‘markers in space, time and society,’[3] where the Good News can be preached, directly and indirectly. (DPP274)

Often we can find in our local church a prayer board hung for petitions; this, or a statue or ikon can help us to perceive what we are really praying for.



[1]Paul Marioge,  ‘Une Dévotion Mariale Populaire en Terre d’Islam.’ in Voix d’Afrique No 74, n.d. P1. At http://peres-blancs.cef.fr/devotion_mariale.htm
[3]Monika K Hellwig, ‘Holy Places in Christian Theology’ in Liturgy: Journal of the Liturgical Conference, 3.4, Fall 1983, pp9–14.

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