Summer Excursions: The Franciscan Monastery

Once again, families and individuals have been setting out on summer trips in planes, trains and automobiles.  Residents of the Washington area and visitors here have a variety of places to go and do and see, and one place I would like to suggest is the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America in Northeast D.C.

This place of prayer and reflection offers one of the most beautiful gardens in the community, with a colorful array of thousands of roses and other flowers nestled amid trees and shrubs lining its walkways. But even more, the monastery helps visitors – many of whom might never make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land – have the opportunity to experience the holy places there through carefully built replicas.  For example, prayerfully walking through the monastery, people can enter into the mystery of Jesus’s life, death and resurrection, and his impact on the world.  Most importantly, Mass and Confession are offered to those who wish to experience the sacramental grace of Christ while they reflect on the places associated with his life.

Upon entering the monastery, people can walk through the archways of a shaded portico lined with columns and pray the mysteries of the Rosary as depicted in beautiful mosaics, with the Hail Mary set out in 150 ancient and modern languages. The lower grounds include a replica of the Grotto of Lourdes, where people can quietly pray and seek healing for themselves or loved ones.

Outdoor Stations of the Cross winding around a pathway replicate the Way of the Cross walked by Jesus in his Passion and experienced by pilgrims to Jerusalem. Nearby is the monastery’s centerpiece – the Memorial Church of the Holy Sepulcher – which includes an exact copy of the altar of Calvary at the crucifixion site in Jerusalem and a replica of the tomb of Jesus.

Visitors can also see grottos patterned after shrines in Nazareth, as well as catacombs. Other features are sculptures, paintings and stained glass windows related to events in the lives of Jesus, Mary and Saint Francis of Assisi.  The monastery also hosts garden tours, as well as special events like the annual Holy Land Festival, where people can experience the culture and life of the Holy Land through dancing and food, calligraphy, handcrafted embroidery and religious items made of olive wood.

The Franciscans have been caretakers of the sacred sites of the Holy Land for almost 800 years. Dedicated in 1898, the Franciscan Monastery brings the Holy Land to our shores, offering visitors not only an opportunity to, in a certain way, walk where Jesus once walked, but also reminding them that they can walk with him in their everyday lives.  They and we can bring Christ’s love to others, just like the first disciples who walked with Jesus 2,000 years ago and brought his Gospel to the world.