By Jacob Blackman
We had just arrived at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. It was a bit of a last minute decision to go there, but I was excited all the same. We got a tour of almost every room in the basilica from a wonderfully energetic guide who took us in even though we had not made a previous appointment. We saw huge mosaics and beautiful prayer rooms, but one in particular stood out to me—the prayer room dedicated to Mary, Queen of Ireland.
It was a relatively small room.It seemed to be fashioned with a kind of simple elegance which portrayed Mary perfectly. The walls were made of smooth dark green marble, like the foliage of an evergreen forest. On one wall etched in gold leaf was a map of Ireland with St Patrick (patron Saint of Ireland) in the middle. On the opposite wall were the symbols of the evangelists: a winged man, a winged lion, a winged ox, and a bird. On the back wall was a simple cross with the words, again etched in gold leaf, Mary, Queen of Ireland. But the centerpiece of the room was the fountain in the middle. It was Mary holding the Baby Jesus in her arms sitting on top of a podium with water trickling down from small fountains around the central podium. This filled the room with the soft tinkling sound that reminded me of a mountain spring.
My description of this wonderful shrine would not be complete without mentioning the crystal chandelier hanging above the fountain that added a bit of elegant beauty to the room. This room really stuck out to me, which is why I chose to return to it after the tour. Of course I could have written about the 40 foot tall mosaic of Jesus or really any of the many huge mosaics that we saw, but I didn’t.
Maybe it's because Mary just seems more approachable. She is a mother after all. Maybe it was just how perfectly the room represented Mary's simple, elegant beauty. Though it could also be the (quarter) Irish blood that runs through my veins that caused me to be drawn to this room. But one undeniable reason was the connection I felt to God. It seemed as if the room was a direct hotline to Heaven. Sometimes we all just need to take time and slow down. We live in a world where everything is instantaneous. In biblical times, you wanted to visit another town it could take days or even weeks marching through a hot desert. Now we can send messages instantaneously. My point is that sometimes we need to just slow down and think about how we lucky we are.