Visit to shrine opens window to faith through art

Did you know that a church is not only a place for solemn prayer and worship, but also a place where art and music fill the air? The Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe is just such a place where Catholics visiting the Orlando area can go to worship and gaze at the amazing artwork, while listening to beautiful music. On February 7, the seventh grade class at St. Mary Magdalen Catholic School visited the shrine to pray and look at the stunning works of art. Located near International Drive, the shrine has many out of state visitors as well as from foreign countries.

The students took the opportunity to examine the many paintings and sculptures, including a bronze statue of Saint Michael the Archangel guarding the entrance, which depicted the saint stabbing a sword through a snake and standing triumphantly above the reptile. The statue’s purpose is to welcome visitors and protect the church from any evil that might enter through its gates.

The bronze doors that lead you into the chapel are gorgeous. The doors have panels taking you through the Bible and beyond. On the left is The Old Testament Door; the middle door is the New Testament; and the right door is the Living Church. Made of bronze, they depict events from each theme. Once open, visitors see many works of art. The statues of St. Peter and St. Paul writing the epistles touched the seventh graders’ hearts. Both statues are also made of beautifully cast bronze and displayed at a level where children can touch them. The signature work of art was the marble statue of Our Lady, Queen of the Universe. The statue is made of pure white marble; it took the sculptor many years to find the right piece of stone. This sculpture is a fantastic masterpiece that took everyone’s breath away. “I think they (the statues) are very pretty!” said Lilly. “(The shrine) was unique, and unlike any church we have visited.”

Surrounding the interior of the Church are stained glass windows depicting many scenes from the Old and the New Testaments – the main teachings of our Catholic faith, three mysteries of the Holy Rosary, the fourteen Stations of the Cross, and major events in the history and development of the Church. The windows are very colorful and eye catching. Seventh-grader Zayden said, “I thought it was amazing! I loved the stained glass which adds more effect and color. And I like how they are used to teach about the main events that happened during Old and New Testament times.”

The mass was a great experience and a few students participated in bringing down the gifts. Although shorter than the school masses at St. Mary Magdalen, everyone really enjoyed the readings. The students agreed that the mass at the Shrine was a good way to see how worship can be different, but sacred and holy as well.

The last stop was the Rosary Garden. The garden was peaceful and a great reminder of how to find God in the silence and beauty of nature. The field trip to the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe encouraged 7th-graders to look at religious art in a new way—bringing the Catholic faith and God’s love to life!

Article written by Poppy, a seventh grade student at St. Mary Magdalen Catholic School in Altamonte Springs.
February 27, 2020