Q: What is a sanctuarium?
A: The word sanctuarium means a place associated with supernatural events, relics, miracles, and pictures, where God receives special worship, and the Virgin Mary and all the saints receive special honor.
Pilgrims visit sanctuaria to be in the presence of God and to be united with Him. In other words, sanctuaria document and certify a deep human faith. They are evidence of the truth that the merciful God leads people to Himself.
The Virgin Mary is represented in different ways. Sometimes she shows herself as coming from heaven, as at Guadalupe, La Salette, Lourdes, Fatima, and Gietrzwald.
Historical places and the authenticity of relics of the saints are of secondary importance. The primary criterion is the faith of the people. God's graces are given to the faithful, which confirms God's presence in the sanctuaria and the human reaction to those graces.
Sanctuaria have started in many different ways. Some began during the building of chapels and churches to honor the Holy Mother. In the life of the Church, sanctuaria of the Holy Mother are important places. Here the faithful receive forgiveness, pay homage, ask for graces, render thanks, and express their love.
Many people make pilgrimages to sanctuaria associated with the rosary. The late Pope John Paul II, during his apostolic journeys, always visited Mary's sanctuaria. He said that sanctuaria of the Holy Mother are places that especially indicate the presence of the Holy Mother in the life of the Church, and that they belong to the spiritual and cultural heritage of the country.
Marian sanctuaria are like a spot to relax along the long road of life. They are scattered all through the world as places for rest and spiritual nourishment that aid the faithful to continue walking in God's way.
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