Ever since seeing “The Way,” Roger and I have talked about making our own pilgrimage on The Way of St. James to Santiago de Compostela. To train for our Spanish journey, we thought we’d walk over to see Aaron in Danville, Pennsylvania. Yesterday, I thought of a more manageable warm-up destination for us: the Basilica and National Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation in Carey, Ohio.
Carey has been a destination for my family’s Sunday drives since my great-grandparents, my grandmother, her two younger sisters, and her friends the Mehler girls got in the family’s new automobile and drove to Carey in September 1924. We hadn’t been there in a while, so we took a detour from yesterday’s drive through northwestern Ohio and paid a visit to the breathtaking Basilica.
The original shrine church was built in 1867. In 1902, it was moved to its present location on the corner of Clay and Lake Streets to make way for a larger church on the site. The construction of the Basilica began in 1904, ground for the new church was broken in 1907, and the lower church was used for the first time in 1909. The Basilica’s exterior was completed in 1921, while the interior was finished in 1929. After the pipe organ was installed in 1935, the church was completed.
The Basilica’s Italian Brick Romanesque exterior is made of wire-cut tapestry brick. Decoration in various patterns highlights the outside walls and 138-foot-tall bell tower.
Inside the church, the design of the glazed tile floor in the vestibule was inspired by Byzantine artwork and was created by Leon Solon. The Byzantine style is echoed on the ceiling of the nave. A mural of Christ in Glory adorns the apse.
The Basilica’s stained glass windows were designed and fired in Munich, Germany and installed in 1929. Scenes in the “Mary” window on the west side of the Basilica depict events in Mary’s life, while the East transept window features scenes from Jesus’ life. The “Kings Window” is the rose window on the main entrance wall of the Basilica.
On the right side of the sanctuary, we admired the statue of Our Lady of Consolation, which was made in Luxembourg. The statue was brought to Carey in a seven-mile procession from the church of St. Nicholas in Frenchtown to the original shrine church on May 25, 1875. Despite heavy rain setting in two days before, the procession continued. As soon as the statue was brought out of the church, the sun came out and shined on the procession. While it rained before, behind and on all sides of the procession, neither the statue nor anyone taking part in the procession felt one drop of rain.
As word of this occurrence spread, many local pilgrims came to Carey to pray before the statue and ask for petitions. Before long, crutches, canes and other symbols of infirmity were left behind in the sanctuary of the little church as a testimony to healing.
Following a custom that dates back to the Middle Ages, Mary and the Infant Jesus are dressed in elegant garments made by grateful pilgrims in thanksgiving for favors received through the prayers of Our Lady of Consolation. The dresses on the statue are changed about every two weeks. You can see several of these garments in the Lower Basilica. There, you can also pray before altars dedicated to many saints. A display of numerous First-Class Relics is offered for veneration.
The ever-growing number of people coming to the Shrine has led the Conventual Franciscan Friars who run it to offer a number of amenities for pilgrims.
In the 30-acre Shrine Park located two blocks west of the Basilica, you can see outdoor Stations of the Cross, a memorial altar dedicated to the war dead, and several white marble statues. A cafeteria is open for prearranged groups throughout the year and for the general public on Sundays from May through October. An information booth doubles as a bakery that sells homemade doughnuts and bread. Retreats and overnight accommodations are available at the Retreat House. Across the street from the Basilica, you can browse through a shop featuring a wide range of sacramental and religious gift items, including a commemorative bottle to take home some holy water from multiple spigots on an exterior wall of the Basilica.