In times of turmoil and uncertainty, our faith can be tested. Our hearts may waver and our spirits fail us, but the Lord remains steadfast. He holds the world in his hands, guiding our course, watchful of even the sparrows. Not only does He sustain us amidst the sin, suffering, and evil of this fallen world, but as His children, we look with hope toward His eternal kingdom, where we will find everlasting peace, goodness, and joy.
Today we reflect on two Marian prayers for peace and grace, exploring the history behind the chapels where they are featured in the Basilica. Located in the narthex of the Crypt Church are two chapels donated by the Croatian Catholic Union of the United States and the Croatian people of the United States and Canada in 1969: the Chapel of Our Lady, Queen of Peace, and the Chapel of Our Lady of Bistrica. October 17 marks the 50th anniversary of the dedication of these chapels in 1970.
The Chapel of Our Lady, Queen of Peace
To left of the narthex is the Chapel of Our Lady, Queen of Peace. Set against a shimmering blue mosaic background is a sculpture of the Virgin Mary holding the Christ Child, flanked by shining white marble walls. The statue is framed by two angels holding a crown above the Blessed Mother, whilst olive branches burst from the ground beneath her. The arch at the chapel entrance reads, “May the peace of Christ hold sway in your hearts.” The Croatian Catholic Union and the Croatian people of the United States and Canada provided this chapel in response to the Bishops of the United States’ pleas for world peace.
The Chapel of Our Lady of Bistrica
To the right of the narthex is the Chapel of Our Lady of Bistrica, which honors a centuries-old Croatian devotion to Mary. It first originated in the 13th century when the Croats fled from the Turks and settled in the village of Bistrica. There, they established a church which housed a statue of Mary and became a revered place of pilgrimage. The statue Maria Bistrica, Queen of Croatia, by Joseph Turkaly, honors Mary under this title here in the Basilica. Sculpted in Vermont marble, it serves as the focal point of the Chapel of Our Lady of Bistrica. The sculpture portrays the Blessed Mother and Christ Child standing upon the head of Satan, as foretold by the prophets. Beneath the statue, the mensa of the Portasanta marble altar is inscribed with the text translated as, “Maria Bistrica, pray for us.”
The seven mosaic rondels surrounding the statue feature: (L-R) Saint Nicholas Tavelic and Blessed Ozana Kotorka; the baptism of a Croatian peasant; Our Lady of Sinj; the Croatian coat of arms; Our Lady of Trsat (Grace), King Zvonimir; and Blessed Alojzije Cardinal Stepinac.
Marian Prayers for Peace and Grace
As we face a tumultuous world, we call upon the Lord and the Blessed Mother for peace. The following prayer is featured in the Our Lady, Queen of Peace Chapel:
“God our Father, Creator of the world, you establish the order which governs all ages. Hear our prayer and give us peace in our time that we may rejoice in your glory and praise you without end. Mary, Queen of Peace, look upon us kindly. Through your prayers obtain for us the gift of peace which Your Son promised. We ask this through the same Lord Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace, Son of God, Son of Mary who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen”
As flawed human beings living in a fallen world, we are desperately in need of grace. The Chapel of Our Lady of Bistrica is inscribed with the following prayer:
“Immaculate Mother of Jesus, we honor you as God’s chosen one— beautiful, beloved, and free from all sin. Keep watch over us, pray that we rise above our sins and failings and come to share the fullness of grace. Be a mother to us in the order of grace by assisting us to live your obedience, your faith, your hope, and your love. Mary of Bistrica, pray for us.”
Basilica Guidebook, ed. Dr. Geraldine Rohling