Built by generations of faithful American Catholics to honor the patroness of our nation, the National Shrine is affectionately referred to as America’s Catholic Church. With over 80 different chapels honoring the different devotions to Our Blessed Mother, the Basilica is a mosaic of the many cultures and traditions that are represented in the United States. Did you know that its art also specifically portrays Mary’s guardianship of the United States? The west and east transept galleries of the Basilica contain two sets of nine patroness windows that symbolize the Blessed Mother’s care for America. Each features a different landmark that is significant in our nation’s history, topped by a crown symbolizing Mary’s protection.
Portraying the home of George Washington, this window represents his unique position as the first president democratically elected, as well as his integral role in our country’s founding.
This window highlights the home of Thomas Jefferson, who authored the Declaration of Independence and served as the third president of the United States.
The White House
The residence of the President of the United States, the White House is a symbol of the Executive Branch and reflects the unique government of the United States.
The Great Seal of the United States
The Great Seal of the United States depicts the national bird, the eagle, holding an olive branch in one hand and arrows in the other, representing the desire for peace, but a readiness for war.
The Capitol Building of the United States represents the law that protects our liberty, as well as our unique system of elected officials that gives each state representation in the government.
The Alamo represents the cost of liberty. A Spanish mission in Texas, the Alamo was the site of a bloody battle during the Texan revolution. Though it was a tragic defeat, Texans took inspiration from their valiant comrades and gained independence for Texas a month later at the battle of San Jacinto.
The River Boat
The River Boat window represents westward expansion – as technology advanced and pioneers began to cross the Mississippi, the United States as we know it began to take shape. Homesteaders tamed the plains, farming the land and pursuing the American Dream.
The Lincoln Memorial
President Lincoln was significant in our nation’s history for abolishing slavery. He guided our nation through the Civil War, and ultimately preserved its unity.
The Statue of Liberty
This iconic statue greets new immigrants to the United States from its island perch in Upper New York Bay. It has come to represent the freedom and hope that the United States has offered to immigrants throughout its history, as well as the country’s unique reputation as a melting pot of cultures. The Statue of Liberty is also portrayed in the Byzantine Ruthenian Chapel.
Prayer for the United States
As we celebrate the founding of our nation, let us pray for protection and unity in spite of the many issues that divide us.
O God our Creator, from your provident hand we have received our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. You have called us as your people and given us the right and the duty to worship you, the only true God, and your Son, Jesus Christ.
Through the power and working of your Holy Spirit, you call us to live out our faith in the midst of the world, bringing the light and the saving truth of the Gospel to every corner of society.
We ask you to bless us in our vigilance for the gift of religious liberty. Give us the strength of mind and heart to readily defend our freedoms when they are threatened; give us courage in making our voices heard on behalf of the rights of your Church and the freedom of conscience of all people of faith.
Grant, we pray, O heavenly Father, a clear and united voice to all your sons and daughters gathered in your Church in this decisive hour in the history of our nation, so that, with every trial withstood and every danger overcome— for the sake of our children, our grandchildren, and all who come after us—this great land will always be “one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
(Prayer from the USCCB)