A heavenly treat in Stockbridge

On a visit to New Jersey several years ago, my siblings and I were trying to figure out at the dinner table where we would go for the weekend. There were as many suggestions as there were relatives. Each proposed a destination that sounded as interesting as the others. Since we had already been at it for close to an hour, and still couldn’t make up our minds, we decided to just drive north and see where it would lead us, while enjoying the view along the way.

We drove through the state of New York and stopped for lunch at a farm which had a small restaurant that served home-cooked meals. It was like being invited to the home of a typical American family because the interiors of the restaurant made us feel very comfortable and we were so at home. In fact, the family matriarch herself cooked and served us the food we ordered.

The Lourdes Grotto is one of the religious attractions in the gardens of Eden Hill, where the shrine sits.
Driving northwards after the hearty lunch, we found ourselves in Massachusetts, also known as The Pilgrim State because this is where the first Pilgrims from Europe landed. This state is very rich in Colonial history. But before we could even decide which part of the state to explore, we immediately saw a sign on the freeway that said “Divine Mercy Cathedral, Next Exit.” Of course, since most of us siblings are devotees of The Divine Mercy, we followed the directions in a heartbeat and ended up in Stockbridge.

With a population of only 2,000, approximately, Stockbridge, Massachusetts is a tiny town, but popular among art enthusiasts as home to the Norman Rockwell Museum. In the medical world, it is also known for the Austen Riggs Center, a noted enclave for psychiatric treatment. Of course, pilgrims from the religious community troop to this town for the Divine Mercy Cathedral.

Officially called The National Shrine of The Divine Mercy, this beautiful piece of architecture had its beginnings when the Congregation of Marian Fathers of the Conception of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary purchased, in 1943, several acres of land with a house on it serving as their residence. An image of the Divine Mercy was enshrined in a small chapel where novenas were prayed daily by members of the community.   

Pilgrims from all over the country come in hordes every spring, right after Easter, to celebrate the Feast of The Divine Mercy. The number of devotees grew by leaps and bounds after World War II ended, in thanksgiving for graces received through their devotion. These thousands of devotees petitioned the Congregation to build a shrine, to which the Marian Fathers agreed.

Taking 10 years to build, the present edifice was completed in 1960, and in 1996, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops declared it a National Shrine. Since then, it has been attracting devotees of The Divine Mercy from all over the world.

The beautiful altar of the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.
The shrine itself is small, but it sits on 350 acres of land called Eden Hill that offers other religious attractions for the pilgrims, like the Lourdes Grotto, the Stations of the Cross sculptures, etc. Inside the shrine, one immediately appreciates the extensive woodwork and craftsmanship of the builder who was an Italian woodcarver and carpenter.  

Its 36 stained glass windows and two mosaics give the interiors light and character, and the visuals on it depict several instances showing God’s mercy as detailed in the Bible. The 14 Stations of the Cross come from Spain, and the marble altar, where the tabernacle is, has the emblem of the Sacred Heart. Above the beautiful altar is the image of Jesus The Divine Mercy, surrounded by His Apostles, whose statues were done by a carver from Italy.  

Above the embossed likeness of The Divine Mercy is a marble statue of the Immaculate Conception, with a mural overhead showing Our Lady being crowned by the Holy Trinity as Queen of heaven and Earth.

Gazing in awe at all these beautiful images in the quiet interior of the shrine was almost surreal. It felt like I was transported to a heavenly realm, with my eyes wide open, savoring every minute of this celestial environment. 

As I knelt down in front of the altar, I was teary-eyed, realizing that God’s hands drew us to this place. Never did we plan on going to any religious destination, as we just wanted to drive along and explore America’s countryside, to enjoy the sights and everything else it has to offer.  

But, as they say, God works in mysterious ways. He knows that most of us in the family are devotees of The Divine Mercy so He gave us a real treat! Stockbridge’s heavenly attraction drew us to where He wanted us to be.

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Topics: New Jersey , The Pilgrim State , The National Shrine of The Divine Mercy ,
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