By Benedict Mayaki, SJ
Pope Francis shared a private Moment of Prayer with the Bishops of Slovakia on Wednesday morning at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Seven Sorrows in Šaštín, a small town located in the Senica district in the Trnava region.
The Holy Father and the Bishops together, recited a Prayer of Entrustment to Our Lady and an Our Father, followed by a concluding prayer from Pope Francis.
Wednesday, the last day of the Pope’s 34th Apostolic Visit, falls on 15 September, the liturgical Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, the patroness of Slovakia.
Following the Moment of Prayer, Pope Francis will preside at the celebration of the Holy Mass before leaving for Bratislava International Airport. He is scheduled to return to the Vatican later on Wednesday.
National Shrine of Our Lady of Seven sorrows
The beginnings of the National Shrine in Šaštín dates back to the 16th Century, when a noblewoman, Angelika Bakičová, asked for the intercession of Our Lady so that her husband, Count Imrich Czobor, lord of the territory of Šaštín - an irascible man - would turn a new leaf.
In gratitude for her answered prayers, she had a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary made and placed at a small chapel. Soon after, many people began to stop in prayer at the chapel and it became a popular place for pilgrims.
In 1710, following reports of prodigious miracles, a commission of enquiry was established. 726 cases were studied and on 10 November 1732, the statue was declared miraculous and entrusted to the care of the parish priest of Šaštín.
In 1733 the Paulines asked that the statue be entrusted to them and began building a shrine as well as a monastery. Unfortunately, Emperor Joseph II banished the order in 1786 and took control of the monastery. The Church, once again, then took charge of the shrine.
On September 8, 1864, the archbishop of Esztergom, Cardinal Ján Scitovský, crowned the statue with gold artifacts consecrated by Pius IX. On 22 April 1927, Pope Pius XI declared the Virgin of the Seven Sorrows patroness of Slovakia, while on 23 November 1964, Pope Paul VI elevated the church to a Minor Basilica.
Notable visitors to the Basilica of Our Lady of Seven Sorrows include St. Teresa of Calcutta on 6 June 1987 and Pope St. John Paul II on 1 July 1995.