Thursday, October 20, 2016

We Go to a Shrine in Nebraska

Holy Family Shrine, Gretna, Nebraska
You wouldn't expect to see it in the fields above the freeway in Nebraska: a glass and wood structure that seems to float above a hillside west of Omaha. But there it is. The tall, spiky crucifix at one end of the building confirms that it's a Christian house of worship, but what is it?

Holy Family Shrine, Gretna, Nebraska
A little research (and the nagging suspicion that we'd heard about something like this back when we were planning this trip) identified the building as a Catholic chapel, Holy Family Shrine. The chapel, completed in 2002, looked to me like buildings designed by E Fay Jones.* The branching wooden supports are intended to represent the Trinity (God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit) as well as resembling the grain growing in fields all around. The channels of water running through the rocks in the floor are intended to remind worshippers of the water of baptism.

Holy Family Shrine, Gretna, Nebraska
The site is probably requested as a wedding venue, but it's not allowed. However, Mass is celebrated every Saturday morning. We attended with about 70 others. We were glad when the priest prayed for those who would see and be inspired by the sight of the shrine as they drove by.

The shrine is open every day, and the visitor center displays information about the development of the property. Visitors approach the center through a door in the hillside, which is intended to remind them of Jesus' tomb, and the inside is designed to encourage guests to be still and seek God. The Shrine's website says it's a place for travelers "to seek out the intervention of the Holy Spirit, to be at peace, to heal, to be comforted, to pray, and to discover or rediscover the saving power of Jesus Christ."

Even from the road, it seems a place of peace.

*an apprentice of Frank Lloyd Wright, Jones designed Thorncrown Chapel and Mildred B Cooper Memorial Chapel in Arkansas. Thorncrown Chapel was closed the week we were in Arkansas (and we didn't know about the other chapel), so it was especially good to see this building.