The interior of the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament is meant to be a psalm of praise to the glory of the Presence contained within. As the pilgrim steps over the marble floors, he will see inlaid crosses made of jasper, the material which was used for ornamentation in the Temple of Jerusalem. The tabernacle, which houses the Most Blessed Sacrament, is featured prominently in the sanctuary, and is a small-scale replica of a Gothic church. Fittingly, the object which primarily catches the attention of the pilgrim is the imposing monstrance. Constructed from a century-old design and over seven feet tall, it contains the exposed Real Presence, thus affording both the pilgrims who come to the Shrine and the nuns praying on the opposite side of the reredos the chance to adore the glorified body of the Lord. From every vantage point, the pilgrim is constantly reminded of the glory of the God to whom all this physical grandeur is directed.
Everything, from the floors to the vaulted ceilings, from the stained glass windows to the monstrance, and from the sanctuary doors to the bells that call all to prayer, was designed to turn the mind to prayer and adoration of the Presence contained within the Shrine. Catholicism is a faith rich in appreciation for the material world and for created things, and her churches are replete with tangible reminders of the glory of God and the awe which appropriately fills the soul called to His Presence. The Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament is no different. Here, the tangible meets the reality of the invisible in a celebration of God, of His Presence and of the glory of His creation.
The Romanesque-Gothic design of the Shrine and Monastery was inspired by the great Franciscan churches and monasteries of the 13th century, especially those of Assisi and the region of Umbria in Italy. The exterior walls of the Shrine and Monastery are of limestone composite bricks—a reminder of the limestone walls of the Cave in Bethlehem.
In 1995, Mother Angelica traveled to Colombia to raise funds and seek assistance for EWTN’s Spanish programs. She was invited by Salesian Father Juan Pablo Rodriguez to attend Mass at the Sanctuary of the Divine Infant Jesus in Bogotá. It was here where Mother Angelica heard the words that gave her a new mission: to build a shrine honoring the True Presence of Our Lord in the Most Blessed Sacrament.
This project would culminate in a beautiful church attached to a monastery for her growing community of Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration, a community dedicated to a life of prayer, penance, and adoration of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. As she visited the small chapel dedicated to the Divine Child, she heard the statue speak in the voice of a young boy. “Build Me a Temple,” the voice said, “and I will help those who help you.” Mother Angelica heeded those words as she had responded to the challenging commands of the Lord so often before. She shared the story with her community after returning to Alabama and shortly thereafter Divine Providence provided five very generous families who offered to completely fund this ambitious project. Thus, without taking any funds from EWTN and without having to raise any funds on her own, Mother Angelica was able to bring to fruition her desire, born of a request from the Divine Child, to build a shrine and “Temple” where people of all faiths could adore Our Lord in the Most Blessed Sacrament. Even the process of building was marked with reminders that this was truly God’s project. The majority of the construction took place in the three years leading toward the Great Jubilee Year of 2000, with major milestones completed with truly symbolic timing. In 1997, the Year of Jesus, the monstrance for the main sanctuary was completed, and the Rose Windows of the Holy Spirit and God the Father were completed in 1998 and 1999, the Years of the Holy Spirit and God the Father.
Many people, Catholic and otherwise, come to pray at this spot dedicated to the Divine Child and populated with sisters vowed to a life inspired by Sts. Francis and Clare. In the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi, all are welcomed in love as Catholics seek to grow in their love for the Eucharist and many others seek a quiet place to pray, often leaving with a greater knowledge of and respect for the Catholic faith. Truly a manifestation of Divine Providence, the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament remains a beautiful oasis of prayer, a true refuge for those seeking solace and peace in the arms of the Savior, and an ecumenical point of contact between Catholics and their brothers and sisters in Christ.
“I think God will do great things in this new Temple, for your sake. I think the miracle He gave to me is just a sample of what is to come. Do I promise things? No. I don’t know what God is going to do next. Nobody knows that. But everybody that goes there, even now in its construction, feels the awesomeness of this place.” (Mother Angelica, July 27, 1999)
While in the Main Church (Temple) and the Lower Crypt Church, in order to show respect to our Lord Jesus Christ in the Most Blessed Sacrament, as well as to show a spirit of charity to the Nuns, the Priests and Brothers, and the other pilgrims who are Adoring our Lord, the Nuns request the following:
1. Please observe SILENCE when you enter the Main Church and Lower Crypt Church.
2. We encourage you to dress comfortably, but modestly. Please do not wear sleeveless tops, tank tops, shorts, or mini-skirts/skirts above the knee. Ladies may wear slacks or jeans. For your convenience, temporary apparel is provided at the Reception Desk, if need be.
3. If at all possible, please do not leave Mass in the Main Church before the Blessed Sacrament has been exposed and the Nuns have finished singing.
4. Please refrain from taking pictures and video inside the Main Church and Lower Crypt Church. There are many lovely pictures and postcards which you may purchase at the Gift Shop of El Nino in Castle San Miguel. You are welcome to take pictures anywhere else on the grounds.