Visitors to the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament are struck by its beauty and grandeur, often commenting on the atmosphere of peace that pervades the grounds and the ethos of prayer and reverence exuded by everything from the artwork to the architecture.
The Shrine itself, both church and monastery, are modeled on the great Italian churches of the 13th century, the time period that experienced the birth of the Franciscan charism. The piazza through which pilgrims walk before entering the sanctuary itself is a standard of Italian sacred architecture, allowing the faithful time and space in which to recollect themselves interiorly and exteriorly in preparation for the experience of prayer and sacred liturgy. The piazza separates the sanctuary symbolically and in reality from the world around it, effectively creating an island of quiet reverence amidst the bustle of the world. At the doors of the church, pilgrims are greeted with scenes of the Seven Joys and Sorrows of the Virgin Mary, reminding all who enter that she is the vessel through which God entered incarnate into His creation.
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.