Posted by: vftmom247 | 2013/07/25

Co-existing Faith and Profit

I went to a Visitation site in Banneaux, Belgium recently. A Visitation site is a place where the Blessed Mary has appeared to someone. At any rate, this was my first trip to such a site. It was interesting. Reminded me a little of The Canterbury Tales.

At this particular site, between 1921-1933, Mary, calling herself ‘Virgin of the Poor’, appeared eight times to a girl called Mariette by a spring behind her house. The site was declared a legitimate shrine after jumping through all kinds of hoops. The spring is said to have effected several miraculous cures. Which is why I really wanted to go, with my mother and daughter. I have absolutely no objection to having Mary on my side during the next kidney stone round!

About 8 chapels of variegated sizes, shrines to various saints, including Padre Pio, who also looks after teens and kidneys. Stations of the Cross. And the shrine, the spring itself. (See below). There were people with a lot of faith there. People would dip a hand in to the spring for healing. Some almost bathed in it, splashing the water on their face, their throat. One family made sure their baby and the pregnant mother blessed themselves, along with the older children. The faith was palpable, and fervent.

Then you stepped just outside of the shrine boundaries and found yourself in tourist trap heaven. Anything you could have wanted with the Blessed Mother’s picture on it, water jugs and flasks, saint medals and prayer cards and plaques. Nativities, crucifixes, rosaries…nestled in with dragons and fairy statues. Total secularism. Not that I am criticizing the faith or tourist stores, it was just two different worlds.

The contrast was a bit disconcerting. The absolute, childlike faith at the shrine, then the atmosphere of the souvenir rack at Disney World. It truly reminded me of the contrast between what religion was supposed to be in Canterbury Tales, and what great examples of what it was, but wasn’t supposed to be. The good, poor Parson contrasted to the Pardoner, who would sell anyone a forgiveness for any sin – if their gold was good.


My mom swears up and down that Vatican City is like this all over, so I guess I’ll get used to it. It’s just disconcerting finding stores hawking Mary. Usually they’re hawking the Civil War, in my tourist experience, after all! Or, as some prefer to say, The Late, Great Unpleasantness.

Oh well. Next stop Lisceäux.



  1. Reblogged this on The Taylor Family Deutschland Mission.

  2. I find the same thing in Native American sites. The tourism thing can be so over whelming that one of my Elders use to joke, “I found the lost tribe of the Cherokee! They were in Japan, it say so on all the plastic tomahawks and head dresses!!


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