Old and New: The Shrine and The Tender Mother

Story of a Recovered and Restored Shrine of Our Lady
Old and New: The Shrine and The Tender Mother

I found the shrine among the lumber at the old house which was a family nest for generations; my grandparents Mary and Anthony, my great-grandmother Frances and my great-great-grandfather Andrew used to live there, in the mountain region called Spisz, in the village of Łapsze Niżne.

My find was a once solid wooden structure, now shabby and washed out, the glass that protected the inside missing.

My family was not impressed with this remnant of the past; they would rather have placed it among the redundant papers to be burned.

I was, however, enchanted by its proportions and semi-circular coping. I immediately imagined how beautiful it must have been in its prime times.

I tried to gather some information about it- what was placed inside a shrine- a statue? a crucifix? Where was it placed about the house?

The recollections my family and their neighbours shared gave me only some scattered information; most likely the shrine was placed on the front façade of the house- the one facing the road, the shrine being sheltered by the roof.

This arrangement lasted approximately until the end of World War II, as in 1946 the old wooden house was rebuilt by my grandparents - at that time the newlywed couple who would come to live there with my great-grandmother Frances (who was a member of a Franciscan Third Order).

As for the shrine - I insisted it should be spared from the flames as I saw so much potential in this item!

Finally, with the shrine under my care, I found the person who would renovate it. Ms. Dorota Bobulska meticulously cleaned and restored the old wood to the original beauty. It was she too, who recommended the right sculptor for making the statue.

It seemed most natural to me that the newly restored shrine should house the figure of the Virgin Mary. After all, She accompanied me from the very beginning. Firstly, at my baptism, I received Mary as my second name, after my grandmother. Secondly, upon joining the Fraternity of St. Albert the Great in Kraków, I also accepted to be called Mary in the Dominican Order, choosing the patronage of Our Lord’s Mother, who protects the whole Order of Preachers.

Therefore - no one but Holy Mary!

A contemporary sculptor, Mr. Zbigniew Juszczak carved the statue from lime wood. We talked a lot before he started his work - he asked about the way I imagined Mary and also about the family stories.

I would tell him about the feminine lineage; about the valour of women of the mountains.

I told him that I envision Mary the way She is depicted on the icon type called Eleusa; the Tender Mother of Jesus - and of each of us.

Once ready, the statue was placed inside the shrine, the light colour of the lime wood contrasting beautifully with the dark structure of the shrine.

It was blessed on Sunday, 6th March 2016 by a Dominican father, a family friend.

The fact that it has been restored and put back to sacred use shows me that it is wise to bring out of one’s storeroom [of treasures] what is new and what is old (cf. Mt 13, 52b) as it will result in abundance of fruit.

Also, the call from the Akathist for the Virgin Mary comes to my mind: Rejoice, the Tenderness which surpasses every love.

Małgorzata Maria Manado
Fraternity of St Albert the Great, Kraków


(25 June 2016)