“The Lourdes of Germany”: Our Lady of Altötting and the World Day of the Sick

“The Lourdes of Germany”: Our Lady of Altötting and the World Day of the Sick January 31, 2013

In southeastern Germany, in the region of Bavaria, there stands an octagonal chapel which dates back to A.D. 660.  The chapel, constructed of native stone, is home to a small limewood statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, darkened by age, by the smoke of thousands of candles which have burned there, and by a fire which nearly destroyed it in A.D. 990.  The chapel is known to native Germans as the Shrine of Our Lady of Altötting or the Chapel of Grace (in German, Gnadenkappelle).

For over 500 years, the shrine—which is served by the Capuchin friars—has been a popular pilgrimage site for devout Germans.  In 1489, a grieving mother brought the body of her young son, who had been drowned, and laid him before the Blessed Mother, and prayed for a miracle.  The boy returned to life.  Since then, many miracles and cures have been attributed to Our Lady of Altötting, and the shrine has been dubbed the “Lourdes of Germany.”

The porch surrounding the shrine is filled with votive offerings left by devout pilgrims and with small, silver urns bearing the remains of German noblemen, who arranged to have their hearts placed here after death.

In November 1980, Pope John Paul II visited the shrine—accompanied by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who was born in a nearby town.  On September 11, 2006, Ratzinger, newly elected as Pope Benedict XVI, returned to the shrine to donate the episcopal ring he had worn while Archbishop of Munich.  That ring is now a part of the scepter held by the Blessed Virgin.

Plenary Indulgence for the World Day of the Sick

On February 7-11, 2013, the shrine will be the site for the celebration of the 21st World Day of the Sick.  In a decree published January 28 and signed by Cardinal Manuel Monteiro de Castro and Bishop Krzysztof Nykiel, respectively penitentiary major and regent of the Apostolic Penitentiary, Pope Benedict XVI grants a Plenary Indulgence to the faithful who participate in this World Day of the Sick.

According to the decree:

Persons following the example of the Good Samaritan, who “with a spirit of faith and a merciful soul, put themselves at the service of their brothers and sisters who are suffering or who, if sick, endure the pains and hardships of life … bearing witness to the faith through the path of the Gospel of suffering” will obtain the Plenary Indulgence, once a day and under the usual conditions (sacramental Confession, Eucharistic communion and prayer in keeping with the intentions of the Holy Father), applicable also to the souls of deceased faithful:

A) each time from 7–11 February, in the Marian Shrine of Altotting or at any other place decided by the ecclesiastical authorities, that they participate in a ceremony held to beseech God to grant the goals of the World Day of the Sick, praying the Our Father, the Creed, and an invocation to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Faithful in public hospitals or any private house who, like the Good Samaritan, charitably assist the ill and who, because of such service, cannot attend the aforementioned celebrations, will obtain the same gift of Plenary Indulgence if, for at least a few hours on that day, they generously provide their charitable assistance to the sick as if they were tending to Christ the Lord Himself and pray the Our Father, the Creed, and an invocation to the Blessed Virgin Mary, with their soul removed from attachment to any form of sin and with the intention of carrying out as soon as possible that which is necessary to obtain the plenary indulgence.

The faithful who because of illness, advance age, or other similar reasons cannot take part in the aforementioned celebrations will obtain the Plenary Indulgence if, with their soul removed from attachment to any form of sin and with the intention of carrying out as soon as possible the usual conditions, spiritually participating in the sacred events of the determined days, particularly through liturgical celebrations and the Supreme Pontiff’s message broadcast by television or radio, they pray for all the sick and offer their physical and spiritual suffering to God through the Virgin Mary, ‘Salus Infirmorum’ (Health of the Sick).

B) Partial Indulgence will be conceded to all the faithful who, between the indicated days, with a contrite heart raise devout prayers to the merciful Lord beseeching assistance for the sick in spirit during this Year of Faith.

Cardinal Monteiro de Castro said that the special indulgences were authorized by Pope Benedict XVI during this Year of Faith “so that the faithful, truly repentant and moved by charity and the example of the good Samaritan, with a spirit of faith and a merciful soul, would place themselves at the service of their suffering brothers and sisters.”

The Pope also hoped that Catholics who are sick would endure “the pains and sufferings of life, raising their hearts to God with humble trust and offering witness to the faith.”

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