New shrine brings image of Christ child to Mount Claret

The Christ Child Shrine Project not only brought the statue to Mount Claret Retreat Center, but added a meditative area just outside the chapel that features ambient lighting, a waterfall and some shade. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)

Jesus openly welcomed children and told His crowds that they must become like a child to enter the kingdom of heaven.

A couple of mini statues at Mount Claret Retreat Center depict saintly children to aid with such meditation. There’s one with St. Joseph and an infant Jesus and another of St. Anne and a young Mary.

Both stand along a small meditation garden and sit rather low to the ground, not quite knee-high. Now, there’s also a much more public way for people of all ages who visit Mount Claret for retreats — including several school and youth groups — to meditate on becoming childlike in their faith.

(Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)

Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted dedicated a new five-foot statue of the Christ Child Jan. 8. It stands atop a waterfall and overlooks a new meditative seating area between Mount Claret’s chapel and sleeping quarters.

It was fittingly dedicated on the feast of the Epiphany, Bishop Olmsted said. The example of the magi personally inspired him to spend an hour in Eucharistic adoration daily the last 43 years. Their example should also inspire all Catholics, he said. There was something about the risky and lengthy journey to personally encounter or adore the infant Christ that made it worth it.

“It has something to do with silence and with action within the heart,” the bishop said, noting that Adoration tunes the heart to what the eye cannot see.

“We’re never the same after we encounter Jesus. The creator keeps recreating over and over,” the bishop said. That’s why following Adoration and a dream, the magi departed another way for their home lands.

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The ability to contemplate Jesus at a key moment in His life, around the age of 12, is a multi-fold gift, the bishop said. It allows children and parents to reflect on the value of family, others to intercede to the Christ child for protection of the unborn and still others at a life’s junction to intercede to the Christ child at the age he was found in the temple “about His Father’s business.”

“That happened because of a deeper call that he heard at that stage to be in His Father’s house. That awareness, that, even though we are given to one another, we’re called to love one another, we have obligations to love one another … our higher obligation is always to God,” the bishop told a small crowd during the dedication which followed the regular Sunday Mass.

The Christ Child name got attached to the shrine out of convenience after a workroom the Christ Child Society once used was no longer viable nor needed and cleared away for the project. Funds from a widower, in honor of his late wife, got the project started.

Members of the Christ Child Society, a 30-year-old ministry who have operated out of Mount Claret the last 22 years, helped purchase the 5-foot statue. Community donors also pitched in to create the landscaping for the shrine. Memorial bricks are also available.

Tom McGuire, executive director of Mount Claret, has received positive feedback about the shrine’s design. He also complimented its lighting features which give it a special feel at night.

“We’ve already seen people who are here on retreat weekends taking advantage of the space,” McGuire told The Catholic Sun days after the 300-pound statue’s installation.

The project marked the end of the first part of a three-phase master plan to upgrade Mount Claret’s property. An updated chapel is on the horizon as is reworking of the outdoor area and parking lot to create a more cohesive feel between the southern building and the rest of the property.