A famous shrine located on the grounds of the Basilica of St. Mary Star of the Sea in Key West, Florida, dedicated to protecting the area from hurricanes, once again survived a major storm without damage.
Father John Baker, the basilica’s pastor for the past 10 years, posted a simply-worded message on the basilica’s website which reads: “Fr. John and the Sisters have all weathered the storm without incident and are well. They are truly appreciative of your constant prayer and are looking forward to celebrating daily Mass with everyone tomorrow (and every morning forward) in the Basilica at 7:30 AM. Thanks be to God!”
For residents of the keys, this is just another miracle for the institution which was built in 1902 and has never been damaged by a hurricane.
According to the Catholic News Service (CNS), a famous grotto in honor of Our Lady of Lourdes was erected on the site 95 years ago as a spiritual refuge from storms. It is believed that Key West will never experience the full brunt of a hurricane as long as the shrine is standing.
So far, this has proven true. This is in spite of the fact that Hurricane Irma passed over Cudjoe Key, just 20 miles east of Key West and left at least 25 percent of the homes on the Florida keys destroyed. A full assessment of the damage is still uncertain because a portion of the main highway to the Keys is underwater. Accessing the area by boat is also too dangerous at the moment because the near-shore waters are full of debris from the storm.
Last week, as news of the impending hurricane became more and more dire, and as many residents began to pack up and leave, people streamed to the shine at all hours, leaving notes, lighting candles and praying for protection for themselves, their loved ones and their property.
There were about 70 people at an early morning Mass on September 7, just days before the hurricane struck. Even though the area was under a mandatory evacuation order, not everyone was planning to go.
Father Baker, who has weathered a number of storms, was one of those who refused to leave. He and another priest wanted to “be present” with those who were staying on the island and planned to seek shelter on an upper floor of the rectory.
In the days before the storm, he told CNS that he refused to let fear overtake him. “People have to say: ‘I can’t get into that mode,’” he said. “You have to get through it with a kind of sanity and peace, knowing God is with you.”
God was certainly with him and the beautiful shrine dedicated to Our Lady, Star of the Sea, a title which reflects Mary’s role as a “guiding star” on the way to Christ.
May she continue to guide Floridians as they rebuild after this horrific storm.
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