BALASAR MAY HAVE
THE FIRST EUCHARISTIC SHRINE IN PORTUGAL
On July 11, 2008, the Archdiocese of Braga's newspaper, Diário do Minho, dedicated its supplement on Parish Patrimony to Balasar. The following is a translation of that article.
The Parish of Balasar has long wished to build a temple dedicated to the Eucharist, a site which will be, in fact, the first Eucharistic Shrine in Portugal.
The parish priest of Balasar, José Barbosa Granja, states that he feels that challenge because every Sunday he sees many pilgrims from all corners of the archdiocese, and even beyond, come to Balasar to worship the Blessed Sacrament. 'I would like it to be a bit like the one in Lourdes, in France,' he says, 'where there would be a Eucharistic Procession with a blessing of the sick', says the priest.
According to Father Granja, the current infrastructures cannot accommodate a procession because the churchyard is small and is surrounded by traffic which gives rise to noise. 'It is impossible to have a silent procession', he adds.
Father Granja points out that the parish already has a field with four and a half hectares near the house of Blessed Alexandrina which would be suitable for the project. 'It's a quiet place. What I propose is to have there a temple with a square to allow the celebration of an outdoor Masses and Eucharistic Processions' Father Granja says.
Asked about what prevents the realization of this Eucharistic Shrine in Balasar, the priest replied that there is a period for the conception of an idea, another for gestation and another for implementation. 'I think that the four years since the Beatification of Blessed Alexandrina have been important for devotion to her to grow and mature. Now, the final decision lies with the hierarchy.' So, in the opinion of Father Granja, what is needed now is a higher ecclesiastic decision, in particular from the Archbishop of Braga.
already a place of pilgrimage for many believers who come from various points of
the globe, including Lebanon, where Catholics are in the minority.
Father Granja believes that the Archbishop, D. Jorge Ortiga, is favourable towards the proposition of a Eucharistic Shrine in Balasar because, he reveals, of the discussions he has had with the prelate.
Currently, there is no doubt that Balasar is already part of the itinerary of pilgrimages of the faithful in Portugal. There is no village in country that does not know, or has not heard of this town where Blessed Alexandrina was born, lived and died. And, if the Archdiocese of Braga authorizes the construction of the Eucharistic Shrine, the importance of Balasar as a centre of faith will be confirmed.
'Balasar is already in the roadmap of faith because we do not have tourists here. We have only pilgrims. Whether people come on foot or by car, the meaning is always the same, namely pilgrimage,' Father Granja says.
Another question is whether money for this construction will be available. Before a parish priest commences any project he needs to ascertain, as the Gospel recommends, if the means to see the work through are forthcoming. In Father Granja's opinion, this is a long-term plan, in which the structure would be implemented in stages, and as the financial means were available. 'But there is ample testimony to show that, when a project is of God, the money and the means appear. I am sure that the people of God who come here will help. It is usually said that when they see a work in progress, people always cooperate', he points out. Moreover, Father Granja ensures that, in addition to the higher ecclesiastical authorities, the civil authorities, including the Municipality of Póvoa de Varzim, also show good will in implementing this project. 'I think that on the municipal level there is goodwill and sensitivity to this. We all feel, however, that much now depends on the economic crisis ', he says.
According to the pastor, the great investment that Balasar needs is accessible. In his viewpoint one area of important is the improvement of road access.