As Easter Sunday approaches, the National Shrine of the Cross in the Woods is an ideal place to visit this weekend to reflect on Jesus’ death and resurrection. This Catholic shrine in Indian River, Michigan is home to one of the largest crucifixes in the world.
It took American sculptor Marshall Fredericks four years to design the crucifix he titled “The Man on the Cross.” It was cast in bronze in Norway and shipped across the Atlantic Ocean back to Michigan. It weighs a whopping seven tons and is twenty-eight feet tall from head to toe. The Vatican gave Fredericks special permission to not include the crown of thorns or the wound on the side of Jesus’ torso. Thirteen bolts were used to affix the bronze sculpture to the cross before it was lifted to its foundation in 1954.
In 1956 the Holy Stairs were added to the base of the cross. The twenty-eight stairs represent the twenty-eight stairs Jesus had to climb to reach Pontius Pilate’s throne. Then, he was condemned to death. Many people choose to ascend the stairs on their knees as they pray and meditate. For people with ambulatory issues, it is not necessary to use the steps to view the Cross.
While the crucifix is the main attraction of the shrine, there are many other things to see. There is a large church that can accommodate 1,000 people, outdoor Stations of the Cross, and a gift shop. The Doll Museum showcases dolls outfitted in traditional habits worn by men and women in religious communities through the years. It is the largest collection of its kind in the United States. The gift shop and The Doll Museum will be closed this weekend.
There are six smaller shrines on the property:
The Shrine of St. Francis — One of the most well-known saints, St. Francis of Assisi is the patron of peace, justice, the environment and those who strive to preserve it.
Our Lady of the Highway — This shrine is carved from marble. She is the patroness of travelers.
Shrine of St. Peregrine – A street thug in his youth in the late 13th century, St. Peregrine once mocked and assaulted a priest. When the priest forgave him, it changed his life and he converted. He devoted the rest of his life to aiding the poor, sick, and homeless. When he was diagnosed with leg cancer at the age of sixty-five, an amputation was scheduled. The night before surgery, Peregrine prayed before the image of Christ on the cross. The next morning, the cancer was gone, and his leg was healed. He lived twenty more years. St. Peregrine is the patron of those with cancer and HIV/AIDS.
Shrine of St. Kateri Tekakwitha — This bronze statue depicts Kateri Tekakwitha also known as the “lily of the Mohawks." She was born in New York in 1656 to a Christian mother, a member of the Algonquin nation, and her father, Chief of the Mohawk tribe. She converted to Christianity when she turned eighteen. She was known for placing crosses in trees to form small outdoor chapels. She had a deep devotion to the Eucharist and died at the tender age of twenty-four.
The Holy Family — The statue of Joseph, Mary, and baby Jesus is titled “A Quiet Moment.”
Fr. McGivney Memorial — Born in 1852 in Connecticut, Fr. Michael McGivney was a key figure in establishing the Knights of Columbus in 1882 as a legal corporation.
The public is welcome to walk the grounds of the outdoor Sanctuary from dawn to dusk. The shrine is open 365 days of the year. Admission is free, but donations are greatly appreciated. The shrine is located at 7078 M-68 Indian River, MI 49749.