Saint John Paul II arguably had one of the most influential pontificates in Church history. It is, therefore, fitting that the Saint John Paul II National Shrine in Washington, D.C. is dedicated to preserving the life and legacy of this great pope.

The shrine has been an active ministry of the Knights of Columbus since 2011, and was designated a national shrine by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in 2014.

This growing shrine welcomes nearly 64,000 pilgrims and visitors annually and boasts an impressive 16,000 square-foot permanent exhibit entitled A Gift of Love: The Life of Saint John Paul II, which contains moving videos, dynamic interactive displays, and personal artifacts of the pontiff.

The shrine also has a church and a chapel with floor-to-ceiling mosaics designed by world-renowned Catholic artist, Jesuit Father Marko Rupnik, that enliven two of Saint John Paul’s teachings, his 1979 Redemptor Hominis encyclical and the Mysteries of Light added to the rosary in 2002. Another popular and sacred item at the shrine is a first-class blood relic that is available for veneration.

Visitors to the shrine will find both a memorable and spiritual experience – from the moving orientation video of the exhibit to seeing the unique liturgical garments Saint John Paul II wore during his visits to 129 countries and from the spiritually uplifting inner movement of praying in a church or chapel while surrounded by sacred art that pilgrims learn about in greater detail during a daily public tour.

But what also really makes the shrine appeal to families, men, and women of all ages is the active pastoral programs that foster the spirituality of Catholics within the region by teaching them how to apply Saint John Paul II’s teachings into their daily lives.

While Crux readers are encouraged to visit the shrine’s website ( or follow the shrine on social media (@jp2shrine on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram) to get the latest updates on the full range of these programs, a few of them are highlighted below.


  • Stronger: A Men’s Retreat – These retreats focus on strengthening Christian leadership in men so that each man can learn to be the great leader that God calls him to be as a son, husband, father, and missionary disciple in today’s world!
  • Tea and a Rosary for Mothers – Mothers gather for a short talk, conversation, rosary, and a chance for Confession and Mass. Childcare is provided.
  • Renewal of Wedding Vow Celebration – Couples renew their wedding vows at a special Mass around the Feast of Pentecost.
  • Domestic Church Day – These quarterly half-day retreats for families include engaging talks for couples, children, and teens with time for prayer, reflection, and Mass.
  • Visit of the Saints Series


  • World Youth Day Unite – These event are in the spirit and vision of the international World Youth Day celebrations and are ways for past WYD attendees to reignite their past experience.
  • Evenings with the Merciful Jesus – Led by the Sisters of the Congregation of Our Lady of Mercy during the evening of the 22nd of the month, these events feature a talk, adoration with praise and worship music, confession, refreshments, and fellowship.
  • Young Adult Retreats – Pulling from Saint John Paul II’s teachings, these retreats help young adults lead holy lives as they grow and develop.


  • The Art of Prayer – This is a continuing series on interior prayer with time for silent meditation followed by a Sunday Vespers service and Mass at 7:00 p.m.
  • Behold! Thursday Night Adoration and Confession – This is the shrine’s weekly Adoration program with prayerful music, silence, and Confession held in collaboration with parishes, religious communities, and lay organizations.
  • Daily Mass – Mass is offered daily at 12 p.m. Monday through Saturday and at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Sundays.
  • Prayer at the Hour of Mercy – Led by the Sisters of the Congregation of Our Lady of Mercy, the Divine Mercy chaplet is prayed daily at 3 p.m. and includes a reflection on the Merciful Jesus.
  • Saturday Rosary – The Sisters of the Congregation of Our Lady of Mercy lead pilgrims in praying the rosary each Saturday at 11:30 a.m.


  • Advent Lessons and Carols
  • Advent and Lenten Days of Recollection
  • Holy Week, Easter, and Divine Mercy Sunday
  • Saint John Paul II Feast Day Celebrations
  • Feast of All Saints and Feast of All Souls
  • Visit of the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

The Saint John Paul II National Shrine has also hosted several unique special events, including the visit of the World Youth Day Cross & Icon symbols and concerts by Catholic recording artists such as Tony Melendez, Audrey Assad, and Steve Angrisano. The shrine is also continuing its year-long celebration of the 40th anniversary of Saint John Paul II’s election to the papacy.

In early 2019, the shrine will be a prominent stop for the heart of St. John Vianney, the patron saint of priests, as this first class relic travels across the United States in a tour co-sponsored by the Knights of Columbus and the Shrine of St. Jean Vianney in Ars, France.

Ken Balbuena is the director of pilgrimage and visitor services. To learn more about the Saint John Paul II National Shrine and to book a pilgrimage, please visit and be sure to follow the shrine on social media at @jp2shrine (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram).