275. The exemplary role of shrines is also expressed through charity. Every shrine in so far as it celebrates the merciful presence of the Lord, the example and the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Saints, “is in itself a hearth radiating the light and warmth of charity” (Central Committee for the Marian Year, Marian Sanctuaries, 4 (Circular Letter 7. 10. 1987)). In common parlance and in the language of the poor “charity is love expressed in the name of God” (Ibid.). It finds concrete expression in hospitality and mercy, solidarity and sharing, assistance and giving.
There are four important ways shrines contribute to charity. Let’s read of serving the needy, of hospitality, of attention to those with special needs, and a basic posture of service to all:
Many shrines are centers mediating the love of God and fraternal charity on the one hand, and the needs of (humankind) on the other. This is made possible by the generosity of the faithful and the zeal of those responsible for the shrines. The charity of Christ flourishes in these sanctuaries which seem to be an extension of the maternal solicitude of Our Lady and of the compassionate presence of the Saints expressed:
• in the creation and development of permanent centers of social assistance such as hospitals, educational institutions for needy children, and in the provision of homes for the aged;
• “in the hospitality extended to pilgrims, especially the poor, to whom the opportunity for rest and shelter should be offered, in so far as possible;
• in the solicitude shown to the old, the sick, the handicapped, to whom particular attention is always given, especially in reserving for them the best places in the shrine: without isolating them from the other pilgrims, celebrations should be made available at convenient times, taking into account their ability to participate at them; effective collaboration should also exist between the shrines and those who generously provide for transport;
• in availability and service to all who come to shrines: educated and uneducated members of the faithful, poor and rich, locals and strangers” (CDWDS, Circular Letter, Orientations and proposals for the Celebration of the Marian Year, 76).
The Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy is online at the Vatican site.