This shrine in South Texas is one of the state's most popular pilgrimage spots, hosting over one million visitors each year. Devotion to Our Lady of San Juan del Valle stems from San Juan de los Lagos, Mexico, located near Guadalajara.
Spanish missionaries placed a small image of the Immaculate Conception in the church of San Juan de los Lagos upon their arrival here in the 16th Century. In 1623, during the rehearsal for an acrobatic performance, the child of the acrobat, who was part of the act, lost her balance and was killed.
The caretaker of the church, convinced her parents to place the image of the Virgin Mary over their daughter's body and then prayed for the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Suddenly the child came back to life. Word spread throughout the area and beyond, and devotion to The Virgin of San Juan spread throughout Mexico (including Texas, which was still part of Mexico at the time).
An artist in Guadalajara, Mexico was commissioned to make a reproduction of the statue venerated at San Juan de Los Lagos and this reproduction was first placed in the San Juan chapel while the Basilica was being built.
The Shrine, built in 1954, was tragically destroyed in 1970 when a small plane crashed in to the Basilica and burst into flames. At the time there were some 50 priests concelebrating Mass for those in attendance. Miraculously no one was hurt except for the pilot, who was killed in the crash. The Basilica was re-built and the statue, which survived, was placed back in place.
The Basilica has a hotel, restaurant, gift shop and more. Several Masses in both English and Spanish are celebrated each weekday and many more on Saturdays and Sundays. Check their official website for details and times. There are also confessions heard daily as well as the Liturgy of the Hours.
Photos courtesy of Basilica of Our Lady of Del Valle National Shrine.