Heiloo is no Lourdes, no Fatima or Kevelaer. Yet each year many tens of thousands of people find their way to this site of six hectare, with its Genadekapel (Chapel of Mercy) and Runxputte (Mary Source), surrounded by a park of prayer and contemplation. Groups, large and small, come to Heiloo on pilgrimage, yet most visitors find their own way. Naturally the important Marian feast days are an attraction, but even on regular grey and cold wintry days people arrive at the Sanctuary of Mercy. You are most welcome.
Today many visit the Sanctuary to take their needs to Mary, invoked here as Our Lady of Distress. The Chapel of Mercy is a place of peace and prayer where one can light a candle, pray, celebrate Holy Mass, or simply sit in silence for a while. On Sundays and other larger occasions Holy Mass is celebrated in the more spacious Bedevaartkapel (Chapel of Pilgrimage).
Here the possibility to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation is offered every afternoon.
The beautiful park is worth a lovely stroll, with the Stations of the Cross and the special place with the statue of Mary of Lourdes. In the Oesdom you are welcome for something to eat and drink. Also in the Oesdom there is a small shop with articles like rosaries, medallions, saint statues, candles and books.
Nowadays the former Julianaklooster (Juliana Monastery; now called Guesthouse) houses the seminary of the Diocese Haarlem-Amsterdam as well as many activities for families, teenagers, young people and other groups.
This Sanctuary is a Roman Catholic place. The Catholic Church was founded by Jesus Christ in the first century and has spread over the entire world since then. In essence everything in our faith revolves around this: God loves humanity, despite all our shortcomings and mistakes. God became man, Jesus, and took upon Himself the sufferings of the cross so that all our sins could be forgiven. Although He died on the cross, He is stronger than death and has risen! To His friends and pupils, the apostles, He assigned the mission of spreading His message of love to the entire world. That is how the ‘family’ was established that we still call the Church, which is lead by God and gives us the strength to live from His love.
The Roman Catholic Church is lead here on earth by the Pope, the successor of Peter, who was appointed by Jesus Himself (Matthew 16). The current Pope is Pope Francis. For living a Catholic life a few things are essential: the Bible, the Tradition of the Church and the Sacraments. Together we celebrate the liturgy, we pray and we allow ourselves to be fed by the Word of God, received from the Bible and the Tradition.
The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Distress is especially dedicated to Mary. Mary is the Mother of Jesus. We believe that Jesus is God and man, and that He became human in order to deliver us. Because God is almighty, He could have chosen any number of ways to come on earth. He chose to come by being born form a woman: Mary. Because God Himself chose this way, we feel called upon to honour this pathway by approaching God through Mary. We honour Mary as our Heavenly Mother who intercedes for us with God, who protects and loves us, in the same manner that she did with Jesus.
Mary is a creature, she is no God, so we do not worship her; we simply give her credit for her being the Mother of God and of us. In this Sanctuary Mary is venerated with the special title “Our Lady of Distress”, because the first chapel of the sanctuary was built in gratitude for the fact that by her intercession a ship at sea in great trouble was saved. Later, also by her intercession, this region was saved from the cattle plague. We know that Mary lays down all our prayers, our questions and needs at the feet of the Lord and intercedes for us. We trust that Jesus, who loves His Mother so dearly, cannot refuse her anything!