Our Lady of the Sea Shrine – The tomb of the Blessed Abouna Yaacoub
On May 3, 1923, Our Lady of the Sea Church – Jal El Dib was inaugurated for the intent of the Lebanese who immigrated seeking to make a living. This intense immigration caused a deep pain in the spirit of “Abouna Yaacoub”. The Sisters of the Cross Congregation celebrated the day of Our Lady of the Sea on this date of every year putting all the Lebanese people spread in the four corners of the world under the protection of Our Lady of the Sea.
On September 3, 1927, Abouna Yaccoub’s precious wish came true, and a cross of iron was erected on the church with the crucifix on it, reaching 10 meters in height, in a majestic ceremony with the participation of thousands of believers.
The center turned into a small convent which included a number of sick and disabled priests and today it includes Our Lady of the Sea Church and the tomb and museum of the Blessed Abouna Yaacoub within a large compound known as the Convent of the Cross, the very start of the Sisters of the Cross Congregation.
In the heart of the church-shrine we find the statue of Our Lady of the Sea which was purchased by Abouna Yaacoub, symbolizing Virgin Mary holding baby Jesus and at her feet a boat with travelers. Abouna Yaacoub wanted to put those travelers under her protection so that she could bring them back to their homeland safely. For this intent he wrote many prayers and hymns.
The church also includes an oil painting for the mediator of the shrine, Our Lady of the Sea, faced by an oil painting specifically drawn for the occasion of beatification of Abouna Yaacoub in 2008. In its dimensions, the painting expresses the purpose of the Sisters of the Cross Congregation, which is to take care of priests, mentally and psychically disabled patients, the elderly, the marginalized and blind people, orphans and children.
To the right of the altar we find a relic of the bones of the Blessed Abouna Yaacoub.
Inside the shrine and to the right of the entrance, we find the tomb of the Blessed Abouna Yaacoub in a space filled with reverence which silence is only broken by soft music which helps the visitor in quiet meditation and prayer and listening to the heavens whispering.
The rooms surrounding the southern sides of the church contain the wooden coffin which held the remains of Abouna Yaacoub when he died in 1954, the water pots in which the doctors washed the bones of the Blessed and the clothes and tools used on the day of inspecting his body. The closets of these rooms contain the certificates and medals of the Blessed.
As for the second floor, which was transformed into a precious museum for the Blessed Abouna Yaacoub on the occasion of his beatification, it includes his own library, bedroom, special accessories and tools he used, his liturgical clothes, holy pots and his rosary which never left his hand as his fingers wore away its wooden cross.
When exiting the shrine, the visitor makes a stop in front of a bronze statue for the Blessed Abouna Yaacoub, an exposition for souvenirs, prints and publications. And if he wanted to light candles and announced intentions, there is a place specially dedicated for such purpose.
The visitor may visit the sanctuary of the Convent of the Cross with its wide spaces, the Cross overlooking the mountain and coast, the Golgotha Church built by Abouna Yaacoub and which held his body for many years. The visitor can also get acquainted with the unique humanitarian mission undertaken by the Hospital of the Cross for mental and psychological illness in Lebanon and the Middle East. This hospital contains 1,000 beds and receives all patients of any doctrine, as a proof of the credibility of the Blessed Abouna Yacoub in what he used to say: “My sect is Lebanon and people in pain”. Thousands of Lebanese residents and expatriates visit the shrine either to ask for the intercession of Abouna Yacoub, either to pray at the cross and in front of Our Lady of the Sea, or to seek blessing from the holy place.