Just over an hour from Huntsville in Hanceville, Alabama near Cullman, you can witness a magnificent shrine with an unusual story. The Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament of Our Lady of the Angels Monastery is in the middle of "nowhere." How the shrine came to be is an amazing story in itself. One acquaintance mentioned to her friend that she'd been to Europe and seen the shrines there and then said, "You don't need to go to Europe. This shrine is more magnificent than anything there."
As a Protestant, I had perhaps a different expectation and experience than my Catholic friends. I was overwhelmed by the size of the place. At first I viewed the monastery as just another tourist attraction. I was upset that I would not be able to take pictures inside, but here's my Photos of Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament on the outside. By the time we left, I was completely awestruck and realized that pictures wouldn't do the temple justice anyway. This is one of those places that you have to experience for yourself.
We were led into a conference room just off the entrance and given an informative talk about the monastery by Brother Matthew, one of six "brothers" who live in the two-story white barn just inside the gates of the monastery. The brothers help the sisters and Mother Angelica with manual labor, landscaping, building, and lawn work.
The sisters moved into the monastery in December, 1999 from their Irondale, Alabama Monastery. There are 32 nuns in the Our Lady of the Angels Monastery, ranging in age from 20 to 70 years old.
Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament is a cloistered community, which means that they take vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience and the central focal point of their lives is the perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Our Lady of the Angels Monastery receives about ten calls or letters a week with requests and questions about a vocation. There is room in the Monastery for a total of 42 nuns.
The cloistered nuns need to receive special permission from the Pope to travel. With permission, Mother Angelica was traveling in Bogotá, Columbia 5 1/2 years ago. As she was going to pray one day, she saw a statute of a nine or ten year old Jesus out of the corner of her eye. As she passed by, she saw the statute come alive and turn towards her and say, "Build me a temple and I will help those who help you."
Mother Angelica didn't know what this meant because she had never heard of a Catholic church referred to as a "temple." Later, she found that the Temple of St. Peters was a Catholic Church and a place of worship.
When she returned from her trip, she began looking for land in Alabama. She found over 300 acres that belonged to a 90-year old lady and her children. They were not Catholics, but when Mother Angelica told her what she wanted the land to build a temple for Jesus, the lady responded, "That's a good enough reason for me."
The temple took 5 years to construct and is still being worked on. Currently a gift shop and conference center is being built. Brice Construction of Birmingham did the work, with over 200 workers and at least 99% were not Catholic.