The village of Ain Karem (directly west of Jerusalem) has two Catholic churches: one commemorating the famous canticle of Mary (Lk 1:46-55, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord . . .”) and the other the canticle of Zechariah (Lk 1:68-79, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel . . .”). Outside these churches, ceramic plaques provide the text of these prayers in many languages (over 50 for Mary’s canticle).
The Church of the Visitation is at the edge of the city and contains an upper church and crypt built after World War II on the site of earlier Byzantine and Crusader churches. In the 14th century, this shrine was under the care of Armenian monks, but the Friars Minor have been there since 1679. Visitors to custodia.org can find photos, the floor plan, pilgrim accounts over the centuries, and other information via the “Sanctuaries” and “Church of the Visitation” links. May 31 is the feast of the Visitation.
The Church of the Birth of St. John the Baptist is in the city and is built over the reputed site where Zechariah and Elizabeth lived and where John grew up. A Crusader church built there in the 12th century was replaced six centuries later. The Friars Minor arrived in the 17th century. The birth of St. John the Baptist is celebrated on June 24.
Image: Wikimedia Commons