[Our Lady of Peace]

El Salvador: Our Lady of Peace

Tradition has it that some time in 1682 some merchants found an abandoned box on the shore of Salvador's Mar del Sur.  They were unable to open the box.  As it was tightly closed and sealed, they surmised that it contained something of value, and decided to take it to the city of San Miguel where they would find out how to open it.  They tied the box on a donkey's back and undertook the long and dangerous journey to the city where they arrived on November 21, meaning to inform the local authorities of their find.  But when they went by the parish church, now a cathedral, the donkey lay down on the ground.  They were then able to open the box and were surprised to find that it contained a lovely image of Our Lady holding the Child.

[Our Lady of Peace]
The origin of this image is still a mystery as it never was known for whom the box was intended, or how it came to reach the beaches of El Salvador.  It is said that a hard and bloody struggle was going on between the inhabitants of the region, but when they heard of the marvelous discovery in the abandoned box, they put down their weapons and immediately ceased fighting.  It is also related that during the 1833 fratricidal struggles, when everyone expected a blood bath, the victorious side—instead of taking reprisals—had the blessed image placed in the atrium of the parish church.  At the feet of Our Lady, a solemn vow was made to keep no grudges and to erase all hatred from the hearts so that peace would bring about brotherhood and reconciliation.  This is why the image was given the beautiful title of Our Lady of Peace, whose liturgical celebration is held on November 21 in memory of its arrival at San Miguel.

The statute is a dressed wood carving; with the national shield of El Salvador embroidered on the front of the image's white robe.  The image holds a gold palm leaf in memory of the eruption of the Chaparrastique volcano, which threatened to destroy the city with burning lava.  The frightened dwellers of San Miguel brought out the statute of Our Lady of Peace to the principal door of the cathedral, and at that precise moment the force of the lava changed direction, moving away from the city.  In the exact place where the lava changed direction there's a town called Milagro de la Paz (Miracle of Peace).

On the day this happened, September 21, 1787, everyone saw in the sky, formed by the clouds, a white palm leaf that seemed to sprout from the crater of the volcano.  Considering that this was a sign of the Virgin's protection, her faithful decided to place in her hand a gold palm like the one they had seen in the sky.

Benedict XV authorized the crowning of the image which took place on November 21, 1921. The goldsmith who made the Virgin's crown used 650 grams of gold and many precious stones, among which was a huge emerald surrounded by diamonds. The new shrine dedicated to Our Lady of Peace was completed in 1953.

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Guatemala: Our Lady of the Rosary

The image of Our Lady of the Rosary, the work of unknown artists, was finished in 1592.  Commissioned by Friar Lopez de Montoya, a Dominican priest, the statue was made completely of pure silver, but her robes and pedestal are not visible, having been covered by elaborate garments and ornaments.

[Our Lady of the Rosary]

Her devotees claim that the coloring of her beautiful face changes from bright pink to a much more faded shade whenever there is a conflict or some national misfortune is imminent.  The image has a large rosary in her right hand and with her left one she holds the Child who seems to be trying to free Himself from her embrace.

There is a popular tradition that the Virgin Mary went out to travel through America and that the Child fell asleep when they reached Guatemala, which is why she stayed there. In 1821 the leaders of the independence movement proclaimed her Patroness of the new nation, and they took an oath before her image that they would not rest until they freed Guatemala.

The Virgin of the Rosary was solemnly declared 'Queen of Guatemala' in 1833 and was crowned canonically on January 26, 1934 in a huge ceremony in the principal plaza of Guatemala in front of the cathedral.  The ceremony had to be held in the open because there was no church large enough to hold the multitude that had gathered.

[Our Lady of the Rosary] The crown which Archbishop Luis Durou placed on the head of the blessed image is a valuable silver jewel with which the people of Guatemala wanted to show their devotion and enthusiasm for their patroness.  The artists who made it used one-hundred-and-twenty-one emeralds, forty-four diamonds, eighty pearls, five amethysts, a gold rose, etc.  The church and convent of St. Dominic, current shrine of the Virgin of the Rosary, was begun in 1788 and completed in 1808.  October, the month dedicated to the rosary, is the most popular and important religious happening for the Guatemalan people and nation.

The entire month is occasion for celebration, feasting, and constant pilgrimages to the sanctuary of the Virgin of the Rosary.

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[Our Lady of Suyapa]

Honduras: Our Lady of Suyapa

The tiny image of Our Lady of the Conception of Suyapa was found by a humble young peasant on a Saturday in January 1747.  Alejandro Colindres, and Lorenzo Martinez, an eight-year-old boy, were returning to the village of Suyapa, tired from working all day gathering corn.  They were half way there when night fell as they reached the Piliguin ravine.  This seemed to them like a good place to spend the night and they lay down on the hard ground.  Right away Alejandro felt that something, apparently a stone, was preventing his finding a comfortable position for his back.  In the dark, he picked it up and threw it far away.  Strangely enough, on lying down again he felt the same discomfort, but--intrigued--this time he did not throw it, instead he put it away in his knapsack.  At day break he discovered that the mysterious object was a charming small image of Our Lady carved in cedar wood.

Our Lady of Suyapa measures only six and a half centimeters.  It is a very old carving, probably the work done with devotion by an amateur artist.  Her angelic looks reflect the nobility of the native race.  It is a dark image with an oval face and shoulder length straight hair: her tiny hands are joined together in a prayerful attitude.  The original painted color of her robe is light pink, which now can be seen slightly, covered by a dark cloak trimmed with golden stars and adorned with valuable jewels.  The object of great veneration on the part of the Honduran people, the image rests on a solid silver sphere, and appears surrounded by a circle of silver rays, which evoke 'the woman dressed by the sun' mentioned in the Book of Revelation.

[Our Lady of Suyapa]

In 1925, Pius XI declared Our Lady of Suyapa patroness of the Republic of Honduras, and February 3 was chosen as her feast day with proper Mass and office.  The first shrine was blessed in 1780 and the first notable attested miracle, occurred in 1796.  The present enormous church, with space for the multitude of pilgrims who visit Suyapa, was visited by John Paul II in 1983.  In the land of the poor, this sanctuary of Santa Maria de Suyapa is located in one of the humblest parts of the city.

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