[Our Lady of Luján]

[Our Lady of Luján]

Argentina: Our Lady of Luján

The Virgin of Luján is a small - two feet high - terracotta fiqure of the Immaculate. It was made in Brazil and sent to Argentina in May, 1630. Its original appearance seemed inspired by Murillo's Immaculates, but in 1887, in order to detain its decay, the image was given a solid silver covering, and is usually clothed with a rich white robe and a sky blue cloak - these being the colors of the Argentine flag. Only the dark oval face with big blue eyes and the hands folded in prayer are now visible.

Tradition has it that the ox-drawn wagon taking the statuette from Buenos Aires to Santiago del Estero stopped inexplicably by the Luján river, near the home of Don Rosendo Oramas. The oxen were changed and the wagon was unloaded, but to no avail, the oxen refused to cross the river. Then someone noticed two small boxes that had been left in the back of the wagon. Each of these boxes contained a different image of the Virgin: one represented the Immaculate and the other the Virgin holding the Child Jesus.

First they unloaded this image and nothing happened, but when they removed the box that contained the Immaculate, the oxen got going immediately. The astonished witnesses repeated this several times with the same result. They then understood that Our Lady wished to stay in Luján and they obliged her.

At first the image was taken to the home of Don Rosendo who built a primitive chapel for it, where Our Lady was venerated for forty years. A bigger and more beautiful shrine was completed in 1685 and the final sanctuary was built in the XIX century. The image was crowned canonically in 1887 and in 1930 Pius XII gave the sanctuary the title of Basilica.

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Bolivia: Our Lady of Copacabana

Where it is part of Bolivia, the peninsula of Copacabana penetrates Lake Titicaca near the islands of the Sun and Moon, sacred sites of the Incas. It is here, at 4800 meters above sea level, that devotion to the "Most Blessed Virgin de la Candelaria, Our Lady of Copacabana," originated.

[Our Lady of Copacabana] The figure, made of plaster and fiber from the maguey tree, is completely covered with gold leaf, except for the face and hands; the garments reproduce the colors and dress of an Inca princess. The original shape is permanently hidden by rich robes and cloaks, and the carved hair has been covered by a wig. The image of the Virgin measures over four feet, and her soft expression - and that of the Child she holds as if it were about to fall - recall the features of the inhabitants of the region. The statue is the work of Francisco Tito Yupanqui, a descendant of the Inca Huayna Capac. The first efforts of this inexperienced sculptor were rejected, but finally his love and perseverance produced this image of the Virgin which was humbly enthroned in a poor adobe church on February 21 1583, making it one of the oldest Marian sanctuaries in the Americas. The present temple dates from 1805, and the image was crowned during Pius XI's pontificate. Over the centuries the image was showered with valuable jewels and the church with treasures which were later looted by presidents, dictators and generals. Presently the image, which the quechua and aimara Indians call La Coyeta, has rich jewels on her neck, hands and ears, the gifts of her devotees. In her right hand she holds a straw basket and a baton, the gift and souvenir of the visit of the viceroy of Peru in 1669.

The original image never leaves the sanctuary, which became a basilica in 1949; a copy is used for processions. At first the feast of the beloved patroness was celebrated on February 2, [formerly] the Purification of Mary, and later it was transferred to August 5 with its own liturgy and great popular celebration.

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Brazil: Our Lady "Aparecida" (who appeared)

In October of 1717, Dom Pedro de Almedida, Count of Assumar, was on his way to the state of Minas Gerais from Sao Paulo. He would have to pass by Guarantinqueta, a small city in the Paraiba River valley. The people of Guarantinqueta decided to hold a great feast to honor the Count, and a lot of fish would be needed.

However, it was not the season for fish and the water seemed deserted. After many hours of catching nothing, the fishermen were very depressed. Among the fishermen were three men who always prayed to Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception -- Domingos Garcia, Joco Alves, and Felipe Pedroso. Before going out to fish, they asked God to help then in this difficult task, to find enough fish at this time when no fish were available. Felipe knelt and prayed, along with his companions, "Mother of God and our Mother, we need to find fish!"

[Our Lady of Aparecida]
Just before they were ready to give up, Joco cast his net one more time near the Port of Itaguagu in hopes that they would find fish. However, they found a body of a statue! Joco called out in surprise, "Domingo! Felipe! Come and see what we have!" They cast the net one more time and brought up the head of the statue!

They very carefully washed the statue and saw that it was Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. They wrapped her in some cloths and continued to fish. Domingo commented, "We worked all night and have found no fish!"

Felipe had a proposition: "Let's continue to fish with faith in the Virgin Aparecida (who appeared)." From this moment on, the net became very full with fish. This was the first  miracle of Our Lady of Aparecida.

It is not known how the small (less than three feet high) statue came to rest at the bottom of the river, but its artist is known, Frei Agostino de Jesus, a "carioca'' monk from Sao Paulo who created artistic clay sculptures.The image was made around 1650 and must have stayed submerged in the river for many years because it lost its original polychromy. The image is now a brilliant  dark brown color, and is covered by a stiff mantle of richly embroidered thick cloth, allowing only her face and hands to be seen. She wears on her head the imperial crown with precious stones with which she was crowned in 1904. In 1930 Pope Pius XII proclaimed her principal patroness of Brazil.

Her feast on October 12 is a national holiday. Pope John Paul II visited the Virgin "Aparecida" in her much frequented sanctuary and gave it the title of Basilica. A few days before the visit someone got hold of the statue and threw it forcibly on the floor. Although the frail image was broken into many pieces, the loving and careful work of several artists put it together again and the Virgin, "Aparecida" returned to her niche in the Basilica.

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