Paraguay: Our Lady of the Miracles of Caacupé

In the early Sixteenth century, a guarani converted Indian of the Franciscan mission of Tobati, is in danger of death. He is surrounded by the fierce mbayáes, a tribe which has refused to accept the Christian faith and has declared itself an all-out enemy of the converts. In the forest thickness a massive tree trunk provides safe refuge. He hides there, cringing and trembling; he asks for protection from his Mother in Heaven, the Immaculate that the good friars have taught him to love. There he promises the Virgin that if he survives, he will carve a pretty image with the wood of the protective trunk. Nobody saw him, his persecutors went by without discovering his presence, and as soon as he could the Indian sculptor went back and took from the tree the wood he needed for his work. Two images came out of the trunk; the larger one went to the church of Tobati, and the Indian kept the smaller one for his personal devotion.

Lady of the Miracles of Caacupe]

Years later the great flood that created the Lake of Ypacaray threatened to destroy the nearby towns, and the Franciscan friars, accompanied by the inhabitants of the region, organized public prayers pleading for the calming of the waters. It is related that Father Luis de Bolaños blessed the waters and was recognised as the one the Indian had carved years earlier, and which from then on was called La Virgen de los Milagros (the Virgin of Miracles). Our Lady of Caacupé is a handsome wood carving with a delicate oval face and blue eyes; like the lmmaculate she joins her hands on her breast in prayer and her blond hair falls to her shoulders. The small image measures some 50 centimeters.

For a time, in order to give her more prominence and cover her with rich garments, her figure was enlarged disproportionately, until Church authorities decreed that the image be given its original size. The Virgin of the Miracles wears an elegant white tunic and has a beautiful sky blue cloak over her shoulders, both embroidered with gold thread. The image stands on a sphere resting on a large half moon. Mary's feet seem to step on a serpent, an allusion to Genesis and Apocalyptic texts.

Construction of the present church began in 1945, and although it has not been completed yet, it has been the sanctuary of the Virgin of the Miracles of Caacupé since 1980.

Caacupé is the religious center of Paraguay: the meeting place of the nation and the Church, because this blessed image has accompanied the formation process of the Paraguayan nationality.

Every eighth of December, the great feast of "Maria de Caacupé," thousands of pilgrims congregate at the Virgin's sanctuary; they come walking, on bicycles or however they can, to show their love and gratitude to their Mother, the "Virgen Azul de Paraguay (the Blue Virgin of Paraguay)."

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[Our Lady of the Miracles of Caacupe]

Peru: Our Lady of Mercy

Devotion to the Virgin of Mercy dates back to the time of the founding of Lima. It is known that the Mercederian friars, who came to Peru with the conquerors, had already built their primitive convent chapel around 1535. This chapel served as Lima's first parish until the construction of the Main Church in 1540. The Mercederians not only evangelized the region, but they also participated in the city's development, building beautiful churches that have been preserved as a valuable cultural and religious patrimony.

Lady of Our Lady of Mercy]

With these friars came their celestial patroness, the Virgin of Mercy, a Marian title of the thirteenth century. Tradition has it that around 1218, St. Peter Nolasco and James I, King of Aragon and Catalonia, experienced separately a vision of the Most Holy Virgin who asked them to found a religious order dedicated to rescuing the many Christian captives held by the Moslems. This Order of Our Lady of Mercy, approved as a military order in 1235 by Pope Gregory IX, was able to liberate thousands of Christian prisoners, and later became dedicated to teaching and social work. The Mercederian friars' habit imitates the garments worn by the Virgin when she appeared to the founder of the order. The image of the Virgin of Mercy is dressed all in white: over her long tunic she wears a scapular with the shield of the order imprinted breast high. A cloak covers her shoulders and her long hair is veiled by a fine lace mantilla. Some images have her standing, with the child in her arms, and others with her arms extended showing a royal scepter in her right hand and in the left some open chains, a symbol of liberation. Such is the appearance of the beautiful image venerated in the Basilica of Mercy in the capital of Peru. It was enthroned at the beginning of the seventeenth century and has been considered the patroness of the capital. In 1730 she was proclaimed "Patroness of the Peruvian Lands" and in 1823 "Patroness of the Armies of the Republic." On the first centennial of the nation's independence, the image was solemnly crowned and received the title of "Grand Marshall of Peru," on September 24, 1921, Feast of Our Lady of Mercy, since then declared a national holiday, when every year the army renders homage to her high military rank.

[Our Lady of Our Lady of Mercy]

The image carries numerous decorations granted by the Republic of Peru, its governors and national institutions. In 1970 the town council of Lima gave her the "Keys of the City," and in 1971 the president of the Republic conferred on her the Great Peruvian Cross of Naval Merit, gestures which evidence the affection and devotion of Peru to Our Lady of Mercy, that many consider their national patroness.

The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Chapi?

It was our intent to offer the most prominent and where possible the official Marian patronages of major Latin American countries on The Mary Page. We are aware that there are thousands of minor Marian shrines. The Marian Library has books in our holdings which deal with these many shrines and miraculous images. They could be consulted. It would be too time consuming to put these all on the web page. However, we are glad to make information available and were recently asked about Our Lady of Chapi in Peru.

The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Chapi is southwest of Arequipa, Peru. It originated among the Indio population. In 1884 the statue was transferred from a willow tree to a rustic chapel. A Mercedarian missionary built a church (finished in 1897) and promoted pilgrimages from Arequipa. The sanctuary is frequently called the "Little Lourdes" because of a great number of miraculous healings.

Our Lady of Chapi

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[Our Lady of Divine Providence]

Puerto Rico: Our Lady of Divine Providence

The name and worship of Our Lady of the Divine Providence originated in Italy in the thirteenth century. It was a very popular devotion which later passed to Spain, where a shrine was built in Tarragona, Catalonia.

When Gil Esteve Tomas, a Catalan, was named bishop of Puerto Rico, he brought with him this devotion which he had become acquainted with during his seminary years.

The bishop had to place his diocese in the hands of Divine Providence, for he found the cathedral nearly in ruins and the finances of the diocese in similar condition. The bishop's trust and work bore fruit quickly; in less than five years the cathedral church had been restored, and immediately worship of the Virgin of Providence was established there.

The original image, venerated by the Servants of Mary, and other Italian religious orders and saints, was a beautiful oil painting in which the Virgin is shown with the Divine Child sleeping peacefully in her arms. The title "Of Divine Providence" has been attributed to St. Philip Benicio, fifth superior of the Servants of Mary. On a day when his friars had nothing to eat, having invoked the help of the Virgin, he found, at the door of the convent, two baskets full of food whose origin could not be found.

The image that Don Gil Esteve ordered was carved in Barcelona according to the prevailing taste. It is a handsome seated figure, made to be dressed, and it was in the cathedral sixty-seven years, until 1920 when it was replaced by a magnificent all wood carving, which is the image of Our Lady of Divine Providence most familiar and best known to the Puerto Rican communities.

Lady of  Divine Providence]

Mary leans over the Child, who in an attitude of complete trust sleeps peacefully on her lap. The Virgin's hands are folded in prayer while she gently supports her Son's left hand. The whole carving suggests tenderness, abandonment, devotion and peace.

Pope Paul VI, by a decree signed on November 19, 1969, declared Our Lady Mother of Divine Providence principal patroness of the island of Puerto Rico. In this document it was also decreed that the Virgin's solemnity be transferred from January 2 to November 19, the day that the island was discovered. The intention was to join together the two great loves of the Puerto Ricans: love of their gorgeous island and love for the Mother of God.

The oldest carving, which dates from 1853, was the one chosen to be solemnly crowned during the meeting of the Latin American Bishops Council (CELAM), that took place in San Juan de Puerto Rico on November 5, 1976. On the eve of this event, the image was vilely burnt in the Parish of Little St. Therese in Santurce. And in this condition, the image was crowned amid the emotion and tears of thousands of her children and in the presence of cardinals, archbishops and bishops from all Latin America.

The burnt statue was sent to Spain to be restored and is presently awaiting the construction of the projected grand national santuary, where it will be placed.

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