Our Lady of Aparecida – WYD2013 Patron of the Week
Our Lady of Aparcedia has a great story! The official account of the apparition took place in October 1717, when the Governor São Paulo was passing through a small city in the Paraiba river valley.
The people of the area decided to hold a feast in his honour, and three fishermen went down to the Paraíba waters to fish for the feast. They prayed to Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, and asked for God’s help because it wasn’t the best season for fishing.
After several hours they had not caught any fish, and they were ready to give up when Joao cast his net once more. This time Instead of fish, he hauled in the body of a statue with a missing head. The fishermen cast their net out again, and brought up the statue’s head. After cleaning the statue, they found that it was a black version of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. Legend has it that when the fishermen recovered the body, then the head, the slender figure of the Aparecida Virgin became so heavy that they couldn’t budge it.
The fishermen named the statue Our Lady of the Appeared Conception, wrapped it in cloth and continued to fish; now their catch was so great that they returned to port because the weight of the fish threatened to sink their craft.
The statue is widely venerated by Brazilian Roman Catholics, who consider her as the principal patroness of Brazil. The dark statue is currently housed in the Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparcedia, Sao Paulo. The Catholic Church in Brazil celebrates her feast day every October 12.
Since the basilica’s consecration in 1980 by Pope John Paul II, her feast day has become a public holiday in Brazil. The Basilica is the fourth most popular Marian shrine in the world, being able to hold up to 45,000 worshippers.
The statue has also merited worldwide controversy in May 1978, when a Protestant intruder stole the clay statue from its shrine and broke it into pieces, and another in 1995, when a Protestant minister slandered and vandalized a copy of the statue in national Brazilian television.
Devotion to the statue grew rapidly, particularly among Afro-Brazilians, not only for its black Madonna status, but also because one of the first miracles attributed to the image was reportedly performed to an enslaved young man. Over the years following its apparition, veneration of the Virgin increased as many miracles were attributed to her.
For the following fifteen years after the statue was pulled from the river it remained within Filipe Pedroso’s family and neighbors came to venerate it. Stories of Our Lady of Aparecida’s miracles were spread throughout Brazil and the Pedroso family built a chapel which soon became too small for so many worshippers. In 1737, the priest of Guaratinguetá built her a chapel on the Coqueiros hill, and public visits began in July 1745. The number of worshippers increased dramatically and in 1834 work on a larger church was begun; this became known as the “old Basilica” when work on the even larger “new Basilica” was started in 1955.
Mother of God and my Lady, don’t cease in praying for my family. Today, I dedicate to you! Amen.