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On a Marian Pilgrimage: The Return of Our Great Queen

 

On a pilgrimage to visit the miraculous statue of Our Lady of Good Success, I embarked for Quito, Ecuador with great expectations.

 

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Part of my task in taking part in this TFP pilgrimage was to help with the solemnities of her February 2 feast. However, I also hoped to immerse myself in what was once a truly Catholic culture. I wanted to imbibe the supernatural in this city filled with convents and churches.

All the elements were certainly there. High atop Panecillo Hill, the towering statue of Our Lady of Quito could be seen throughout the city. In the square-mile historical center, there is not only a huge domed cathedral but at least ten massive conventual churches representing Dominicans, Jesuits, Augustinians, Mercedarians, Franciscans, Carmelites, Conceptionists and others. All these churches are architectural marvels, many dating from the sixteenth century. Each could nobly serve as a cathedral in any American diocese.

I was pleased to see that many of these churches are in good repair. Nearly all are undergoing major restorations. The Jesuit Church in downtown Quito has the most beautiful and awe-inspiring woodwork I have ever seen. Gold covers not only the altars but the whole ceiling. Workmen were busy restoring the gold-leafing to its original and radiant splendor.

Everything was set for a glorious pilgrimage. However, after visiting a few of these churches on the first day, I was perplexed and disappointed.

 

Restorations Without Grace

Perhaps the restorations themselves were part of the problem. I was told that world organizations were pouring money into these restorations both to preserve them and contribute to the city’s tourist attractions. Quito was actually named the first UNESCO World Heritage Site.

While the restorations were well done, I felt they were almost archeological endeavors totally disconnected from Catholic worship. The same concern for historical detail could just as easily apply to an ancient Buddhist pagoda or an Incan temple. Indeed, the admission fees charged to enter some churches did little to dispel the impression of a museum-like atmosphere.

I was told to be sure to visit the Cathedral’s crypt where the saintly anti-liberal president and martyr Garcia Moreno is buried. Entering beneath, I found the floor covered with dirt. Straw and hay were strewn about. Boards and old debris were haphazardly placed near the walls. The once immaculate crypt, where I had hoped to pray, was now presented in this manner to give it a “sixteenth century look.”

Another factor that added to my perplexity is the fact that Quito is a modern city. It suffers from the same errors, indecent fashions and loose morals of any city in our days. At first glance, the modern masses that crowded the busy streets seemed so out of context with these great monuments of the past.

I had seen the great church buildings but I longed to know the kind of Catholic souls that built these churches and gave them their true meaning.

 

A Prayer Heard

It was almost by accident that Our Lady granted my wish.

Preparing the statue of Our Lady of Good Success for the procession. One man holds a large, beautiful crown. Our Lady is dressed in a white dress with small flowers and long white lace veil. As part of the activities of this TFP pilgrimage, I was asked to help resurrect an old traditional procession called the “Rosary of the Dawn.”

A small replica of the statue of Our Lady of Good Success had long been carried through the streets of downtown Quito on the dawn of her feast while the people prayed the rosary and sang hymns. With the passage of the years, the procession had dwindled to a few dozen faithful.

A few days before the feast, I was happily recruited to distribute invitations to the “Rosary of the Dawn” at the doors of churches.

With my broken Spanish, I began to talk to Ecuadorian Catholics and change my superficial perspective. In the weathered and suffered faces of those who passed by, I began to see the glimmer of a profoundly religious people.

We hoped at least some of these Catholics might attend the early morning procession and intensified our efforts over the next few days hardly knowing what to expect.

 

The Rosary of the Dawn

At 4:30 a.m. on the day of the procession, we gathered before Our Lady in the darkened Church praying for “good success.”

As five o’clock neared, the first groups of people slowly filtered in. They soon started coming in spurts and then in torrents – people of all ages, men, women and children, fragile elderly ladies, husky men and young students. Whole communities of religious nuns filed in until we were astonished to see the church jammed with nearly a thousand people.

Before Quito awoke, the procession formed outside and Our Lady returned to parade in triumph through the main streets and central square.

It was then that I saw that my wish was granted. I had a privileged place in the procession right next to the statue helping to direct the litter bearers amid the crowd. As I looked upon the sea of Ecuadorian faces, I saw their supreme jubilation. We were showered (if not pelted) with rose petals in a display of contagious Latin exuberance.

It was as if the people were unshackled from their modern miseries and, forgetting themselves, now only thought of their queen and mother. The somber strains of the Spanish hymns filled the streets speaking of a tender child-like devotion: 

O my mother who art in heaven
Send counsels to my heart
And when sad, weeping I call upon thee
And thy sweet blessings thou will bestow.
 
For a brief moment, I had a glimpse of the kind of Catholic souls that built those great churches. When a whole society is imbued with this kind of enthusiasm for the Faith, its churches rise to heaven… and heaven comes down to earth.
 
 

A Heavenly Link

If Quito is privileged to many miracles and apparitions, it is because heaven could not forsake devotion like I had seen.  Indeed, in those colonial times, heaven did come down to earth. That is why you can see in its churches the places where miracles happened through particular statues and devotions. That is why the Blessed Mother appeared on so many occasions to look after her children. It is as if there was a constant intercommunication between heaven and earth.While such a link is not as evident today, the unction of that relationship still pervades in the city.

You can see it in the touching popular devotion to Christ, bloody and scourged, in His Passion under invocations like Christ of the Great Strength or Our Lord of the Divine Love. You can see it in the “unrestored” side altars full of flowers, candles and testimonies of graces received. Indeed, the charm that attracts one to Quito lies in what remains of this link to heaven.
 
 
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Our Lady of Good Success

Finally, there is Our Lady of Good Success, the object of my pilgrimage. It is an extraordinary statue resulting from a heavenly visit to Sister Mariana de Jesus Torres in 1610 at the Conceptionist Convent. Her prophecies are specifically about our own tragic days.

Although personal impressions may differ, I must say she far exceeded my expectations.

Although extremely maternal, she appears more as a queen than a mother. Everything about her is regal and majestic. She seems to be in lofty contemplation yet completely in control of everything around her. She appears sad not because of anything done to her, but by our failure to have recourse to her as queen.

She did not inspire in me a desire to ask for small things or favors. As all- powerful queen, she invites us to ask for great things – an end to the crisis inside the Church, a major conversion, a change of heart, or help in our personal struggle against so many things destroying society.

Yet her message is one of hope – good success. Her prophecies speak of times when she will again be recognized as queen.

I left Quito with my great expectations satisfied. I left with the certainty that we will see our great queen parading in triumph in city streets and squares. It will come about not through the sterile restorations of old buildings but the fruitful restoration of Catholic souls from which will come her reign foreseen at Fatima.
 

 
 
 
 
Quote of the day

DAILY QUOTE for December 6, 2019

The people of this world are wary of evil-doing for fear of...

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December 6

 

The people of this world are wary of evil-doing
for fear of temporal punishment.
How much more, then, should they be wary for fear of
the punishment of Hell, which is greater,
both in respect to its severity and in respect to its manifold nature:
Remember thy last end, and thou shall never sin.”

St. Thomas Aquinas


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Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Nicholas of Bari

He suffered imprisonment for his faith and made a glorious c...

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St. Nicholas of Bari

Nicholas is thought to have been born in Patara, Lycia, a province of Asia Minor. Myra was the capital, close to the ocean, and an episcopal see. When the see became vacant, Nicholas was chosen bishop and became famous and beloved for his extraordinary piety, zeal and many astonishing miracles.

He suffered imprisonment for his faith and made a glorious confession during the persecution of Diocletian.

He was also present at the Council of Nicaea and there condemned Arianism. St. Methodius asserts that thanks to the teaching of St. Nicholas, Myra alone was untouched by the Arian heresy, which denied the divinity of Christ.

Legend has it that the tradition of gift giving attached to St. Nicholas comes from the fact that he once helped a father and his three daughters. Hearing that they were destitute, and therefore could find no husbands, he slipped a bag of gold through the family’s window under the cover of darkness. At intervals, he did the same for the second and third girl, saving all three from a life of want and shame.

Nicholas died and was buried in his city of Myra, and by the time of Justinian, there was already a basilica built in his honor in Constantinople. Later, his relics were moved to the city of Bari, Italy, and many miracles were attributed to his intercession.

The devotion to St. Nicholas spread not only in the East but also in the West, and his image was amply reproduced, second only to that of Our Lady. In the later Middle Ages, there were nearly four hundred churches in England alone dedicated to him. In the East, St. Nicholas is venerated as patron of sailors, and in the West, of children.

In several European countries he is beloved as the pre-Christmas “gift giver”. The modern “Santa Claus” is a secular corruption of the saint.

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

One year, there was a famine, and most people were obliged t...

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The Heavenly Baker

In the time when Saint Catherine of Siena walked the streets of her quaint medieval town, she sometimes stayed at the house of a widow-friend, Alessia, to avoid the distractions of her noisy home.

One year, there was a famine, and most people were obliged to buy long stored wheat. The bread made from this wheat had a sour after-taste. But as the new harvest came in, and there was fresh wheat to buy, Alessia remarked to St. Catherine:

“Mother, this old wheat makes sour bread, so as the Lord has had pity on us, I will throw away the little that I still have.”

“You wish to throw away what the Lord has given us for our food?” replied Catherine, “at least give it to those who don’t even have that.”

“O, I feel guilty giving from the old wheat…I’d rather give from the new, fresh batch,” remonstrated Alessia.

Saint Catherine then asked that she give her the flour and some water, for she wished to make bread for the poor of Our Lord.

As Catherine worked, not only did she produce an astounding number of loaves from so little flour, but turned them out so fast that Alessia and her maid couldn’t believe their eyes.

Served at table, everyone was amazed how delicious and sweet these loaves were. “We haven’t tasted better!” they exclaimed. 

Moreover, when taken out to the poor and to the Friars, the bin kept giving without emptying.

Sometime later, on hearing of this miracle, St. Catherine’s confessor, Blessed Raymond of Capua, sensed that there was something “more” to this story, and pressed his spiritual child to tell him all.

So Catherine explained that as she had approached the flour box, she had seen the sweet Lady Mary standing there with several angels and saints graciously offering to help her make the bread.  So Mary Most Holy began to work the dough with Catherine, and by virtue of those immaculate hands not only was the wheat made sweet, but the number of loaves multiplied. 

“The Madonna herself gave me the loaves as she made them,” related Catherine, “and I passed them onto Alessia and her maid.”

“No wonder,” writes Blessed Raymond in his biography of Saint Catherine, “that that bread seemed so sweet , since it was made by the perfect hands of the holy queen, in whose most sacred body, the Trinity made the Bread that came down from heaven to give life to all unbelievers.”

And the same writer asserts that years after in Siena, people still treasured pieces of this blessed bread as relics. 

 

Taken from The Life of Saint Catherine of Siena by Blessed Raymond of Capua - By Andrea F. Phillips

 

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One year, there was a famine, and most people were obliged to buy long stored wheat.

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