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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 September 23, 2019

In all the events of life, you must recognize the Divine wil...

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September 23

 

In all the events of life, you must recognize the Divine will.
Adore and bless it,
especially in the things which are the hardest for you.

St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina


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Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Pio of Pietrelcina

Offering himself as a victim for the end of the war, Padre P...

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St. Pio of Pietrelcina

Francesco was born in the small Italian village of Pietrelcina on May 25, 1887. His parents, Grazio Forgione and Maria Giuseppa Di Nunzio, were peasant farmers, but they recognized their son was close to God. When he was only five years old, he solemnly consecrated himself to Jesus. It is said he often spoke with Our Lord, Our Lady and his guardian angel, who defended him against attacks by the devil. He joined the Capuchin Franciscans at the age of fifteen, and took the name Pio with his religious vows. After seven years of study he was ordained to the priesthood in 1910.

During the same month he was ordained, Padre Pio was praying in the chapel when Our Lord and His Blessed Mother appeared and gave him the Stigmata. However, the wounds soon faded and then disappeared. “I do want to suffer, even to die of suffering,” Padre Pio told Our Lady, “but all in secret." Soon after, he experienced the first of his spiritual ecstasies.

Pio was in the military for a short time, but was discharged due to poor health. Upon his return to the monastery, he became a spiritual director. He had five rules for spiritual growth: weekly confession, daily Communion, spiritual reading, meditation, and examination of conscience. He often advised, "Pray, Hope and Don’t Worry."

In July of 1918, Padre Pio received the visible Stigmata, the five wounds of Christ (hands, feet and side), after offering himself as a victim for the end of the war. By 1933, the holy priest was recognized by the Church and by 1934 had attracted thousands of pilgrims that attended his masses and frequented his confessional.

On September 23, 1968, Padre Pio said his final Mass, renewed his vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience and died in his cell after suffering from grave physical decline. Before his death, Padre Pio orchestrated and oversaw the building of the “House for the Alleviation of Suffering,” a 350-bed medical and religious center.

He was canonized on June 16, 2002 by Pope John Paul II. An estimated 300,000 people attended the canonization ceremony.

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

“What is that?” Asked a curious voice as America Needs F...

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The Power of a Picture

“What is that?” Asked a curious voice as America Needs Fatima custodian Jose Ferraz stepped into the hotel elevator in Altamonte Springs, Florida. “This is the Pilgrim statue of Our Lady of Fatima,” replied Mr. Ferraz, “I take Her to visit people in their homes to spread the Fatima message.” He then handed the woman, who was a maid at the hotel, America Needs Fatima’s most popular picture. “This is a picture of Her.” The woman gasped. “I know that picture! It inspired a conversion.” She then asked excitedly, “Do you have a minute to hear the story?” 

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As Mr. Ferraz listened, he learned that the woman, Maria Vegra, had a 22-year old son who had recently passed away after three weeks in the hospital due to a fatal injury received in a car accident. While in the hospital, a priest would visit him every day to administer Holy Communion. The priest consistently offered the sacrament to the neighboring patient of Maria’s son, another young man who was also in critical condition. The young man would say, “No. I don’t believe in God.” But the priest continued to offer salvation. “Let me hear your confession and give you Holy Communion and Last Rights,” the priest said, “it will save your soul and get you to heaven.” Time after time, the young man stubbornly refused.

During the weeks of hospitalization and fruitless medical treatments, Maria had taken her son a picture of Our Lady of Fatima a friend had given her from an America Needs Fatima mailing.

She knew Our Lady’s watchful gaze would give her son peace in his last days. The day after she placed Our Lady’s picture at the foot of her son’s bed, she heard the voice of his stubborn neighbor: “please,” he said, “bring the picture closer to me. I want to look at the Lady.” 

Surprised but willing, Maria placed the picture in the middle of the two suffering men. 

After three days of letting the nearby picture of Our Lady touch his heart as he gazed into Her eyes, the suffering patient relented. “Please,” he called out, “bring me the priest. I want to receive the sacraments.”

A few days later, the young man died a Catholic. With a simple picture of Our Lady of Fatima, God touched a heart and saved a soul. 

 By Catherine Ferdinand

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“What is that?” Asked a curious voice as America Needs Fatima custodian Jose Ferraz stepped into the hotel elevator in Altamonte Springs, Florida. “This is the Pilgrim statue of Our Lady of Fatima,” replied Mr. Ferraz, “I take Her to visit people in their homes to spread the Fatima message.” He then handed the woman, who was a maid at the hotel, America Needs Fatima’s most popular picture. 

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