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Our Lady of the Nursing Child

Our Lady of the Nursing Child

By Walter T. Camier

Few Americans realize that St. Augustine, Florida, shares a duel distinction in America’s history. Not only was it the birthplace of Catholicism in America, it was also the birthplace of devotion to the Mother of God in America. In fact, Catholic historians would agree that St. Augustine is unique because it continues the devotion to the Mother of God that dates back to the time of Herod’s persecution of the Holy Family.

Spain’s Admiral Pedro de Aviles sighted the Florida coast near Cape Canaveral on August 28, 1565, the feast day of St. Augustine. Father Francisco Lopez de Mendoza, chaplain of the fleet chronicled the following text in his writings:

On September 8, the general disembarked. I had gone ashore the evening before; I took a cross and went out to meet him, singing the hymn, Te Deum Laudamos. The general, followed by all who accompanied him, marched up to the cross, knelt and kissed it. A large number of the Indians watched the proceedings and imitated all they saw done.

The first mass was celebrated on the Nativity of Our Lady, September 8, 1565. “This is where the gospel was preached to the native people for the first time,” explains Mr. Eric P. Johnson, the current director of the shrine.

Shrine of Our Lady of the Nursing Child in St. Augustine, FloridaOn the tranquil grounds of the Mission of Nombre de Dios is the chapel that houses a replica of the statue of Our Lady of Le Leche. This shrine holds the historical title of being the first shrine dedicated to the Mother of God in the United States. Unique as this is, something more unique is the history behind this beautiful devotion.

During Herod’s persecution, Our Lady, with the Infant Jesus and Saint Joseph, fled to a grotto in Bethlehem. Legend has it that while the Blessed Mother was nursing the Infant Jesus a drop of her milk fell upon a large rock in the grotto and changed the stone’s color from gray to chalky white. Miracles were attributed to the grotto, and by the sixth century, pilgrims were venerating the site.

This grotto, known as the Milk Grotto, is still tended by the Holy Land Franciscans and became a place of devotion to the Mother of God because of her intercession for the women who prayed there for infertility and difficult pregnancies.

Mr. Johnson informed me that, according to legend, this devotion came to Spain during the Crusades. It seems in Spain the statue was carved around 1598. A drunken sailor stole the statue, and a Spanish noble rescued it and took it home. He and his wife prayed fervently before the statue because his wife was suffering from an illness that threatened her life and her unborn child’s life. The baby was born healthy and both lives were spared.

Because of this event, King Phillip III erected a shrine in honor of Nuestra Señora de la Leche y Buen Parto in a church in Madrid. Many miracles for healthy babies and deliveries were credited to Our Lady’s intercession. In his booklet, Mission of Nombre de Dios, Matthew Geiger states that over the years Queen Sophia of Spain was among some of the expectant mothers who visited the shrine.

In the early 1600s, Spaniards brought a replica of the statue of Our Lady of the Nursing Child to St. Augustine, beginning the devotion that continues to this day. Because of the intense devotion to Our Lady by the early Spanish settlers and the converted American Indian tribes, Spaniards decided to build what was to become the first Marian Shine in America.

During my interview, I asked Mr. Johnson how visitors react when they come to the shrine. He said, “It is interesting to note that many of the people who pass through St. Augustine are on their way to Disneyland and they are not giving to much importance to their visit here. But when they enter the shrine you can see by their expressions that something really touches them, they feel a presence. They experience a calmness that they never felt before. Many of them comment about the peace that they felt inside the chapel where Our Lady’s image dwells.”

Statue of Our Lady of the Nursing Child. Our Lady is wearing a crown, seated, and nursing JesusHe continued, “Some pray for spiritual conversions, some for a cure of an illness, some pray for a cross they are carrying.” He also informed me that the original statue that was brought here in 1610 is now somewhere in Cuba. It seems when the British attacked St. Augustine in 1758, the Spanish fled to Cuba with the statue and to this day nobody knows of its whereabouts. Mr. Johnson informed me that when Cubans come to visit the shrine he always requests them to ask their relatives in Cuba if any of them have heard about the missing statue.

More astonishingly is the connection Our Lady has with the women who travel to the shrine to petition her for the grace to conceive a child. Many of their requests are granted, and what was impossible for them before, has become possible. One couple from Pennsylvania, who couldn’t conceive, traced the time of their newborn son’s conception to the time they spent in St. Augustine.

It is hard for American’s to imagine that this devotion has been around for over 400 years in the United States. Thousands of Americans travel annually to Europe to visit the Catholic shrines and historical places, but few Americans know about the tremendous amount of Catholic history in our country.

If you ever get the chance to visit the first American shrine dedicated to the Mother of God in St Augustine, don’t pass it up. You will be richly rewarded by Our Lady of the Nursing Child’s presence in the beautiful chapel built for her by the Spanish explorers and missionaries who arrived here to bring new souls to the Catholic Faith over 400 years ago.

 

Prayer for women to Our Lady of the Nursing Child for conception and a healthy pregnancy

Lovely Lady of La Leche, most loving Mother of the Child Jesus, and my mother, listen to my humble prayer. Your motherly heart knows my every wish, my every need. To you only His spotless Virgin Mother, has your Divine Son given to understand the sentiments which fill my soul. Yours was the sacred privilege of being the Mother of the Savior. Intercede with him now, my loving mother, that, in accordance with His will, I may become the mother of other children of our heavenly Father. This I ask, O Lady of La Leche, in the name of your Divine Son, my Lord and Redeemer. Amen.   (Intended for private recitation only)

 


 

 

 

 

Quote of the day

DAILY QUOTE for August 2, 2021

The state of grace is nothing other than purity, and it give...

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August 2

 

The state of grace is nothing other than purity,
and it gives heaven to those who clothe themselves in it.
Holiness, therefore, is simply the state of grace
purified, illuminated, beautified by the most perfect purity,
exempt not only from mortal sin but also from the smallest faults.
Purity will make saints of you!
Everything lies in this.

St. Peter Julian Eymard


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Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Eusebius of Vercelli

The Arians dragged him through the streets and shut him up i...

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St. Eusebius of Vercelli

Eusebius was born on the island of Sardinia where his father died a martyr. His mother took him and his sister to live in Rome where Eusebius eventually joined the clergy and was ordained a lector. He was sent to Vercelli and served the Church so well there that he was chosen as its bishop. He is the first bishop of Vercelli whose name was recorded.

In 354 he was sent by Pope Liberius to persuade the Emperor Constantius to call a council to settle Catholic-Arian disputes. When it was called at Milan, Eusebius went reluctantly, sensing that the Arians would have their way. He refused to go along with the condemnation of Saint Athanasius, who’s  refusal to tolerate Arian heresy was the cause of many trials and persecutions. Eusebius insisted on Athanasius’ innocence and reminded the emperor that secular force should not be used to influence Church decisions. At first the emperor threatened to kill him, but later sent him into exile in Palestine. There the Arians dragged him through the streets and shut him up in a little room, releasing him only after Eusebius undertook a four-day hunger strike. They soon resumed their harassment.

His exile continued in Asia Minor and Egypt, until the new emperor permitted him to return to his see in Vercelli. He died in 371.

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

In the days of yore, when travel must be had on foot or by h...

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The Virgin Mary Rewards a Bandit

In the days of yore, when travel must be had on foot or by horse, many were the dangers to be found along the roadways. Bandits plagued travelers and made their living by depriving others of their goods and often their very lives.

A young woman in the Papal States, who was very devout towards Mary, met in a certain place a chief of the bandits. Fearing some outrage, she implored him, for love of the most holy Virgin, not to molest her.

"Do not fear," he answered, "for you have prayed me in the name of the mother of God; and I only ask you to recommend me to her." Moved by the woman’s mention of the Blessed Virgin, the bandit accompanied her himself along the road to a place of safety.

The following night, Mary appeared in a dream to the bandit. She thanked him for the act of kindness he had performed for love of her. Mary went on to say that she would remember it and would one day reward him.

The robber, at length, was arrested, and condemned to death. But behold, the night previous to his execution, the blessed Virgin visited him again in a dream, and first asked him: "Do you know who I am?"

He answered, "It seems to me I have seen you before."

"I am the Virgin Mary," she continued, "and I have come to reward you for what you have done for me. You will die tomorrow, but you will die with so much contrition that you will come at once to paradise."

The convict awoke, and felt such contrition for his sins that he began to weep bitterly, all the while giving thanks aloud to our Blessed Lady. He asked immediately for a priest, to whom he made his confession with many tears, relating the vision he had seen. Finally, he asked the priest to make public this grace that had been bestowed on him by Mary.

He went joyfully to his execution, after which, as it is related, his countenance was so peaceful and so happy that all who saw him believed that the promise of the heavenly mother had been fulfilled.

From the Glories of Mary, by St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori.

In the days of yore, when travel must be had on foot or by horse, many were the dangers to be found along the roadways.