Racial harmony team embraces Mary

    Each Latin American country has a special image of the Virgin Mary whom they venerate as their national patron saint. These images of Our Lady are venerated with a deep love tied closely to the country’s national identity; the traditions and legends that have arisen around these images often reflect the historical journeys, sorrows and the hopes of the Latin American people. The patron saint of Venezuela is the Virgin of Coromoto.
    When Spanish settlers arrived in the region of Guanare around 1591, a group of the indigenous inhabitants of the Coromoto tribe decided to abandon their land and flee toward the Tucupido River, since they did not want to have anything to do with the white men or with the religion they had brought with them. Sixty years later, still maintaining their independence, the indigenous people were living in a small village not far from the Spaniard’s town.
    Both groups lived in peace, but remained isolated from each other until 1651, when the chief of the Coromotos and his wife experienced an extraordinary vision: in the ravine of the Tucupido River, upon the waters, a beautiful lady carrying a small child in her arms appeared looking at them with a loving expression on their faces. The mysterious lady summoned the chief and told him: “Leave the forest with your people and go to the white men to receive the healing waters of Christian baptism.”
    Impressed by what he had seen and heard, the chief decided to obey the beautiful lady and led his tribe to be schooled in the Christian religion. But the Indian, used to the freedom of the forests, could not adjust to the new way of life and returned to his village with his family.
    The Lady appeared again, this time at his humble hut. Although the Lady presented herself surrounded by a luminous aura, whose rays filled the hut with fire, she did not succeed in moving the Indian, who, annoyed, tried to throw her out and even took his weapons in hand with the intention of threatening her. When he stretched out his hand angrily to catch her, she disappeared. A small holy card, where the image of the Lady was printed, was left in the Coromoto Indian chief’s clenched fist.
    The Virgin of Coromoto is a tiny relic that measures about 1 inch by 1 inch. The holy card’s material could be parchment or tissue paper. The Virgin is painted seated, and on her lap sits the Child Jesus. It seems to have been drawn with a fine pen, sketched as a portrait done in India ink with dots and dashes. The Virgin and Child are looking straight ahead; their heads erect with royal crowns upon them. The back of the throne, which supports them, has two columns joined together by an arch. The Virgin’s shoulders are covered by a crimson cloak with dark purple reflections, and a white veil falls symmetrically over her hair. She wears a straw colored tunic and the child a white one.
    The image is kept inside a richly adorned monstrance, where it is presented for the veneration of the faithful. At the request of the nation’s bishops, on Oct. 7, 1944, Pope Pius XII declared her “Patroness of Venezuela,” and her canonical coronation was celebrated on the third centenary of her apparition, on Sept. 11, 1952.
    Cardinal Manuel Arteaga Betancourt, Archbishop of Havana, representing Pope Pius XII, crowned the sacred image of Our Lady of Coromoto. The Venezuelans celebrate their patroness each year on three different occasions: on Feb. 2 and on Sept. 8 and 11. The National Sanctuary of the Virgin of Coromoto, meeting place for great pilgrimages, was declared a basilica by Pope Pius XII on May 24, 1949. A second shrine was built on the site of the second apparition and inaugurated with a solemn Mass celebrated by Pope John Paul II in 1996.
    Nina M. Garcia is an assistant coordinator of the pastoral office of the archdiocesan Hispanic Apostolate. The annual archdiocesan celebration of racial harmony will be held Sept. 7 from 6:45 to 9 p.m. at St. Andrew the Apostle Church, 3101 Eton St., New Orleans, 70131. Archbishop Gregory Aymond will preside.

Site Administrator

➤ Lloyd Robichaux | Site Administrator | Art Director | Webmaster | lrobichaux@clarionherald.org | (504) 596-3024 | Fax: (504) 596-3020

You May Also Like

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.