South America’s Love for Mother Mary.

Celebrating the Queen of Heaven and Earth. After my three-week vacation in South America, and my necessary two-week catch up period, it feels good to be back as your spiritual safari guide. Thank you again to Jodi Awbrey and Cathy Cresson for “guiding” in my absence. I invite you to join me on a virtual pilgrimage as we visit the countries of Ecuador and Peru, and explore South America’s unique and colorful devotion to Mary, the Mother of God (Maria, Madre de Dios). Enjoy!

The majority of South and Central American Catholics are highly devoted to the Virgin Mary (Virgen Santisima). In fact, over 20 Latin American countries have crowned and declared Mary as Patroness of their country. She has received various names, depending on where she has appeared or manifested herself, and is often depicted with a crown on her head carrying the Child Jesus.

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Pope Francis paying homage to Our Lady of Quinche, during his 2015 visit to the small town of El Cisne, in the mountains of southern Ecuador. This popular Marian Shrine and Basilica was first built in 1742 and declared a National Sanctuary in 1985.

The Catholic Church arrived in Latin America in the early 1500s during the Spanish colonization time period. The Spanish conquerors were soon joined by Franciscan, Dominican and Jesuit missionaries eager to evangelize the native Inca and Aztec populations. Although Marian devotions were brought from Europe to South America, many local adaptations began to develop. A well-known example is found in Mary’s miraculous 1531 appearance to St Juan Diego in modern-day Mexico City (Guadalupe). Appearing as a physical combination of all cultures, Our Lady of Guadalupe made a big impression on the locals. Over 8 million converted to Catholicism within 6 years.

The Virgin continued her work of evangelization and eventually appeared throughout the remaining colonized regions of South America. Local forms of Catholicism soon appeared, as native customs found expression within its accepted practices and beliefs. In fact, many modern-day South American Marian Feasts, including but not limited to the Annunciation, Assumption and Immaculate Conception, often involve colorful public processions, fireworks, dances, banquets, decorated streets, and/or vigils held in Mary’s honor. These practices, far from being viewed as wasteful or idolatrous, are merely seen as extensions of the Church’s Sacramental System and joyous celebrations of motherhood, family life, the birth of a child, a wedding, or a soul’s journey to heaven.

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An outdoor procession of Mary, Our Lady of Mercy, in commemoration of the Feast Day of the Immaculate Conception in Cusco, Peru.

Mary, the Mother of Jesus, is known by many names and is claimed to have miraculously appeared to many believers throughout the world over the centuries. Some of her names or titles find a direct scriptural basis, such as “Queen Mother“, denoting her direct descent from the Jewish King, David, “Virgin Mary“, indicating her virginal conception of Jesus, and “The Woman Clothed in the Sun“, mentioned in the Book of Revelation. Other titles, such as Mother of God, Immaculate Conception, and Our Lady of Sorrows, find their origin in the Catholic Church’s Sacred Tradition. Others arise from reported miracles or Marian apparitions. Many such names find expression within Latin American Catholicism, including Our Lady of Mercy and Our Lady of Quinche (described above), and Quito, Ecuador’s Our Lady of Good Success, Sorrowful Virgin, and Dancing or Winged Madonna, shown below.

Our Lady of Good Success originally appeared to two Spanish friars in Rome, and subsequently appeared to Sister Mariana de Jesus Torres in Quito, Ecuador in the year 1577. There, Our Lady requested that a statue be made to her likeness.

“So that men in the future might realize how powerful I am in placating Divine Justice and obtaining mercy and pardon for every sinner who comes to me with a contrite heart. For I am the Mother of Mercy and in me there is only goodness and love. When tribulations of spirit and sufferings of the body oppress them and they seem to be drowning in this bottomless sea let them gaze at my holy image and I will always be there ready to listen to their cries and soothe their pain. Tell them that they should always run to their Mother with confidence and love.”  

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Statue of Our Lady of Good Success in Quito, Ecuador’s Conceptionist Convent where, to this day, the incorrupt body of Venerable Mother Mariana de Jesus Torres is housed.

The Sorrowful Virgin of the College.  Ecuador was the first Spanish colony in the New World to rebel and gain independence from Spain in 1822. Although it started out as a just cause, this revolution soon fell under the dominion of an anti-Catholic regime. In 1901, the government occupied the Jesuit college of St. Gabriel and launched a furious attack against the Church, Catholic culture and educational system. Churches and tabernacles were profaned, the Sacred Eucharist was trampled, and all public religious practices were prohibited. It was at this time, in the year 1906, that the Church approved the miraculous movement of eyes and shedding of tears of St. Gabriel’s image of The Sorrowful Virgin of the College. 

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An image of the Sorrowful Virgin of the College in The Church of La Compania in Quito, Ecuador.

 

Devotion to the Sorrowful Virgin of the College quickly spread throughout South America, Europe, America and Australia. The miracle has been commemorated every year with the recitation of a solemn and fervent novena. On April 22, 1956, Pope Pius XII approved the solemn coronation of this sacred image, and in 1978, the National Shrine of the Sorrowful Mother was blessed and dedicated.

The Dancing or Winged Madonna. The original Dancing or Winged Madonna, currently displayed in Quito’s Church and Convent of St. Francis, was sculpted by Bernardo de Largarda in 1734. This 12 inch high wooden sculpture, depicting the Book of Revelation’s “Woman Clothed in the Sun” (Rev. 12:1-2), wears a crown of 12 stars and stands atop a crescent moon and serpent. The Madonna’s upraised arms and wings indicate Mary’s Assumption, while her blue and white garments point to Mary’s Immaculate Conception.

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A 147 foot tall aluminum replica of the Dancing or Winged Madonna which sits atop El Panecillo hill in Quito, Ecuador, as it’s intercessor and protector.

There she stands, the woman clothed in the sun, as Quito’s protector and our’s, against earthquakes, volcanic eruption and any other misfortunes outside human control.

Closing Prayer. 

Mary, Our Mother, I come to you with my needs and beg you to help me.

I honor you as my Mother and helper and trust in your love for me.

Lead me on the path of virtue, and preserve me from every evil.

Let me enjoy your protection and walk in your love and peace.

Guide me closer to Jesus, Who gave you to me to be my Mother.

Amen

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