On August 2, the Church in Costa Rica celebrates the solemnity of its Patroness: Our Lady of the Angels.
Newsroom (August 2, 2021 10:58 AM, Gaudium Press) It was a beautiful morning, August 2, 1635. Joana Pereira, a poor girl from the colonial city of Carthage, went out, as usual, in search of firewood.
When she arrived at the village of Pardos, on a huge rock from which a spring was flowing, she found a beautiful dark-coloured doll with a little boy in her arms. Very surprised, she took it home and kept it in a wooden chest.
The next morning, on her way to look for wood again, she was surprised to find in the same place a doll exactly like the one from the day before.
She took this one too, very happy, thinking she had not just one, but two. But what was her surprise when she opened the chest and realized that the other one had disappeared. In any case, she kept the “second one”.
On the third day, passing by the same place, she saw on the rock a little doll, just like the previous ones. This time, it was too much of a coincidence, and she began to find the phenomenon strange but decided to take it to check what was going on. Back home, she found that the “second” doll had also disappeared!
There, the Mother of God wanted to be worshiped.
She was so amazed that she ran to the church to tell the parish priest about what had happened. When she saw the little statue, Father Alonso de Sandoval felt a great desire to know the origin of this extraordinary “little doll”.
He kept it in a box with the intention of examining it carefully later. When he opened the box the next day, however, it was gone! Joana, finding it for the fourth time on the rock, took it to Father Sandoval’s house.
Sandoval gathered the faithful together and led the small image in procession to the church, where it was locked in the tabernacle to be safe.
The next morning, when they realized that it had disappeared from there, they all ran to the village of Pardos and there, on the same rock, they found the prodigious statue.
They understood that this was a supernatural event and that the little statue was in fact an image of the Mother of God, who wanted to be honoured and venerated by the Costa Rican people there.
The faithful began to call upon her under the title of Virgen Morena, because of her appearance. A little later, they called her the Virgin of the Grizzlies, because of the town where she was found, and later Queen of Carthage, because this was the name of the city where the discovery took place.
Finally, they gave her the name Our Lady of the Angels, because she was found on August 2, the date on which the Franciscan Order honours its Patroness as Saint Mary of the Angels.
The expressive image measures approximately 20 centimetres high, has mestizo features, a rounded face, oblong eyes, a small mouth and nose, and is made of various materials, such as jade, volcanic rock and graphite. The Blessed Virgin covers it with her mantle and holds with great tenderness and respect the Baby Jesus resting on her breast, indicating with her right hand her Immaculate Heart.
In 1639 the first church in honour of the “Virgem Morena” was built. With the increase of popular devotion, the faithful decided, in 1674, to build a temple worthy of Her.
This one, however, was totally destroyed by a strong earthquake in 1822, and two years later they started the construction of a third one, which was also destroyed in 1910 by another earthquake.
Finally, in 1912 the construction of the current National Sanctuary began, with earthquake-proof structures. On July 26, 1935, Pope Pius XI granted it the title of Minor Basilica.
“All generations will proclaim Me blessed”
Since the discovery of the “Negrita” (the title given affectionately to the image by the faithful), the Costa Rican people have manifested their love and devotion to Our Lady of the Angels through beautiful traditions.
One of them is the ceremony of the Vestition and Benediction, which takes place on August 1, the eve of the National Feast. In this celebration, the Rector of the Shrine places on the image the rich dress that she will wear for a year. Then he gives the blessing to the crowd of devotees.
Another very picturesque and pious tradition is the pilgrimage, a great march of people from all over the country, and from other parts of Central America, from their homes to the Basilica, with the purpose of asking or thanking Our Lady for some favour.
On the day of the great feast, August 2, the image is taken to an altar built in the square of the Basilica, where a solemn Eucharist is celebrated. Immediately afterwards, the grand annual procession takes place, accompanied by ecclesiastical and civil authorities, and thousands of faithful and pilgrims from all over the world.
Manifesting herself in the most diverse countries with marvellous facts similar to this one in Costa Rica, the Virgin Mary leaves not the slightest doubt that God wants her to reign in all hearts throughout the world. “All generations will proclaim Me blessed” (Lk 1:48), says the beautiful hymn of the Magnificat.
In this year 2021
Unfortunately, for the second time in a row, due to the pandemic, the traditional pilgrimage to the Basilica of Our Lady of the Angels will not take place.
The placing of the dress on the image of the Virgin, in commemoration of its discovery in 1635, will also be held inside the Basilica, without the presence of the faithful, as a preventive measure to avoid further contamination.
Text adapted from the magazine Heralds of the Gospel n. 44, August 2005.
Compiled by Zephania Gangl