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Catholic Heroes… Our Lady Of Lujan

May 30, 2019 saints No Comments

By CAROLE BRESLIN

It would be a challenging undertaking to list all of the many miracles involving the Blessed Virgin Mary. Familiar ones such as Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of Fatima, Our Lady of Guadalupe, and Our Lady of Knock show how universal is her love for the children Jesus Christ entrusted to her care when she stood at the foot of the cross.
The people of Argentina have another miracle commemorated on May 8: Our Lady of Lujan.
When Columbus arrived in San Salvador, Bahamas in 1492, that event opened the door to the evangelization of the Americas. In 1531, Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to St. Juan Diego, leading to the quick conversion of millions of Native Americans. This era of conversion, however, soon lapsed.
Many Portuguese and Spanish adventurers came to South America to settle, bringing their fervor with them. One farmer from Portugal sailed to Buenos Aires and traveled about 1,100 kilometers inland to settle his family at the foothills of the Andes in Sumampa, Argentina. He was saddened by the tepid faith of the peoples in the area.
To reinvigorate their Catholic faith, the settler arranged for a friend to go to Brazil and purchase a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Since the emissary was not sure of what the settler wanted, he brought two statues back to Argentina.
One statue was of our Lady holding the Baby Jesus, while the other was a terracotta statue of the Immaculate Conception. Both statues were about twenty inches high.
The two statues were shipped from Brazil to Buenos Aires, Argentina, and then were unloaded and sent to Sumampa in a larger caravan. Since highway robberies were frequent, materials shipped inland were sent in large groups of carts, horses, oxen, and men.
The caravan in which the two statues were placed began the long journey to Sumampa. After three days of travel, they reached the ranch of Don Rosendo de Oramus, in Zelaya near Lujan. It was getting dark so the men decided to spend the night.
When the caravan prepared to leave the next morning, the oxen pulling the cart upon which the statues were loaded refused to move. Thus, most of the boxes were removed in an effort to lighten the load. Still, they would not move.
The cart was then unloaded completely and again they refused to move. Then someone noticed the two boxes that contained the statues bound for Sumampa were still on the cart. They removed the statues and then the oxen moved. When they place the goods back on the cart the oxen, once again, would not move.
Finally, it was determined that the statue of the Immaculate Conception needed to be left off the caravan before the animals would move. The goods were reloaded, and the men prepared to leave.
Manuel, an eight-year-old slave from Angola, begged to stay with the statue in Zelaya to serve our Lady after what he had witnessed. The owner arranged to leave Manuel with Don Rosendo and the party left for Sumampa.
In a short while Manuel persuaded Don Rosendo to build a small shrine for the statue and the young slave became the sacristan and caretaker for the statue. Manuel became known for his charity and holiness throughout the area. Over the years, as time permitted, he tended to the needs of the sick, the poor, and the hungry.
When Don Rosendo died in 1670, a woman, Dona Ana de Mattos, obtained permission to move the shrine for Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception to a chapel on her property, about 15 kilometers away. She said the Oramus ranch was too isolated and with the owner gone, it was under danger of attack.
Again the laws of nature were disrupted. Dona Ana prepared to have the statue moved to her property, but she decided to leave Manuel behind to take care of the ranch. Dona Ana then arranged for the transfer to her chapel. As soon as it arrived, she placed it in the chapel and locked the shrine before retiring for the night.
The next morning when Dona Ana went to venerate the statue, she unlocked the doors and discovered that it was missing. After searching for the statue, the men found it at Don Rosendo’s ranch, residing as it always had, on the pedestal in the chapel.
Manuel was accused of taking the statue as the men left to return the statue to Dona Ana. This time, as an added precaution, not only were the chapel doors locked, but a guard was placed at the doors.
The next morning, despite the locks and the guards, the statue was missing, and found again at the ranch of Don Rosendo. Although Manuel was suspected again, it was proven that he could not possibly have taken the statue.
Thus, Dona Ana went to both the bishop and the governor of the province, asking them what she should do. As they recommended, the statue was carried in a solemn procession from Don Rosendo’s ranch to the chapel at Dona Ana’s residence. In addition, Manuel also moved to Dona Ana’s to continue caring for the statue. With Manuel there to serve our Lady, the statue stayed at Dona Ana’s chapel.
Within seven years, the shrine became so popular that a new chapel was planned and the cornerstone was placed by Fra Gabriel, a Carmelite friar, in 1677. This was also the time of the first recorded miracle — although others have been mentioned, the details were not recorded.
Manuel continued to care for the statue until his death. Our Lady revealed to him the day he would die, and that he would go to Heaven. His body lies at the foot of the altar of Our Lady of Lujan, as the statue became known.
In 1763, when Our Lady of Lujan was declared patroness of Buenos Aires, construction began on another church. Many miracles are attributed to Our Lady of Lujan and probably the most significant occurred when Buenos Aires was spared the devastation of a cholera outbreak after the archbishop promised to make a pilgrimage to Lujan if it was spared.
Pius IX visited the shrine before his election as Pope. He formally declared the dogma of the Immaculate Conception in 1854. In 1886, Pope Leo XIII blessed a crown made of gold, pearls, diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and sapphires for the papal coronation of Our Lady of Lujan. She was crowned on May 8, 1887, the feast day of Our Lady of Lujan.
A grand basilica was built for Our Lady of Lujan in 1904. On September 8, 1930, Pope Pius XI declared Our Lady of Lujan Patroness of Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay.
Pope St. John Paul II was the first Pope to visit the basilica and he offered Mass in the square during the Falklands War. During this Mass, June 11, 1982, he placed a golden rose on Our Lady of Lujan.
The other statue of our Lady holding the Baby Jesus was delivered to Sumampa and is still venerated there today under the title Our Lady of Consolation.

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(Carole Breslin home-schooled her four daughters and served as treasurer of the Michigan Catholic Home Educators for eight years. For over ten years, she was national coordinator for the Marian Catechists, founded by Fr. John A. Hardon, SJ.)

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