27th Wednesday in Ordinary Time
Votive Mass of Nossa Senhora Aparecida
Today in our daughter-house of Novo Mundo, and throughout the country of Brazil, the Catholic population will be concluding a three-day celebration of the third centenary of Our Lady Aparecida. Exactly three centuries ago, in the year 1717, three fishermen went out to fish in the waters of Paraíba, and they weren’t having any luck. So they decided to return home, but when they started to pull up the nets they felt a sudden weight. Before their very eyes they saw a headless wooden statue of Our Lady appear from the depths of the sea. When they put out their nets a second time the head of the statue came up too.
And then Our Lady showed that she had a practical sense: when they put out their nets a third time they caught more fish than they had ever done before. The statue was of Our Lady of Conception, but the skin had been darkened by the mud, so that it was more like the color of the typical poor Brazilian. Brazilians affectionately add the word “Aparecida” (the one who appeared) to the title of the statue, so that the full name of the patroness of Brazil is Nossa Senhora da Conceição Aparecida – Our Lady of Conception, the one who appeared.
The statue was considered a sign of Our Lady’s love for the people of Brazil, and so the Church authorities allowed the fishermen to set up a chapel and enshrine the statue in it. In 1980, St John Paul II traveled to Aparecida and consecrated a new basilica which had been built there to accommodate the growing number of pilgrims. At least five million people go there every year.
In his homily at the dedication of the new basilica, St John Paul said: “I know that, some time ago, as a result of a regrettable accident, the little image of Our Lady Aparecida was broken. I was told that among the myriad fragments there were found the two hands of the Virgin united in prayer. The fact is like a symbol: Mary’s clasped hands in the midst of the ruins are an invitation to her children to make room in their lives for prayer, for the Absolute Being of God, without which all the rest loses meaning, value and efficacy. The true child of Mary is a Christian who prays”.
As a reminder to himself of his own visit to Aparecida, Pope Francis put a statue of her in the Vatican gardens, where he could see her and be reminded of St John Paul’s words.
Today, in solidarity with our brothers of Novo Mundo, let us show ourselves to be true children of Mary by being Christians who love a life of unceasing prayer.