Tuesday, July 23, 2013
On a certain day in 1716 three fishermen were at work on the Paraiba River. There were no fish in the nets they lifted from the water. Instead there was an artistic terracotta image of Our Lady of the Conception, which they dubbed "Nossa Señnora Aparecida". The chronicles relate that once the Virgin was placed in the boat, the catch was so great that the frightened men returned to port because, the weight of the fish threatened to sink their craft. It is not known how the small (less than three feet high) statue came to rest at the bottom of the river, but its artist is known, Frei Agostino de Jesus, a "carioca'' monk from Sao Paulo who created artistic clay sculptures. The image was made around 1650 and must have stayed submerged in the river for many years because it lost its original polychromy. The image is now a brilliant dark brown color, and is covered by a stiff mantle of richly embroidered thick cloth, allowing only her face and hands to be seen. She wears on her head the imperial crown with precious stones with which she was crowned in 1904. In 1930 Pope Pius XII proclaimed her principal patroness of Brazil.
Her feast on October 12 is a national holiday. Pope John Paul II visited the Virgin "Aparecida" in her much frequented sanctuary and gave it the title of Basilica. A few days before the visit someone got hold of the statue and threw it forcibly on the floor. Although the frail image was broken into many pieces, the loving and careful work of several artists put it together again and the Virgin, "Aparecida" returned to her niche in the Basilica.
World Youth Day 2013
Here is a look at the site of Pope Francis' first public liturgy for WYD 2013, the Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida, the world's largest Marian shrine.