Prayer Intention: For all young people
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There is a story of the discovery of a statue in October 1717. The Governor of the Province of San Paolo was passing through the area – a small town in the river valley.
The people of that town decided to hold a feast in his honour and three fishermen went down to the river. They prayed to Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception that God would grant a good catch after a run of bad luck. Casting their nets into the river they dragged up a headless statue of the Virgin Mary. The statue was black. They also salvaged the head. The fishermen named the statue Our Lady of the Conception who appeared. Neighbours began to venerate the statue and devotion grew. The first chapel was built in 1745.
Devotion to the statue grew rapidly, particularly among Afro-Brazilians, not only for its black Madonna status, but also because it was reported to have performed a miracle for an enslaved young man.
Over the years, veneration of the Virgin invoked as ‘aparecida’ – appeared, increased as many miracles were attributed to Our Lady. The statue was kept in a family home and neighbours came to venerate it. Stories of the miracles were spread throughout Brazil. In 1737 the priest of the village built her a chapel on the ‘Hill of Coconut Palms’, where public visits became so numerous that in 1834 work on a larger church was begun. In 1955 an even larger church was built. It received approval from Rome in 1980.
According to a local story, the clay statue was imported from Portugal; others say that it was made by a monk from São Paulo known for crafting artistic sacred images in clay. The small statue is less than three feet tall. The image was made around 1650, and must have been underwater for years, since it lost its original polychromy (the art of painting in several colours, especially as applied to ancient pottery, sculpture and architecture). The image is dark brown, and covered by a stiff dark blue robe of richly embroidered thick cloth emblazoned with the flags of Brazil and the Vatican City State with golden clasps. An imperial crown was added in 1904.
A bronze replica of the same image, sponsored by the Embassy of Brazil, to the Vatican, was installed in the Gardens of the Vatican City on 3rd September 2016, under the mandate of Pope Francis.
PATRONESS OF BRAZIL
In 1930, Pope Pius XI declared Our Lady of Aparecida to be the principal patroness of Brazil.
Up until the early 1950s, Aparecida remained an unassuming city with a small community of Redemptorists who took on the responsibility for the shrine of Our Lady Aparecida, making it the first Redemptorist parish in Latin America.
In 1980, Pope Saint John Paul II consecrated the shrine with the title of BASILICA.
In 1978, a person took the statue from its niche at the Basilica. He was chased by guards and some of the church goers. As he was caught, the statue fell to the ground breaking into pieces. A group of artists and artisans pieced it together again.
THE NEW BASILICA of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida
In the mid-20th century, as the popularity of Our Lady of Aparecida grew, the construction of a much larger building to shelter the image became necessary. In 1955, work on the present Basilica was begun. It is built in the form of a Greek cross and can hold up to 45,000 people. It is currently the largest Marian Shrine and the second largest Basilica in the world, second only to Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Upon completion, the Brazilian Conference of Catholic Bishops declared the new Basilica a National Shrine.
As the National Shrine, dedicated to the patroness of Brazil, one of the functions of the Basilica is to function as a site of pilgrimage for laborers. The traditional pilgrimage of the laborers takes place each year on Brazil’s independence holiday, September 7. According to recent estimates, the Basilica attracts about 8 million pilgrims a year.
The influence of Our Lady of Aparecida on Brazilian Catholic society is incalculable. In 1992 a study showed that 296 parishes were dedicated to her while five cathedrals had the same title.
In addition, many towns are named after the Virgin and so are many Brazilian women and girls. Pope Francis celebrated Mass at the shrine on July 24, 2013 and entrusted his pontificate as well as the World Youth Day, which was held that year, in Brazil, to the maternal protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary.