A Marian feast day for Catholics is a celebration of the closeness of Our Heavenly Mother to her children around the world. Our Lady of Aparecida’s story is no different, it gives faith to her efficacious intercession and love. Her feast day is celebrated by Brazilian communities around the world on October 12.
Our Lady appeared to three defeated fishermen on the waters of the Paraiba River on a quiet morning in the year 1717. Domingos Garcia, Filipe Pedroso, and João Alves had been fishing for many unsuccessful hours. It is said that the men asked for Our Lady’s help and João dared to cast the net one last time. Surprisingly, instead of catching fish, he caught the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary with a missing head. Once again casting the net, they were able to recover the missing head. After having recovered both parts, the image of the Virgin became so heavy that they could not move it. The fishermen caught so much fish that they were forced to return to the port because their boats almost sank. The fish was their offering for a banquet that would be held in the village of Guarantingueta for the Count of Assumar, Don Pedro de Almeida, Governor of the Province of Sao Paulo and Minas Gerais.
A sign of hope for the faithful of Brazil
The faithful fishermen promptly put the statue together and Filipe brought it home with him. The news of the miracle quickly spread and neighboring villagers will come to visit and offer up rosaries to “Nossa Senhora da Conceição Aparecida” (Our Lady of the Appeared Conception). The crowds became so large that a bigger chapel was built in 1737.
A bounty of miracles and graces had been granted and in 1888 a basilica was built. The statue was crowned in 1904 with a crown of jewels donated by Princess Isabel and dressed in a robe, embroidered in gold and other precious jewels, recognizing, therefore, her royalty and powerful protection. Our lady was finally declared the patroness of Brazil in 1930 by Pope Pius XI.
The number of pilgrims was growing exponentially than a larger and official basilica was built in 1955.
Pope Francis visits the Basilica of Our Lady of Aparecida
During World Youth Day in 2013, Pope Francis, recently elected then, visited the basilica of Our Lady of Aparecida. As a token of his appreciation, he composed a prayer to honor her and ask for her infallible intercession, just as the three faithful fishermen did 303 years ago.
Prayer to Our Lady of Aparecida (excerpt)
“…Mother of Aparecida, I place in your hands,
So that you may elevate to the Father, our youth,
Our youth, our World Youth Day,
How much strength, how much life, how much dynamism which blooms and explodes
And that can be at the service of life and of humanity.
Father, embrace, and sanctify your youth.
Finally, Mother, we ask you to remain here always,
Embracing your pilgrim sons and daughters,
But also come with us, be always at our side and accompany us in our mission,
with the large family of faithful, especially those of us who carry the heaviest crosses
sustain our hope and our faith; ‘be faithful until death and you will receive the crown of life.’