ABOVE: Our Lady of Guadalupe. BELOW: (1) Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mexico City - Andrew McMillan/Public Domain. (2) Basilica of Our Lady of Copacabana, Copacabana, Bolivia - Pavel Špindler/CC BY 3.0/Wikimedia Commons. (3) Basilica of Our Lady of Aparecida, Aparecida, Brazil - Larissa Fraga/CC BY 3.0/Wikimedia Commons. (4) Basilica of Our Lady of Chiquinquirá, Maracaibo, Venezuela - CC0. (5) Sanctuary of Quinche, Ecuador - Marc Figueras (Oersted)/Public domain. (6) Basilica and Convent of Nuestra Señora de la Merced, Lima - Francisco Anzola/CC BY 2.0/Wikimedia Commons. (7) Sanctuary of Our Lady of Coromoto, Venezuela - HumbRios/CC BY-SA 3.0/Wikimedia Commons. (Multiple)
These South American Marian devotions are heaven’s rebuke to idol worship.
In the aftermath of the Amazon Synod, many Catholics are still disturbed about the Pachamama statues which were bowed down to at Vatican events and later thrown into the Tiber River by a Catholic convert.
But in the land where Pachamama is still worshiped, going head to head with the false idol is no contest for the Blessed Mother. In Scripture, when God says to the serpent, “She shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel” (Genesis 3:15), it is the Blessed Mother of whom he speaks. Pachamama is the imaginary fertility goddess in Inca mythology, still worshiped in the Andes mountain range which covers Bolivia, Ecuador, Chile, Peru and northern Argentina. These countries also have devotions to the Blessed Mother.
Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas and Unborn
The overarching devotion for all of the Americas, including the Pan-Amazon region which is mostly Catholic, is Our Lady of Guadalupe. In Mexico in December 1531, she made three appearances to St. Juan Diego, an Aztec Indian, as the pregnant Mother of God. Our Lady of Guadalupe provided roses for Juan to carry to the bishop in his tilma, so that the bishop would believe in the apparitions. On Dec. 12, when Juan opened his tilma in the bishop’s presence, the roses fell to the ground, and the bishop sank to his knees. On the tilma, there appeared an image of Mary.
The apparition was of vast significance for the indigenous people, revealing how much God cared for them. They immediately understood the symbolism within her image and that human sacrifice must cease. People converted in droves— an estimated 9 million within the next 10 years. Today, over 20 million faithful visit the Basilica every year, making it the second most visited church in the world, after Saint Peter's Basilica in Vatican City. Learn more here.
Bolivia: Our Lady of Copacabana
During the 16th century, in the town of Copacabana, a native sculptor created an image of the Blessed Mother holding the baby Jesus, but people laughed at it. So, he became a student of several master artists and created a new statue — Our Lady of Copacabana. People thought the four-foot-tall statue was beautiful. It was made of maguey wood, laminated in gold leaf, and dressed like an Inca princess.
The image was enshrined in a local church in February 1583, making it one of the earliest Marian shrines in the Americas. People began attributing miracles to her intercession. The original statue never leaves the sanctuary. A copy is used for processions.
Brazil: Our Lady of Aparecida
The devotion to our Lady of Aparecida began when a clay statue of the Blessed Mother was found by three fishermen on the morning of Oct. 12, 1717, on the Paraiba River. Immediately after retrieving it in two pieces on two separate casts, they invoked the Blessed Mother’s intercession and pulled in a net overflowing with fish.
Ten million pilgrims visit the statue annually in the Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida. In 1904, the statue was crowned by order of Pope St. Pius X and in 1930, Pope Pius XI declared her as Patroness of Brazil. Pope St. John Paul II was the first pope to visit the shrine in 1980 and Pope Francis visited in 2013.
Colombia: Our Lady of the Rosary of Chiquinquirá
Our Lady of Chiquinquirá, in a city of the same name, is a portrait of the Virgin of the Rosary on a rustic piece of cotton cloth which recovered miraculously its colors and brightness after been carelessly left for years.
In 1555, Don Antonio built an oratory and had the image of the Holy Virgin painted on a cloth. Saint Anthony of Padua was added at the right and Saint Andrew the Apostle on the left. When the paint faded, it was removed from the altar and became a rag to dry wheat under the sun. Seven years later, Dona Maria Ramos arrived from Spain and found her chapel used for animals. She prayed there for days to comfort Mary. On Dec. 26, 1586, at 9:00 in the morning, the canvas was suddenly brightened by the Holy Virgin. Word spread and thus began the devotion with many miracles attributed to her intercession .
Pope Pius VII, declared Our Lady of Chiquinquira, Patroness of Columbia in 1829. John Paul II and Pope Francis both prayed in front of the picture.
Ecuador: Our Lady of Quinche
The Virgin of Quinche, “Queen of Ecuador,” is one of the country's most venerated Marian images. In the mid-16th century, a wood carver was commissioned to create an image of the Virgin Mary for a native tribe. When the tribe did not pay him, he traded it with a neighboring tribe in exchange for cedar wood.
That tribe built a shrine and honored Mary. One couple, while helping with the construction, had their baby carried away and mauled to death by a bear. When the grieving couple brought the body of their child to the image of Our Lady, a number of people witnessed that the child miraculously recovered, opened its eyes and stretched its arms toward the Blessed Virgin. Pope Francis made a visit to the shrine in 2015
Perú: Our Lady of Mercy
Tradition holds that around the year 1218, both St. Peter Nolasco of Catalonia and King James I of Aragon had separate apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary, requesting them to establish a religious order entrusted with rescuing the many Christians who were held captive by the Moorish armies who invaded the Iberian peninsula.
In 1235, the Order of Our Lady of Mercy received approval by Pope Gregory IX and succeeded in liberating thousands of Christian prisoners from captivity. The Order later shifted its mission toward education and social work.
In 1730, Our Lady of Mercy was proclaimed Patroness of all of Peru, and Sept. 24, 1921 marked the Feast of Our Lady of Mercy, which is a national holiday in Peru. Today, the Virgin Mother is honored under the title of “Our Lady of Mercy” throughout the world.
Venezuela: Our Lady of Coromoto
On Sept. 8, 1652, there was an apparition of the Virgin Mary in the forest where the Cospes Indians had fled. She appeared to the ruler of the tribe and his wife, speaking in his own language and asking him and his tribe to be baptized.
In 1698, the appearance was recognized by the Church. In 1944, Pope Pius XII declared Our Lady of Coromoto the Patroness of Venezuela. Pope John Paul II crowned the image in his visit to the Marian shrine and Pope Francis prayed before pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square in July 2017 begging for her intercession for Venezuela. Read the sequence of events from appearance to being declared patroness of Venezuela here.
No Idol Worship
These ancient Marian devotions are a heavenly substitute to idol worship. Let us pray to Our Blessed Mother, that she will draw the indigenous people throughout all the Pan-Amazon region, and everyone, to the truth and richness of the Catholic faith.
Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us.
Our Lady of Copacabana, pray for us.
Our Lady of Aparecida, pray for us.
Our Lady of Quinche, pray for us.
Our Lady of Mercy, pray for us.
Our Lady of Coromoto, pray for us.
Pray for us, O holy Mother of God, That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Grant, O Lord God, we beseech Thee, that through the glorious intercession of Blessed Mary ever Virgin, we may be freed from present sorrow, and enjoy eternal gladness. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.