CNA Staff, Sep 8, 2020 / 04:30 pm (CNA).- September 8 marks the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. For the faithful in Cuba – and other Hispanic countries – Mary is also venerated on this day under the title Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre.
Images of Our Lady of Charity depict Mary standing on the moon and surrounded by angels, while holding the Child Jesus, who holds a globe in one hand and raises the other hand in a gesture of blessing.
Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary under this title stretches back more than four centuries, to when the original statue of Our Lady of Charity was discovered off the coast of Cuba, near the village of El Cobre.
Found by two indigenous laborers and a slave boy around the year 1600, the small wooden statue of the Virgin Mary appeared after a storm that hit while the three were out at sea in an old boat looking for salt. The men prayed for the protection of Mary from the storm.
They then spotted what first appeared to be a bird floating on the water but turned out to be an image of the Virgin Mary carrying the Child Jesus on her right arm, while holding a gold cross in her left hand.
The statue had been fastened to a board with the inscription: “I am the Virgin of Charity,” and, despite being found in the water after a storm, the white material the statue was clothed in was completely dry.
Devotion to Our Lady of Charity spread throughout the country. In 1916, she was officially named Patroness of Cuba by Benedict XV, at the request of war veterans.
In 2008, a statue of Our Lady of Charity was brought to the Holy See and blessed by Pope Benedict XVI. The statue was enthroned at the Vatican Gardens in 2014.
Pope Benedict XVI visited Cuba in 2012, as the Church in the country celebrated the 400th anniversary of the discovery of the statue of Our Lady of Charity. The pope entrusted the future of Cuba to the Blessed Virgin.
During Mass in Cuba in 2015, Pope Francis praised the rich devotion to Our Lady of Charity seeded in the hearts of Cubans, and urged them to imitate her in sowing “seeds of charity.”
“Generation after generation, day after day, we are asked to renew our faith. We are asked to live the revolution of tenderness as Mary, our Mother of Charity, did,” the pope said.
“Our revolution comes about through tenderness, through the joy which always becomes closeness and compassion, and leads us to get involved in, and to serve, the life of others.”
Devotion to the Virgin of Charity has expanded to other countries, including Spain, the Philippines, and parts of the United States.
In the Archdiocese of Miami, which has a large Cuban population, thousands gather each year to celebrate Our Lady of Charity on September 8. Archbishop Thomas Wenski will celebrate a Mass on Tuesday evening, which will be livestreamed due to restrictions in place because of the coronavirus pandemic.
An image of the Virgin of Charity will be available for the faithful in Miami to venerate from their cars in front of St. Michael the Archangel church on Tuesday evening.
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