OUR LADY OF THE ANGELS IN MEXICO
Today, Sept. 29, is the feast of the Guardian Angels, Michael, Raphael and Gabriel. And in a few days time, on October 2, we celebrate the feast of the Guardian Angels. Thus, it is the perfect time to talk about two miraculous paintings in Mexico which feature angels and—Our Lady!
The most recognized in the country is that of Our Lady of the Most Holy Light in Leon, Guanajuato, which dates back to 1722 in Palermo, Sicily. And associated with this history is the famous date: June 18, 1876. It is a date no one can forget in this bustling city in central Mexico.
On that day, the Cathedral in Leon was packed for the 11 AM Mass. Without warning a tremendous C-R-A-C-K reverberated through the entire church. An enormous block of concrete, “the keystone of the main arch,” fell into the centre aisle of the cathedral. All in the pews gasped in horror feeling that death was staring them in the face. All held their breath—
At this moment in time, the bishop, Bishop Diez de Sollano, strode over to the centre aisle with unfathomable courage and aplomb. He prayed to Our Lady of the Most Holy Light (whose image reposes over the main altar of the cathedral): “O Most Holy Mother of the Light, please spare your people!” And spare her people she did. Not a single person in the church was hurt or injured in any way. They are still talking about it in Leon to this day!
You might well ask: “Who, precisely, is this Most Holy Mother of Light?” She is pictured in the photo below. It is a renowned image of Our Lady and is known throughout the country of Mexico. And she has the most remarkable history—
It all began in Sicily, Italy with Jesuit missionary priest, Father Giovanni Antonio Genovesi, who was born in 1684. He longed to bring people to the faith but he was getting discouraged. So few people were converting! “I need a special image of Our Lady to carry with me!” he thought. “She will bring all to her Son!” “But where to find such an image?”
He then remembered that a holy nun nearby, in the city of Palermo, was having visitations from Our Lady. “I will ask her to ask Our Lady, herself!” he said. The nun agreed that this was an excellent idea and proceeded to ask Our Lady at the time of her next appearance.
Shortly after this request, Our Lady appeared to the nun in a “splendour of light” surrounded by a courtege of angels. In one hand Our Lady was snatching a sinner from the depths of hell and in the other she was holding the Divine Infant. The Infant was blessing human hearts which were in a basket held by an angel.
Our Lady then said: “This is the image that I want painted.” Father Genovesi immediately commissioned the finest artist in the area to carry out Our Lady’s requests. Try as he might, however, the artist was not able to convey the image desired by Our Lady. “No, it is not what I want!” she declared. Our Lady then said to the nun, “I, myself (although unseen) will come to his studio and I will guide his paintbrush. When it is completed all will know by its more than human beauty that a greater and higher art have arranged the composition and laid the colour.” The resultant painting astonished all onlookers by its beauty.
From then on Father Genovesi carried the small painting with him on his missionary journeys and was astonished at the conversions.
In 1732 it was sent to Mexico to the cathedral in Leon, Guanajuato, amid “great rejoicing.” The painting was crowned with the authorization of Pope Leo XIII in 1902. She became the Patrona of the city and of the diocese of Leon when it was established in 1872.
A SECOND famous painting (the main photo of this article) of Our Lady and the angels can be found in the historical centre of Mexico City in the church of Our Lady of the Angels. She too has a remarkable history—
In the year 1580 unprecedented rains flooded the valley of Mexico. Streets became rivers and homes were swept away.” Flotsam, treasures, tree branches and all manner of belongings were swept away in the flood.
One of these treasures was a magnificent painting of Our Lady in which she is surrounded by baby angels. This painting was left exposed to the elements for over 200 years in an adobe chapel whose walls had been washed away by the floods. In 1747 Don Pedro Navaro made an astonishing discovery: He removed the grass mats and boards which had been covering the painting and noticed that the painting was undamaged! “It was radiant with beauty!” In 1776 the miraculous painting was moved to its own Jesuit-run church, Our Lady of the Angels, where she resides above the main altar of the church to this day.
The large canvas painting is over 500 years old and is in pristine condition. “The face and hands have not been re-touched in the slightest.” As one author says, “The visitor to the shrine of Our Lady of the Angels must be convinced that a special Providence watches over the image.”
She is known for her miraculous favours. It has been said of her by a church historian: “To recount the miracles worked through her intercession would require a volume in itself.”
On Oct. 28, 1923, Our Lady of the Angels was pontifically crowned with the authorization of Pope Pius XI.
“Thus crowned, she triumphs forever,” he said.