Angels and the Virgin Mary
As we saw in previous Weekly Notes, the title “St. Mary of the Angels” goes back to Mary’s Assumption and to the empty tomb of the Virgin Mary. Angels were waiting at Mary’s tomb to take her body to heaven, where she was received by her Son and reunited with her soul. The Hermits of Josaphat remained to safeguard the tomb. In 364 some of these Hermits came to Rome with relicts from Mary’s tomb and presented them to Pope Liberius, who built a little church for them in Assisi and called the church St. Mary of the Angels. Because the little church was on a little plot of land, it was popularly called the Porziuncola—little plot.
In the year 1045—200 years before St. Francis—there is a record that the villagers heard angels singing in and around the little church, renewing its association with the angels. This seems to mirror what happened at Mary’s tomb about a thousand years earlier.
In 1216, Pope Honorius established August 2 as the day for the Porziuncola Indulgence, when people could receive full pardon for their sins. This was reinforced by Our Lady in several apparitions and miraculous statues.
For example, on August 2 in 1635 in Cartago, Costa Rica, a poor woman went out in the morning to gather firewood when she found a small, black stone statue of the Virgin Mary on a boulder next to a stream. She took the statue home and placed it in a box. She went out again at noon and she found the identical statue on the boulder again. Awestruck, she took the statue and rushed home. The box where she had put the statue was now empty. So, she placed the statue in the box again and locked it. When she returned to gather more wood, she again found the statue on the same boulder. Taking it home again she found her box still locked but with no statue inside. So she brought the statue to her parish priest and told him the story.
Incredulous, the priest locked the statue up in the rectory, telling the woman that he would look into the matter later when he had more time. Relieved, the woman resumed her task of gathering wood and found the statue again on the boulder. This time the woman left the statue at the boulder. She told neighbors as she went to find the priest. The small crowd followed the woman to the boulder. The priest took the statue and all processed back to the parish church where the priest locked up the statue in the tabernacle. But, as you can guess, the statue found its way back to the boulder. The people then built a little chapel there where Our Lady could stay! She is now recognized by Costa Ricans as their national patron: La Negrita—La Virgen de los Angeles.
In 1660—again on August 2nd—people around Lurs, France, saw and heard a choir of angels announcing the presence of Notre Dame of the Angels, as she appeared on a site where they built a little church. Miraculous cures took place then and still take place in the little church built on the site. It is located along one of the pilgrimage routes to Santiago del Compostela.
Franciscans would spread devotion to St. Mary of the Angels wherever they went, as they did when they went to California to evangelize the native Americans there. One of their missions, established by St. Junipero Serra, was named Nuestra Senora de los Angeles, which is now the city of Los Angeles.
So, Our Blessed Mother wants to be honored as St. Mary of the Angels, especially on her feast day, August 2. We plan to do precisely that, with our parish celebration.
Fr. John R. Waiss
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