The Octave Day of St Stephen
Nuestra Señora del Pilar / Our Lady of the Pillar (Zaragoza, Spain) (40) – 2 January, 12 October (originally 4 October), 15 August – (This Apparition it is considered the first Marian Apparition, and is unique because it happened while Mary was still living on Earth):
According to ancient Spanish history, on 2 January in the year 40, in the early days of Christianity, James the Greater, one of the original Twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ, was preaching the Gospel in what was then the pagan land of Caesaraugusta (now Zaragoza), in the Roman Province of Hispania.
St James was disheartened with his mission, having made only a few converts. While he was praying by the banks of the Ebro River with some of his disciples, the Blessed Virgin Mary miraculously appeared before him atop a pillar accompanied by Angels. Mary assured James that the people would eventually be converted, becoming a stronghold of the Faith due to his efforts and their faith would be as strong as the pillar she was standing on. She gave him the pillar as a symbol and a wooden image of herself. James was also instructed to build a Chapel on the spot where she left the pillar which he did, making it the first Church in Spain.
It is generally believed, that Mary appeared to James through bilocation, as she was still living, either in Ephesus or Jerusalem, at the time of this event, as she is believed to have died three to fifteen years after Jesus ascended into Heaven. After establishing the church, James returned to Jerusalem with some of his disciples where he became a Martyr, beheaded in 44 under Herod Agrippa. His disciples returned his body to Spain.
The pillar left by the Virgin Mary is presently enshrined in the same but larger Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar. It is believed to be the same pillar given and promised by Mary, in spite of numerous disasters that beset the Church. A fire in 1434 razed the Church that preceded the present Basilica Cathedral, see below.
The image of the Blessed Virgin Mary may or may not be the original. Some reports state that the original wooden image was destroyed when the Church burned down in 1434, contradicting other reports, that it is still the original Statue. The Statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary is made of wood and stands 39 centimetres tall while the 1.8 m pillar is made of jasper.quartz. The Statue depicts Mother Mary with the Child Jesus on her left arm, Who has a dove sitting on His left palm. Since the 16th century, the pillar is usually draped in a skirt-like cover called manto (in English: mantle). As a whole, it is protected by a bronze case and then another case of silver. The image was canonically crowned in 1905 during the reign of Pope Pius X. The crown was designed by the Marquis of Griñi, valued at 450,000 pesetas (£18,750, in1910). During the three Marian festivities of today, 15 August and 12 October, the faithful adorn the base of the Pillar and Statue with flowers – see below (both our Blessed Mother and St James would be thrilled by this display of such immense faith and piety!)
The apparition of Our Lady of the Pillar is a widely accepted sacred tradition. Popes from earliest times issued Papal Bulls attesting to the authenticity of the Shrine and the appearance of the Virgin Mary. Pope Calixtus III issued a Bull in 1456 encouraging pilgrimage to the Lady of the Pillar. It acknowledged the miracle of its foundation and the miracles that had taken place at the Spanish Shrine. It was also through this Bull that the name “Our Lady of the Pillar” was confirmed.
So many contradictions had arisen concerning the miraculous origin of the Church that during the reign of Pope Innocent XIII , the Bishops of Spain appealed to the Holy See to settle the controversy. After careful investigation, the twelve Cardinals, in whose hands the affair rested, adopted the following account, which was approved by the Sacred Congregation of Rites on 2 August 1723 and has since been inserted in the lessons of the Office of the Feast of Our Lady of the Pillar, celebrated on 12 October.
“Of all the places that Spain offers for the veneration of the devout, the most illustrious is doubtless the Sanctuary consecrated to God under the invocation of the Blessed Virgin, under the title of Our Lady of the Pillar, at Saragossa.
According to ancient and pious tradition, St James the Greater, led by Providence into Spain, spent some time at Saragossa. He there received a signal favour from the Blessed Virgin. As he was praying with his disciples one night, upon the banks of the Ebro, as the same tradition informs us, the Mother of God, who still lived, appeared to him and commanded him to erect an oratory in that place. The Apostle delayed not to obey this injunction,and with the assistance of his disciples, soon constructed a small Chapel. In the course of time, a larger Church was built and dedicated, which, with the dedication of Saint Saviour’s, is kept as a festival in the City and Diocese of Saragossa on the 4th of October.“
In 1730, Pope Clement XII allowed the celebration of the Feast of Our Lady of the Pillar all over the Spanish Empire. As the date coincides with the discovery of the Americas, the Lady was later named as Patroness of the Hispanic World although her Patronages include all of the following:
Zaragoza, Spain, Melo, Uruguay, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Diocese of Imus, Cavite, Zamboanga City, Santa Cruz, Manila, Alaminos, Laguna, San Simon, Pampanga, Libmanan, Camarines Sur, Pilar and Morong in Bataan, Mamburao, Occidental Mindoro, Sibonga, Cebu, Baleno, Masbate, Cauayan, Isabela.
Hail, Mary, Our Lady of the Pillar,
conceived without sin,
I come to venerate and honour you.
above all the Angels and Saints in Heaven,
as my Queen, my Lady and my dearest Mother.
I firmly resolve to serve you always
and to do whatever I am able,
that all may render faithful service to you.
Most Holy Mary,
through your kind intercession
and by your own merits,
obtain for me from your Divine Son Jesus,
our Lord and Saviour,
all the graces I need
for the eternal salvation of my soul.
Therefore, most devoted Mother of mothers,
through the Precious Blood
which your Son shed for us,
I humbly beseech thee to receive me
among your devotees
and to accept me as your servant forever.
Help me in my every thought,
action word and deed,
never to be displeasing in your sight
and in the sight of your Son,
our Lord and Redeemer.
Think of me always,
my dear Lady of the Pillar
and do not forsake me
in the hour of my death.
St Basil the Great (329-379) Father & Doctor of the Church (Memorial)
St Basil is celebrated individually on 14 June (General Roman Calendar from 13th century to 1969.
St Gregory of Nazianzen (330-390) Father & Doctor of the Church (Memorial)
St Gregory is celebrated individually on 9 May (General Roman Calendar prior to 1969).
About these 2 great Fathers and Doctors:
St Adelard of Corbie (c 751 – 827) Monk, Abbot, Apostle of the poor and needy, Court administrator, Counsellor to Charlemagne.
Bl Airaldus of Maurienne
St Asclepius of Limoges
St Aspasius of Auch
St Blidulf of Bobbio
Bl Guillaume Répin
St Hortulana of Assisi
St Isidore of Antioch
St Isidore of Nitria
St Laurent Bâtard
Blessed Marie Anne Blondin SSA (1809-1890) Religious Sister and Foundress of the Sisters of Saint Anne, apostle of the Holy Eucharist and Divine Providence, Teacher.
Saint Macarius the Younger of Alexandria (Died c 401) Priest, Monk, Desert Hermit.
St Maximus of Vienne
Bl Odino of Rot
St Paracodius of Vienne
Blessed Sylvester of Troina
St Telesphorus, Pope
St Vincentian of Tulle
Many Martyrs Who Suffered in Rome: There were many Martyrs who suffered in the persecutions of Diocletian for refusing to surrender the holy books. Though we know these atrocities occurred, we do not know the names of the Saints and we honour them as a group. c 303 in Rome, Italy.
Martyrs of Antioch – 5 saints: A group of Christian soldiers Martyred together for their faith. We know the names of five – Albanus, Macarius, Possessor, Starus and Stratonicus. They were born in Greece and were Martyred in Antioch (modern Antakya, Turkey).
Many Martyrs of Britain: The Christians of Britain appear to have escaped unharmed in the earlier persecutions which afflicted the Church but the cruel edicts of Diocletian were enforced in every corner of the Roman Empire and the faithful inhabitants of this land, whether native Britons or Roman colonists, were called upon to furnish their full number of holy Martyrs and Confessors. The names of few are on record but the British historian, Saint Gildas, after relating the Martyrdom of Saint Alban, tells us, that many others were seized, some put to the most unheard-of tortures and others immediately executed, while not a few hid themselves in forests and the caves of the earth, where they endured a prolonged death until God called them to their reward. The same writer attributes it to the subsequent invasion of the English, then a pagan people, that the recollection of the places, sanctified by these Martyrdoms, has been lost and so little honour paid to their memory. It may be added, that, according to one tradition, a thousand of these Christians were overtaken in their flight near Lichfield and cruelly massacred and that the name of Lichfield, or Field of the Dead, is derived from them.
Martyrs of Ethiopia – 3 saints: A group of Christians Martyred together for their faith. We know the names of three – Auriga, Claudia and Rutile.
Martyrs of Jerusalem – 2 saints: A group of Christians Martyred together for their faith. We know the names of two – Stephen and Vitalis.
Martyrs of Lichfield: Many Christians suffered at Lichfield (aka Lyke-field, meaning field of dead bodies), England in the persecutions of Diocletian. Though we know these atrocities occurred, we do not know the names of theSsaints and we honour them as a group. Their Martyrdom occurred in 304 at Lichfield, England.
Martyrs of Piacenza: A group of Christians who died together for their faith in the persecutions of Diocletian. No details about them have survived. They were Martyred on the site of Church of Madonna di Campagna, Piacenza, Italy.
Martyrs of Puy – 4 saints: Missionaries, sent by Saint Fronto of Périgueux to the area of Puy, France. Tortured and Martyred by local pagans. We know the names – Frontasius, Severinus, Severian and Silanus. They were beheaded in Puy (modern Puy-en-Velay), France and buried together in the Church of Notre Dame, Puy-en-Velay by Saint Fronto, their bodies laid out to form a cross.
Martyrs of Syrmium – 7 saints: Group of Christians Martyred together, date unknown. We know the names of seven – Acutus, Artaxus, Eugenda, Maximianus, Timothy, Tobias and Vitus – but very little else. This occurred in the 3rd or 4th century at Syrmium, Pannonia (modern Sremska Mitrovica, Serbia).
Martyrs of Tomi – 3 saints: Three brothers, all Christian soldiers, in the Imperial Roman army and all three Martyred in the persecutions of Emperor Licinius Licinianus. We know their names – Argeus, Marcellinus and Narcissus – but little else.
They were Martyred in 320 at Tomi, Exinius Pontus, Moesia (modern Constanta, Romania).