Santa Maria de Camarino / Our Lady of Guam, Mariana Islands (1825), Patron of Guam – 14 April:
Our Lady of Guam, the miraculous Statue to which the natives have such deep devotion, is three feet high, all ivory from the delicate classical face of Our Lady to the hem of her exquisite gown. She has a head of long brown hair, adorned with a beautiful crown and golden rings hang from her tiny ears. According to the Jesuit history of the island, Our Lady’s coming was miraculous. A Spanish soldier, in the year 1825, was fishing a distance from the shore between the villages of Mirizo and Umatac, when he saw a strange object floating upon the waves. He moved closer and saw that it was a Statue, supported by giant golden crabs, holding lighted candles in their claws. The soldiers claiming the Statue as their own, installed it as Patroness in their barracks. They made a Shrine for her, a wall recess with doors like a cupboard or camarino, from which Our Lady of the Cupboard takes her name. She is called Santa Maria de Camarino.
She made her home for many years in the barracks but the atmosphere did not always please her. She would be found missing, only to return with the edge of her mantle full of burs. When the soldiers were drunk with coconut brew, she would slam the doors of her cupboard shut against them. No-one remembers how she came to leave the barracks for the Cathedral of Agana but on 14 April, a great earthquake occurred, terrorising the natives and destroying their homes. It is believed that on that day, she deserted the uncouth soldiers and showed herself to be the Patroness of the people and of Guam in particular. Many miracles of protection are attributed to Our Lady of Guam on this day.
On the eve of this day, the people place a lighted candle outside their tight-closed shutters, they do this in memory of their Fathers who made the promise to Santa Maria de Camarino. In 1825 and again in 1834, they vowed to celebrate yearly a special feast for her protection from Linao, the earthquake and Pagyo, the typhoon.
On its part the miraculous Statue has seen to it ,that no devout life has since that time been lost. Earthquakes and typhoons have come and left destruction, yet they have never taken one life or harmed the children of Santa Maria de Camarino, Our Lady of Guam. Such is the story of Our Lady of the Cupboard, the miraculous Virgin of Guam; to the eyes of fact simply a beautiful Statue, some three feet height, executed with all the refinement of eighteenth century art, yet to the eye of faith, she is power incarnate. She is all ivory, but where that ivory came from, or what artist fashioned those exquisite hands, she alone can tell, just as she is the only one who knows the truth of her coming to Guam. The Statue has real human hair and two crowns are used to dress the Statue. One of the crowns is made from gold pieces given to the Church by the late Ana Martinez Underwood, who donated the gold pieces (given to her by her husband as a wedding gift) in thanksgiving for the safe return of her husband from prison camp following World War II.
One of the more famous miraclesis that of a great earthquake in 1902, when the Dulce Nombre de Maria Church was severely damaged. Many of the Statues were broken but not that of Our Lady of Camarin, which the Priest, Father José Palomo, found standing intact on the ground.
The Statue also survived fire, when on 8 December 1945, it was rescued from a burning float by Jose D Leon Guerrero.
Because the Statue has suffered discolourations, nicks and other minor defects in the course of time, minor repairs have been made. According to one story, during one occasion when repairs were being made, the scraping of her face was too rough and the face began to bleed.
Other miracles attributed to her include, belief in her powers of intercession, cures of dreadful diseases and safe removal from great danger. She has long been considered, the protectress of the island and its people. Flags of various nations have flown over the royal coconut trees of Agana, admirals and governors have come and gone and each, in his proper time, has departed. Spanish architecture has had its day and the Seabee buildings mushroomed all over the island. Yet, Santa Maria de Camarino abides through all changes to cherish her strangely chosen people. She reigns affectionately in the hearts of the people, the natives, as their Queen and Patroness.
When American Marines and Soldiers during the latter part of July, 1944, captured the island of Guam, the native population was, for the most part, Catholic. The Faith was brought there, no doubt, by Spanish Priests who accompanied Magellan when he sailed around the world. And Mary, Our Lady of Guam, Our Lady of the Cupboard, loves them and protects them.
Saint of the Day – 14 April – St Benezet the Bridge Builder (c 1163-1184) Shepherd, Mystic, miracle-worker, Founder of the Fratres Pontifices – the Bridge-Building Brotherhood. St Benezet is also known as Benezet of Hermillon, Benedict, Bennet, Benet, Benoit, Little Benedict the Bridge Builder. Born in c 1163 at Hermillon, Savoy, France and died in 1184. Patronages – Avignon, bachelors, bridge-builders. His body is incorrupt.
St Benezet, also known as Little Benedict the Bridge Builder, was born somewhere in the countryside of eastern or northeastern France. As he grew up he tended his mother’s sheep. Though uneducated and unskilled, gentle Benedict was a quiet, devout youth, thoughtful of others.
One day in 1177, while the sun was in eclipse, Benezet heard a voice, he believed was Jesus, commanding him three times to go to Avignon, where the Rhone current was especially swift and to build a bridge there. He was also told that angels would watch over his flocks in his absence.
He obeyed the Divine order, without delay and reported immediately to the Bishop of Avignon. Naturally, the Bishop was hesitant about accepting the word of the frail teenager. But little Benezet lifted a massive stone to begin the work and announced that it would be the start of the foundation. This would become the Pont Saint-Bénézet. Thus he succeeded in convincing the Bishop that the construction of the bridge would be an act of true Christian charity. Permission was granted and the youth set about his task. According to the legend, there were shouts of “Miracle! Miracle!” when Bénézet had lifted and laid that first huge stone. Eighteen miracles occurred in total during the project – the blind had their vision restored, the deaf could hear again, cripples could walk and hunchbacks had their backs straightened.
For the next seven years Benedict worked hard on the project and around 1181 he won support for his project from wealthy sponsors who formed themselves into a Bridge Brotherhood to fund its construction. This was a religious association active during the 12th and 13th centuries and begun in Avignon but by it’s inspiration, it spread across Europe and whose purpose was building bridges, especially to assist pilgrims. It was customary for a bishop to grant indulgences to those who, by money or labour, contributed to the construction of a bridge. They also maintained and/or built hospices at the chief fords of the principal rivers, besides building bridges and looking after ferries. The Brotherhood consisted of three branches– knights, clergy and artisans, where the knights usually had contributed most of the funds and were sometimes called donati, the clergy were usually monks who represented the church and the artisans were the workers who actually built the bridges. Sisters are sometimes mentioned as belonging to the same association. In addition to the construction of bridges, the brotherhood often attended to the lodging and care of pilgrims and travellers and the collection of alms, in this area, the sisters were most active.
In 1184, sadly, young Benezet died, some four years before the great stone bridge at Avignon was completed. The wonders that occurred during the bridge’s erection and the miracles wrought at the Bridge Builder’s tomb convinced the people of Avignon that the young man was a Saint and he was referred to as such as early at 1237. They, therefore, built a Chapel on the “Bridge of St Benezet” to enshrine his relics . There the body was venerated until 1669, when floodwaters carried away a large segment of the bridge. His remains were rescued from the flood and on examination, were found to be incorrupt. Now they repose in the local church of St Didier.
Understandably, bridge builders adopted little Benedict as their Patron Saint. The remains of the bridge still remain a pilgrimage site. Below are artworks and images showing the bride through the ages. The last shows it as it is today, only about half is left and that half if filled with pilgrims.
St Benezet’s bridge has another claim to fame – it achieved worldwide fame through its commemoration by the song “Sur le Pont d’Avignon” (“On the Bridge of Avignon”).
One can build in a figurative as well as a literal sense. Bishops, the pope in particular, are often called “pontiffs”, a title derived from the Latin word for “builder of bridges”. Building bridges between God and mankind is their special calling. Our Lord Himself was a “pontiff” in the sense that He made his Cross a bridge, on which souls could enter heaven. The beatitude “Blessed are the peacemakers” promises heaven to those who work for reconciliation, that is, “build bridges”.
Some persons labour to raise walls, or “iron curtains” to divide mankind. Others labour to tear down the walls that divide, straighten the paths that connect, bridge the crevices that separate people. Surely they come close to fulfilling the great commandment to love our neighbour as oneself. St Benezet was one such. He promoted the unity of God’s children. Little St Benezet, Pray for us!