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Catholic Dictionary




Best known shrine of Ceylon (Sri Lanka). When the Dutch conquered Ceylon and began to stamp out Catholicism, a small band of native Catholics converted by the Portuguese took to the jungle, carrying a statue of the Madonna with them. Eventually a church was built to house it. As no one can live in the jungle during the wet season, Mary is alone for months, but when the rains pass, Moslems and Hindus as well as Catholics journey to Madhu. The pilgrimage is planned to take a month. They sing hymns, chant the Rosary as they trudge through the deep tangled growth. The statue is of Our Lady of the Rosary. There is a custom that the sick must remain outside the church and chant their entreaties loud enough for Mary to hear them. The dust outside the little church is a proven cure for poisonous snakebites. During World War II daily prayers were effectively offered at Madhu that Ceylon would be saved from a Japanese invasion.