Mary's Pilgrimage Across the Seven Seas
by Zsolt Aradi
Our Lady shares the life of her peoples. Miraculous apparitions and extraordinary graces are accorded but to the few. The importance of her presence in the daily life of the nations and individuals cannot be overlooked. This presence is manifold and offers another proof that her shrines are not simply monuments; they are centers of a continuous stream of graces.
It is an ancient practice cherished by all the people who venerate Mary to share with others their own Madonna images. For this reason, these images are sent on long voyages. Then, in times of adversity, people ask for hospitality for their cherished images in distant lands in order to save them from desecration or destruction. At other times, a wondrous statue or painting of the Blessed Virgin is carried in procession to places of danger to give strength to those afflicted. These voyages are known collectively as the Peregrinatio Mariae, the pilgrimage of Mary.
The Salus Populi Romani, which normally rests in the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, or Our Lady of the Divine Love, very often visited the many other churches of Rome. Our Lady of Boulogne, France, has had many voyages. According to legend, this statue standing in a boat without oars or sailors was washed up on the French coast in 633. Almost a thousand years later, Henry VIII, King of England, stole the statue and took it to England. After many negotiations, the French managed to get it back. The image has been stolen, hidden many other times, but always saved and returned.
World War II almost completely destroyed the statue. In modern times, four exact replicas of Our Lady of Boulogne toured France for more than seven years as a symbol of French devotion to Mary. One of these was taken to Walsingham, England, in 1948 and carried in the procession of "the Cross-bearing pilgrimage" when many other statues and images of the Blessed Virgin visited England. The story of Our Lady of Boulogne is only one of the thousands of stories. Like the Irish Madonna of Clonfert, which was saved from desecration by a saintly Bishop and taken to Hungary in the seventeenth century, so Our Lady of Aberdeen was taken to Finistere and still remains there. Other examples are the Black Madonna of Czestochowa, the many South American shrine images and the current visits of Our Lady of Fatima around the world. Recently British Catholics decided to donate a replica of Our Lady of Walsingham to the Catholics of Spain. These instances demonstrate that the living faith expressed through the veneration of Mary forges new links of friendship between nations, while the old ties are strengthened. She is the patroness of the roads of the world and the seven seas.
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