Monday, October 14, 2019
Florida Catholic staff - Florida Catholic
ST. AUGUSTINE | America’s oldest Marian Shrine, the Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche in St. Augustine, has been elevated to a national shrine by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
St. Augustine Bishop Felipe J. Estévez made the surprise announcement Oct. 11 to more than 200 people attending the feast day Mass of Our Lady of La Leche at the shrine. The congregation included benefactors, members of the recently reinstated Confraternity of Our Lady of La Leche, Knights and Dames of Malta and many others who cherish the devotion to the nursing Mother.
In his homily, Bishop Estévez spoke about how Mary exemplifies what it means to have a relationship with God.
“Mary recognizes the living God who closes the door to the mighty of this world and raises up the little ones, the poor in spirit, who are blessed by God,” he said. “She praises God in his great mercy towards those who obey him and open their hearts to him.”
According to the U.S. bishops, the term shrine signifies a church or other sacred place to which the faithful make pilgrimages for a particularly pious reason with the approval of the local ordinary. The distinguishing mark of a shrine is that it is a place to which the faithful make pilgrimages.
In 1609, the Spanish established on the grounds of Mission Nombre de Dios, in St. Augustine, the first Marian sanctuary in the United States. They built a chapel and dedicated it to Nuestra Señora de La Leche y Buen Parto (Our Lady of the Milk and Happy Delivery). A statue of the nursing and watchful mother of Jesus was placed in the chapel. The Virgin holds the infant Jesus in her right arm and offers him her breast.
The present chapel was reconstructed in 1915. Throughout its existence, the Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche has been a comforting place of prayer for mothers-to-be, for families, for special intentions, and for those seeking to strengthen their faith.
In 2012, the Vatican approved a feast day for Our Lady of La Leche to be inserted into the diocesan calendar on Oct. 11. This year, the Holy See approved the title B.V. Our Lady of La Leche, and a canonical coronation of the statue will occur on Oct. 11, 2020, as part of the 150th anniversary of the establishment of the Diocese of St. Augustine. This will be only the fourth image of Mary crowned in the United States.
There are only two other national shrines in Florida: the Shrine of Our Lady of Charity (Ermita de la Caridad) in the Archdiocese of Miami; and the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe, in the Diocese of Orlando.
For more information, call 904-824-2809 or visit www.missionandshrine.org.