Easter: April 27th
Today the Church in Canada celebrates the feast of Our Lady of
Montserrat. Monserrat is located in the region of Catalonia in Spain.
Legend relates that the original sculpture was carved by St. Luke, and
brought to Montserrat by St. Peter in 50 A.D. St. Ignatius of Loyola, a
former Crusader, decided to become a missionary after having prayed
before this image of Mary.
Our Lady of Montserrat
The origin of the devotion to Our Lady at the shrine of Montserrat
according to the earliest written records dates from 932, when the Count
of Barcelona confirmed and renewed an endowment to the shrine made by his
father in 888. This gift was again confirmed in 982 by Lothaire, King of
France. Constant and unbroken tradition is that even previous to 888, an
image of Our Lady was miraculously found among the rocks of Montserrat.
Montserrat itself is a fantastic mountain group, four thousand feet high,
about twenty miles from Barcelona. The name, Montserrat, of Latin origin,
means saw-edged mountain. It is formed by huge boulders that raise their
immense bulk perpendicularly to that four thousand foot summit.
Outwardly, it resembles the seemingly inaccessible monasteries seen on
high Mount Athos in Greece: "Montserrat is, and will forever be, a
source of deep impressions caused by the singularity of the place. There,
what is material becomes cyclopean, the mysterious is turned mystical and
the picturesque is promoted to sublimity." There is a story that the
mountain was once a huge boulder with a smooth surface. At the time of
the Crucifixion of Jesus, however, when the sun darkened, the rock was
shaken to its very foundations, and when light returned, the mountain had
a thousand peaks.
The legend relates that the figure of Our Lady came from Jerusalem to
Barcelona, and was brought into the mountains to save it from the
Saracens. It is true that the Montserrat statue has oriental features,
but this could well be traced to the Byzantine sculptors, who were
constantly employed in the West. The legend goes on to say that in the
eighth century, shepherds one night saw strange lights on the mountain
and heard Seraphic music.
Guided by the shepherds, the Bishop of Manresa found, in a cavern, a
wooden figure of Our Lady and the Holy Child. He ordered that the statue
be carried into the cathedral immediately. However, the procession with
the statue never reached the cathedral because, after much marching, the
small wooden figure became too heavy so that the Bishop decided to accept
it as a sign, and left it in a chapel of a nearby hermitage. The statue
remained there until a church was built on the site of the present abbey
on the top of the rocks near where the statue was discovered.
Since that incident, this statue is the most celebrated, the most
important of Spain; it is thirty-eight inches in height, and is known as
"La Morenata" The Little Black Madonna. The wood is
now black with age; one of its most striking features is the dignified
expression of Our Lady. In her right hand, she holds a majestic orb.
Excerpted from Shrines to Our Lady, Zsolt Aradi