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Our Lady of the Nursing Child

Our Lady of the Nursing Child

By Walter T. Camier

Few Americans realize that St. Augustine, Florida, shares a duel distinction in America’s history. Not only was it the birthplace of Catholicism in America, it was also the birthplace of devotion to the Mother of God in America. In fact, Catholic historians would agree that St. Augustine is unique because it continues the devotion to the Mother of God that dates back to the time of Herod’s persecution of the Holy Family.

Spain’s Admiral Pedro de Aviles sighted the Florida coast near Cape Canaveral on August 28, 1565, the feast day of St. Augustine. Father Francisco Lopez de Mendoza, chaplain of the fleet chronicled the following text in his writings:

On September 8, the general disembarked. I had gone ashore the evening before; I took a cross and went out to meet him, singing the hymn, Te Deum Laudamos. The general, followed by all who accompanied him, marched up to the cross, knelt and kissed it. A large number of the Indians watched the proceedings and imitated all they saw done.

The first mass was celebrated on the Nativity of Our Lady, September 8, 1565. “This is where the gospel was preached to the native people for the first time,” explains Mr. Eric P. Johnson, the current director of the shrine.

Shrine of Our Lady of the Nursing Child in St. Augustine, FloridaOn the tranquil grounds of the Mission of Nombre de Dios is the chapel that houses a replica of the statue of Our Lady of Le Leche. This shrine holds the historical title of being the first shrine dedicated to the Mother of God in the United States. Unique as this is, something more unique is the history behind this beautiful devotion.

During Herod’s persecution, Our Lady, with the Infant Jesus and Saint Joseph, fled to a grotto in Bethlehem. Legend has it that while the Blessed Mother was nursing the Infant Jesus a drop of her milk fell upon a large rock in the grotto and changed the stone’s color from gray to chalky white. Miracles were attributed to the grotto, and by the sixth century, pilgrims were venerating the site.

This grotto, known as the Milk Grotto, is still tended by the Holy Land Franciscans and became a place of devotion to the Mother of God because of her intercession for the women who prayed there for infertility and difficult pregnancies.

Mr. Johnson informed me that, according to legend, this devotion came to Spain during the Crusades. It seems in Spain the statue was carved around 1598. A drunken sailor stole the statue, and a Spanish noble rescued it and took it home. He and his wife prayed fervently before the statue because his wife was suffering from an illness that threatened her life and her unborn child’s life. The baby was born healthy and both lives were spared.

Because of this event, King Phillip III erected a shrine in honor of Nuestra Señora de la Leche y Buen Parto in a church in Madrid. Many miracles for healthy babies and deliveries were credited to Our Lady’s intercession. In his booklet, Mission of Nombre de Dios, Matthew Geiger states that over the years Queen Sophia of Spain was among some of the expectant mothers who visited the shrine.

In the early 1600s, Spaniards brought a replica of the statue of Our Lady of the Nursing Child to St. Augustine, beginning the devotion that continues to this day. Because of the intense devotion to Our Lady by the early Spanish settlers and the converted American Indian tribes, Spaniards decided to build what was to become the first Marian Shine in America.

During my interview, I asked Mr. Johnson how visitors react when they come to the shrine. He said, “It is interesting to note that many of the people who pass through St. Augustine are on their way to Disneyland and they are not giving to much importance to their visit here. But when they enter the shrine you can see by their expressions that something really touches them, they feel a presence. They experience a calmness that they never felt before. Many of them comment about the peace that they felt inside the chapel where Our Lady’s image dwells.”

Statue of Our Lady of the Nursing Child. Our Lady is wearing a crown, seated, and nursing JesusHe continued, “Some pray for spiritual conversions, some for a cure of an illness, some pray for a cross they are carrying.” He also informed me that the original statue that was brought here in 1610 is now somewhere in Cuba. It seems when the British attacked St. Augustine in 1758, the Spanish fled to Cuba with the statue and to this day nobody knows of its whereabouts. Mr. Johnson informed me that when Cubans come to visit the shrine he always requests them to ask their relatives in Cuba if any of them have heard about the missing statue.

More astonishingly is the connection Our Lady has with the women who travel to the shrine to petition her for the grace to conceive a child. Many of their requests are granted, and what was impossible for them before, has become possible. One couple from Pennsylvania, who couldn’t conceive, traced the time of their newborn son’s conception to the time they spent in St. Augustine.

It is hard for American’s to imagine that this devotion has been around for over 400 years in the United States. Thousands of Americans travel annually to Europe to visit the Catholic shrines and historical places, but few Americans know about the tremendous amount of Catholic history in our country.

If you ever get the chance to visit the first American shrine dedicated to the Mother of God in St Augustine, don’t pass it up. You will be richly rewarded by Our Lady of the Nursing Child’s presence in the beautiful chapel built for her by the Spanish explorers and missionaries who arrived here to bring new souls to the Catholic Faith over 400 years ago.

 

Prayer for women to Our Lady of the Nursing Child for conception and a healthy pregnancy

Lovely Lady of La Leche, most loving Mother of the Child Jesus, and my mother, listen to my humble prayer. Your motherly heart knows my every wish, my every need. To you only His spotless Virgin Mother, has your Divine Son given to understand the sentiments which fill my soul. Yours was the sacred privilege of being the Mother of the Savior. Intercede with him now, my loving mother, that, in accordance with His will, I may become the mother of other children of our heavenly Father. This I ask, O Lady of La Leche, in the name of your Divine Son, my Lord and Redeemer. Amen.   (Intended for private recitation only)

 


 

 

 

 

Quote of the day

DAILY QUOTE for May 27, 2020

The saints in heaven, seeing God face to face, love Him abov...

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May 27

 

The saints in heaven, seeing God face to face,
love Him above all things, because they see with the most perfect evidence
that God is better than all creatures combined.
This love will never pass away.
Faith will give place to vision; hope will be replaced by possession: but
“charity never falleth away.” I Cor. 13:8.

Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange


My Mother, I will stand with you on OCTOBER 10, 2020

Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Augustine of Canterbury

His ardent missionary desire, however, was not to be fulfill...

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St. Augustine of Canterbury

One day, the story goes, Gregory was walking through the Roman slave market when he noticed three fair, golden-haired boys. He asked their nationality and was told that they were Angles. "They are well named," said Gregory, "for they have angelic faces." He asked where they came from, and when told "De Ire," he exclaimed, "De ira (from wrath)—yes, verily, they shall be saved from God's wrath and called to the mercy of Christ. What is the name of the king of that country?" "Aella." "Then must Alleluia be sung in Aella's land."

This brief encounter in the Roman Forum between the monk Gregory – later Pope St. Gregory the Great – and the English youths planted in him such a desire to evangelize England that having secured the blessing of Pope Pelagius, he immediately set forth with several monk companions. This ardent missionary desire, however, was not to be fulfilled by himself but by another.

Augustine was prior of a Benedictine monastery in the Eternal City when Pope St. Gregory the Great asked him and another thirty monks to take up the evangelization of England, a project close to the pontiff’s heart.

England had been Christianized before the seventh century, but the Saxon invasion had sent Anglo-Christians into hiding.

As Augustine and companions made their way to the isle, they heard so many stories of the cruelty of their future hosts, that by the time they reached France, they decided to turn back to Rome. But Pope Gregory who had heard differently, including the fact that King Ethelbert had married the Christian-French princess Bertha, respecting her religion, insisted on the mission being carried out.

On arriving in England, King Ethelbert in fact received the monks respectfully and allowed them to preach. In 597 the king accepted baptism, and although, unlike other kings of the time, he let his people free to choose, conversions began to happen.

Augustine was consecrated bishop of the English and ruled wisely, stepping carefully around the prevalent pagan practices, Christianizing old temples, and keeping certain holidays as feasts of Christian saints.

The holy prelate had more success with the pagans then with the old Christians who had taken refuge in Cornwall and Wales. They had a strayed a little from the teachings of Rome, and though Augustine met with them many times trying to bring them back, they could not forgive their Saxon conquerors and chose bitterness and isolation instead.

St. Augustine was primate of England for only eight years, and died in May of 605.

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

There was once a young country wife who practiced devotion t...

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Mary and the Simple Country Wife

There was once a young country wife who practiced devotion to Holy Mary, just as her mother had taught her to do. This simple young lady considered herself fortunate to have married a handsome soldier. Little did she know that her soldier-husband had made a deal with the devil, that he would sell his wife for a certain sum of money.

One crisp, autumn morning the couple went out for their customary walk. Oddly, this time the young man insisted on heading towards the forest. It was at the forest where he intended to deliver his young bride over to the devil.

On their way to the forest, the couple passed in front of a Church dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The wife, overtaken with a desire to enter the church begged her husband to allow her to pray a Hail Mary in that church.

As the young lady entered the church, Holy Mary came forth from it, taking the form of the wife and accompanied the man into the forest.

When they at last approached the devil at the forest, he said to the man, “Traitor! Why have you brought me instead of your wife, my enemy, the mother of God?”

“And you,” said Mary, addressing the devil, “how have you dared to think of injuring my servant? Go, flee to hell.”

And then, turning to the man, Mary said to him, “Amend your life, and I will aid you.”

She then disappeared and that wretched man repented, amended his life and became a husband worthy of his simple country wife.

From the Glories of Mary, by St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori.

 

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There was once a young country wife who practiced devotion to Holy Mary, just as her mother had taught her to do. This simple young lady considered herself fortunate to have married a handsome soldier.

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