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Portolá 250 – La Purisima

A Variety of Devotions to Our Lady to Mirror Diversity of Cultures

What struck me most as we walked into La Purisima Catholic Church in Orange, CA on Thursday, September 5th is the presence there of a great devotion to Our Lady under a variety of her titles. 

As you may know, the Diocese of Orange County is extremely diverse in ethnicity, and it was beautiful to see this diversity reflected in the different scenes representing different titles of Our Lady set up in the church there. To add to the mix, we brought the Pilgrim Virgin statue of Fatima. It was amazing to see cultures and languages from all over the world coming together in one common Faith. No other institution other than the Catholic Church does that! In fact, the word ‘Catholic’ means ‘Universal’. But La Purisima does a special job of celebrating this diversity of cultures in their community. 

We saw the beloved image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a powerful symbol of Mexican identity and Patroness of the Americas. 

Our Lady of Guadalupe

A statue of Our Lady of Manaoag, also called Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary of Manaoag, stands among rows of candles in the church. She is patroness of the sick, the helpless, and the needy. She represents those of Filipino heritage. 

Our Lady of Manaoag

The statue Our Lady of La Vang in La Purisima refers to a Marian apparition during a grave time of persecution for the Vietnamese. Our Lady appeared in the jungle near Quang Tri, where Christians took refuge and prepared for martyrdom. She comforted them and told them how to boil leaves to use as medicine, since many died there from the bitter cold. 

Our Lady of La Vang

Our Lady has many titles. If we tried to count them all, there would be hundreds, combining those from the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary, like Queen of All Saints; to titles obtained from Marian apparitions, such as Our Lady of Lourdes and Our Lady of Mt. Carmel; all the way to those simply describing her virtues: Queen of Peace; her symbolisms: Tower of Ivory and Mystical Rose; or her relationship to Our Lord: Ark of the Covenant. We also have devotions to her under titles which describe the way she helps us—think Mother of Perpetual Help. 

We honor her with countless titles because she is the Mother of God and full of grace. There is no way that all of her virtues, beauty, and serenity could possibly be summed up in one title. 

Our Lady’s only words in Scripture are found in her canticle, which we call her Magnificat. And even this profound string of humble syllables points to the greatness of God and not herself. 

Here is a small portion of it: 

My soul magnifies the Lord 
And my spirit rejoices in God my Savior; 
Because He has regarded the lowliness of His handmaid… 
He has filled the hungry with good things, 
and the rich He has sent away empty… 

Our Lady’s words ring of the will and the Truth of God. He humbles the rich and raises the lowly. I think it only makes sense then, in finding this fervent humility in His Blessed Mother, that God deemed that we should honor her with the joyous sounds of many titles. 

Her many titles also suggest that Our Lady touches, attracts, and works in all of us in slightly different ways. These ways are connected with how God made our souls; they might be connected to our culture or language. I am sure you can think of your own particular devotions to certain titles of Our Lady. What I like to think of as the ‘many crowns of Our Lady’ is evidence that God uses Our Lady as Mediatrix of His graces not just for a select group of people, but for everyone. 

Blessings, 

James Aitchison 

“Always go forward and never turn back.” 

~ St. Junípero Serra 

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