Whenever I feel myself succumbing to discouragement, I turn to Our Lady of Pillar.

Who?

Our Lady of the Pillar is a title for the Blessed Virgin Mary that is based on her appearance to St. James. The feast of Our Lady of the Pillar is October 12.

All of the apparitions of Mary are amazing and all of her titles worthy of honor, but the story of Our Lady of the Pillar strikes my heart deeply because it is unique among Marian apparitions.

After Pentecost, St. James struck out on his missionary journey, which took him through Israel, over the Roman Empire, and finally to the Iberian Peninsula. With great hope, he attempted to convert the people there to Christianity, but his efforts were unwelcome.

He became discouraged.

One day while he was at prayer, our Lady appeared to him. She was atop an altar made of jaspar and carried by angels. She was holding a small wooden statue of herself, and gave both the statue and the pillar to St. James. She instructed him to build a church in her honor on that spot and to use the items she’d given him on the altar.

He did indeed build a church on that site. It became the first in history to be dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

That sends chills down my spine.

Also during the apparition, Mary recalled St. James to Jerusalem. Before he left, he saw to it that a small chapel was built as requested and that chapel later was replaced with the Basilica.

Upon return to Jerusalem, St. James was martyred by Herod in 44 A.D.

After his death, St. James’ was denied burial in Rome, so his followers brought his remains to Compostela, Spain. They buried him and later a large cathedral was built over his grave.

The long story short is that this became a world-famous pilgrimage place, with Rome and Jerusalem being the only two sites hosting more pilgrims per year.

For centuries, pilgrims have been making the arduous trek – taking anywhere from 5 weeks to 3 months or more – to walk the Camino de Santiago, or the Way of St. James, on any number of routes.

The end of the pilgrimage is marked by climbing the mountainous steps up to the cathedral, touching the “Pilgrim’s Pillar” in the center of the door, and kissing the hem of the jeweled cloak that drapes the statue of Our Lady of the Pillar.

It amazes me that even folks who aren’t religious make the pilgrimage, and there are countless stories of resulting conversions.

That’s really a testimony to the “power” of Our Lady of the Pillar.

She draws pilgrims from over the globe to herself, and offers them courage, encouragement, and hope.

The apparition itself is remarkable. Her effectiveness as Our Lady of the Pillar is even more remarkable.

I’ve not myself made the pilgrimage to Our Lady of the Pillar on foot. But I do make it in my heart whenever I’m feeling down, overwhelmed, or discouraged.

I wait in prayer, like St. James, asking for help and direction.

And Our Lady of the Pillar grants it.