CARTAGENA, Colombia — In his Angelus address Sunday, Pope Francis said the story of Our Lady of Chiquinquirá, the patroness of Colombia, provides an example of the humility with which all Christians should serve each other.
“The Lord teaches us through the example of the humble and those who are not valued,” the Pope said Sept. 10. “They are the poor, humble ones, who contemplate the presence of God and to whom the mystery of God's love is revealed most clearly.”
“As we pray the Angelus, recalling the incarnation of the Word, we also reflect on Mary who conceived Jesus and brought him into the world. We look to her this morning under the title of Our Lady of Chiquinquirá,” he said.
Our Lady of Chiquinquirá is the patroness of Colombia. Her image, which was painted on a piece of cloth in the 16th century was abandoned for a long time and allowed to become discolored and full of holes.
Tradition holds that a woman named Maria Ramos found the image in an old oratory in the town of Chiquinquirá in 1855 and “had the courage and faith to put this blurred and torn fabric in a special place, restoring its lost dignity,” Francis said.
It is said the painting was repaired to its former brilliancy through a miraculous restoration that occurred on Friday, Dec. 26, 1586.
The Pope pointed out how the Lord granted Maria Ramos, an ordinary woman, the grace to receive the poor image of the Blessed Virgin Mary, even in its damaged and worn state; and he gave the indigenous Isabel and her son Miguel the grace of being the first people to witness the transformed image.
Maria Ramos, he continued, is a model “for all those who, in different ways, seek to restore the dignity of our brothers and sisters lost through the pain of life’s wounds, to restore the dignity of those who are excluded.”
She is also a model for all those who provide dignified accommodation and care to those without a home, he continued. Being, above all, “a model for all those who pray perseveringly so that the men and women who are suffering may regain the splendor of the children of God which they have been robbed of.”
St. Peter Claver’s Witness
Pope Francis led the Angelus at the Church of St. Peter Claver in Cartagena, in one of the last events of his Sept. 6-11 trip to Colombia.
He urged all gathered to pray for the intercession of Mary and St. Peter Claver, "the slave of the blacks forever," as he wanted to be known, who would wait for ships from Africa in the port city of Cartagena in order to help the slaves brought there.
Because of language differences, St. Peter Claver was often only able to communicate through his evangelical and charitable works. If he ever felt revulsion towards the slaves, he would kiss their wounds, the Pope said.
“He knew that the language of charity and mercy was understood by all. Indeed, charity helps us to know the truth and truth calls for acts of kindness,” Francis said.
The saint, who is buried beneath the altar in the church with his name, was “austere and charitable to the point of heroism,” the Pope said. And after helping hundreds of thousands of people, he himself spent the last four years of his life sick and confined to a bad cell.
St. Peter Claver is also a witness to the responsibility and care we should have for one another, he noted, despite the criticism he faced from those who hated his ministry and thought it would undermine the lucrative slave trade.
In Colombia and around the world millions of people are still being sold into slavery, the Pope emphasized. “They either beg for some expressions of humanity, moments of tenderness, or they flee by sea or land because they have lost everything, primarily their dignity and their rights.”