May 9


Virgen de Soledad, Antigua, Sacatepéquez, Guatemala

Local legend relates that carver Pedro de Mendoza (d. 1662) ran out of paint the night before he was to deliver the statue of Most Holy Mary of Grief. He went to bed leaving her face unfinished and woke in the morning astonished to find that the work had been completed without his help. In any case, the Virgin has a rich, deep complexion to complement her ineffably sad expression. After the statue was damaged in the 1976 earthquake, restorers had trouble matching the color of her face.   

The Virgen de la Soledad represents the mourning mother of the crucified Jesus, between Good Friday and Easter. Soledad is often translated "solitude." The Holy Mother is "lonely," missing her son; she is Our Lady of Grief. In the inland city of Antigua Guatemala, as in Spain, a Catholic brotherhood carries her statue through the streets on Good Friday and in the Procesión de Pésame, Condolence Procession, on Holy Saturday. 

Along with another highly revered statue, representing the recumbent Entombed Lord, El Señor Sepultado, the Virgin of Grief moved to the church of the School of Christ in 1664 from the Veracruz Chapel nearby. Founded by the Franciscans in 1543, the Escuela de Cristo now houses a Franciscan seminary. 

On May 9, 1999, Próspero Penados del Barrio, Archbishop of Guatemala City, consecrated the statue of Most Holy Mary of Grief, as the Entombed Lord's had been consecrated 20 years before. In Guatemala, the consagración of a sacred image is more than a simple blessing such as priests offer when such a work is installed. Like the ritual coronations of images common in other Catholic countries, it signifies a special relationship between the community and the holy person represented. Like the sacrament of confirmation, consagración is always performed by a bishop, in the context of a mass, using the blessed oil known as chrism. Recalling Jacob's anointing of the stone on which he had dreamed of the heavenly ladder (Genesis 28:10-22), the bishop anoints the image's forehead, hands, and feet, and crosses of gold or silver are affixed to its hands as a permanent sign of consecration. There were two such consecrations in Guatemala in the 1700s, and then in the 20th century many more took place. Now there are some 30 consecrated images in the country. 

Antigua commemorates the Virgin of Grief's consecration with an annual procession on Mother's Day, the second Sunday in May.


"Virgen de Soledad de la Escuela de Cristo," Fe y Devoción,
Roberto Urrea, "Procesión de la Santísima Virgen de Soledad de la Escuela de Cristo en el aniversario de su consagración, Antigua Guatemala," photo uploaded May 15, 2008,
"Semana Santa en Guatemala," Viaje a Guatemala - Prensa Libre,
Hermandad de la Escuela de Cristo, Escuela de Cristo Antigua Guatemala,
"Escuela de Cristo," Antigua Guatemala,

Also commemorated this date:

Nuestra Señora de los Milagros, Santa Fe, Santa Fe, Argentina. Painting sweated, 1636; crowned, 1936.
Our Lady of Lourdes, Langshan, Nantong, Jiangsu, China. Church completed, 1937; Day of Pilgrimage.
Gospa od Loreta, Primosten, Dalmatia, Croatia (Lady of Loreto). Celebration May 9-10.
Birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church (Ginbot 1) and Coptic Orthodox Church (1 Pashons)
Notre-Dame d'Avesnières, Laval, Mayenne, Pays de la Loire, France. Statue crowned, 1859. Fête with fluvial procession Dec. 8.
Notre-Dame-du-Chêne, Plobsheim, Bas-Rhin, Alsace, France (Our Lady of the Oak)
Notre Dame de Montfaucon, Montfaucon-en-Velay, Haute Loire, Auvergne, France
Notre-Dame-des-Miracles, Mauriac, Cantal, Auvergne, France. Traditional pilgrimage date, now moved to following Sunday.
Madonna del Bosco, Imbersago, Como, Lombardia, Italy
Santa Maria Assunta, Amelia, Terni, Umbria, Italy. Pilgrimage celebrates crowning of Duccio's painting May 9, 1745; festa Aug. 15.
Vergine delle Grazie, Sassari, Sardinia, Italy, in church of S. Pietro. Statue crowned, 1929. Festa del Voto last Sunday in May. 
Santa Maria, Aglientu, Sassari, Sardinia, Italy
Madonna del Buon Consiglio, Fregento, Avellino, Campania, Italy (Madonna of Good Counsel). Ceramic relief found, 1920; festa.
Santa Maria del Merino, Vieste, Foggia, Apulia, Italy
Madonna ta' Liesse, Valletta, Malta
Matka Boża Świętojańska, Cracow, Poland (St. John Mother of God). Icon crowned, 1965, by Karol Wojtyla, Metropolitan of Cracow.
Nuestra Señora de la Mata, Peraleda de la Mata, Cáceres, Extremadura, Spain (formerly)
Mare de Déu de l'Aigua, Siurana, Tarragona, Catalonia, Spain (Mother of God of Water)
Purísima Concepción, Puente Genil, Córdoba, Andalucía, Spain. Statue crowned, 1987. Fiesta December 8.
Virgen de la Encina, Baños de la Encina, Jaén, Andalucia, Spain. Apparition, 1225 or 1226. Romería/fiesta now 2nd Sunday in May.
Mary, Mother of the Church and Model of All Christians, Bowling Green, Kentucky, USA. Shrine at St. Joseph Church dedicated, 1989.

Where We Walked ~~~ Mary Ann Daly