May 29


Santa María de Santa Anita, Tlaquepaque, Jalisco, Mexico

Sometime before 1542, when the village of Atlixtac in west central Mexico became the pueblo of Santa Anita, a sick Franciscan friar went there. He sought medical help from a native convert, a healer named Justina, but soon died. The friar's belongings passed to the curandera, among them a finely carved cedar statue of the Virgin. Justina developed a practice of praying before the image when treating patients, and watching its complexion: rosy and radiant if the patient would recover, darkened if death were near. In that case, she would recommend the sacraments of the church. Many of the cures were considered miraculous. When Justina died, the Franciscan friars took custody of the statue and made it an object of public devotion in their hospice chapel in Santa Anita. Merchants traveling to Guadalajara who stayed at the hospice spread the devotion around the region. This is the story of the Virgin of Santa Anita as recorded in oral tradition and local Franciscan documents.   

Historians believe that the statue was originally an Immaculate Conception image, standing on the crescent moon without the child. Around 1700, the Virgin of Santa Anita began to be celebrated on August 15 as Our Lady of the Assumption. Around 1800, the image acquired an infant and candle in addition to the moon, becoming Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria, celebrated on February 2, the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin or Candlemas.

In 1918, Our Lady of Santa Anita acquired another title, Abogada de los Enfermos, Advocate of the Sick. Spanish flu was devastating the village when the survivors carried the statue in procession through every street. There were only two more deaths after that, and the epidemic stopped.

The statue of Santa María de Santa Anita, Advocate of the Sick, was crowned by diocesan authority in 1988, and by papal authority on May 29, 2004.

Candlemas remains a huge fiesta in Santa Anita. Festivities begin nine days before, on January 24. Thousands of poinsettias line the route from the highway to the sanctuary. On February 1, the Entrada de la Cera (Wax Entrance) takes place: a parade of pilgrims brings votive offerings of giant candles, sacred vessels, perfumes, and adornments for the statue, such as jewels, garments, and wigs made from the hair of young women whose prayers were answered. On February 2 a procession bears the Virgin of Santa Anita along a red carpet of some 300,000 flowers cut from the poinsettias lining the route.


Sonia Gabriela Ceja Ramírez, "Comunidad festiva, con una Madre Milagrosa," Semanario Arquidiocesano de Guadalajara, Jan. 31, 2010,
Luis Javier Roman Moya, "Nuestra Señora de Santa Anita,",
Héctor Ventura Gonzalez, OFM, Coronación de Nuestra Señora de Santa Anita, Provincia Franciscana de los Ss. Francisco y Santiago en México, Zapopan, 2009, in "Santa Anita," Facebook, (photo)

Also commemorated this date:

Däbrä Metmaq, Coptic Church. Commemoration of annual apparition in Egyptian church destroyed by Muslim forces c1440.
Notre-Dame de Piétat, Pardies-Piétat, Pyrénées-Atlantiques, Aquitaine, France. Catholics vowed to build shrine during storms, 1661. 
Beata Vergine Maria di Loreto, Alessandria, Piedmont, Italy. Statue blessed, 1605. 
Madonna ta' Fatima, Gwardamangia, Malta. Dominican parish church dedicated, 1978.
Maria in de Nood, Stein, Limburg, Netherlands (Mary in Need). Statue installed in restored chapel, 1938. Daily mass all month.
Matka Pięknej Miłości, Bydgoszcz, Kuyavia-Pomerania, Poland (Mother of Beautiful Love). Painting crowned, 1966.
Matka Boża Gościeszyńska, Goscieszyn, Wolsztyn, wielkopolskie, Poland. 1400s painting returned to sanctuary, 2005. 
Bien Aparecida, Ampuero, Asón-Agüera, Cantabria, Spain, Hoz de Marrón hamlet (Well-Appeared Lady). Statue crowned, 1955. Fiesta Sept. 15 commemorates apparitions and finding of statuette in 1605.
Virgen de Tocón, Langa del Castillo, Zaragoza, Aragon, Spain. Romerías 2nd Sat. May & May 29. Fiesta May 1.
Virgen de Rehoyo, Villanueva del Aceral, Ávila, Castile and Léon, Spain (or nearest Sun.)
Unserer lieben Frau von Oberdorf, Oberdorf, Solothurn, Switzerland. Pilgrimage Tuesday, May 29, 2007 commemorated 550 years of pilgrimage to chapel (since 1457).
Our Ladye in the Park, Liskeard, Cornwall, England, UK. First pilgrimage since Reformation and re-hallowing of the shrine's site, 1979.
Assumption Grotto, Detroit, Michigan, USA. Lourdes grotto behind Assumption Church dedicated, 1881.

Where We Walked ~~~ Mary Ann Daly