Saturday nearest July 16

Virgen del Mar, Puntarenas, Costa Rica

marian calendar     july

In 1913, news came to the young port of Puntarenas that a pearl fishing boat, the Galileo, was wrecked in a storm with all its crew on board. The ship's owner, Panamanian Don Hermenegildo Cruz Ayala, went to the parish church in Puntarenas and, with the priest and people, prayed to the Virgin of Mount Carmel for the missing men. While the city was still reeling with the news and the people still on their knees in church, the men they had been praying for arrived in port, brought by a ship that had rescued them on dry land. Some told of a mysterious Lady who had nourished them until they had strength to swim ashore. Don Hermenegildo met them and said, "We must go to the church and give thanks!"  

In the church, one of the crewmen saw the image of the Virgin of Carmel and exclaimed, "That's the Lady who fed us at sea. She carried the bread in that apron (scapular)."

Captain Silvano Nieto explained, "The gigantic waves roared in the storm. The Galileo was caught in the mill of the wind and sea, while a sound of striking planks told me she was breaking into many pieces; thousands of fleeting ideas thronged my mind, and fear of death by drowning possessed me. My crew ran from one side to the other crying out, aware of the peril and helpless before it. Suddenly I felt the fear of God, and with tears in my eyes and my knuckles nearly breaking on the wheel, I began to pray. I'm not a great Christian, Father, but in that moment an infinite faith brought me closer to God. I remembered the words of my mother that in every danger I should invoke the help of the Virgin Mary, and so I did. I think it was a question of minutes that seemed like centuries, but soon I seemed to see before the ship a great white light. The sea at once lost all its fury, and it seemed to me that something like a divine force pulled us with an invisible line. I understood that the dear Virgin had been very close to me and great rejoicing filled my heart.''

Don Hermenegildo vowed to hold an annual nautical festival to honor and thank Our Lady of Mount Carmel, whose feast day is July 16. Puntarenas has kept the promise. All the local fishermen participate, joined by pilgrims and tourists from throughout Costa Rica. The fiesta features a carnival, dancing, refreshments, and blessing of the fleet. Every year a different vessel is selected to carry the Virgin's statue in the parade of decorated boats. The Virgen del Mar, who is also the Virgen del Carmen, is the patron of Puntarenas and of fishermen, who take the occasion to give thanks for their catch and to ask protection while at sea in the year ahead.

(Information from Picture from Ovidio Muñoz, "Espejo porteño," Al Día,


Where We Walked ~~~ Mary Ann Daly