|Our Lady of Refuge feast day celebrated July 5|
Posting Date: 06-19-2012
Brother John M. Samaha, SM
The Diocese of San Jose recently dedicated a new parish, Our Lady of Refuge, in east San Jose.
Our Lady of Refuge, Nuestra Señora del Refugio, is Patroness of Both Californias (Ambas Californias). Her feast is celebrated on July 5 in Alta California (USA).
The Franciscan missionary Francisco Diego Garcia y Moreno was the first Bishop of the Californias – Baja California (lower California in what is now Mexico) and Alta California (upper California in the present USA).
It was he who proclaimed Nuestra Señora del Refugio, Patrona de las Ambas Californias. The official proclamation was made by Bishop Garcia Diego on January 4, 1843, at Mission Santa Clara in Alta California.
The text of Bishop Garcia Diego’s declaration is recorded in Mission Santa Clara’s Libro de Patentes.
After citing the early Fathers of the Church on the practice and spiritual benefits of naming patron saints, the first bishop of the Californias stated: “We make known to you that we hereby name the great Mother of God in her most precious title, ‘del Refugio,’ the principal patroness of our diocese…
“If, through the centuries, this most worthy Mother of God has shown goodness and compassion to all peoples and nations…will she not do likewise for those peoples who bind themselves to her as their refuge and special patroness?”
In 1981 the California Catholic Conference of Bishops petitioned the Vatican Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship for authorization to observe the feast of Our Lady of Refuge on July 5 as an obligatory memorial. This was approved by official document dated January 15, 1982, and signed by Archbishop Giuseppe Casoria.
The dioceses of Baja California celebrate this patronal feast on July 4. Because of Independence Day, the dioceses of Alta California chose July 5.
The feast of Our Lady of Refuge (sometimes called Our Lady, Refuge of Sinners) has its own proper prayers for the Eucharistic Liturgy and the Liturgy of the Hours.
The renewal of interest in this Marian feast honoring the patroness of the Golden State was stimulated by the 1987-88 Marian Year observance and Pope John Paul II’s encouragement to revitalize interest in special local feasts of the Virgin Mother Mary.
The coat of arms of Bishop Garcia Diego included only the image of Our Lady of Refuge. A painting of Our Lady of Refuge holding her Child, usually the product of a local or native artist, graced each mission church after the bishop’s proclamation.
To this day, most of the 21 missions of Alta California still display this image in the churches or in their museums.
The original painting of Our Lady of Refuge came to the Franciscan College of Zacatecas in Mexico from Italy.
An Italian Jesuit missionary brought it to Mexico to explain the enthusiastic interest in Our Lady, Refuge of Sinners, that had developed in parish missions in 18th century Italy.
Devotion to the Mother of Jesus under this title and in this pictorial representation gained wide popularity among Mexican and Californian Franciscans and the people they served.
Paintings of Our Lady of Refuge are, with few exceptions, similar in design and execution. The heads of the Infant Jesus and his Mother Mary lean together with no background between them. Both figures wear a crown. Mary’s eyes are turned toward the observer, while the gaze of the Child seems to turn left of the viewer.
In Santa Clara Mission church the painting of Our Lady of Refuge is found above the larger picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe in one of the side altar niches on the left near the sanctuary.
Another painting by Eulalio, a local Native American, is on display in Santa Clara University’s De Saisset Museum, near the mission church, on campus.
Other portrayals of Our Lady of Refuge are found at Mission Santa Barbara, Mission San Carlos Borromeo at Carmel, Mission San Francisco de Asis, and Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, as well as at the De Young Museum in San Francisco.
• Retired Marianist Brother John Samaha has served many years in the ministries of education and communications in the Church.
- The Valley Catholic
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