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Our Lady of the Rosary of Las Lajas

Written by Anne Marie Jacques on Monday, 01 May 2023. Posted in Prayers & Rosaries

The following history of the apparitions of Our Lady of Las Lajas in Guaitara Canyon, Colombia in 1754 is mostly sourced from the website:

The Apparitions

In the 18th century, Maria Mueses de Quiñones, a woman from the village of Potosí, Colombia, often walked the six miles between her village and the neighboring one of Ipiales. One day, in 1754, as she was approaching the bridge across the Guaitara River at a place called Las Lajas (which translates in English as flat, slippery rocks), a terrible storm came up. Frightened, the poor woman took refuge in a cave on the side of the path. Feeling a bit spooked and alone, she began to invoke Our Lady of the Rosary, who had been made popular in the region by Dominican friars. She suddenly felt that someone was touching her back and calling her. She turned around, but saw no one. In terror she fled to Potosí.

Days later, Maria returned once more to Ipiales, carrying her daughter Rosa, who was deaf and mute on her back, in the native way. After she had climbed to Las Lajas, she was tired and sat on a rock to rest. The child clambered down from her mother's back and started climbing around the rocks. Soon she exclaimed: "Mommy, Mommy, there is a white woman here with a boy in her arms!" Maria was shocked as this was the first time she had heard her daughter speak. She was also frightened because she could not see the figures the girl was referring to. So she grabbed the child and hastened on to Ipiales.

When she told friends and relatives what had happened, no one believed her. So she simply conducted her business and went home to Potosí. When she came to the cave Rosa yelled: "Mommy, the white woman is calling me!" Maria still couldn't see anything and so she hurried to take her daughter far away from this apparently haunted place. Back at home, she told other friends what had happened. This time, since the path by that cave was much traveled, the news of something supernatural happening spread quickly.

A few days later, the child Rosa disappeared from her home. After looking everywhere, the anguished mother guessed that her daughter must have gone to the cave, because the child had often said that the white lady was calling her. Maria ran to Las Lajas and was overjoyed to find her daughter kneeling in front of the white lady and playing affectionately with the child who had come down from his mother's arms to be with Rosa.

Maria fell to her knees before this beautiful spectacle. She had seen the Blessed Virgin and the Divine Infant for the first time!

Fearful of ridicule from the people who had not believed her previous accounts, Maria kept quiet about the episode. But she and Rosa frequently went to the cave to place wild flowers and candles in the cracks of the rocks.

Time passed, and Maria and Rosa kept their secret. But one day the girl fell gravely ill and died suddenly. The distraught mother decided to take her daughter's body to the feet of the Lady of Guáitara, as she had come to call her. Arriving there, she reminded the Virgin of all the flowers and candles Rosa had brought her, and the poor mother begged the lady to restore Rosa to life.

The Blessed Virgin, moved by the sadness of Maria's unrelenting supplications, granted Rosa's miraculous return to life. Overjoyed, Maria went to Ipiales. She arrived at night time and told everyone what had happened. Those who had already gone to bed arose and began ringing the church bells. Soon a great crowd had gathered in front of the church to hear what had occurred.

The Miracle

At daybreak, everyone went to the cave. There was no more doubt now that a miracle had occurred. All the villagers knew of the death of little Rosa, and now here she was, alive and well! Arriving at the cave, they could see a supernatural light streaming from inside. Going in, they saw, engraved into the rock wall, the image of the Most Holy Virgin holding the child Jesus in her arms.

Both were smiling sweetly. The Virgin's hair was long and dark brown, extending to about the elbow. Her eyes were large and innocent, and her garments beautiful to behold. On one side stood Saint Dominic, and on the other, Saint Francis of Assisi. Mary, holding a Rosary, was extending her hand toward Saint Dominic. The Holy Infant held a Franciscan cord which he appeared to be giving to Saint Francis.

The spiritual sons of these two holy saints were responsible for the conversion of the people of Central and South America, and to this day, the sanctuary is under the pastoral care of the Franciscan Sisters of Mary Immaculate.

This image of Our Lady of Las Lajas was clearly of miraculous origin. The colors have not lost any of their brilliance over the centuries, and have been proven to not be a paint or a coloring applied to the surface of the stone.

Geologists from Germany took core samples from several spots in the image. Their investigations found no paint, dye, nor any other pigment on the surface of the rock. The colors are the rock itself. Even more incredible, the rock is perfectly colored to a depth of several feet.

The Church

The oldest record of this holy place comes from the travel accounts of the Franciscan friar, Juan de Santa Gertrudis. He was a blind monk who, between the years 1756 and 1764 traveled on foot from Ecuador to Nariño, Colombia, begging for money to build the first chapel in Las Lajas. At its completion, Friar Juan miraculously regained his vision, which he attributed to his own deep faith and trust in the Virgin Mary of Las Lajas.

Over time a much larger sanctuary was needed to accommodate the thousands of pilgrims who traveled there every year. Today's church was built between January 1, 1916 and  August 20, 1949, solely from generous donations made by the local people.

In 1951, Church officials finally approved Nuestra Señora de Las Lajas as an authentic miracle, and in 1954 declared the sanctuary as a minor basilica.

Each year, on September 16th, the anniversary of the apparition, thousands of pilgrims come from all over to honor the Virgin and to pray to her.

On Maundy Thursday of Holy Week, pilgrims come from several nearby cities in Colombia and also from Ecuador, some walking as much as 12 hours to honor  the Mestiza, the name given to the Virgin meaning "the woman of mixed Spanish-Indian race".

Over the course of the centuries, pilgrims have left countless ex-votos on the rock walls all the way from the village into the canyon of the sanctuary. These offerings attest to the mercy and miraculous power of the Madonna through the many miracles and favors received by the people that have come to her in faith.

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