Our Lady of Charity

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Our Lady of Charity

Our Lady of Charity of Cobre (La Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre) is an apparition of the Virgin Mary who appeared over the stormy waters off Cuba around 1608, to save three sailors who were praying for salvation. She is frequently called upon for assistance in times of peril, and is also petitioned by those seeking true love and wealth. She is the patron saint of Cuba, and her feast day is September 8.

Around the year 1608, three men, Rodrigo and Juan de Hoyos, and their slave Juan Moreno (traditionally called the "three Juans") set out to sea to gather salt. While on the water, a terrible storm arose, violently rocking their boat and threatening their lives. The slave, Juan, was wearing a medal with the image of the Virgin Mary on it. The three began to pray for her protection. Suddenly, the skies cleared and the storm disappeared. Off in the distance they saw a strange object floating on the ocean. They rowed toward it and at first mistook it for a bird but quickly discovered that it was a statue of a girl. They determined that it was a statue of The Virgin Mary holding the Baby Jesus on her right arm and a gold cross in her left hand. The statue was attached to a wooden board bearing the inscription "Yo Soy la Virgen de la Caridad" or "I am the Virgin of Charity". The statue was dressed with real cloth and the The Virgin had real hair and skin of a mixed-race woman, and it remained dry even though it floated in the water. They took the statue back with them and handed it over to a government official, Don Francisco Sánchez de Moya, who ordered that a chapel be built to house it. At the request of the veterans of the Cuban War of Independence, Our Lady of Charity was declared the patroness of Cuba by Pope Benedict XV in 1916 and solemnly crowned in the Eucharistic Congress held in Santiago de Cuba in 1936. Pope Paul VI raised her sanctuary to the category of Basilica in 1977.

She is depicted wearing a blue cloak, holding the Christ Child in her left arm, and standing on a crescent moon that floats in a clearing in the sky above a stormy sea. A rowboat with three men (the "three Juans") appears in the sea below her, praying to her for salvation. In the syncretic practices of the Africa Diasporic religion of Cuban Santeria or Lukumi, the orisha Oshun is associated with Our Lady of Charity.

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