"Do not yield to discouragement in the face of difficulties and do not abandon yourselves to false solutions which often seem the easiest way to overcome problems. Do not be afraid to make a commitment, to face hard work and sacrifice, to choose the paths that demand fidelity and constancy, humility and dedication. Be confident in your youth and its profound desires for happiness, truth, beauty and genuine love! Live fully this time in your life so rich and so full of enthusiasm."
"Let us look with greater hope to the future; let us encourage one another on our journey."
~ Papa Benedict XVI

Friday, January 21

The Feast of Our Lady of Altagracia

Our Lady of Altagracia is the Patroness of the Dominican Republic.  Today is a national holiday for them. 

The Dominicans see the image as exemplifying Our Lady watching over the island and the growth of Christianity there. The feast day is marked by services, all-night vigils, singing, dancing, and festivals in many of the towns.

The painting here is a primitive work of the Spanish school, painted c.1500. The Spanish brothers Alfonso and Antonio Trejo, two of the first European settlers on Santo Domingo, brought the portrait to the island some time prior to 1502, and eventually donated it to the parish church at Higuey.

Legend says that the pious daughter of a rich merchant asked him to bring her a portrait of Our Lady of Altagracia from Santo Domingo, but no one had heard of that title. The merchant, staying overnight at a friend's house in Higuey, described his problem as they sat outdoors after dinner. An old man with a long beard, who just happened to be passing by, pulled a rolled up painting from his bindle, gave it to the merchant, and said, "This is what you are looking for." It was the Virgin of Altagracia. They gave the old man a place to stay for the night, but by dawn he was gone, not to be seen again. The merchant placed the image on their mantle, but it repeatedly disappeared only to be found outside. They finally returned it to the church. (from Patron Saint Index)

It seems the feast day is associated with oranges.  I have been unable to find any information on that other than the children's book A Gift of Gracias.  The author grew up in the Dominican Republic hearing stories about Our Blessed Mother, Our Lady of Altagracia, and from those stories and traditions she wrote this beautiful story.  It is well worth having on hand.

You can find several ideas online to help plan your feast day celebration - one excellent place to start is Catholic Icing.

Also, here is a Novena to Honor Our Lady of Altagracia.  It was translated from Spanish by a mom on the 4Real Forum. It's a beautiful prayer for families.

Novena in Honor of Our Lady of Altagracia

Preparatory Prayer

O Dear Mother, Most Sweet Virgin of Altagracia our Patroness! Look at us here, prostrated in your presence wishing to offer you this novena in testimony of our love, and in thanksgiving for the innumerable favors we have received from your hands. You are our Advocate and, like beggars, we come to present our needs to you. You are our Teacher, and like disciples we come to learn from the example of your holy life. You are our Mother, and like children, we come to offer you all the love of our hearts. Receive Dearest Mother, our praise and listen attentively to our supplications. Amen.

Supplications

1. - O Sweetest Mother of Altagracia, pure and immaculate since your conception! We beg you to bless our children, preserving their innocence and increasing their love for purity.

(Hail Mary…)

2.- O Sweetest Mother of Altagracia, Admirable Mother, who in your little house of Nazareth, served as a model for Christian mothers and wives. We ask you to bless our homes so that the sanctity and holiness of marriage will flourish in them.

(Hail Mary…)

3. O Sweetest Mother of Altagracia, you who had the joy of receiving in your arms the body of your Most Holy Son who died on the cross for us, we beg you to come to our aid at the hour of our death, so that by dying with the name of Jesus on our lips and hearts, we can fly to the glory of your maternal arms.

Final Prayer

Most Holy Virgin of Altagracia, from the bottom of our hearts, we thank you for the continuous blessings your pour down on us. From your hands and from your maternal heart we receive, each day, the sustenance given to us by our Heavenly Father. You are our defender when we are in danger, our aid when we are in need and our hope in the sacrifices proper of our Christian life. Through your Immaculate Heart we want to sing a song of thanksgiving to God for all the blessings he has given us. We promise you, O Mother, gratitude and fidelity. You will reign forever in our homes and our town (our forum?) where we will venerate you as our Lady and Mother by growing in all your virtues. Make us worthy of being called your daughters so that serving God and you on this world, we will obtain the highest grace you bring to us: a holy death that will open to us the gates of heaven. Amen.

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Enjoy the day! 
Our Lady of Altagracia, Pray for us!

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