|Vatican Approves Local Feast Day for Our Lady of La Leche
The Diocese of St. Augustine has received permission from the Vatican to celebrate Oct. 11 as the Feast of Our Lady of La Leche.
The Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche at Mission Nombre de Dios in St. Augustine dates to 1565. She is the patron of nursing mothers and women who want to become pregnant.
Father Thomas Willis, director of liturgy for the Diocese of St. Augustine, said “the liturgical norms of the church permit local celebrations to be inserted into what is called a ‘particular calendar.’” He continued, “In this way, devotions to Mary and the saints that have a special devotion in a particular area or region may be observed in a local calendar of, in this case, our diocese.”
“Recognizing the significance of the devotion in the diocese, Bishop Estévez petitioned the Holy See for us to be able to establish a feast day in her honor,” Father Willis said. This year the feast coincides with the opening of the Year of Faith.
“Because the first observance of this new feast will occur this year on the same day as the Solemn Opening of the Year of Faith, I ask that, in a particular way, you ask for the intercession of the Blessed Mother, under the title of Our Lady of La Leche, to intercede for the faithful of our local church, and that together, we will grow in deep faith and discipleship of her Son, Jesus Christ,” Bishop Estévez said.
Bishop Estévez will celebrate a Mass for the Feast of Our Lady of La Leche on Thursday, Oct. 11 at 9 a.m. at the Cathedral Basilica, 38 Cathedral Place, St. Augustine. The public is invited to attend.
Background on Our Lady of La Leche
Located on the grounds of Mission Nombre de Dios in St. Augustine, is the chapel that houses a replica of the statue of Our Lady of La Leche (Our Lady of the Milk and Happy Delivery). It is the oldest shrine dedicated to Our Blessed Mother in the United States.
The history of the devotion to the Mother of Jesus as Our Lady of La Leche may have roots in a fourth-century grotto in Bethlehem. To this day the Franciscan community maintains a shrine there called the Milk Grotto. Its centerpiece is the Blessed Virgin nursing the infant Jesus. Many believe that the crusaders brought the devotion to Mary as a nursing mother to Spain in the Middle Ages.
During the reign of Phillip III in Spain, word spread of a nobleman’s wife and baby, expected to die during the birth of the child, who were both spared as a result of the intercession of Nuestra Señora de la Leche y buen parto. The statue, in possession of the nobleman, soon found a place in the hearts of many throughout Spain.
By the early 1600’s, the devotion, under the title of Nuestra Señora de la Leche y buen parto, had a special place in the lives of the Spanish settlers and the converted indigenous people in St. Augustine. It was on these same mission grounds that the Spanish built the first Marian Shrine in the land, a devotion that continues to this present day.
Thousands of visitors and pilgrims make their way to the shrine every year. Many ask for the blessings of motherhood, beseeching the intercession of Our Lady of La Leche that God will grant them a safe and happy delivery, and healthy, holy children. Many write requesting remembrances in Masses and prayers not only for motherhood but for petitions of all kinds. Many who visit the shrine express that it is a place of spiritual comfort and renewal.