The Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre (Our Lady of Charity of Copper) holds a special place in the heart of Isabel Diaz for Our Lady provides a connection to her heritage as an American-born Cuban.
“This devotion goes back in my family many generations and the stories of the celebrations on this day always bring me great joy,” Diaz explained as she prayed following a Mass dedicated to Our Lady on Sept. 8, 2020 at St. Jude Parish.
St. Jude Pastor, Father Celestino Gutierrez, said the celebration of the Patroness of Cuba was toned-down this year because of the COVID-19 Pandemic. However, the faith of the people was not diminished.
“On Sunday (Sept. 6, 2020), there was a Mass and reception, but it was more a sign of unity versus the large party it has been in the past,” Father Gutierrez said.
A statue of Our Lady was placed on a table in front of the altar for the Masses, flanked by the U.S. and Cuban flags. The image of Our Lady of Charity depicts Mary standing on the moon and surrounded by angels, while holding the Child Jesus, who holds a globe in one hand and raises the other hand in a gesture of blessing. Following the Mass, many remained to pray, leave flowers, or to take photos of or with the statue.
Diaz prayed for “protection and comfort,” during these turbulent times of pandemic and economic difficulties. “It’s what my family used to pray for before they left Cuba many years ago, and what we still all pray for. Our Lady is always there for us.”
Devotion to the Mary under the title of Our Lady of Charity dates to 1612 when two indigenous laborers and a slave boy were on a boat in a fierce storm when they sought the protection of Mary. The storm suddenly calmed and then in the distance they spotted a white bundle floating on a piece of wood. It was a small statue of Mary holding the infant Jesus on her left arm and a gold cross on her raised right hand. Inscribed on the wooden board were the words, “Yo soy la Virgen de la Caridad” (“I am Our Lady of Charity”). Despite being found in the water after a storm, the white material in which the statue was wrapped in remained completely dry.
Our Lady of Charity was declared patroness of Cuba by Pope Benedict XV in 1916. Pope Benedict XVI visited Cuba in 2012, as the Church in the country celebrated the 400th anniversary of the discovery of the statue of Our Lady of Charity. The Holy Father entrusted the future of Cuba to the Blessed Virgin.
Catholic News Service contributed to this report.