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The miracle that made the Immaculate Virgin patroness of Spain and its infantry

December 7, 2022 Catholic News Agency 1
‘Immaculate Conception’ by Peter Paul Rubens, circa 1628. / null

CNA Newsroom, Dec 7, 2022 / 14:00 pm (CNA).

While the dogma of the Immaculate Conception would not be proclaimed until 1854, the Church in Spain has long venerated Our Lady’s Immaculate Conception.

In 1585 a miracle attributed to the Immaculate Conception allowed the Spanish troops to win the Battle of Empel in Holland. 

As part of the Holy Roman Empire’s House of Habsburg in the 16th century, Spain governed what was known as the Spanish Netherlands. However following the Protestant Reformation, the Protestant provinces revolted against Spanish rule, sparking a prolonged conflict for control of the region known as the Eighty Years’ War. 

On the night of December 7-8, 1585, the situation of the troops of Emperor Philip II of Spain looked desperate.

The Tercio Viejo de Zamora infantry regiment commanded by Francisco Arias de Bobadilla was trapped by enemy forces at the Empel dike off the island of Bomel. The morale of his troops was low due to hunger and cold.

Bobadilla called his captains and ordered them to pray with faith so that God would deliver them from the dreadful fate that awaited them.

Soon, a soldier who was trying to dig a hole to take refuge from the wind and cold uncovered a wooden tablet with the image of the Immaculate Conception painted on it. Immediately, the image of Our Lady was taken in a procession to a nearby church.

After this act of devotion of the troops, a strange, miraculous event occurred: the surface of the waters froze almost in an instant. The Spanish troops were able to walk on foot over the ice and defeat the rebellious Dutch Protestant forces.

The same day, the Immaculate Conception was proclaimed patroness of the infantry of Flanders and Italy. The Virgin’s patronage of all the Spanish infantry, the oldest in the world, did not become official until 1892 by a Royal Order of the regent María Cristina.

The dogma and Spain

On Dec. 8, 1854, Pope Pius IX proclaimed the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary through the bull Ineffabilis Deus, declaring that “the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful.”

But long before that, Spain was especially noted for its defense of the Immaculate Conception of Mary.

The most remote precedent is found with the Visigothic monarch Wamba, who distinguished himself at the XI Council of Toledo in 675 as “defender of the Immaculate Conception of Mary.”

King Felipe IV, who reigned from 1621 to 1640, urged Pope Gregory XV to proclaim the dogma, though without success.

In 1761, King Carlos III established the “universal patronage of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception in all the Kingdoms of Spain and the Indies.”

The Order of Carlos III has been the highest civil decoration awarded in Spain since 1771. Its emblem is an image of the Immaculate Virgin.

The statue located in the Spanish Plaza in Rome was placed there in view of the defense of this Marian dogma by the Spanish through the centuries.

The privilege granted to Spanish priests

In the 19th century, a special privilege was granted to the priests of the Church in Spain to wear a chasuble of the purest shade of blue on the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.

This is a notable exception, since the General Instruction of the Roman Missal establishes that the liturgical colors are white, green, red, violet, black and rose.

The use in Spain of the blue chasuble, however, has been on record since the 17th century, long before the proclamation of the dogma. Pope Pius VII first recognized it in 1817 for the Seville Cathedral for the feast of the Immaculate Conception and its octave.

This privilege was extended to the entire Seville archdiocese in 1879. Four years later, it was extended to all the dioceses of Spain.

In 1962 it was established that the liturgical vestments of this color were to be used in Spain only on the day of the solemnity and in the votive Masses of the Immaculate Conception.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.


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The Worldwide Women’s Rosary is coming to the United Arab Emirates

November 22, 2022 Catholic News Agency 2
In the United Arab Emirates, a group of women will join other women from around the world on Dec. 8, 2022, to honor the Virgin Mary in the Worldwide Women’s Rosary. / Credit: Facebook page St.Joseph’s Cathedral Abu Dhabi AUH

CNA Newsroom, Nov 22, 2022 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

Women from all over the world will join together Dec. 8 for the public recitation of a rosary to Our Lady. In the United Arab Emirates, where only 7% of the population professes Christianity, women are participating in the initiative in a special way.

Martha and Darío are a Colombian married couple living in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates. There they have developed an active faith life, and on Dec. 8 they will be part of a Catholic community that will join the Worldwide Women’s Rosary.

It was a job position for Darío that led him and his wife to move to the United Arab Emirates in 2008 and start their lives over, 8,000 miles from their native Colombia.

In an interview with ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language sister news agency, Darío said that during their first few years of living there they attended the celebration of the Eucharist in English at St. Joseph Cathedral in Abu Dhabi. An announcement during Mass led them to meet a group of Spanish-speaking people who were attending Mass in Spanish.

Some time later, Martha was asked to be in charge of coordinating the Mass, and with the help of her husband, who had experience in the life of the Church in Colombia, she undertook the task, joined by one of her friends.

Darío approached the then pastor of the cathedral to offer his help. From that moment on, he began working as a coordinator for the Spanish-speaking community.

Thus “began the activities aimed at the formation of a community, of a Spanish-speaking Catholic Church, in the midst of a parish that has countless different languages and cultures congregated in the same place,” he recalled.

The tasks followed one another: community outreach, locating rooms for catechesis, preparation of the Mass and soon there were some 220 families from countries such as Venezuela, Colombia, Mexico, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, Panama, and Spain.

The Catholic faith in the United Arab Emirates

Abu Dhabi belongs to the South Vicariate of the United Arab Emirates, a country where the official and most widespread religion among its inhabitants is Islam, at 75% of the population, and approximately 7% professing Christianity.

“It’s common to think that in a place where the Catholic faith is not the main recognized faith, different kinds of difficulties may arise,” Darío acknowledged.

“Here, on the contrary, we constantly receive ‘friendly challenges’ to faithfully demonstrate our faith to others in love, in charity, in respect, in tolerance,” he said.

The official language of the vicariate is English, but at St. Joseph Cathedral, Mass is offered in Spanish once a month.

The same is true of the Arab, Filipino, Sri Lankan, and Indian communities (in their different language groups), as well as small German-, French-, and Italian-speaking communities.

As for education in the faith, unlike in Latin America, catechesis is not directed toward sacramental preparation, but during the 12 years of primary and secondary school, catechesis is given on weekends as an extracurricular activity.

In the Spanish-speaking community, there is also catechesis for families whose children will receive the sacraments in their country of origin. “At the same time, parents receive their faith formation,” Darío explained.

Their connection to the rosary

At Martha’s initiative, since they arrived in Abu Dhabi, she and her husband began to pray the Pilgrim Holy Rosary in the homes of different people. Later, it was transferred to the cathedral, where a group of women met once a week.

At the beginning of the pandemic, the practice had to be suspended, and it hasn’t been possible to restart it because normal activities in the country only resumed two weeks ago.

The news about the Worldwide Women’s Rosary came through Fanny Tagle, a Chilean who participates in coordinating the initiative and who was a classmate of Darío’s in a professional development course. And so Tagle conveyed the proposal to him.

Martha and Darío took the idea to the parish, where the priest decided to support it, proposing to offer the intentions of the rosaries that are said in the half hour before each Mass from Dec. 5–8 for the Worldwide Women’s Rosary.

In the entire country, which is about the size of the state of Maine, there are only nine Catholic parishes, which means that “people of different cultures and different countries flock to the eucharistic celebrations.” Darío estimates that every Sunday some 15,000 people attend Mass.

On liturgical solemnities such as the Immaculate Conception on Dec. 8, it’s not possible to hold any activity outside of Mass, and the rosary cannot be prayed in the church.

During the month of October, the Catholic community of the United Arab Emirates celebrates the devotion to the holy rosary. A heavily attended rosary service is held to close the month’s events, and this year it brought together close to 1,300 people. It was the first one to be led by the new bishop of the vicariate, Paolo Martinelli.

To join the global initiative Dec. 8, the couple is considering meeting in a house and livestreaming it from there on the Facebook page of the Spanish-speaking community of Abu Dhabi.

Representatives from Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Spain, and the United States have already confirmed their participation in the Worldwide Women’s Rosary.

Also participating will be women from Guatemala, Honduras, Italy, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Uganda, Uruguay, and Venezuela.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.