California Catholic Daily Exclusive.
Thousands, perhaps millions, of California Catholics are planning to attend a Mass, pray a rosary, and offer other prayers between noon and 2 p.m. on Saturday, December 9 at various locations around the state, with the intention to consecrate California to Our Lord through the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Some wonder why a specific consecration of our state is needed, because Pope Saint John Paul II already consecrated the entire world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on May 13, 1982. Decades before him, Pope Pius XII consecrated the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary – twice.
In addition to the previous world-wide consecrations, California was solemnly dedicated to the Mother of God 174 years ago. When the proposed statewide consecration was first publicized on Facebook a few weeks ago, Father Anthony Hernandez, pastor of Saint Basil the Great Byzantine Catholic Church, Los Gatos, pointed out that California was dedicated to Our Lady even before it was a state, and provided the following information from “Our Lady of Refuge, patroness,” from Catholic San Francisco, written by his friend, Brother John Sahama.
“When both Alta and Baja Californias were still part of Mexico, their first bishop, Bishop Francisco Diego Garcia y Moreno, dedicated both Californias to the Mother of God under the title, Nuestra Señora del Refugio/Our Lady of Refuge, with the feast day being July 4.
“In 1843, in his official declaration of the dedication of the Californias, Bishop Garcia y Moreno wrote: ‘We make known to you that we hereby name the great Mother of God in her most precious title, del Refugio, the principal patroness of our diocese… With so great a patroness and protectress, what can we not promise ourselves? What can be wanting and whom need we fear? … If through the centuries this most worthy Mother of God has shown goodness and compassion to all peoples and nations… will she not do likewise for those peoples who bind themselves to her as their refuge and special patroness?’
“In the American period, when Alta California became part of the United States, the feast was generally no longer observed, except in the San Diego diocese. A few decades ago the California Catholic Conference of Bishops re-adopted the feast, but on July 5th instead (as July 4 in the U.S. is Independence Day). Many missions have the image of Nuestra Señora del Refugio.”
Bishop Garcia Diego made the proclamation putting the Californias under the protection of Nuestra Señora del Refugio at Mission Santa Clara in Alta California, which became a state separate from Mexico seven years later, in 1850.
In the restored Santa Clara Mission church on the Santa Clara University campus, a painting of Our Lady of Refuge is found “above the larger picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe in one of the side altar niches on the left as one nears the sanctuary. Another painting by Eulalio, a local Native American, is on display in Santa Clara University’s De Saisset Museum near the mission church.” (From “Our Lady of Refuge, patroness,” Catholic San Francisco, June 23, 2016.)
The image of Our Lady of Refuge became a focal point for mission work because it gained fame for touching the hearts of sinners wherever it was displayed. As described in Theater of a Thousand Wonders: A History of Miraculous Images and Shrines in New Spain, the first painting that later became known as Our Lady of Refuge was actually a copy of another painting titled Nuestra Senora de la Encina, and it had been commissioned by Italian Jesuit missionary Antonio Baldincucci. Father Baldincucci had taken the painting along with him as preached throughout Italy to much success. The inscription: “Refugium Peccatorum. Ora Pro Nobis” (Refuge of Sinners. Pray for Us), was added to his painting, and from that inscription came the title “Our Lady of Refuge.”
A print of the image found its way to the Franciscan Missionary College in Mexico, and later many painted copies were also made. Soon prints and paintings of the image hung in churches, chapels, and homes throughout the Californias and in many parts of northern Mexico and Texas. When copies of the painting were displayed in processions in Mexico, Our Lady of Refuge continued to inspire many conversions.
Today, several California parishes bear the title of Our Lady of Refuge, including the latest in San Jose, where the first Mass was celebrated on Sunday Feb. 18, 2011, in a former Protestant church building in a densely populated and underserved neighborhood.
In San Jose, the Immaculate Heart of Mary Oratory at Five Wounds Portuguese National Church will join in the statewide initiative to consecrate California on December 9. The schedule includes a noon Mass at the IES Chapel at 1401 East Santa Clara St., followed by a 1 p.m. rosary. The Prayer of Consecration will be at 1:30 p.m.
More information about other locations for the event and a downloadable flyer are at www.consecratecalifornia.com.