Our Lady of Altagracia is also known as Our Lady of High Grace. She is Protector and Queen of the hearts of the Dominicans, as well as the patron saint of the Dominican Republic. They have such a devotion to her there, that January 21st is a national holiday in her honor!
Since I had never heard of Our Lady of Altagracia, I did a bit of online searching, and found the following over at Catholic-Forum:
(In regards to the picture, there is:) A portrait of the Virgin Mary in a Nativity scene. It is 13 inches (33 centimeters) wide by 18 inches (45 centimeters) high, and is painted on cloth. It 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. It’s first shrine was finished in 1572, and in 1971 it was moved to its present Basilica. The image was crowned on 15 August 1922 during the pontificate of Pius XI. Due to its age, centuries of handling by the faithful, and exposure to candle smoke, it was in sad shape, and was restored in 1978. On 25 January 1979 by Pope John Paul II who crowned the image with a gold and silver tiara, his gift to the Virgin. It’s frame is made of gold, enamel and precious stones, and was constructed by an unknown 18th century artisan.
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.
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.
Regina and I decided to start getting together each Monday for a couple classes. She is teaching Spanish, and I am going to help the kids make a liturgical notebook using Catholic Mosaic as our spine.
Today we read “A Gift of Gracias” which is based on the legend of Our Lady of Altagracia. After we read and discussed it, the kids colored a beautiful picture found in Fenestrae Fidei: A Coloring Companion to Catholic Mosaic to add to their notebooks.
We also did a few of Cay’s suggested activities… The kids found Dominican Republic on the globe, and then marked it on a page to add to the notebooks. I made their notebooking pages to use for copywork using the drawing found here as the graphic, followed by some lines… (If you wanted, you could enlarge this picture to color as well, but the Fenestrae Fidei picture is just so nice we used it.) They did a bit of copywork from the book we read, and then made a list of all the things that they are thankful for. We have so much TO be thankful for, it was fun to see what the kids were coming up with!
Alice posted some wonderful ideas to use for a tea in honor of Our Lady of Altagracia. I printed her post out and filed it away to possibly use next year! Alice always has such beautiful suggestions and ideas over at her blog Cottage Blessings!
(Updated to add the link to this recipe as well: Orange Rolls for Our Lady of Altagracia)
And before I go, I thought I would add the novena in honor of Our Lady of Altagracia. It is such a beautiful prayer!
Novena in Honor of Our Lady of Altagracia
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.
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.
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.
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 our 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.
Most Holy Virgin of Altagracia, from the bottom of our hearts, we thank you for the continuous blessings you 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 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.