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Our Lady of Solitude

Our Lady of Solitude by Br. Arturo Olivas, OFS

Artist Narrative:

Nuestra Señora de la Soledad is one of the titles or advocations of the Blessed Virgin Mary, mother of Christ. The word soledad or solitude refers to Mary in the act of contemplating the death of her son, Jesus. It is both a physical and psychological solitude for only a mother can know the pain of the death of her child. In this way she is truly isolated from those around her. Under this title Mary is a model for those who would withdraw from the world to pursue a life of spiritual contemplation.

In sacred art La Soledad is usually shown dressed like a nun in black and white, hands clasped in prayer, and sometimes contemplating symbols of Christ’s passion. She is patroness of the bereaved, consolation, a happy death, and against loneliness. Her feast day is celebrated on Good Friday and Holy Saturday. A canyon in New Mexico and a great basilica in Oaxaca, Mexico bear her name.

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In Spanish-speaking countries special devotion is practiced to Nuestra Señora de la Soledad or Our Lady of Solitude. This devotion was instituted to compassionate Our Lady for her solitude on Holy Saturday and is akin to the devotion practiced among the Servites on Good Friday called the Desolata. The statue is in the Sacred Heart Church at the Ayo el Chico, Jalisco, where the Novena has been inaugurated for some time. 

Also, a 12/26/55 article from NCWC News Service on Our Lady of Solitude described a different festival commemorating a miraculous image in Oaxaca, Mexico: 

Mexico's traditional devotion to the Mother of God was vividly demonstrated when the citizens of the entire state of Oaxaca, Mexico paid homage to their patroness, La Virgen de Soledad, or the Virgin of the Lonely, on the Sunday before Christmas.  For several nights prior to the Sunday fiesta long, highly impressive religious processions marched to the Church of La Soledad. The scene was enhanced by the colorful paper lanterns, strung on tall poles, carried by the faithful...
 
The Church of Our Lady of Solitude which dates back to 1692, has an interesting history. Legend has it that a mule driver, guiding his burro train through the streets of Oaxaca, suddenly discovered he had an extra animal, carrying a huge box on his back.  Curious officials opened the box and found within the image of the Blessed Virgin of Solitude. And so, a church was built. Tourists who come to Oaxaca find an enormous boulder at the entrance marking the spot where the burro died from the weight of the box.

The patroness of Oaxaca is the special protector of sailors. Thus, in addition to elaborate gowns fashioned by women of the city and a gold and bejeweled crown, the image has shimmering pearls rimming its crown -- the gift of seamen. 

Also, please note that the first hospital in what is now the USA was built at St Augustine, Florida in 1588 with the name Nostra Senora de la Soledad / Our Lady of Solitude. Finally, note that there is a chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Solitude in Monterey County, California near the town of Soledad. 

—Excerpts from The Marian Library/International Marian Research Institute
 

All summer long she touched me
She gathered in my soul
From many a thorn, from many thickets
Her fingers, like a weaver's
Quick and cool
And the light came from her body
And the night went through her grace
All summer long she touched me
And I knew her, I knew her
Face to face 

And her dress was blue and silver
And her words were few and small
She is the vessel of the whole wide world
Mistress, oh mistress, of us all 

Dearly dead; Queen of Solitude
I thank you with my heart
for keeping me so close to thee
while so many, oh so many, stood apart 

And the light came from her body
And the night went through her grace
All summer long she touched me
I knew her, I knew her
Face to face

—Our Lady Of Solitude Lyrics by Leonard Cohen

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