It was Aug. 2, 1635, when a young Mestiza girl named Juana went into the woods near a stream to gather firewood. She saw sitting on a rock a small black carved stone. When she examined it, she saw that it was the image of a mother holding a baby. Thinking of it as a toy, she took it home. As legend holds, she went into the woods again and saw the black stone statue once again sitting on the rock. Again, she took it home and discovered it was the same one. How did it move? When this happened a third time, she took the stone to the local priest, Father Baltazar De Grado. The same thing happened to him. It was declared a miracle and he was authorized to build a church over the site. Over the centuries, the legend of Our Lady of the Angels grew. In 1824, Aug. 2 became a national holiday for all Costa Ricans. In 1983, La Negrita was visited by Pope John Paul II, and the story was validated once again.
Every year on Aug. 2, 1 million to 2 million people undertake a pilgrimage to see her. They come, walking many miles, seeking miracles, answers to prayers, or just to be grateful for blessings received. On the day I visited, Marjorie was with us. She told me the story and walked me through the basilica built over the original stone and still housing La Negrita. I learned of the countless people who walk many miles from all over Costa Rica to be with her. She took me to the entrance of the church. I watched as people came to the door, fell to their knees and walked the full length of the church in an attitude of the most profound humility and prayer. Respectfully, Marjorie and I made our way to the front of the church and sat down. Up high above the altar sat La Negrita, Our Lady of the Angels. There was a deep feeling of reverence that filled that sanctuary. I asked Marjorie her feelings about the place. She told me that every time she comes to Cartago she stops in to pray. That to her, this was the most holy place in all of her country, perhaps the world. She explained how every year she and her father make the long pilgrimage. As she told me the story of her love, devotion and personal miracle, she wept, and I wept with her. It was a sacred moment, and I felt her love for the Lord.
I’m not Catholic, but I make no judgment. I was there and witnessed first-hand the gratifying love and devotion of Marjorie and her people. The older I get, the more strongly I feel that the Lord loves all men of all religions, races, countries, etc., and that he will give blessings, light and truth as we prepare ourselves to receive. We can have a little at his hands, or we can have it all.
Glenn Rawson is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and he resides in Blackfoot. Watch Glenn Rawson on KPVI Channel 6 at 8:30 a.m. Sundays or listen to his stories on EZ Rock 95.3 from 5 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. For more stories by Glenn Rawson, visit glennrawson.com or facebook.com/pages/Glenn-Rawson-Stories.