ROCHESTER — Francisca "Paquita" Castro has not visited her native Puerto Rico in three decades, but the annual Mass to celebrate the feast day of the island’s patroness, Nuestra Señora de la Providencia, prompts her to recall the day’s festive atmosphere in her hometown.
"Se celebra una gran fiesta porque también se descubrió la isla," by Christopher Columbus on Nov. 19, 1493, Castro added.
To honor Mary on this important date in Puerto Rican history gives the feast an additional dimension, noted Brother Juan Lozada, director of the diocesan Spanish Apostolate.
"Que la Santa Virgen de la Providencia nos ayude a todos nosotros descubrir a Jesús en nuestros corazones," añadió el Hermano Lozada.
The Mass at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church also had special significance for Castro because her husband had arranged for a friend to purchase a portrait of Our Lady of Providencia as a Mother’s Day gift earlier this year. Father Laurence Tracy blessed the portrait just before the conclusion of the Mass and held it aloft as the more than 70 people in attendance applauded.
Deacon Salvador Otero said that even though the Mass was a celebration of the patroness of Puerto Rico, all people can celebrate the feast in honor of Mary as a woman, a mother and a wife of faith.
He has trouble, though, understanding Christians who doubt the sanctity of Mary, who say that she was a simple woman and nothing more.
"Maria no era simple mujer," Deacon Otero said. "Dios la guardo … para que fuera la madre de Dios."
He said the Catechism of the Catholic Church has as many as 30 references to the Virgin Mary, exemplifying the significance of Mary in the faith tradition. He noted how she was born without sin and maintained her faith and obedience to God despite the many struggles and pain she endured as the mother of Jesus.
"La mujer cristiana de hoy debe seguir el ejemplo de María," añadió Deacon Otero.
Her role as mother also should help guide parents today as they face the many challenges in keeping their children on the right paths, he noted. Some children even turn away from the faith, Deacon Otero added.
"María estuvo valor," dijo Deacon Otero. "Nosotros tenemos que tener ese valor para (ayudar) nuestros hijos y llevarlos por el camino correcto."
Catholics need to talk to their children and explain why they pray the rosary, why they honor Mary and why they celebrate such feast days as Providencia, he added.
"María nunca dudo," Deacon Otero said of when the angel Gabriel appeared to her. "Por eso, estuvo el valor de estar frente de la cruz. … María nos da el ejemplo de fe más grande que tiene la iglesia; el ejemplo que deben llevar a nuestros hijos."