Monday, 11 November 2013

Marian Monday: Our Lady of La Naval de Manila

Our Lady of La Naval de Manila is a Marian devotional title most prominent in the Philippines. Its formal name is Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary of La Naval de Manila (Nuestra Señora del Santíssimo Rosario de La Naval de Manila). This devotion is embodied in a 16th-century ivory and wood statue of Madonna and Child enshrined at the Dominican church of Santo Domingo, Quezon City.


In 1593, on the death of his father, the Spanish Governor General Luis Perez Dasmarinas commissioned Captain Hernando de los Rios Coronel to have a Marian statue sculpted. He wished to give a religious imprint to his regime in the Philippines. A non-Catholic Chinese sculptor was found to make the statue. This sculptor later became a convert through the intercession of the virgin. The beautiful image was presented to the Manilla Dominicans and enshrined in the old Santo Domingo Church by the Pasig.

The Battle of La Naval

In the Philippines of 1646, there were not only hostile Muslims in the South, but also Dutch privateers under the banner of VOC attempting to seize the Filipino archipelago. Beside colonisation and unfair trade, with the Dutch invaders there was also the danger of the spread of Calvinist Protestanism.

In the spirit of the Battle of Lepanto, the Spanish-Filipino crew fervently sought the aid of the Blessed Virgin through the Holy Rosary. There were five bloody naval battles between the Dutch Navy and the greatly outnumbered Spanish and Filipino joint forces. At the end, only fifteen of the defenders of Manila were lost in all of the battles. The Dutch, then political enemies of the Spanish, retreated, and never again threatened to destroy the integrity of the islands.

The victorious defenders petitioned official church recognition and declaration of the naval victories of 1646 as divine miracles. The Ecclesiastical Council in Cavite deliberated and examined written and oral testimonies from all eye-witnesses. On April 9, 1662, the Council ordered that the five naval victories of 1646 be declared as miraculous: "granted by the Sovereign Lord through the intercession of the Most Holy Virgin and devotion to her Rosary, that the miracles be celebrated, preached and held in festivities and to be recounted among the miracles wrought by the Lady of the Rosary for the greater devotion of the faithful to Our Most Blessed Virgin Mary and Her Holy Rosary".

Detail of the La Naval, by robbyandharry
The image

The La Naval statue, standing at 4'8" tall, is known for its regal appearance and fine craftsmanship. Pure ivory made up the face and hands of the Blessed Virgin, and the entire body of Child Jesus. Both figures wear large golden robes with highly intricate embroideries, complete with a queenly and kingly crowns. The statue is covered with jewels, tributes from devotees through the ages, and the halo is surrounded by 24 stars. The statue's brilliant appearance recalls the image of Mary as the Woman of the Apocalypse, "clothed with the sun".

What makes La Naval different from other similarly majestic-looking statue of Our Lady—such as Our Lady of Manaoag—is La Naval's unique oriental face. The face is rounded, almond-shaped, with high-set cheekbones and slanting eyes; the typical features of an Oriental-Filipina face. For this reason, La Naval alone is lauded as a "native virgin" by the Filipinos, despite her strongly Spanish-style adornment.

Prayer to Our Lady of La Naval

Holy Mary, at the sound of your voice, Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and the baby in her womb leapt for joy. Visit us as you visited the home of Elizabeth. During our earthly pilgrimage towards God's kingdom, may we magnify the Lord whose greatness endures from age to age, who lifts up the lowly, fills the starving with good things, and comes to the help of His servants.

Our Lady of the Rosary of La Naval, Our Mother, first disciple of your Son Jesus, intercede for us in our most earnest request: [offer your petition].

May we, in turn heed your unceasing call to do whatever your Son tells us to do. With your powerful intercession, we believe that what is most difficult can be done, what we have overlooked, you cannot miss, what is meaningless, bitter or painful can be transformed into fulfillment, gratitude and joy.


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