Tuesday, December 14, 2010


(From The Sunday Times Magazine, 8 May 1966 issue, p. 27)

The insane may not be aware of it but they enjoy the special protection of the Blessed Mother, known hereabouts as the Virgin of the Abandoned. The patronage traces its beginnings to the early 14th and 15th centuries when the mentally incapacitated of Valencia, Spain hitherto living in abandonment inspired the missionary zeal of a religious of the Military Order of Our Lady of Mercy, the Venerable Father Gilberto Jofre. In an impassioned sermon addressed to his parishioners, he called attention to the miserable state of these mental cases. His appeal did not go unheeded. Ten citizens responding to his appeal, decided to build a house called "El Hospital de Los Locos" to accommodate deserving cases.

In time, a confraternity called "Nuestra Senora de Los Inocentes" was organized and later approved with Apostolic Bulls and Letters issued by Pope Benedict XIII. The confraternity sought permission to make an image of the Blessed Virgin under the invocation of the Our Lady of Innocents. Permission was granted and the image came to be called instead as "Our Lady of the Innocents and the Abandoned" (Nuestra Snra. de Los Inocentes y Desamparados).

The story of how this image was made is a remarkable one. It is said that when members of the confraternity were looking for artisans to work on the image, three strangers presented themselves. For some unexplainable reason, the confraternity members, relying only on the strangers' words of assurance, and without even exacting proof of workmanship in terms of credentials, submitted the project to them. For three days, the strangers were locked in a room with enough provisions to last them for the duration of their work.

On the fourth day, strains of heavenly music began to emanate from the room, prompting the confraternity members to investigate. When they finally succeeded in tearing down the locked door, they discovered to their surprise that the strangers had gone, their food left untouched, and what was more incredible, the image finished to perfection! It is now preserved in the church of Our Lady of Abandoned in Valencia where devotion to it continues to this day.

The image shows Our Lady dressed in a blue and white mantle, wearing a crown of twelve stars and holding a bunch of flowers consisting of a rose and azucenas in her right hand. On her left arm, she cradles the Infant Jesus who himself carries a dove on his right hand and a cross on the left.

The duplicate image which is now venerated in Marikina was made sometime in 1903 and is now owned by the Dijuangco Family of the same town. (A similar image is enshrined in the parish church of Sta. Ana which observes her feast on May 12).

True to her original dispensation, the Virgin of the Abandoned of Marikina exercises a special concern for those who, one might say, have no one to care for them. Natives of the town will attest to the fact that many an indigent inevitably finds his way to the church, to rest there during the day, or to take refuge during the night. By what manner of discovery a person completely detached from reality could have traced his path to the shrine of the Virgin, no one knows. The inscrutable, after all, is beyond human comprehension and only faith and the mystery of Divine mercy can account for the workings of the motherly benevolence of the Mother of all men which has so enriched the lore of faith through the centuries of time.

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