Monthly Archives: March 2023





‘The story of Our Lady of Valvanera began in the ninth century in the lush wooded valley of Valvenera, Spain, a place of stunning scenery high in the Pyrenees mountains of northern Spain. The first history of Valvenera was written by Abbot Don Gonzalo de Berceo in the 10th century.

The main character in our history is a ne’er do well known as Nuno Onez who was born in Montenegro. Nuno’s problem? He refused to work! Instead, he turned to a life of crime and robbery, much to his parents’ chagrin. “They wept daily over their wayward son,” reports this earliest chronicle.

One day while hiding in the woods near his home, Nuno spied his next victim: A farmworker. Nuno sharpened his knife and prepared to pounce on the innocent peasant. Crouching ever nearer to his latest victim, Nuno was surprised to hear the fellow talking. “But who was he talking to?” wondered the startled robber. There was no one else around. Nuno crept even closer. To his amazement the farmworker was on his knees—praying to God! Nuno listened. Rapt. In wonderment. At the sight of this humble man pouring out his heart to God. At this moment Nuno experienced total repentance and begged God for pardon for his life of crime. “I am the worst of men!” he cried out. Nuno’s “heart of stone” was changed in an instant.

The humbled Nuno retired to a cave, close to the city of Anguiano, to pray and do penance for his life of depravity. In a short while he was joined by a priest known as Domingo from the town of Brieva.

One day while Nuno was in his cave, he was visited by an angel “with a joyful face.” The angel directed him to go to Valvanera where he would find a giant oak tree, “outstanding in its height,” towering over all the other trees in the forest. “Inside that tree you will find an image of the Virgin,” the angel told an astonished Nuno. Nuno promptly set out for Valvanera to find the Virgin. In the meantime Domingo returned to the cave and found it empty. “Where could Nuno be?” he pondered, perplexed. In a short while he found Nuno and heard the incredible story about the angel.

Together they ventured through the forest and found the giant tree. In the cavity of the tree they were amazed to find a statue of Our Lady caressing her Son on her knee. Just as the angel had foretold. She was swarmed by a hive of worker bees! At the foot of the tree a fountain had sprouted forth. The pair were ecstatic to discover such a marvel and set about to construct a small chapel to house their “magnificent treasure.”

One of the first pilgrims to visit the image of Our Lady of Valvanera was Nuno’s sister, Coloma, who was blind. She was cured of her blindness immediately. Within several years one hundred and six hermits formed a community of Benedictine monks to serve Our Lady of Valvanera.

Devotion to Our Lady of Valvanera spread throughout Spain, from “Gerona to Coruna, from Asturia to Seville.” Generations of pilgrims through the centuries visited the shrine devoted to Our Lady of Valvanera. Such noble personages as Queen Isabella “La Catolica” and saints such as St. Dominic also visited the shrine.

Devotion to Our Lady of Valvanera arrived in Mexico with the Spanish missionaries in the 16th century. One of her principal shrines in Mexico is that of the majestic and immense Maronite cathedral of Our Lady of Valvanera and the sanctuary of St. Charbel. Its actual name is CATEDRAL MARONITA TEMPLO DE NTRA. DE VALVANERA Y SANCTUARIO DE SAN CHARBEL. It is located in the historical centre of Mexico City, a short walk from the zocalo (the city’s central plaza). The church was originally built in the 16th century and in 1922 it became a church of the Maronite Order in response to the growing number of immigrants from Lebanon who had arrived in the diocese.

You might well ask: “But who is St. Charbel?” If you have visited any number of churches in Mexico you would soon know who he is! He seems to be ubiquitous in the country! His statue is generally depicted with streams of brightly-coloured ribbons dangling from his figure. These are testimonials from petitioners who are intensely grateful for the saint’s intercession.

St. Charbel (whose birth name was Youssef Anton Makhlouf) was named after one of the martyrs in second century Antioch. He was born in 1828 in Lebanon and was ordained a priest in the Maronite Catholic rite in 1859. Living as a hermit and a monk, he was known for his copious miracles both during and after his life. He died in 1898 and for 45 days after his death, dazzling lights were seen emanating from his grave. In 1952 his body was exhumed and found perfectly incorrupt. St. Charbel was canonized by St. Pope Paul VI in 1977.

A prayer to Our Lady of Valvanera is found in a booklet NOVENA A SANTAMARIA DE VALVANERA which was available in the church: It is asking Our Lord to lead us to the home of the Father and asking Our Lady of Valvanera, Queen of heaven and earth, to pray for us!