Pilgrimages are very common for the Catholic faithful, often requiring travel to distant places. On February 2, 2016 I was part of an American contingent that made such a pilgrimage to Quito, Ecuador to venerate the heavenly statue of Our Lady of Good Success. The impressions were so overwhelming that only now am I able to put into words what occurred during our trip, especially the Rosary of the Dawn procession which left us all spellbound.
A City That Is Half Way to Heaven
Quito, the charming capital city of Ecuador, is situated in the mountains over 9,300 feet above sea level. It is the highest capital city in the world.1 It was here that a group of five Conceptionist nuns—among them the saintly Mariana de Jesus Torres—were sent by Philip II, King of Spain, to found a convent in 1577. Upon their arrival they climbed up to the dizzying heights of this mountain city where they established a convent. The site could not have been better chosen. Visitors cannot help but feel they have arrived to a city that is half way to heaven and thus are breathing a rarified supernatural air.
It was in this convent that Our Lady began appearing to Mariana with prophecies regarding the twentieth century. Sister Mariana would go on to become the Mother Superior and lived a life of unspeakably heroic virtue. Much has been said about these prophecies.2
The most striking of the revelations however was when Our Lady spoke of the three things that would most offend Her Divine Son: blasphemy, heresy and impurity.3 One does not need to look too far to see all three in our modern world, especially blasphemies.
During the apparitions, Our Lady requested a statue to be made of her and requested that it be placed in the choir loft because, as she said, “I will rule this convent.” It is arguably the most extraordinary statue of the Blessed Mother on earth. Her solicitude for this group of nuns was expressed in another prophecy where she foretold there would always be a saint residing in this convent.
Military Honor Guard Protecting the Queen of Queens
The events on this particular pilgrimage were truly historic. The first event was what is called the annual Rosary of the Dawn. Whereas this particular procession dates back to colonial times, it eventually fell by the wayside like so many Catholic traditions. Thanks to the tireless efforts of retired Brazilian Colonel Carlos Antonio Poli, it was resurrected in 2001.4 In that year, only twenty faithful showed up. This year there was an estimated 12,000. Among them was General Carlos Obando, Commander of the Ecuadorian Army5 with a large contingent of soldiers and a military band.
In very military fashion, an honor guard of soldiers in impeccable dress uniform marched down the center aisle of the convent church at around 4:30 in the morning. They would be Our Lady’s escort and provide protection from the crushing faithful eager to touch her royal mantle.
Such a presence is understandable. Usually the procession is done with a small copy of the statue of Our Lady of Good Success. This would be the first time the actual miraculous statue would take part in the procession. It was in fact the first time she has ever left the convent into the street. It seemed very appropriate since Our Lady is both Queen of the Universe and a mother capable of consoling the faithful during these troubling times. One pilgrim, contemplating her majestic countenance in the open air, as if reigning over the city, aptly described her as having the air of an Empress. This opinion was echoed by many others who saw her on this glorious morning as being more than a queen, she was Queen of Queens.
Our Lady of Good Success was placed on a Humvee which seemed divinely preordained as will be explained with an astounding event that occurred later. The military vehicle was appropriately covered and decorated in Our Lady’s colors—blue and white—and a copious assortment of flowers.
Fireworks filled the night skies above the convent as the procession began. As it passed through the streets the rosary was recited by the faithful along with the singing of Marian hymns. Periodically, one would see handfuls of rose petals thrown from a distance, which gracefully fell at the feet of Our Lady. Such acts of devotion were truly inspiring.
Our Lady Officially Proclaimed General of the Ecuadorian Army
More noteworthy, however, was the devotion of the soldiers. An Army colonel who walked in front of the Humvee to carve a path for the vehicle, continually looked back to behold the statue’s luminous face. As I analyzed his expression it became clear for me that he was suffering an internal conflict of interest. He seemed so overwhelmed by admiration for Our Lady of Good Success’ beauty it appeared hard for him to carry out his duty as her guard. This same colonel later took off his hat and proudly showed me a holy card of the infant Jesus he had fastened to the interior, a proud testament to his Catholic Faith. Others witnessed a lieutenant colonel who carried his rosary during the entire procession praying along with the faithful.
As the procession was making its final turn before returning to convent the first glimmers of dawn silhouetted the city’s National Basilica atop a distant hill. Fireworks welcomed Our Lady and the throng of her devotees back inside the convent church where she was placed beside the altar in anticipation of an honor no one could have imagined.
After the 10:30 morning Mass celebrated by the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Giacomo Ottonello, General Obando—along with three other generals and numerous colonels—made a stunning and very official declaration before the packed church.
“I, as the Ecuadorian Army Commander, place under the mantle of Our Lady of Good Success all members of the Army.” He then reaffirmed that “while Ecuador’s Army Commander, [I] place under the mantle of Our Lady of Good Success all intermediate levels of the Army Command, to always make upright decisions.”
He then presented to Our Lady of Good Success, through the hands of the Nuncio, the symbol of her new authority and power, a sword which was laid on the altar and a baton or command staff of the Armed Forces.6 The latter was placed in Our Lady’s hand. The infant Jesus was also conferred with military honors. He was given a military decoration along with the symbol of a general which were pinned to His garments.7
General Obando finished his remarks by thanking the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Giacomo Ottonello, Archbishop Castrense, Bishop Rene Coba Galarza, Mother Inez, and the nuns of the convent “who gave me the opportunity to know about the devotion of Our Lady of Good Success; I also thank Tradition, Family and Property for this.”
That evening members of the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP) and sister associations took turns praying before the statue during an all-night vigil. The coveted private time with the statue allowed us the opportunity to absorb the previous day’s events. As I prayed before the statue I pondered the sad state of affairs in our country and the world, which leaves many Catholics feeling like the apostles on the turbulent waters of Lake Genesareth. Just as Our Lord majestically calmed the raging storm one could not help feeling a similarly calming effect while gazing at the extraordinary face of Our Lady of Good Success.
The next day, we were given the distinct privilege of venerating the incorrupt body of Mother Mariana. As we entered the room where her body is laid out, Mother Inez of the Tabernacle removed the veil covering the face of the saintly nun. It is important to note here that this holy soul was not only given a glimpse of the evils of our day, she willingly accepted to suffer for us. With this in mind, we did not fail to thank this generous soul for what she did on our behalf. How many of us, who carry out our struggle against the errors of our day, owe our perseverance to this sacrificial soul? It is for this reason we must all say, from the bottom of our hearts, thank you Mother Mariana!
Then came the final farewell when the same TFP members who had participated in the nocturnal vigil carried out the privileged task, granted to us long ago, of carrying Our Lady back to the upper choir. This gave us the opportunity to venerate the exact spot where Our Lady appeared to Mother Mariana. At this point, however, our time on the mountain, breathing that rarified, supernatural air was coming to a close.
Mr. Sergio de Paz, founder of the Miami-based organization, Cubanos Desterrados (Cubans in Exile), was standing next to me. He had been praying for his country, an island-prison still in the grips of the blood-stained hands of the Castro brothers. He has tirelessly fought for the Faith here in America and carries a great sorrow for the plight of the Cuban people still suffering under a communist dictatorship. With a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eyes, he looked at me and asked, “What is going to happen when we land?” My instinctive response was, “I don’t know, but I hope we don’t crash because we are flying pretty high right now.”
All good things must come to an end in this valley of tears as we march towards the victory promised by Our Lady at Fatima, and so did our trip. Yet those who were in Quito, Ecuador left energized after a journey that can aptly be termed a pilgrimage to heaven.
VIDEO: 2016 Rosary of the Dawn Procession, Quito, Ecuador
- A very detailed account of the apparitions and life of Mother Mariana was given by TFP member, Mr. Michael Whitcraft and can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yXbKe_PZiX0
- Days after this beautiful act Gen. Carlos Obando and numerous other Ecuadorian officers were retired by socialist President Rafael Correa.