She is a Royal Dignitary of the highest order, honored by saints and kings and popes alike.
Evangelization isn’t a theory, a program, or a particular prayer, although it can encompass all three. In essence, evangelization is the simple reality of experiencing, and helping others experience God’s presence in every human situation. It’s about knowing God, entering into relationship with him, and allowing all aspects of life to be transformed by that relationship, until suddenly those around you are transformed as well.
Mary, who brought Jesus into the world, was the first evangelist, and continues to be the most powerful one.
It was therefore very fitting for Pope John Paul II to grant the title Our Lady of Evangelization to an image of the Blessed Mother. This image, which had previously been associated with Our Lady, Help of Christians, resides in the Cathedral Basilica of Lima, Peru, and is Patroness of the archdiocese.
Found in a side chapel in the cathedral, Our Lady of Evangelization is one of the oldest statues of Mary in the country. Emperor Charles V of Spain sent the image as a gift to the newly founded city around the year 1540. Devotion quickly spread far beyond Lima as countless people, including St. Rose of Lima and St. Martin de Porres, passed by the feet of Our Lady to find comfort, bring an offering or invoke her intercession.
The golden rose in Our Lady of Evangelization’s right hand has adorned her since Pope John Paul II’s second visit to the shrine in 1988, and reflects a tradition dating back to the turn of the first millennium. The papal Golden Rose is an honor that the reigning pontiff may bestow upon distinguished personages, churches and sanctuaries. The likes of Charles VII of France, Mary Tudor, Queen of England, and Maria of Austria received the Golden Rose in their day.
For the past 60 years, recent popes have been conferring this honor primarily on Marian shrines, and fittingly so: Our Lady is indeed, a Royal Dignitary of the highest order.
John Paul II also presided over the pontifical crowning of the image in 1985, consecrated the nation to her in 1988, and named her Patroness of the Archdiocese of Lima on October 6, 1990.
Pope Francis visited this shrine last month during his recent visit to Peru. He venerated the relics of the Peruvian saints in the cathedral, and joined the saints and former popes in paying his respects to Our Lady, and invoking her blessing:
Help us to be a Church that goes forth, drawing near to all, especially the less fortunate. Teach us to be missionary disciples of Jesus Christ, the Lord of Miracles, living in love, seeking unity and practicing mercy, so that, protected by the intercession of Our Lady of Evangelization, we may live the joy of the Gospel and proclaim it before the world. (Pope Francis, January 21, 2018)
Our Lady of Evangelization, pray for us!