Friday, October 12, 2012

Guest Post: Sarah on Spain's National Day

Today we have a dear, dear friend of mine joining us for a guest post. Sarah Metts writes from Denver, Colorado where she currently resides with her husband Patrick, and their son Jack. Her educational background includes history and counseling, and she spent a portion of her childhood in Spain. Sarah has taught me so much about living well and living beautifully. Please welcome Sarah.

Sarah and her beautiful family.

And I couldn't resist. School days.
Mary, thank you so much for asking me to write a guest post for your amazing blog! I have enjoyed reading your posts so much over the last few weeks, and I always find myself wondering--what took you so long to start doing this??? You are such a beautiful person on the inside and on the outside, and your sense of style is impeccable. . . I have so much to learn from you!

Now, since Mary is the expert on all things fashionable, I will leave that to her. I just want to take this opportunity to share with all of you a little about one of my favorite countries, since today, October 12, just so happens to be the national day of Spain. This is their Fourth of July, their day to celebrate all things Spanish. It also happens to be the date that Christopher Columbus discovered the new world, but to find out the real reason that today is Spain’s national holiday, you would have to go back even further than that, all the way back to around the year 40 A.D.

A few years before St. James was martyred in Jerusalem (44 A.D.) he travelled to Spain to preach the good news. He and his disciples were not meeting with much success, so as they were walking along the banks of the River Ebro one starry night, near present day Zaragoza, he prayed for help. Our Lady, who was still living in Jerusalem at that time, appeared to him, seated on a throne surrounded by angels, and she told St. James she had come to help. She asked that a church be built on the spot in her honor, where the faithful would receive all the graces they asked of her Son through the invocation of her name. She said that he would be successful in converting Spain and she gave him a small wooden statue of herself holding the baby Jesus in her arms, on a pillar of Jasper. She promised him that this pillar would endure, with the holy faith, until the end of time.

"La Pilarica"--the statue given to St. James by Our Lady, almost 2,000 years ago.

As she promised, this statue is still venerated in the beautiful basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar in Zaragoza, Spain. It is affectionately known by the Spanish people as La Pilarica (“the little pillar”—it is only about 6 inches tall), and it has survived wars with the Romans, Goths, and Moors. Miraculously, although it is over 1,900 years old, it shows no sign of decay. During the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) three bombs were dropped on the Basilica, but none of them exploded. These bombs are on display in the Basilica, and they are a vivid testament to the power of Our Lady’s promise. She is the patroness of Spain, and her feast day is celebrated on October 12, which is why this is their national holiday.

More than 30 priests celebrate Mass with the Archbishop of Zaragoza.

While all of this is an incredible story, it is not the most amazing part of the devotion to Our Lady of the Pillar to me. The best part, the very best part, is to see the way the Spanish people, particularly the Zaragozans, are devoted to her. This devotion is really not something that we can understand as Americans, we Americans who are not even supposed to wish each other a “Merry Christmas” anymore.

The dresses worn for the feast day range from the typical flamenco dresses worn by these to women. . .

to the more traditional regional dress shown on this adorable little girl.

Today, in the city of Zaragoza, 400,000 people (that’s 5 ½ football stadiums full of people) will travel from all over Spain to bring Our Lady flowers. First of all, the celebration starts on the 3rd of October, and lasts for nine days. But today, they will get dressed up in traditional suits and dresses (or they will be dressed to the nines), they will bring their babies, they will send groups from tiny villages, they will stand in line all day, starting at dawn, and they will sing the traditional regional songs of Aragon (called “jotas”) to her, all day long. The sheer joy and love for her that you can see on this day on the faces of the people there is incredible. This devotion is not just part of their religion. It is intricately woven into their patriotism, their family life, their work, their culture, their history, and their identity. My family and I were lucky enough to go to Zaragoza last year for the festival, and here is a short video my husband took of the celebration (the mountain of flowers you see is in front of a larger replica of “La Pilarica” that is placed outside of the Church, where pilgrims place the flowers they have brought for her):

Happy feast day, and Our Lady of the Pillar, pray for us!


  1. Love this! Mary, you should rope Sarah into doing a regular series on history and culture! I have learned so much from her that was somehow never transmitted to me in 13 years of public school...

    1. Yes, she's taught me so much, too! We will be hearing from her again!


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