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Our Lady of the Pillar

It was not long ago that I came across the tradition of Our Lady of the Pillar, a Marian apparition celebrated on this day in the Hispanic world. The story goes that St James the Apostle went to Spain, where he became very discouraged at the poor response to his preaching. One day in Zaragoza when he was praying on the banks of the Ebro River, he saw a vision of Our Lady on a Pillar. Tradition holds that this was around the year AD40, when she was still alive, so this is considered the only case of bilocation involving her - and the very first of her apparitions. She asked him to erect a church on the spot, which he did. James is said to have returned subsequently to Jerusalem, where he was martyred in AD44, but his body was said then to have been returned to Spain. St James became the patron of Spain, and in the seventeenth century there was a national debate when the devotees of our St Teresa of Avila (canonised in 1622) wanted to make her co-patron with the Apostle. Although the Pope was in favour and there was huge support in the country, it didn't happen because it proved divisive.

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