Our Lady of Penafrancia

Many of our brothers and sisters in the Philippines and throughout the world have a special devotion to our Blessed Mother under the title of Our Lady of Peñafrancia. Our Lady of Peñafrancia is the Marian Patroness of the Bicol Region of the Philippines. She is affectionately referred to as “Ina,” meaning mother.

The history of Our Lady of Peñafrancia begins in Paris, France. Simon Vela, a son of pious parents, was born in the beginning of the 15th century to a wealthy family. He was given a large inheritance and he donated it all to the church, the poor, and to various charitable organizations. Simon devoted much of his time to prayer and one day heard a voice tell him to go to Peña de Francia to find an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Simon journeyed in search of the image for five years. He almost gave up, but one day he heard the same voice tell him to persevere.

Along his journey, he encountered people who mentioned Peña de Francia, which encouraged him to continue his search. He reached a hill called Peña de Francia in Spain. He searched for the image and there he encountered the Virgin Mary with the Child Jesus. Our Lady directed him to dig in that area with the assistance of others. Together, he and a few other men dug in search of the image and on May 19th, 1434, they found embedded among the rocks the image of the Holy Virgin with the Child Jesus.

In the 1700s, a Spanish government official moved to the Bicol region of the Philippines. His son, Miguel, a seminarian in Manila, suffered from chronic illnesses. His family asked for Our Lady of Peñafrancia’s intercession, and Miguel made a vow that if cured he would build a chapel in thanksgiving to Our Lady. Miguel was cured miraculously. He later was ordained a priest in Naga City and he mobilized efforts to build the chapel he had promised to Our Lady in Naga. In addition, he requested that a local artisan create an image of Our Lady of Peñafrancia. News of miracles and devotion to Our Lady of Peñafrancia began to spread.

The feast of Our Lady of Peñafrancia is celebrated on the third weekend of September and many pilgrims travel to Naga City. This one-week celebration begins on the second Friday of September with a procession called Traslación. This procession is the transferring of the image of Our Lady of Peñafrancia from the Basilica to the Naga Cathedral for a novena and celebration of Holy Masses leading into the third weekend of September. On the last day of the novena, her image is transferred back to the Basilica in a procession via a boat along the Bicol River. Many candles, colors and flowers are seen during this procession and pilgrims will say with great love for Ina, “Viva La Virgen!” (Long Live the Virgin!).

“And may Our Lady of Peñafrancia continue to love you, console yοu, and protect yοu and your families and your country. Amen.”

~ St. John Paul II, Legazpi City, February 21, 1981