Hidden on the shore of an Island west of Italy is one of the Churchs secret gems, the Shrine of Our Lady of Bonaria. This Basilica has been staffed by the Mercedarian Friars for over 675 years. Here is the incredible story of this holy place:
Due to the Catalan and Aragonese expansion in the Mediterranean, in 1324, Infante don Alfonso had a castle and a church built in Sardina. The church was located on the hill of Bonaria on the south-eastern part of the town of Cagliari. As king, in 1335, he donated the church to the Order of the BVM of Mercy with the obligation to send two religious immediately, then six more after the death of the rector of the church, Guillermo Jordán, who died in 1348. The Mercedarians accepted the donation and they established themselves there.
In March 25, 1370 a sailing-ship from Spain was caught in the middle of a violent storm. The crew jettisoned the entire cargo included a heavy chest into the ocean. As soon as the chest touched the water, the storm suddenly calmed down miraculously.
The chest was found at the port of Bonaria by the townspeople. However, no one was able to lift the chest out of the shallow water on the shore. The townspeople hurried up the hill to get the Mercedarian Friars to assist them. The friars easily lifted Chest out the waters and took it to their church. Upon opening the chest all were amazed because it contained a wonderful statue of the Madonna holding the infant Jesus in her left hand and a lit candlein her right one. The Child Jesus holds a ball in his left hand and reaches out to grasp a candle standing on a ship model held by his mother. It accurately records the wind’s direction though it is in a draftless room.
Soon, devotion for the Madonna spread both in the island and in the world, particularly among sailors who invoked her to be their patroness. The conquistadores gave the name Buenos Aires to the capital of Argentina as a sign of their devotion to the Madonna of Bonaria which, in fact, means good air.
On September 13th 1907, Our Lady of Bonaria was proclaimed patroness of Sardinia by Pope Pius X, and the unfinished church was later raised to the rank of minor basilica by Pius XI. On April 24, 1970, Pope Paul VI visited this famous shrine and celebrated an open-air Mass addressing the pilgrims on the need of veneration of the Mother of God. Pope John Paul II came to Bonaria as a pilgrim on October 20th, 1985.
On Sept, 7th 2008, Pope Benedict XVI came to honor Our Lady of Bonaria for the celebration of the first Centenary of her proclamation as the highest Patron of Sardinia. Here is a news agencies account of the event:
A renewed society must come from young Christians, says Pope Benedict
Rome, Italy, Sep 8, 2008 / 10:22 am (CNA).- Shortly after arriving on the island of Sardinia on Sunday morning, Pope Benedict presided over Mass for 100,000 people at the Shrine of Our Lady of Bonaria. In his homily, the Pope challenged his listeners to help young people encounter Christ, and through this new generation of Christians, evangelize politics, the economy and the working world.
The Mass took place on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of Our Lady of Bonaria, the islands patroness, a fact recognized by Pope Benedict.
He called on the faithful “to give thanks to Mary for her protection and to reiterate our faith in her, recognizing her as the ‘Star of the new evangelization’.”
Invoking the help of Our Lady of Bonaria, Benedict XVI underscored the need for the people of Sardinia to bring Christ “to families, small domestic Churches and cells of society. Families today more than ever need trust and support at both a spiritual and social level,” the Pontiff added.
If Sardinian society is to be renewed, it must come from young people who “by their nature are bearers of fresh energy, he continued. Turning to Our Lady again, the Pope implored her help for the Sardinian church in developing new initiatives to reach the young, who are often victims of a widespread nihilism.
With Marys intercession, May she help you evangelize the world of work, of the economy and of politics, which needs a new generation of committed lay Christians, capable of seeking solutions of sustainable development with competency and moral rigor,” the Pope prayed as he closed his homily.
At the end of the Eucharistic celebration, Benedict XVI performed an act of consecration to Mary which concluded with the gift of a golden rose to Our Lady of Bonaria.