The Virgin of the Poor


The statue of the Virgin of the Poor ----- a copy of the one found at Banneux in Belgium, a gift to us ---- was blessed at Carbunari on October  26, 2006. It was brought there on October 15, the day when the Church commemorates the Seventh Ecumenical Council of Nicea (787).

This Council re-instituted the cult of icons in the Eastern and the Western Church. It is specified in the Council proceedings that sculpted statues as well as painted icons are part of the patrimony of the Church.

According to St. John Damascene, « by paintings and statues, produced by artists’ hands, we place ourselves in the presence of those who are represented, either Our Savior Jesus Christ, the angels, the Virgin Mary, or other saints. » Therefore, this cult of images is a part of our spiritual patrimony which is rooted in the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God. It helps us to safeguard in our memory invisible realities.

A statue has all the more value when it is created according to the witness of those who received a vision, as is the case for the statue of Banneux.

The gospel text for the Wedding Feast of Cana was read on this occasion.

The Virgin said, « Do whatever he tells you. » It is the same invitation that Mary addresses to us. Jesus invites us to love God and our neighbor. Saint Augustine tells us to love and do what we will. If we truly love, there is nothing we can do but to attach ourselves to God and do good for our neighbor.

This site of pilgrimage had as its origin the Marian devotion of Fr. Mercks who, after the apparitions of the Virgin at Banneux in 1933, thought of building a chapel dedicated to the Virgin of the Poor. He spoke to authorities in the congregation and the local church and then mobilised the help of local Christians. The project began in the summer of 1937 and the chapel was completed the following summer.

On June 5, 1938 the chapel was consecrated by Archbishop Alexandru Nicolescu in the presence of a large crowd of faithful. The following year on June 5 the Assumptionists organized the first pilgrimage. On August 15 they organized a second pilgrimage. Eye-witnesses report the numbers were large. The Assumptionists continued this pilgrimage tradition until 1948. During the Communist regime groups of Christians came but only in private. An Orthodox priest, Fr. Benchea Ilarie, who had been named pastor of the « Casa Domnului », took an interest in the chapel and continued to care for the site; he had the interior and facade painted. He organized an annual pilgrimage for Orthodox believers that took place on September 8.

On June 10, 1990, the Assumptionists, who had returned to Blaj, renewed their ties with these pilgrimages. Twice a year, once in May and once on August 15, hundreds of pilgrims arrive from the entire Greek-Catholic Church to entrust themselves to the Virgin of the Poor.

 In the last five years the site has seen other improvements such as a cottage for the hermit, Jean-Baptiste Robin, and a house for pilgrims.

Ionel Antoci