I was told that the image of Our Lady of Luján (pron. Luh-hahn) is original of Pernambuco, Brazil. If you check the map, Pernambuco is near the easternmost tip of the South American continent. A Portuguese settler, Antonio Farías Sáa, who lived in Sumampa, in the central part of Argentina ordered one image of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception from a friend. That friend decided to send him two images instead. Those two images are today Our Lady of Luján, and Our Lady of the Consolation of Sumampa.
If I remember well, the oxen pulling one of the carts loaded with goods, refused to cross the Luján River, north of what is now Buenos Aires. An African slave was travelling with the images. He was not an ordinary slave, he had received the Catholic faith and was a saintly man. To make this long story short, Manuel the slave noticed that something happened to the oxcart carrying the image of what is now Our Lady of Luján. The oxen refused to move when the image was in cart number one, and then when moved to cart number two, the oxen pulling that cart refused to move while the others, that have been relieved of that particular image, advanced normally.
After a few tries, it was evident that Our Lady wanted that image to remain on that spot in the middle of nowhere. Manuel remained with her. He built a hut on that spot and took care of the image with admirable faith. The miracle of the crossing attracted many who came to pray asking for graces. Manuel had to remove thistles from Our Lady’s clothes from time to time. He deducted that the image left the hut at night, appearing to the neighboring peasants and curing them of their illnesses. Manuel lovingly removed the thistles every time but kept them in a small bag. He used the thistles to make a sort of tea-like infusion that he gave to the many sick pilgrims that came to pray. We are told that resulted in many miraculous cures. That happened in 1630 when Argentina was governed by Spanish viceroys, a barely populated region at the edge of the civilized world. Eventually the image was moved to a more secure place and now she is home in a beautiful Cathedral. Eventually Argentina gained its independence from Spain around 1810-1816. A long period of about four decades of anarchy followed and finally in the early 1850’s the country began to organize, sanctioning its second Constitution in 1853.
What followed was one of the most prosperous times in Argentine history. By 1876 the country had one of the highest per capita incomes in the world. A series of Liberal administrations (Liberals in the classic sense) governed for the following four decades. Argentina was a very promising country from 1876 to 1916, remaining always within the ten most prosperous economies in the world. Argentines enjoyed also a degree of freedom uncommon in other parts of the world. Free and relatively rich, the country attracted a lot of immigration, mainly from Spain, Italy, France, England, Ireland and the countries in Central Europe. Argentina became a true melting pot of races. By the turn of the century a number of hotheaded Europeans had imported lots of new ideas that began to change the country. By 1916 the first Radical president was elected. That was the first of many changes that were going to change the tranquil, conservative, prosperous country for ever.
By 1930, the Army was infected with Fascism –not the stupid caricature that those Antifa characters fight but the original thing– the kind of Fascism that was ruling Italy and Germany at the time. In 1930 a military coup ousted the Radicals and installed the first General who inaugurated his mandate by making the Nazi salute from the balcony of the Government Palace, the Casa Rosada. He also ordered the demolition of one side of the Palace. He himself was ousted not long after that and could not realize his dream of demolishing the whole thing.
During World War II the government of Argentina presented a neutral stance while winking at Germany and doing business with England. Some unsavory characters passed through the country: Mengele, Barbie, perhaps Borman, escaping the long arm of the Allied War Tribunals. Some of them were helped unofficially. Rudolph Eichmann was captured here by Israeli agents and smuggled out of the country to face a tribunal in Israel. Decades later, the Israeli Embassy and the building housing the local Jewish Charities (AMIA) were blown up by terrorists, presumably with the help of locals connected to the ruling Peronist administration. The investigation of those events dragged on for decades and not long ago, during the last Peronist administration, the Federal Prosecutor investigating those crimes was assassinated. It happened the day before he was planning to expose important information to Congress. His murder remains unsolved. His name was Alberto Nisman, and he was Jewish.
While all of those things were happening, the last Peronist administration was busy doing business with Iran. Eventually there was a transfer of some kind of nuclear technology and there were plans of selling fissionable material to that country. I am sure you remember that one of the great objectives of the current Iranian regime is the utter destruction of Israel. At this point one can surmise without fear of equivocation that the Israelis were beginning to feel a little crossed with all those Argentinian antics. Who could blame them?
When the Peronists were defeated in the last election by a multi-party centrist coalition, Argentina had a chance to again see visitors from other parts of the world other than Mullahs and the likes of Chavez and Maduro. President Obama came to visit and so did the Italian Prime Minister and many other foreign dignitaries. Among them there was the Prime Minister of Israel, the first Israeli Prime Minister to visit the country ever. Something interesting happened after he left: the federal judges that have dragged their feet for ages to prosecute the rampant cases of corruption of the previous administrations, suddenly “grew a pair” and began putting criminals in jail. It started with a couple of crooked union bosses and went into a crescendo that landed the former Vice President and some of his business partners in jail. That last move was only a week ago but tonight it feels like ages have passed. Argentina has been living through a frenzy of judicial news since our former VP became a jailbird. The machinery of corruption that ransacked the Treasury is now falling apart. Some of the formerly most respectable businessmen are sleeping in a cell tonight with many more expected to join their ranks soon. The Argentine swamp is draining faster than a cold can of soda in a hot summer afternoon.
I am sure you are waiting for me to connect all of that turmoil with Our Lady of Luján. Well, I can’t really but I have the strong suspicion that she is behind this, moving the various pieces behind the scenes. Sometimes I am pretty good at making connections that seem tenuous at first but prove correct later on. It looks like she is taking the thistles off our clothes this time. The move to legalize abortion was … well … aborted, in spite of the great sums invested by the agents of the culture of death. Argentines seem to be awakening from a long sleep of one-hundred years. The economy is in tatters right now after decades of bad administrations, another thistle that needs to be pulled off our poncho. The moral fabric of the country –neglected by Church and State for what seems to be ages– needs to be rebuilt as well.
Someone prophesied –I believe it was St Luigi Orione if I am not mistaken– that a renewal of the whole world will be triggered by events in this forsaken land. If that is the case, you can be assured that one image of Our Lady that crossed the continent by oxcart five centuries ago will be behind that change.
My soul cries out with a joyful shout
that the God of my heart is great,
And my spirit sings of the wondrous things
that you bring to the one who waits.
You fixed your sight on your servant’s plight,
and my weakness you did not spurn,
So from east to west shall my name be blest.
Could the world be about to turn?
— Taken from Canticle of the Turning, a very inspiring Catholic hymn.