Antonia Begs Our Lady for a Boy

The shrine to Our Lady of Charity sat housed in a basilica in the church that sat on top of a hill. With greenery on every side, it appeared transparent, as if at any moment it could merge with the ocean, beautifully resplendent and serene.

The shrine, situated at four hundred paces from the village could be reached by one hundred and twenty-four stone stairs, with landings at intervals. The cream-colored square with red domes overlooked the hamlet of El Cobre. The church consisted of a single nave, twenty-seven yards long and nine wide, a roof of painted cedar, and a floor laid with blue and white painted tiles.

A terraced wall encircled the temple and served as a porch, forming before it a little plaza. The façade, adorned by a portico of stone, gradually rose to become the bell tower.

Antonia, crouched like a cat, made her way slowly up the stairs on her knees, until sore with bleeding legs and knees, she reached the terraced wall.

Berta, faithfully following her mistress, gave her an occasional sip of water to drink, helping her along until she reached the top. “You’ve made it, Señora…now you can make your request…you can dedicate this child, sure to be a boy, to Our Lady.” She assisted Antonia into the small chapel where the statue, about sixteen inches tall, resided above the high altar. Known by the affectionate title of Caridad del Cobre, the name referred not only to Cobre, the copper mining town near the church and shrine, but also to the Virgin’s dusky complexion.

 

The Virgin was dressed in an elaborate golden gown, a richly jeweled crown, and dangling ruby earrings. Adornments of pearls, diamonds and other jewels brought to her by grateful pilgrims — votive gifts in thankfulness for prayers answered and miracles worked.

Antonia confidently made her case for a male child. She made a solemn promise that, if she gained her wish, the boy would be dedicated to the Virgin. Nine months later Antonia gave birth to Antonio Victor, the only male child she conceived. More daughters, Maria Antonia, Dora, and Gloria followed in brief order.

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