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An engraving of the Virgin Mary appearing atop a column to James the Apostle.

Marianist Origins for October

By Henry Handley

Marianists credit founder Father William Joseph Chaminade’s time in Spain with his vision for the Marianist family. After fleeing religious suppression in France, Chaminade sought refuge in Zaragoza, Spain, and arrived on Oct. 11, 1797. The following morning, he would have been swept up with crowds of people celebrating the Feast of Our Lady of the Pillar.

A Marian feast day with national importance in Spain, the Feast of Our Lady of the Pillar originated some 700 years earlier: According to legend, Mary appeared to the apostle James in present-day Zaragoza, Spain, atop a column, assuring him that his evangelization efforts would succeed. The shrine of Nuestra Señora del Pilar, Our Lady of the Pillar, became a place for pilgrims — and for three years, Chaminade — to pray and reflect in Zaragoza.

Coming to a Catholic city with a long history of devotion to the Marian title Nuestra Señora del Pilar, Chaminade would have seen numerous devotional texts and images printed and sold. The Marian Library holds several books contemporary to Chaminade’s time in Zaragoza, including:

Even more than to Chaminade, these books connect to the Marianists whose vocations contributed to the Marian Library and the 80 years of fulfilling its larger mission to preserve and share materials on Mary from around the world.

— Henry Handley is an assistant professor and collections librarian in the Marian Library at the University of Dayton.

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