Our Patroness - Our Lady of the Woods
OUR LADY OF THE WOODS (Galloro, 1621)
Patroness of Our Parish
The little tiled picture of Our Lady of the Woods, found in 1621 at Galloro, marked the site of an older church built there in her honor and long since ruined. The tile was discovered by a small boy named Santi Bevilacqua, who was an orphan and lived with his uncle at L’Ariccia. Santi had been sent to watch the sheep, and was in the nearby brambles picking berries when he saw a low stone wall half-hidden in the brush and decided to investigate. He followed the wall and at one point fell into the brambles. When he picked himself up, he saw a picture of the Madonna painted on the wall. Being a pious child, he knelt and said a prayer; then, the following day he returned with a bouquet of flowers.
Soon a number of his friends were coming with him to the Madonna in the woods. They brought flowers and sang hymns as they went along. This did not impress the neighbors, who feared for their fruit with so many children passing by. Finally, the children set about making a path that would let them into the brambles by an easier way, and in the course of their construction unwisely set fire to the brush. Quite a fire ensued and they were forbidden to go into the brush or into the woods to play.
Sometime after this Santi was playing in his carpenter shop and fell asleep in a corner near a pile of lumber. The lumber fell on him as he slept and he awoke only in time to cry out to the Madonna of the Woods to save him. His frightened uncle, unpiling the lumber, discovered the boy unhurt and demanded to know who had saved him. The boy told him again about the Madonna at Galloro. The uncle made inquiries, and found that there was indeed a wall there which had once formed part of a church. There was an attractive little tile on one side of it, showing the Madonna. He set about rebuilding the church.
Research revealed that the tile had been painted by a monk of Grotto Ferrata and that the church had been a pious venture of a good woman. There had been a dispute of the ownership of the land, and the church was abandoned. The years had converted the site into a wilderness again.
Santi’s uncle with great perseverance and with the help of the Madonna, got the funds together and started rebuilding the church. Others helped, and in time a chapel was built to Our Lady of the Woods, and also a home for priests. Santi went there to live, so that he could serve Masses at the shrine.
By 1633, there were fifteen Masses said daily, and the pilgrims were coming in such droves to see Our Lady of the Woods that a fine new church had to be built. The site was nearby but it required the moving of the picture, which was set into the stone wall. It took much skill and prayer to move the picture without damage, but it was finally accomplished by a devout group of workmen, chanting litanies as they worked.
Plague and cholera both passed by Galloro when people prayed at the shrine of Our Lady. These and other miracles endeared her to the people, and it is still a place of pilgrimage, Our Lady of the Woods. Her feast day is September 5th.
PRAYER OF INTERCESSION TO OUR LADY OF THE WOODS:
Our Lady of the Woods,
through the faith of Santi Bevilacqua, his friends and uncle,
you call us to trust in your Son, Jesus,
as we walk through the various brambles of our lives.
We ask your intercession before your Son,
for our parish dedicated to you,
that our faith community
will walk the path of courage, justice, truth, love and holiness,
joining in the spirit of Santi’s Uncle and his village
who rebuilt the church in your honor
from the foundations they found in the woods.
May we continue to build
on the foundations of our Catholic faith
with the values of God's Kingdom
to transform our parish and God's People
through the woods we have been placed in
within this present community.