THE VIRGEN DEL SALIENTE CONCLUDES HER HISTORIC AND TRIUMPHAL VISIT TO THE CERRICOS DE ORIA, CHIRIVEL AND VÉLEZ RUBIO
With the Holy Mass of thanksgiving on Sunday, the sacred image of Nuestra Señora de los Desamparados del Buen Retiro del Saliente Coronada culminates ten days of intense fervour which have mobilised crowds of pilgrims from the Almanzora and Vélez.
EMOTIONAL FAREWELL IN VÉLEZ – RUBIO
Although enthusiasm has been the characteristic note during the presence of the Pequeñica in Vélez Rubio, on Saturday the sadness of the people of Velez was palpable due to the obligation to say goodbye to the sacred image. Even the ancient bells of the majestic Iglesia Parroquial de la Encarnación rang mournfully, and not even the festive sounds of the rociero songs were able to alleviate this feeling. At eight o’clock in the evening, all these experiences were concentrated in the Holy Mass celebrated by the Parish Priest: Javier Ruiz Pérez.
In his homily he took stock of the marvellous days lived since the arrival of the sacred image last Saturday, with an ardent proclamation of the motherhood of the Pequeñica over all the people of Velez. He also emphasised, in strong Castilian, the effort that has been made to celebrate her in the best possible way, and all of this has been paid for by the generosity of her good parishioners. Finally, at the end of the sacred ceremony, the ancestral rite of transferring the sacred image from its artistic silver litter by Rafael Moreno to the neo-gothic litter on which it usually travels was repeated. The expert hands of Aurelio Teruel, the Mayordomo de Andas de la Pequeñica, made the necessary practical adjustments to arrange the return journey.
THE RETURN JOURNEY, IN A CARRIAGE AND A BLANKET OF FOG
Although the journey of the Pequeñica to the Puerta de Lorca, in front of the Virgen de la Salud hermitage, seemed short, the spirit of the people of Velez delayed its departure from Velez Rubio. Even the carriage that was to transport her, beautifully decorated in white and blue, presented some technical difficulties that made the wait even longer.
In their enthusiasm, the people of Velez accompanied her with chants and applause. From some throats there were cries of grief at her departure: “La Pequeñica doesn’t want to go, don’t go, our Mother! Finally, with a more than considerable delay, the sacred image left Vélez Rubio after the longest stay outside its shrine on record, with the exception of the three years of the Spanish Civil War.
Conspicuously illuminated, the people of Velez were not resigned to losing sight of her and she was followed by a long line of vehicles packed with pilgrims. It was a “motorised” pilgrimage, but not lacking in the joy and grace that characterise the journeys of the Pequeñica.
By means of mobile phones, the pilgrims communicated in real time the progress of the sacred image on the road: “Where is the Virgin going, has she arrived yet? A soft blanket of mist embraced the pilgrims as the Little Madonna approached the Roel.
WELCOMED WITH PETALS AND MUSIC
In the Dientes de la Vieja, so closely linked to the pious tradition of the Sanctuary, pilgrims from all the villages along the river Almanzora gathered. Enlivened by the friendly chants of the Cuadrilla de Ánimas del Saliente, some shared local food and all waited almost two hours to welcome the Pequeñica on her return. When the night and the fog darkened the atmosphere, they tried to fight the darkness with the light of their candles. An explosion of light, chanting, cheering and applause greeted the Pequeñica after midnight.
The float was lifted from the float and carried by the shoulders of the pilgrims in a crowded procession that opened with the Cross raised on the esplanade of the Roel. On reaching the lintel of the main door, a canopy of petals received her with the frenzy of bells ringing.
Solemnly, the sacred image was enthroned in its chapel and, before the singing of the Salve, the Rector Antonio Jesús María Saldaña Martínez gave a brief meditation based on a text from the Apocalypse: “Yes, the “great sign” of the Little One has shone in the lands of Oria and Los Vélez. In every breast of those of you who have carried her image on your shoulders, who have walked beside her on these roads, who have adorned your houses and streets, who have prayed and partaken of the sacraments in your temples… in each one of you; I know that the “great sign” of the Petite-Child has defeated the dragons of doubt or fear”. The pilgrims responded with loud applause to his invitation to thank the Bishop for granting this visit and all those who have worked for it.
“I ALSO THANK THE LITTLE ONE”.
The following day, at one o’clock in the afternoon, the solemn Holy Mass of thanksgiving was celebrated, presided over by Francisco Sáez Rozas, Episcopal Vicar for Pastoral Care and Evangelisation. With the singing of Rosabel Oller Sevilla, it was concelebrated by the Rector of the Sanctuary and the Parish Priests of Vélez Rubio and Los Cerricos.
Also present were the mayors of Albox, Francisco Torrecillas Sánchez; Chirivel, José Torregrosa Mota; Oria, Marcos Reche Galera, and the Deputy Mayor of Vélez Rubio, María de la Concepción Pérez Morales.
During the solemn liturgy, the Mayor of Albox offered a lamp with the coat of arms of this Villa Almanzoreña, which has been paid for with alms from the devotees of Albox.
In offering it, he said: “Now, from the freedom of our democratic and plural society, we offer you this lamp for the Christian roots of our town. The history of Albox could not be understood without reference to your maternal name, which unites us fraternally above all that divides us. In offering it to you, I trust that the vivacity of its flame will also be a stimulus for the values of the Holy Gospel to encourage us to a greater search for the common good and the integral development of our beloved town”.
In his homily, the Vicar moved the hearts of all the pilgrims. He confessed that, when he was very young, he became seriously ill and the doctors almost gave him up. Then his mother had recourse to the intercession of Our Lady of the Saliente and he recovered his health to this day. I too,” he said to the moved audience, “have to give thanks to the Little One.
FOUR LAMPS THROUGH ITS FOUR FAVOURITE VILLAGES
The true legacy of this historic visit, the third in three centuries, that the Pequeñica celebrates outside the lands of Alboja, will remain in the extraordinary experiences of the thousands of pilgrims who have enjoyed ten days of intense devotion. Also, in the coming months, a book is planned to be published which will bring together the chronicles of these memorable days in the regions of the river Almanzora and Los Vélez.
But, in the Sanctuary itself, a very beautiful testimony of this visit has been left behind. In each of the villages that have had the joy of being visited by the sacred image of La Pequeñica, a votive lamp with the coat of arms of the different municipalities has been offered in the person of their mayors. The lamps, made in the centenary workshops of Lucena, follow the dictates of eighteenth-century Cordovan silversmithing. Since last Sunday, these four lamps have been burning around the sacred image.
They are an eloquent testimony of the four favourite towns of this centenary devotion: Albox, Oria, Chirivel and Vélez Rubio, where the signing of the deeds of donation of the votive lamps took place in the Salón de los Cristales of the Sanctuary. In the presence of the Episcopal Vicar for Pastoral Care and Evangelisation, the Rector of the Sanctuary and the Justice of the Peace of Alboja, the different town councillors, accompanied by their respective parish priests, formalised the offering of their municipalities to the Pequeñica. Juan Navarrete Ortega, Secretary of the Diocesan Shrine of El Saliente, led the ceremony.