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II Exaltation of the Saliente Pilgrimage

II Exaltation of the Saliente Pilgrimage
The Exaltation of the Pilgrimage was given by María del Pilar Alfonso Rodríguez.


The Diocesan Sanctuary of El Saliente hosted last Saturday one of its most endearing events: the exaltation of the Pilgrimage proclaimed by Pilar Alfonso Rodríguez, matriarch of the Cosentino family and a noted devotee of the Pequeñica. Almost at dusk, the afternoon of August 27th witnessed the influx of distinguished pilgrims to the esplanade of the Roel. In addition to the large group of volunteers from the Sanctuary, the softly spoken Albojense accent was joined by the strong voice of the people of Macael. It was no wonder, because this year’s exalter – although born in Albox – has been a Macaelera by citizenship and by heart since before she was eighteen years old. That is why, in a very singular way, the presence of the Santo Rosario Brotherhood of Macael was so important.
Pilar Alfonso Rodríguez, who has dedicated her life to the family and the judiciary, arrived surrounded by a large group of family and friends. In this way, she took up the baton that was started last year by the famous journalist Pedro Manuel de la Cruz Alonso. Welcomed with flowers in the atrium, she arrived accompanied by her husband, the well-known businessman Francisco Martínez-Cosentino, and signed her name in the Salón de los Cristales.


In the Cloister of the Sanctuary, although accustomed in recent years to this type of event, there was a special atmosphere. In the front row, there were representatives from the Town Hall of Albox and the provincial deputy Carmen Navarro Cruz. In the same way, almost all the members of the Albox and Macaelero brotherhoods. And, in a prominent place, the renowned artist Andrés García Ibáñez, creator of the Ibáñez – Cosentino Foundation.
Francisco José Castillo Caparrós, responsible for communication at the Sanctuary, acted as the brilliant master of ceremonies for the exaltation. María del Carmen García López whetted the lyrical appetite of those present with the recitation of some Marian verses, giving her voice to the poems of Lope de Sosa and Alejandro Tapia y Rivera. The grace and overflowing professionalism demonstrated by the rhapsodist added to the special atmosphere that was already reigning in this sacred precinct.
Then, surprisingly, it was the exalter’s daughter, Pilar Martínez-Cosentino Alfonso, who introduced her mother. In her speech, which had to be interrupted several times by tears, she brought out the most vivid emotion from all the listeners. She portrayed her mother as an eminently good woman, full of humility and concern for the needy. But, above all, as a woman of faith who upholds the love of the family and essentially a fighter. Proudly, she acknowledged her mother’s roots and her attachment to the Shrine, which she has passed on to all her children and grandchildren. She went so far as to say that this devotion is a way of life, to understand one’s own existence and way of being in the world.


Finally, the highlight of the evening came with the exaltation of Pilar Alfonso. Standing before the audience, she declared her intention from the outset: “I want to speak, above all, of the Virgen del Saliente”. She spoke of her first memories, in a farmhouse almost at the foot of the Sanctuary, and the Sunday visits to the Pequeñica to be able to participate in the Holy Mass. The harvesting of almonds and the country life, happy and hard at the same time, allowed her to reflect on humility and work.
Recognising herself as a pilgrim, having just completed the Camino de Santiago with her son Eduardo and one of her granddaughters, she affirmed that we are all pilgrims of life. Hence the need for faith to walk correctly and on the path of good. A pilgrimage in which the family is the greatest stimulus, as she herself said when she spoke of her marriage at the age of sixteen and her motherhood, now prolonged in her grandchildren.
Finally, she wanted to approach Mary’s own feelings during her earthly life and invited those present to share in the Virgin’s experiences. The exaltation, then, became a prayer because it was addressed directly to the Little One and ended with the cheers of the pilgrims.


Pilar Alfonso’s very personal exaltation was rewarded with prolonged applause, with all those present rising to their feet as an expression of well-deserved homage. The secretary of the Shrine, Juan Navarrete Ortega, was in charge of the official thanks and she was presented with a beautiful parchment with the coat of arms of the Shrine. He was also presented with a beautiful picture of the Pequeñica of 1878, indulgenced by Bishop José María Orberá y Carrión. The exalter did not conceal the impression that this gift made on her, which she proudly showed and took great pleasure in explaining to all those present.
The Rector, Antonio Jesús María Saldaña Martínez, closed the ceremony in the Cloister with some improvised words. Among other things, he said: “We have witnessed a true colloquium of mothers. Three mothers shared their confidences with us. First, the Mother of Heaven: Our Lady of the Saliente. Second, the presenter who is also a mother: Pilar daughter. Thirdly, our exalter: Pilar mother, who has told us so much and so well. It is not that we cannot find the words, it is that they fall short to express so much beauty that springs from these maternal hearts”.


Before the solemn Salve, which was celebrated in the illuminated church of the Shrine, Pilar Alfonso went up to the chapel with her husband, her mother, her brothers and sisters and her grandchildren. Visibly moved, she placed at the feet of the sacred image the bouquet of flowers offered to her on her arrival and said: “Thank you, our Mother”. The family photographs, in which Our Lady appears as the most beloved of the members, followed one after the other with great piety.
Well into the night, a toast in honour of the exalteress opened the cocktail party which was held on the lower terrace of the Sanctuary and served by the Restaurant – Hospedería del Saliente. Meanwhile, the darkness was overcome by the lights that brought the first pilgrims who climbed the steep slope to the Diocesan Shrine of Saliente.



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