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Why orange juice and orange sorbet should make you think of Our Lady

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From the Dominican Republic, we have this "sweet" story about Mary's generosity.

If anyone is looking for simple spiritual practices to take on during Lent, here’s a fruitful one: Every time you eat an orange, or look at an orange, or drink orange juice, stop and talk to Our Lady for a moment. If anything is on your heart, ask her for help.

I did not think up that challenge arbitrarily, but with the help of Our Lady of Altagracia (“Highest Grace”), patroness of the Dominican Republic.

OUR LADY OF ALTAGRACIA,DOMINCAN REPUBLIC ,
Zach Mobrice | CC BY-NC 2.0

The title “Highest Grace” reminds us that it’s impossible to underestimate the abundance of grace we receive through the Blessed Mother. She who was called “full of grace” by the Angel Gabriel freely shared that grace with the world through her unique participation in Redemption. She brought Jesus into the world, accompanied him as he walked the way of the cross to return to his Father, waited with the disciples for the coming of the Holy Spirit, and fully embraced her ongoing mission as Mother of the Church.

The saints tell us Mary’s union with the Lord is so great that if we want to draw closer to Jesus, we have only to look at Mary. St. Basil assures us that she will help in any necessity; St. Faustina reminds us that God bestowed his mercy on us through her, and St. Alphonsus Ligori goes so far as to say that “Our Lord ordained that no one shall obtain salvation except through her intercession.”

All graces that reach us through Mary originate from God, but Mary, as his Mother, has a privileged position in dispensing those graces, and does so liberally. How frequently we avail ourselves of this grace is up to us.

People from the Domincan Republic are constantly reminded of this reality when they come before their patroness, represented by an image of the Nativity, predominantly depicting Mary, that originated in Spain and made its way to Higuey, Dominican Republic, in the early 1500s. The image of Our Lady of Altagracia resided for a time in the local church in Higuey, but then got lost. This is when the oranges enter the picture.

Legend has it that, a few decades after the image had been lost track of, a merchant’s daughter asked him to bring her “Our Lady of Altagracia.” Unfamiliar with the title, the father diligently asked around, but no one else seemed to have heard of Our Lady of Altagracia either. After giving up, he stayed with a friend in Higuey and spoke of his futile search. As he spoke, an elderly man who was passing by took a rolled up image out of his bag and handed it to the merchant, who then beheld Our Lady of Altagracia for the first time. The merchant intended on bringing the image back to his daughter but Our Lady mysteriously disappeared from the house and reappeared in an orange tree outside. This happened twice, leading the merchant to conclude that the image wanted to remain in Higuey. He took Our Lady to the parish Church in Higuey, and popular devotion grew.

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