Colombo (AsiaNews) - She began visiting the shrine of Our Lady of Lanka, Tewatta, with her parents. Now Christine Francisca, 37, comes back as a mother and wife, with her two children and husband Anton, to thank Our Lady for the blessings she received in her life. On 25 August, with her family and thousands of other pilgrims, she took part in the annual Day of the Blessing of the Sick.
The ceremony was presided over by Mgr Joseph Spiteri, Apostolic Nuncio to Sri Lanka, along with Card Malcolm Ranjith, archbishop of Colombo, Mgr Thomas Savundaranayagam, bishop of Jaffna, Mgrs Emmanuel and Maxwell, auxiliary bishops of Colombo, Mgr Nicholas Marcus and Mgr Oswald Gomis, bishops emeritus.
The shrine's basilica was the brainchild of Mgr Jean-Marie Masson, archbishop of Colombo in the late 1930s and 1940s. In 1940, he vowed that if the island was spared the horrors of war, he would build a church to the Virgin. In 1946, he obtained the Vatican's permission to do so and dedicate it to Our Lady of Lanka.
In 1948, Pope Pius XII proclaimed the Blessed Mother protectress of Sri Lanka. The first stone was laid on 4 February 1951.
The statue of the Virgin Mary was blessed by Pope Pius XII in 1952 and later brought to the island.
The Mass of consecration was celebrated in 1974 by all of the country's bishops, led by Cardinal Thomas Cooray.
"I went to Our Lady of Tewatta for the first time ten years ago," Christine Francisca told AsiaNews. "At the time, I was 27 and I was with my parents and other members of my family."
A short time later, "I fell in love with a young man who did not have a real job. For this reason, my parents did not want me to see him, but I only wanted to marry him, with my family's blessing. And I wanted him to find a job ".
"I started to pray to Our Lady, asking for her intercession," she said. "I did not pray only on the Day of the Blessing of the Sick, but every time I had the opportunity to go on a pilgrimage to the shrine with my friends."
"At that time, I said a special rosary and to my surprise, after six months my boyfriend got a job with a good salary."
However, that did not mean an end to her difficulties. "After our wedding we wanted to live on our own, buying or renting a home, but we did not have enough money. My boyfriend told me to save three-quarters of my salary for six months, as we looked for a good flat. After five months, we had saved up enough money, also thanks to my savings. But just as we were about to make a down payment on the house, a friend of ours told us that we could live in his house for three years, rent-free, because he and his family were moving move abroad on a scholarship. "
"Thus, without spending a penny we found ourselves in a beautiful home, complete with everything, even a small garden," she said.
"Six months later, we got married, with the blessing of our parents and our families," said Anton, her husband. "Now we lead a peaceful life, and are grateful for all we have had."