Did you know that the Oratory of Our Lady of Camarin was dedicated on September 17 in 2006? As we celebrate this anniversary, we invite you to learn more about this Marian devotion and discover where it is honored in the Basilica.
The Origin of the Devotion to Our Lady of Camarin
The devotion to Our Lady of Camarin originated in the late 1600s, after Padre San Vitores and a group of Jesuits founded a mission in Guam, which became known as Islas de Marianas (the Islands of Mary) under his influence.
According to tradition, a Chamorro fisherman was on the water one day when something extraordinary caught his eye: a floating statue of a lady flanked by two crabs holding lit candles. When he came nearer to the statue, the crabs stopped him and commanded him to change into appropriate attire. He did as he was told and returned to take the statue ashore. Eventually, he gave the statue to a Spanish priest who put it in military barracks (a kamalen), which earned the statue the moniker “Santa Marian Kamalen.” The statue had a habit of mysteriously disappearing from the kamalen and reappearing with drenched clothing and sticker burrs. These recurring incidents convinced the soldiers of its miraculous nature, inspiring them to transfer it to the main church, where it became the most venerated representation of the Virgin Mary.
Our Lady of Camarin and the Chamarro Legacy
Marian Kamalen is the protectress and the legacy of the Chamorro people, who request her intercession from typhoons, earthquakes, disaster, and war. They have looked to her for guidance and provision for over 300 years through the political, religious, and social history of Guam and the Marianas. After the bombing of Guam on December 8, 1941, the image of Mary remained unharmed, leading the government to declare December 8 a legal holiday.
Our Lady of Camarin at the Basilica
Our Lady of Camarin is portrayed at the Basilica in a statue hand-carved from the wood of a 300-year-old tree from the grounds of a Guam monastery, where trees are grown solely for the purpose of carving statues like this one. With human hair and a porcelain face, this representation of the Madonna is striking. The Oratory of Our Lady of Camarin is the gift of the Catholic Daughters of the Americas in Guam.
The Basilica Guidebook, Dr. Geraldine Rohling
Light a Candle at the Basilica
In honor of Our Lady of Camarin, we invite you to light a candle today at the National Shrine. Vigil candles burn in the chapels throughout the Great Upper Church and lower crypt level of the National Shrine. Each candle represents the faith of the supplicants and their fervent prayers entrusted to the loving intercession of the Blessed Mother.