This is a common Spanish name that doesn’t get much pop culture explanation. It’s really “Maria Soledad,” a name honoring the “Virgen de la Soledad,” the “Virgin of Solitude” or “of Loneliness.” This is a title for Mary as she was on Holy Saturday, mourning her Son. One of the interesting Spanish features is that they show Mary wearing a rosary with a prominent cross, so that the rosary draws attention to her long-empty belly. She is alone.
(Our Lady of Sorrows is the more common title in non-Hispanic countries. That’s where the name “Dolores” comes from.)
There’s a lot of devotion to Mary under the title of “Soledad,” especially in France and Spain, and in Mexico. It was associated closely with the women of the royal families, who often survived their sons and husbands. In Madrid, there’s also a miraculous painting on cloth of this version of Our Lady, “la Virgen de la Paloma.”
The Paloma Virgin is a neighborhood miracle. In 1787, some kids found the discarded painting (which is a little smaller than a paperback book) and started tossing it around. One of the neighbor ladies on Paloma St., Isabela Tintero, was scandalized and confiscated the little painting. She took it home, cleaned it, got it framed, and put it on her front door. Then she started using it as her prayer station for saying the Rosary, and other neighbors did too.
And then people’s prayers started getting granted.
Word of the miracles got around, and the little side street got flooded with people praying. Mrs. Tintero gave up her house to be an unofficial chapel for the painting, but they still couldn’t fit everyone into the house. The locals built a real chapel. They founded a big festival on August 15, along with the Feast of the Assumption. There was a famous operetta/zarzuela using the festival as a backdrop. And so on. She is the patron saint of Madrid’s firefighters as well.
But it’s not all funsies, being a shrine. The parish suffered five martyrdoms during the Spanish Civil War, which are currently part of a new sainthood cause. All the martyrs were killed for being part of Catholic Action, a club for supporting Catholic identity and teaching, or the Asociacion Catolica de Propagandistas, an apologetics and teaching club. There were two priests: the Servants of God Fr. Jose Bermudez Tome and Fr. Andres Rodriguez Perdiguero; and three lay members of Catholic Action: Marcelino Panizo Celorio, Marcelino Panizo Rodriguez, and Fernando Estevanez Teran.
Yesterday, tragically, there was some kind of explosion at an adjoining Caritas home for elderly people and for visiting priests, on ground owned by the parish. Four people were killed: two still-unidentified passersby in the street, a 35 year old parishioner named David Santos who leaves behind a wife and four kids, and a 36 year old priest, Fr. Ruben Perez Ayala, the parochial vicar, who had only been ordained for a year. Debris hit the roof of the church and the back courtyard, but it’s otherwise okay. None of the old people were killed. They think it was a gas explosion. Please pray for all the dead and for their families.