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The Virgin of Salta

by Horacio Espinosa
interior de la ermita de la virgen del cerro

The city of Salta in northern Argentina is one of the pillars of the Catholic faith in the country. For just over 100 years, thousands of pilgrims arrive in that provincial capital every September to renew their pact of fidelity to the patron saints: the Lord and the Virgin of the Miracle. They come from other provinces and even from neighboring countries. They travel dusty roads under the sun and the moon, endure the overwhelming heat of the days and the cold of the Salta nights. Along the way, the villagers wait to encourage and assist them with water, warm coffee and food.

But the reason for this blog is not that traditional pilgrimage, but the experiences shared around another holy place in the city: the Sanctuary of the Virgen del Cerro. That name is what the believers give to the image that arose from a request that María Livia Galiano, a very simple woman, a housewife and a lot of prayer, felt that she was made by the Holy Mother of God in a series of visions Beyond the fact that she had never imagined seeing Mary, grace was granted without having asked for her and today there are multitudes who trust her as an intercessor.

A Shrine at the request of the Immaculate

The first supernatural manifestations impressed and surprised María Livia. It all started in 1990, when he heard an inner voice speaking to him. He felt that it came from someone extraordinarily radiant and heavenly and this immediately caused a change in his heart. Moved by a great desire to share her happiness and happiness, she spontaneously commented on the episode to her small family environment (her parents and siblings). Although he meditated with faith what he had experienced, he thought that this would never transcend the intimacy of his soul. The Blessed Virgin, however, continued to send her messages.

One day, Mrs. María Livia noticed that María indicated a local hill, but at first she did not understand the meaning of the sign. The Queen of Heaven asked her to keep the secret of that revelation until God made him know the designs on the place.

The hill, which is in a neighborhood of the north of the city and seems to guard the immense Valley of Lerma, is impressive for its beauty. Its geographical location is so particular that it visually dominates the four cardinal points: if one looks to either side, the view is lost in the distance without difficulty. It is a place of privilege not only for having been chosen by God and Our Lady, but by its nature.

Little by little, María Livia was understanding celestial pretensions and many people helped her to realize them. On May 1, 2001, a cross was placed on the hill and in August of the same year the construction of a chapel was completed, waiting to be completed.

For then, there were already approximately 300 people who climbed on foot all Saturdays to pray the Rosary with María Livia. Mothers with their children, families with babies in strollers, elderly and sick began to come to the silent call of Mary in this place in the world.

On Saturday, December 8, 2001, the image of Our Lady was enthroned in the chapel that was consecrated under the invocation of the Immaculate Mother of the Divine Eucharistic Heart of Jesus.

San Bernardo Convent of Discalced Carmelites of Salta

The venerated figure was built entirely in the San Bernardo convent of Discalced Carmelites of Salta. The sisters have been accompanying this work since 1995 and María Livia was the one who transmitted in detail the physical appearance with which Santa María appears.

Although the day of the Most Pure Virgin rained torrentially until noon and the road became muddy, faithful from different parts of the country and from beyond the borders were present without there being an organized dissemination of the event. Moved by love of the Mother of God and Our Mother and awaiting his intercession, a  multitude of believers gathered to pray and celebrate.

Currently, many hear the call and attend the place every Saturday. There stamps and rosaries are distributed free of charge and alms and valuables are not accepted. Nor is any type of trade or sale allowed from the base of the hill to the top, where the Sanctuary. The servants are men and women who voluntarily give their time and gifts for the greater glory of God.

However, like many others around the world, this Marian manifestation is not validated by the Vatican and has the character of private revelation. This implies that the Church accepts that it can exist but has not recognized it. Visions of this kind are significant whenever guide Christ and help contemplate the divine revelation without pretending to complete it or contradict it. St. Paul, in his first letter to the Thessalonians teaches: “Do not extinguish action of the Spirit; do not despise the prophecies; examine everything and stay with the good “(1 Thessalonians 5: 19-21) We are invited, therefore, to pray to discern the meaning of the messages that bring us closer to God.

The central message of the Virgin of the Hill is that we return to love the Divine Eucharistic Heart of Jesus. To that end, we pray to adore perpetually in reparation before the Eucharist, remembering that through it our Lord remains alive and present among us.

salta virgen del cerro

According to the website of the work, in a private message the Blessed Virgin implored: “Keep preaching my messages and especially the devotion to the Most Sacred Eucharistic Heart of Jesus, do not cease in this effort, that each soul consecrates himself to Him, and thus all will receive the

Infinite Mercy of his Heart. Preach your Consecration, warning that every soul to Him consecrated will receive all the Graces that spring from the Divine Mercy of the Lord This Consecration to the Most Sacred Eucharistic Heart of Jesus will have the seal of Eternity on souls and will make a big change in they. It will be the key that will open the soul for its Conversion “.

Likewise, Our Lady asked to pray for the union of the West and the East and prepare us for the second coming of Our Lord Jesus Christ, which consists in a greater knowledge of the Love of God. Hope, says another part of the message, is the path that leads us to God. Through this revelation, we are called to live with the Love of the Divine Heart of Jesus, to live a time of eternity.

Our visits to the hills of Salta

The first time we went to see the place was in the middle of a difficult moment in our lives, during the fall of 2010. As in other cases, we had no clear idea of ​​what was there or it happened.

We climbed the hill walking and what initially surprised us was to find trees without leaves but with thousands of rosaries on their branches. Believers hang them everywhere and this generates a beautiful and impressive network of floating beads. In each one there is a sample of faith and hope, it is the only type of offering that is seen here.

There was silence and the kindness of the servants we crossed on the way. We went praying, asking Maria to listen to our fears and help us to get ahead.

When we reach the top, we meet many pilgrims like us. The inner peace and love that lives on top are indescribable. We pray the rosary, we confess and we sing until that the servants asked us to settle down in a row because Mrs. Maria Livia was going to spend a prayer of intercession for each pilgrim.

Shortly before his arrival I started to cry a lot, I do not know why but it happened to me. I could not  stop doing it and they were not tears of emotion; it was not sadness or even joy; I believe fervently that was the presence of Mama Maria who used that cry to cleanse my heart. At that time, he deepened his work with me. I was so happy after what had happened to me that on that visit I did not even enter the hermitage. I wanted nothing more than to treasure in my heart that moment that I lived with the most important of my life, Andrea, my wife.

We returned to the hotel in complete silence, each reliving the experience inwardly. It was a few minutes after I was in the room that Andrea asked me what had happened to me, and my answer was that I had smelled perfume of roses. We hugged and cried again, but this time it was emotional, as we both had the same sensation of smelling roses just at the moment of intercessory prayer

In 2016, we returned, and then we had made some small steps in our journey of faith. That time we went on a pilgrimage with a group of brothers. The trip was different, because I was different, Mama Maria had already won, as I choose to say.

It had been six years since the first visit and my heart already knew what I would find in Cerro. We started the climb praying, and little by little the silence returned to take over the place. When we reached the top, we settled in seats that did not exist in 2010. We joined as a group to pray the Rosary until an almost heavenly chorus began to sing songs of praise that only left me astonished and eager to listen to them while praising in silence.

The moment of intercessory prayer arrived, and joy filled my heart. Unlike the crying of my previous visit, I only felt peace. My company was also different, the first time, I was alone Andrea and this time I was surrounded by my community, my brothers from faith. The joint prayer takes on a different dimension and is even more special in a place as special as this. This time I could enter the Hermitage of Our Lady and leave a Rosary on the branch of a tree to add one more link to the chain of love and honor to Mary.

Traveler’s Tips

  • The recitation of the Holy Rosary at the top of the hill starts at 12:00 o’clock sharp.
  • It takes approximately one hour to go up to the Sanctuary. Try to arrive as early as possible, to be seated near where the main prayer is. Keep in mind that the delay is inevitable since the priority is the very sick, babies, very old people and pregnant ladies.
  • Remember that it is a hill. Attend with comfortable clothes and shoes to walk on dirt roads.
  • Wear a good coat for the night and something light for noon and early afternoon. In Salta the temperature drops a lot after 5:00 p.m.
  • If you are late, it is advisable to bring a flashlight, for more comfort in the descent.
  • Vehicles must be left in the parking spaces authorized for that purpose. The pilgrims went up different paths through the hill. The one that is born in the access gate to the Sanctuary “El Porterito” is a bit longer but the slope is smaller. Do not think of the climb as a trek, you will pray the rosary and so, without effort, you will reach the top. If you do not have health problems that prevent it, do not be afraid to climb this path! It is a very good experience.
  • At the junction of the different paths there is an Assistance Station for any need or just to rest or drink a glass of water.
  • Persons prevented from walking up (sick people, mothers with small children, very old people, etc.) are climbed and lowered from the hill in vehicles or buses. As the vehicles are volunteers, their disposition is variable. The service is free and it is not allowed to give a gratuity or financial collaboration of any kind.
  • In general and for safety, all sick people and people who are unable to walk up their own means are exclusively transported in the vehicles of authorized official volunteers for these types of transfers. The transfer from the vehicle that has arrived at the Sanctuary is done at the Entrance Gate.
  • Remember that there are no kiosks or commercial premises.
  • At the top of the hill there are chemical toilets.
  • In the sanctuary the consumption of food and drinks is not allowed, except for water that is offered by the same servers (for special cases there are places to eat and drink that are reached with volunteers).
  • At the request of Our Lady Immaculate Mother of the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus, it is about keeping silence for recollection.
  • On Saturdays there are usually more people, but it is also when Maria Livia does the Intercession Prayer.
  • Check the calendar, there are times of the year when there are no activities on the hill.
  • If you want an image of Our Lady Immaculate Mother of the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus, you can entrust it with enough time in advance to the San Bernardo Convent of Discalced Carmelites of Salta and the sisters who live there will prepare it in prayer.
  • On Sundays, María Livia welcomes lectures (also check the calendar).
  • Salta is a wonderful city, take advantage of the visit and know its nearby places. Its cathedral is very beautiful and there are the images of the Holy Patrons.
  • From the capital you can visit other locations and even cross from the province to the Quebrada de Humahuaca, in Jujuy. You can also go to San Antonio de los Cobres, one of the highest points of the Argentinian highlands, and take the Tren de las Nubes.
  • Do not forget to try the famous empanadas salteñas, to participate in a rock and to entrust yourself to God.

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