Our Lady of Arabia
Few are aware that Our Lady has been in Arabia for the last thousand three hundred years. Mention of her is even made in the Holy Quran: "O Mary, verily God hath chosen thee above all women of the world." (Chap. III, Section 5, 45th verse)
The oldest "Our Lady of Arabia" was a picture brought from Mount Carmel. It was framed at the beginning of May 1948, to be used in the Chapel, a room in C.Q. 2B (Fr. Stella's living quarters in Ahmadi) for May devotions.
On 8th December 1948 - the day of the blessing of the mini "Chapel" on the Ridge, this picture was kept near the altar. According to Church records, devotion to Our Lady of Arabia started on that day … the day, on which the Chapel in her honour was dedicated. To the officiating clergy, as well as to the faithful attending, the title of 'Our Lady of Arabia' seemed quite "new". Yet the Right Rev. Apostolic Administrator of Arabia had approved it. It was meant to fulfill the prophecy of the Blessed Virgin contained in the 'Magnificat', "Behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed!" (Luke 1:48)
The picture remained in the Chapel till May 1949. Later, it was replaced by a small Statue of the Legion of Mary. However, to represent Our Lady under the title of Our Lady of Arabia, Fr. Stella wanted to have a special Statue made in her honour. He decided to use a replica of the Statue of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, venerated in her basilica on Mount Carmel - the birthplace of the entire Carmelite Order. An Italian firm in Rome, "Rosa and Zanzio Ditta" was requisitioned to make the replica, carved out of a solid block of cedar from Lebanon.
It was not long before the supreme sanction was granted. The Holy Father, Pope Pius XII, himself gave a grand lead to this devotion to Our Lady of Arabia, and on 17th December 1949, on the eve of the Great Jubilee Year, in the Vatican Palace, he personally blessed the new Statue of Our Lady of Arabia, and consented to be photographed in prayer before it.
The Statue was received in Kuwait and formally enthroned on 6th January 1950, amidst triumphal rejoicing at her Shrine in Ahmadi. It is with great nostalgia that the first parishioners might recall the sunny, Friday afternoon, the Statue was transported in a jubilant procession from the Shuwaikh Port to reside in the 'mini' Chapel, and to be venerated as Patroness and Protector of the Oilman.
In the Holy Family Cathedral (Kuwait City), there is a replica, yet, smaller Statue of our Lady of Arabia. It was blessed by H.H. Pope Pius XII on 16th September 1954 in Castle Gondolfo. It was presented by the parish of St. Teresa in Rome to the young Sodalists from Kuwait in 1954, during their pilgrimage to Rome during the Marian Year.
Behind the altar of our Lady, where the Statue is enthroned, there is an interesting fresco which depicts the glory of the Queen of Arabia.
A month after the new Church in Ahmadi was blessed in the year 1956, at the beginning of May devotions, the venerated Statue of Our Lady of Arabia was transferred from the Chapel to the new Church, in a great procession of torch-lights.
Three Bishops joined in the procession. H.H. Pope Pius XII showed his devotion once more to Our Lady of Arabia by presenting the shrine in Ahmadi with a big, decorated candle, chosen among those offered him at Candlemas in 1956.
In 1956, Bishop Stella sent a petition to the Holy See to proclaim Our Lady of Arabia, Patroness of the Vicariate Apostolic of Kuwait. The following year, granting the request of the new Vicar Apostolic of Kuwait, H.H. Pope Pius XII, by a pontifical decree, dated 25th January, 1957, "Regnum Mariae" declared Our Lady of Arabia the Principal Patron of the territory and Vicariate Apostolic of Kuwait.
On 25th March 1960, the feast of Our Lady's Annunciation, His Eminence Valerian Cardinal Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay crowned the Statue of Our Lady of Arabia in the name, and by the authority of the Holy Father Pope John XXIII. The ceremony was performed in the large, paved square in front of the Church at sunset. More than four thousand people were crowded in, when His Eminence Cardinal Gracias, the Papal Legate, was escorted, under the canopy to the dais, where over an altar, the Statue of Our Lady was held high over the crowd.
The two crowns (for Our Lady and the Baby Jesus in her arms) were finely chiselled, weighed over two pounds of pure gold, and were adorned with diamonds and rubies and other precious stones, also, a large pearl of the Gulf was offered by the Bishop. The two precious crowns had been blessed on 17th March 1960 by the H.H. Pope John XXIII.
The history of this devotion already gives evidence that favours have been granted which compare with those bestowed by Our Lady at other famous shrines. At the Church in Ahmadi, on Saturday evenings, before the celebration of the Holy Mass, people recite the Perpetual Novena to Our Lady of Arabia. Near the Statue of the Queen of Arabia, letters with requests for favours or thanksgiving for benefits granted, are kept in a special box, and a mention is made during the Novena.
E-mail this article to a friend