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I never think of thee apart from Him,
Nor Him apart from thee;

Lo! ever near thy Son, with Mother-love,
Thy tender face I see.

- Charles Hanson Towne

Those familiar with the detailed history of the Dominican, Franciscan, and Jesuit missions in the Floridas and Mexicos, know that the years 1540-41 were signalized by two events of unusual importance.  One was the establishment and confirmation of the Society of Jesus before their beloved Shrine of the beautiful Madonna della Strada; and the erection of the first church, temporary though it was, at Tiguex, New Mexico, by the Franciscan, Father Padilla, afterward martyred, was the second event.

We may call the Shrine of Our Lady of the Milk the meaning of our Spanish title the oldest on the continent of America, save possibly that of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico.  Visiting the actual spot of its first erection outside the city of St. Augustine, Florida, we search with avidity for those beloved landmarks of the faith, especially those connected with the first adoration of the Majesty of the Altar and Mary’s sweet worship.  They were ever united, ever subjects of joyous affection.  Father Cancer, the Dominican, to be sure, made a brave and hazardous attempt to plant a Jesu-Maria mission near the present shore of Tampa Bay as early as 1549.  But the new Santa Maria, on which he and his companions sailed, was beaten off by the Mobilian arrows. 

It was only when the fiery-hearted Peter Menendez was commissioned by Philip II., of Spain, to reattempt the colonization of unfortunate Florida, which the famous first parish priest of St. Augustine, Mendoza Grajales, finally landed with the forces; and on the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin, 1565, said the first Mass at Nombre di Dios, and erected in the chapel the touching statue of Nuestra Senora de la Leche. 

The allusion to "the milk" it is impossible to trace to its veritable source.  No records seem to have been found by the burrowing genius of Gilmary Shea to resolve us this sweet riddle.  Suffice it to advert to the gracious office of Mary toward her Divine Babe, and her evident taking to herself of this new land as her new inheritance, to cherish at her virginal breast as the chosen offspring of her Son in these latter blest times.  This town and chapel existed on its original site at the head of the bay of St. Augustine proper, until, on account of the frequent desecrations of the spot and pillaging of the coast and town, outside the strong walls of the Fort (now called Marion), the Spanish authorities ordered the building demolished. 

The second chapel of Nuestra Senora, still under the same tender invocation, was rebuilt inside the walls of the northern most fortification, and no great distance from another Lady Chapel in an Indian village protected by the guns of the Fort, and to the south of the parallel wall running across the north end of the peninsula on which was built the city, and around whose circling shores forts frowned and villages smiled. 

Hard by these ancient chapel sites, and indeed in almost a direct line out the St. Nicholas road, which passed directly north through the still extant square city gates, there exist today three successive cities of the dead.  In the one incorporated in the present city lie the bodies of some of the Spanish heroes of religion, Father de Corpa’s tomb being conspicuous.  He was but one victim of the many hecatombs offered on Florida’s blood-stained coasts.  Another, the famous Father Rodriguez, seeing his end near, begged his Indian captors to allow him to celebrate Mass.  This they did, and tomahawked him at the foot of the altar. 

To come down to our own times, Bishop Verot, the former zealous pastor of this poor flock, erected a chapel at the old bay point, and in the midst of the ancient graves, to perpetuate the memory of the regretted chapel.  This was in 1870.  But, unfortunately, a gale of wind blew down the structure; and its hoary ruins are sometimes yet taken for those of the original chapel of Grajales.  Two walls stand; the site is desolate, as this and the two other former cemeteries have been abandoned.   Now no one but those wise in history knows when they kneel there that it is the site of the beloved Shrine of Our Lady of the Milk.



Bells of the past, whose long forgotten music
Still fills the wide expanse,
Tingling the sober twilight of the present
With color of romance!

I hear your call and see the sun descending
On rocks and waves and sand,
And down the coast the mission voices blending
Girdle the heathen land.

Within the circle of your incantation
No blight nor mildew falls;
Nor fierce unrest, nor lust, nor lost ambition
Passes those airy walls.

Borne on the swell of your long waves receding,
I touch the farther past;
I see the dying glow of Spanish glory,
The sunset dream and last!

Before me rise the dome shaped mission towers,
The white presidio,
The swarth commander in his leathern jerkin,
The priest in stole of snow.

Once more I see Portala’s cross unlifting
Above the setting sun,
And past the headland northward, slowly drifting
The freighted galleon.

Oh, solemn bells!  Whose consecrated Masses
Recall the Faith of old -
Oh, tinkling bells!  That lulled with twilight music
The spiritual fold.


Your voices break, and falter in the darkness -
Break, falter, and are still;
And, veiled and mystic, like the Host descending,
The sun sinks from the hill!


-Francis Bret Harte 

Of what use would be Mary’s great power if she did not employ it in our favor?  

Oh, let us rejoice, for if she is the most powerful of creatures with God, she is also the most eager to come to our assistance. 

- St. Augustine


   O Mary, thou who desires so much to see Jesus loved, if thou loves me, this is the favor which I ask of thee, to obtain for me a great love of Jesus Christ.  Thou obtains from thy Son whatever thou pleases; pray, then, for me, and console me.  Obtain for me a great love towards thee, who of all creatures are the most loving and beloved of God.  And through that grief which thou did suffer on Calvary, when thou did behold Jesus expire on the Cross, obtain for me a happy death, that by loving Jesus, and thee, my Mother, I may come to love thee forever in Heaven.

   Sweet Heart of Mary, be my salvation. 
   -300 days’ Indulgence 

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