By PRISCILLA GREEAR, Special to the Bulletin | Published October 15, 2020 | En Español
LILBURN—Amid the loss and isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic, Our Lady of the Americas Mission’s Milagro Movil (Miracle Mobile) Pilgrimage is quietly bringing the healing peace of Christ on wheels from Dalton to Peachtree City to the Peruvian consulate in Atlanta.
Following the commission of Pope Francis to go out to the people, faithful volunteers are driving a devotional trailer daily to visit some 160 homes this “purple month” through Oct. 23 to consecrate families to the Lord of Miracles, Señor de los Milagros. The visits will culminate with a Mass on Oct. 24.
The Lord of Miracles is an image of Christ originally painted on an adobe wall outside Lima, Peru, in the 17th century by an enslaved Angolan. The image survived earthquakes in 1655 and 1687 and another in 1746 that demolished Lima. Devotional processions took root. More than 350 years later, the procession through Lima with a copy of the image from the Church of Las Nazarenas draws hundreds of thousands. The event was cancelled this year due to the pandemic.
The Hermandad del Señor de los Milagros (Lord of Miracles Brotherhood) of Atlanta, based at the Lilburn mission, has held the procession in Atlanta for the past 29 years. But this year they decided with Our Lady of the Americas’ Director of Religious Education Leonardo Jaramillo and Father Luis Guillermo Cordoba, administrator and brotherhood majordomo, to bring the autumnal devotion to Catholics’ driveways, complete with mask wearing and social distancing.
In his Snellville subdivision, Peru native Luis Ventosilla prayerfully awaited the evening of Oct. 4 in a purple robe with his wife and three children for the Milagro Movil. The truck-pulled trailer arrived in his driveway, next to his home altar adorned with candles, balloons and a Lord of Miracles picture with a stereo playing the traditional marching song. Friends driving by stopped to participate as curious Christian neighbors of another denomination snapped photos.
The trailer carrying the Miracles image, normally housed at the mission and used during the annual procession, pulled up at 7 p.m. Lay ministers led the Gospel reading, prayers, consecration and devotional hymn with family members, who received rosaries, prayer booklets and holy water to bless the home.
“Lord of Miracles, I put myself at your feet and honor you as my savior and my God. I adore you and ask for the grace to wholeheartedly make this pilgrimage,” they prayed.
“Jesus is with us every moment but sometimes when you have the actual image that goes in procession that’s been through so many churches, having it in your home is just such a wonderful experience, a moment of peacefulness. You can sense it in your house, the Holy Spirit being present with you,” Ventosilla reflected. “My kids were like, ‘the whole neighborhood is watching,’ and I was like ‘yeah, of course, I want them to watch, I want them to see that Jesus Christ is coming to our neighborhood, to our home.’”
A scriptural basis
The devotion’s theme stems from Revelation 3:20, “Here I am at the door and I call. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will enter it and have dinner with him and he with me.”
Brotherhood coordinators invite members and other receptive faithful across the archdiocese to participate in the 30-minute prayer ritual. In the crisp outdoor air, participants receive Christ, pray for the sick and thank God for the miracle of life, adding fresh flowers to the trailer.
“It’s not just knocking on your door but knocking on the doors of your heart if you let me come into your life,” said Ventosilla. “It’s the sincere feeling you have that he’s coming and asking for blessings not just for my family but for what’s going on in the world. With COVID you want to make sure the sick recover. And there’s so much hatred in this world and we want them to stop that. We want our leaders to be like the instruments of God and we have to put them in our prayers.”
Another day Ventosilla travelled with Milagro Movil. Many made the sign of the cross when the trailer passed. At one parking lot stop a Peruvian man pulled up and inquired, noting that his cousin had just sent him a Milagros image.
“He said ‘you guys are there and all of a sudden I had to park.’ And we tell him there’s a reason for everything, maybe it’s a sign that something inside of you that Jesus wants to touch your soul, let him be in you. He really got emotional and started crying,” said Ventosilla, adding that they’ll now visit the man’s home in Athens. “They all feel blessed, happy, their testimonies are so spiritual. Sometimes we don’t know what goes on. With experiences like this sometimes it’s comforting to your soul.”
And they are visiting diverse families from Mexican to Anglo.
“It’s not just Peruvians. We touch the hearts of folks from many nationalities and it’s just spreading the devotion, and it’s just growing and growing,” Ventosilla reported.
Hermandad general foreman David Rivas believes it is the only Milagro Movil home visitation this year in the United States. There are about 30,000 Peru natives between Georgia, the Carolinas, Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi.
“Every country has its different names, but the reality is God. But for the tradition in Peru, Señor de los Milagros is a big, huge procession every year with a lot of pilgrims who love El Señor de los Milagros. When we move to different countries around the world, we continue this tradition with the immigrant people,” said Rivas. “We take it to heart. Señor de los Milagros is my boss, he takes care of me all the time, he protects me.”
Rivas owns a construction business but “the best job in life is working for God.”
“Everybody is organized, and everybody loves it,” he said. “It’s amazing because the Holy Spirit is in the people.”
Hermandad member Gabina Rios coordinates volunteers to help lead consecrations. She thinks it’s important to continue the devotion through the pandemic to encourage others to pray daily and thank God even amid hardship.
“It’s a devotion to God because Our Lord of Miracles is present. We bring our Peruvian culture and teach our brothers and sisters the love of God and not to forget about him with their work,” she said.
A Colombia native, Jaramillo is drawn to the devotion’s power to unite diverse people, which led him to once join the procession in Ayacucho, Peru.
“In Peru not all are Catholic, but all are devotees of El Señor de los Milagros. It reminds me a lot of how we human beings already have this desire to draw to God,” said Jaramillo. “The devotion helps us look for those moments to transcend. In this case I love it because the very person who helps us is Jesus Christ.”
The peaceful outreach brings people hope and encouragement in a tumultuous time when many can’t attend church due to coronavirus.
“Our hope is that they feel the church is very close to them, in prayer with them and for them,” Jaramillo said. “Many people call us and ask if they can also go to the houses in the Milagro Movil—new people who want to accompany us in this new evangelization.”
The Our Lady of Americas Mission Mass honoring El Señor de los Milagros will be held at noon on Oct. 24. For information call 770-717-1517.